An Earthy Story

Jeff Munroe

READ : Judges 3:12-30

He did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. (v. 22)

Bible translation is difficult. A good version has to be appropriate for public reading on the most solemn occasions while also speaking personally for private devotions. Above all, it must be accurate. Translations abound because it is hard to do so many things well.

Translating Judges 3:22 is a challenge. What exactly came out of Eglon after Ehud stabbed him? Pick up different translations and you get different answers. The Hebrew isn’t overwhelmingly clear, so some translations avoid this altogether, some say “dirt came out,” and the most literal say “dung.” Reading a literal translation helps you surmise why Eglon’s servants assumed he was relieving himself. There must have been a foul stench in the air.

I love this story, not for the foul stench, but for its theology. That’s right, its theology. The story tells us no part of human existence is beyond God’s sovereign reach. I imagine generations of Hebrew storytellers delighting in sharing this colorful tale to wide-eyed young people. There’s the left-handed hero and the knife hidden on his right thigh. There’s the corpulent king receiving a “message from God” through his layers of fat, followed by the punch line and the confused servants. The hero escapes and the point of the story is clear: if God can use you-know-what, what can’t he use?


Lord, we acknowledge you as the God of every bit of our humanity.