There are only two specific mentions of being left-handed in the Hebrew Bible. Both of them occur in the Book of Judges.
In chapter 20, we are told the Benjamites included 700 left-handed soldiers among their ranks, all of whom were excellent with a slingshot.
But the greatest benefit of being left-handed was enjoyed by Ehud, one of the earliest Judges of Israel, who features in chapter 3.
The Israelites were being persecuted by the Moabites and their King, Eglon, demanded a tribute. Ehud was chosen to deliver it.
Because he was left-handed, Ehud strapped his sword to his right thigh to be able to draw it.
This fact would have been noted by those listening to this adventure when it was recounted. Whenever a soldier entered the presence of a king, he would be searched – but as the norm was for people to be right-handed, only their left thighs would be checked for swords.
The other feature of the story is that King Eglon clearly had a weight problem.
And so it was that Ehud managed to find himself alone with King Eglon. When Ehud declared he had a message from God for the King of Moab, he drew his sword with his left hand and plunged it into Eglon’s large stomach. It went in so deep it disappeared up to the hilt, and Eglon was unable to remove it.
What then happened was no doubt of great amusement to an ancient Israelite audience, but is sadly not appropriate for a family-friendly newspaper – so I’m afraid you’ll have to check Judges 3:22 for yourself to find out.
But we can all celebrate that the left-handed Ehud struck a blow for the Israelites against the obese King of Moab.
- Pete Tobias is rabbi at The Liberal Synagogue Elstree