Q: #458. What is an ox goad / oxgoad (Judg 3:31)?
A: “And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.” (Judg 3:31)
This is the only place in the Bible where an “ox goad” is mentioned. An ox goad (Heb: “malmad“) was a long stick, made out of oak or some other hardwood, app. 8′- 10′ long and 6” in circumference, that generally had a metal point on one end, and a flattened piece of metal on the other end. The pointed end was used to “goad” or prod an ox pulling a plow or cart to move / turn, and the other end was used to remove accumulated dirt from a plowshare.
In the right hands, an ox goad could be used as a formidable weapon like a spear. We are not told whether Shamgar (considered a judge of Israel) slew 600 men all at once, or over time, but nevertheless, it seems clear that God supernaturally strengthened and worked through Shamgar (as He later did with Samson, who slew 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey: Judg 15:14-17).
While an “ox” goad is not used elsewhere in the Bible, the word “goads” is used in several places. In the Old Testament, (1 Sam 13:21) speaks of “sharpening” goads (Heb: “dorbown“), and (Ecc 12:11) says, “The words of the wise are as goads (Heb: “dorbown“). ” In the New Testament, the Greek word “kentron” is used for “goads” (“pricks” in KJV) in (Acts 9:5) and (Acts 26:14). In these verses, we see Jesus saying to Paul, “it is hard for thee to kick against the goads / pricks.” We will discuss what this means in the next question.
In some Middle East countries, just as in Bible times, an “ox goad” is still in use today.