SHAMGAR shăm’ gär (שַׁמְגַּ֣ר; LXX Σαλεγάρ). The etymology of the Heb. Shamgar is uncertain but may come from the Hurrian Simiqari which occurs in Nuzi texts (cf. R. H. Pfeiffer and E. A. Speiser, AASOR, XVI [1936], 161, and B. Maisler, PEQ, LXVI [1934], 192-194). His identification as the “son of Anath” may mean that he came from Beth-anoth, possibly a city in Galilee or more likely a city a few m. N of Hebron (cf. Josh 15:59).

Shamgar, who is noted for his activity mentioned in Judges 3:31, made a successful raid on the Philistines with an oxgoad, a metaltipped instrument which needed sharpening repeatedly (cf. W. F. Albright, “Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim,” III, 33). The suggestions by C. Marston that “the oxgoad” was the name of a ship (The Bible is True [1934]), and by J. Garstang (Joshua-Judges [1931], 63 and 284ff.) that Shamgar was a Syrian sea captain allied with Ramses II are dubious.

Although Shamgar may have been a Canaanite, he is listed among those who delivered the Israelites from oppression. Very likely this was the earliest oppression by the Philistines, who interfered with Israel’s trade and restricted travel (Judg 5:6). Shamgar was successful in bringing relief to the Israelites before the Canaanite oppression in the days of Deborah and Barak. The Biblical information regarding Shamgar is limited to Judges 3:31 and 5:6.


G. F. Moore, “Shamgar and Sisera,” JAOS, IX (1898); J. B. Myers, IB, II, 683 and 711.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. Biblical Account:

One of the judges, son of Anath (`anath), in whose days, which preceded the time of Deborah (Jud 5:6,7) and followed those of Ehud, Israel’s subjugation was so complete that "the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways." The government had become thoroughly disorganized, and apparently, as in the days of Deborah, the people were entirely unprepared for war. Shamgar’s improvised weapon with which he helped to "save Israel" is spoken of as an oxgoad. With this he smote of the Philistines 600 men. This is the first mention of the Philistines as troublesome neighbors of the Israelites (Jud 3:31). According to a tradition represented in Josephus (Ant., V, iv, 3), Shamgar died in the year he became judge.

2. Critical Hypotheses:

Several writers have challenged the Biblical account on the following grounds: that in Jud 5 no mention is made of any deliverance; that the name "Shamgar" resembles the name of a Hittite king and the name "Anath" that of a Syrian goddess; that the deed recorded in Jud 3:31 is analogous to that of Samson (Jud 15:15), and that of Shammah, son of Agee (2Sa 23:11 f); and lastly, that in a group of Greek manuscripts and other versions this verse is inserted after the account of Samson’s exploits. None of these is necessarily inconsistent with the traditional account. Neverthelesss, they have been used as a basis not only for overthrowing the tradition, but also for constructive theories such as that which makes Shamgar a foreign oppressor and not a judge, and even the father of Sisera. There is, of course, no limit to which this kind of interesting speculation cannot lead.

(For a complete account of these views see Moore, "Judges," in ICC, 1895, 104 f, and same author in Journal of the American Oriental Society, XIX, 2, 159-60.)