After him was Shamgar son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel. -Judges 3:31 (ESV)
At first glance this seems to be a pretty straightforward verse. An ancient Israelite single-handedly takes out 600 Philistines. This is quite a feat in itself, but is that all this verse is saying? Let’s take a closer look.
First of all, the names in this verse are untranslated Hebrew words.
Shamgar = sword
Anath = answer
So we see the son who is called sword coming from the father who is called answer. So in effect the father is going to answer the Philistines with his sword.
We read about another son coming with a sword in Revelation:
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. -Revelation 1:16 (ESV)
Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. -Revelation 2:16 (ESV)
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. – Revelation 19:15 (ESV)
And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. – Revelation 19:21 (ESV)
We see that Jesus returns and destroys the enemies of the LORD with the sword that comes from His mouth. So what is this sword? We have and answer here:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
The sword of the LORD is His word, or His instructions. When the Messiah returns He will bring His instruction and correction in accordance with His Word.
So Sword (Shamgar) goes and fights the Philistines. He kills 600 of them. If you are thinking he did this all at one time then you have seen too many action films. He did not necessarily do this in one day are at one time. This could have happened over the course of his tenure as a Judge of Israel. The point is that he killed 600 of the enemies of God. 600 is significant because it represents man’s rebellion against God. Pharaoh hardened his heart and brought 600 of his best charioteers to bring Israel back after they left Egypt. (Exodus 14:7) Goliath’s spearhead weighed 600 shekels (1 Samuel 17:7). And the number of the beast in Revelation is 666 (13:18). So when you see the number 6 in relation to the enemies of God you are looking at man’s rebellion against God’s righteous rule as set forth in His word.
What does Sword (Shamgar) do? Well he teaches them a lesson with His chosen weapon. Why did he choose and ox goad? Maybe it was because there was no blacksmith in Israel, we read in 1st Samuel 13:19 that “…there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.'” This was after the time of Shamgar but it very well could have been the case at his time as well. So Sword (Shamgar) obviously takes care of animals and he’s got a pretty good weapon as well. The interesting thing is that His weapon is actually a tool of instruction. The Word in Hebrew is MaLMaD the root of that word is LaMeD which is the 12th letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Beth (Alphabet). LaMeD means: to learn, to teach, to be taught.
There is one more point about the staff that has a bearing on this verse. The oxgoad, or MaLMaD, was used to discipline or teach by poking and prodding. The other end had a type of spade on it that was used to remove thorns and roots. Thorns are a picture of sin and the curse:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. -Genesis 3:17-18 (ESV)
Jesus bore this curse for us.
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. -John 19:2 (ESV)
So Sword (Shamgar) used a tool that would discipline and remove thorns. The Word coming from the mouth of the Son in Revelation could do the same thing. So you see in the final portion of the verse Shamgar removed the thorns from Israel thus saving them.
Now we see the father who is Answer bringing forth Sword who goes to 600 of the enemies of God and teaches them a lesson with his staff of instruction. The staff of instruction that kills the enemies of God saves the children of God.
So we can now clearly see the prophetic significance of Judges 3:31. When Salvation (Jesus, Yeshua) returns He will apply the word of His instruction in order to slay His enemies and save His people.