It is written:
“Then Ehud went out through the porch and shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. 24 When he had gone out, Eglon’s servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, “He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber.” 25 So they waited till they were embarrassed, and still he had not opened the doors of the upper room. Therefore they took the key and opened them. And there was their master, fallen dead on the floor.” (Judges 3:23-25)
According to Jewish tradition, the Book of Judges was written by Samuel the Prophet. It discusses the history of the Jewish people from the time that Joshua died till the time of the first great kings of Israel. This Book covers a span of about 450 years (cf. Acts 13:20). The “judges” were warriors that God raised up when the people repented of their sins and cried out to the Lord for deliverance from a foreign nation.
Now, critics of the Bible have for years claimed that the Book of Judges was not written by Samuel but is instead a forgery written centuries after the events therein discussed. We are told that the Book is not a accounting of true history, but is only myth and legend.
Of course, archaeology has provided powerful evidence that the Book of Judges is authentic; and one way comes from a statement in Judges about a certain type of lock.
When the judge Ehud killed the wicked king Eglon, it took place in the king’s private bathing chamber and toilet. Notice that the Bible says that when Ehud had stabbed Eglon, he shut the doors of the chamber behind him and locked them (from the outside). Later, the servants had to use a special key to gain entrance into this chamber.
Now, how could Ehud have closed the door and then locked them from the outside?
Perhaps the alleged forger of Judges just made a simple blunder?
Not at all.
Archaeology has indeed helped to give us the answer.
Bill Cooper has written:
“Archaeology has, in fact, a great deal to say about Ehud, and it is well worth looking at. Its scope ranges from the archaeological dig which has uncovered Eglon’s palace at Jericho, down to the microscopical evidence concerning how Ehud managed, as he left, to lock behind him the door to the chamber in which he slew King Eglon. Critics have used the seeming impossibility of his locking that door as a great stick with which to beat this part of the Book of Judges, but here–and using archaeology rather that surmise–we will show how he did it, and thus demonstrate how the account of his locking that door is entirely authentic. Tellingly, he could not have performed the feat later than the time in which the Book of Judges sets him, which also says something about the early composition and authenticity of this account. A later forger, even a ‘Deuteronomist’ editor, could not have known what we are about to discover….“Archaeologically, the Hebrew text that we have is spot on. Ehud really was able to bolt the door behind him as he left, and here’s how. It all has something to do with what is known to archaeology as the Homeric door. It is a design of doors and their locking mechanism which dates from Homer’s time–hence the name–which is around the 13th-12th centuries BC, the period in which Eglon and Ehud flourished in other words. It was soon replaced by a design favoured in Egypt and which is the type of lock mentioned in those verses from 2 Samuel 13, which denied to anyone leaving the room the ability to lock or unlock the door once they are outside. Intriguingly, the Homeric design might well have fallen out of favour as a direct result of Eglon’s assassination and the ability that it gave his assassin (Ehud) to leave the scene and lock the door behind him. That the Homeric door fell out of use and favour at this very time in history is perhaps just too much of a coincidence. But how did the Homeric door work? The Book of Judges itself gives us a clue, although our knowledge of the Homeric door’s mechanism comes directly from archaeology. A German scholar named Hermann Diels made such locks his special study, 6 and his illustration of the Homeric door’s locking mechanism is given below (see Figure 8). In that illustration is plainly seen the leather strap or thong that runs from the bolt inside the door to two apertures on the outside, allowing a person leaving the room to pull the bolt across from the other side of the door as he leaves. As the bolt completes its travel, pins drop down and lock it in place, requiring anyone wishing to enter again to have a suitable key which can raise the pins. Then, with the pins raised, he is able to slide the bolt back by pulling on the other end of the thong. This key is exactly what Eglon’s servants required according the Book of Judge’s account (3: 25), and this same account also explains how Ehud was able to lock the door behind him. The authenticity of the Book of Judges’ account is seen in this. The word used in the Hebrew for the action of locking the door that Ehud performed as he left the room, is ‘nol’, a word which, when used a verb, means ‘bolted;’ but which, when used as a noun, means a leather sandal which was tied to the foot by leather straps or thongs. In other words, it was by means of a leather strap or thong that Ehud was able to pull the inside bolt across from the other side of the door. That corresponds precisely with what we know from archaeology of the Homeric door’s locking mechanism (see Fig. 8), a mechanism which was operated from the outside of the door by means of a leather thong, and which, not surprisingly, fell out of use in this part of the world immediately after the assassination of Eglon…“The Book of Judges account of Ehud and Eglon is certainly no work of fiction. Nor is it an account which is accurate only to a degree. It is rather an account that is verified both internally and externally by good and reliable evidence-evidence with which any court of law would be delighted. The critics have done their level best over the centuries to debase and debunk the account, but all to no avail. As one of their own number, Emil Kraeling, was finally compelled to admit-albeit with something of an understatement: “It appears, therefore, that in the nucleus of the Ehud story v. 14-26, we have a fairly reasonable account of what transpired, and that most of the difficulties which scholars have found in it are of their own making.” 8 I couldn’t have put it better myself.”(Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Judges, 469-515 (Kindle Edition))
It is amazing how such a simple detail as a lock can help to demonstrate the validity of the Word of God-yet there we go!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.