1. Exposition

Why is the mention of idols at Gilgal a marker for the narrative?

Judges 3:19 (ESV)

19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence.

The mention of idols occurs here and in Judges 3:26, bracketing the heart of the story—the account of Eglon’s death. Ehud passes them by on his way in to kill Eglon, and again as he leaves from the kill. This provides a structural element in the account, a marker for the narrative, as a way of underlining Israel’s disregard for the Lord. As O’Connell writes: “The predominant deuteronomic concern, that of cultic disloyalty, remains implicit in Ehud's failure to remove from the land the twice-mentioned idols that frame the portrayal of Eglon's assassination (Judges 3:19aαβ and Judges 3:26b). This failure to remove the idols characterizes negatively both Ehud (as microcosm) and the tribe whom he delivers (as macrocosm) and ostensibly leads to the religious apostasy that begins the following deliverer account (cf. Judges 4:1)."1 Couldn’t Ehud have destroyed these idols, if it was apparently not all that difficult for him to accomplish the murder of the king, something seemingly far more challenging?