After Joshua's death, no one had been designated to carry on the leadership of Israel.

The elders carried on for some time, but their numbers soon dwindled. There was no one to admonish the people who, careless of the Law and the word of Moses, soon adopted the rites of their heathen neighbors and became idolaters. In this sad and degenerate condition, they easily fell a prey to their powerful neighbors. Thus they had soon to feel the arms of the king of Mesopotamia, who completely subdued them and compelled them to pay tribute for eight years. In their shame and despair they prayed to the L-rd for deliverance. Their cries were heard, and G‑d imbued with His spirit Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. He was the first champion or "Judge" of the Hebrews in a troubled and helpless time. He shook off the yoke of the oppressor and secured peace for thirty-two years.


After Othniels's death, the Israelites relapsed into their old sin of idolatry. The Moabites, under the leadership of their King Eglon, and in alliance with the Amalekites and the Ammonites, attacked and captured Jericho; and thus possessed of the key to the whole country, they forced the Hebrews into bondage, in which they held them for eighteen years. Loud and incessant were the lamentations of the oppressed people. At last there sprang from the tribe of Benjamin a man fearless and resolute, but no less cunning and dextrous, Ehud, the son of Gera. He was, with others, selected to carry the tribute to Eglon, the king of Moab. When Ehud arrived near Gilgal, he sent word to the king that he had a secret message to deliver to him. Ehud wore a long cloak, under which he concealed at his right side—for he was left-handed—his double-edged sword, which was a cubit (approx. 20 inches) long. The king, a large and fat man, was ready to receive him. As he was reclining in his summer parlor, Ehud entered and exclaimed, to have a message from G‑d to thee"; and drawing his sword with his left hand, thrust it into the king's body, pushing it forward till it came out at the opposite side. He then escaped in haste, and eluded his pursuers, till he arrived safely in Mount Ephraim. Here he assembled the Hebrew army by the blast of his trumpet. When the affrighted servants of King Eglon found him lying dead in his chamber, they gave the alarm, and the Moabite hosts, certain of victory, and now burning for battle, marched out to avenge their king. In the meantime, the army of the Israelites had advanced to Jericho; they occupied and closely watched the fords of the Jordan; they prevented all Moabites from crossing; and by Ehud's daring and skillful leadership, they slew on one day ten thousand men of the enemy. Thus the Moabites were expelled from the territory of the Hebrews, who now enjoyed peace and prosperity for sixty two years.


Within the period of Ehud's Judgeship, the Jews in the south of the Land of Israel were molested and enslaved by the Philistines. Their deliverer was Shamgar, the son of Anath. He was a very strong man and "slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad," and he rescued Israel from the yoke of the Philistines.