JUDGES CHAPTER 10
1 Tola judgeth Israel in Shamir. 3 Jair, whose thirty sons had thirty cities. 6 The Philistines and Ammonites oppress Israel. 10 In their misery God sendeth them to their false gods. 15 Upon their repentance he pitieth them.
1. After Abimelech. The verse provides no clue as to whether there was an interval between Abimelech’s death and Tola’s judgeship.
To defend. These words suggest that as evil as Abimelech’s reign was, he did something also to defend Israel against foreign enemies, or at least to keep them in check.
Tola. Tola and his father, Puah, were of the tribe of Issachar and were named after two of the sons of Issachar (Gen. 46:13; Num. 26:23). In the days of David the Tola clan was noted for producing men of valor (1 Chron. 7:1, 2). Tola seems to have been the only judge furnished by this tribe.
In mount Ephraim. Ordinarily the tribe of Issachar dwelt north of Mt. Ephraim, beyond the plain of Esdraelon. Evidently part of the tribe had settled in the territory usually regarded as belonging to Manasseh and Ephraim.
2. He judged Israel. Aside from the fact that he judged Israel for 23 years, nothing is related concerning Tola’s rule. Evidently there were no major battles with enemy invaders during the period of his power. To govern a nation well in times of peace is not less praiseworthy than to carry on wars and overcome enemies, but how well Tola judged Israel is not stated. That he feared the Lord is indicated by the statement, “After the death of Abimelech, the rule of judges who feared the Lord served for a time to put a check upon idolatry” (PP 557).
3. Jair. Mention is made in Num. 32:41 of a contemporary of Moses named Jair of the tribe of Manasseh who captured some towns in Gilead and settled there. We may conjecture that the Jair mentioned here in Judges was of the same tribe.
Gileadite. Gilead was the name given to the territory east of the Jordan that lay between the southern end of the Sea of Chinnereth and the northern end of the Dead Sea.
Judged Israel. These words were never applied to the cruel Abimelech. Of him it was merely stated that he “reigned” over Israel. Jair’s rule must have been enlightened and beneficial like that of the other judges.
4. Thirty sons. This proves almost certainly that he was a polygamist, like Gideon.
Thirty ass colts. In the days prior to the time of Solomon when the Israelites did not own horses, the possession of asses was a sign of wealth and therefore of honor and dignity. This fact is probably recorded to show the rich blessings of a man who had 30 sons, all of whom enjoyed the honor and distinction of riding as chiefs or governors.
Havoth-jair. Literally, “tent villages of Jair.” This name was given to the region in the time of Moses when the earlier Jair captured a number of villages from Og, king of Bashan (Num. 32:41; Deut. 3:14). In the meantime more cities had sprung up or others had been captured, so that when Jair judged Israel he was able to give one to each of his 30 sons, who served as their prefects.
Gilead. Literally, “hard,” or “rough.” It received the name from the characteristic rough mountain ridges. Gilead is divided in halves by the Jabbok River (Deut. 3:12; Joshua 12:2, 5). The southern half was conquered by Israel from the Amorite king Sihon (Joshua 12:2). The tribe of Gad settled on the southern half, and the northern half fell to Manasseh. Occasionally the term Gilead is used in the Bible with great elasticity, designating the entire land east of the Jordan as far north as Dan (Deut. 34:1).
6. Did evil again. Many years had passed since Gideon stemmed the widespread apostasy and broke the Midianite oppression. Now the people turned in large numbers toward idolatry again. Seven heathen deities are listed as constituting the new objects of worship. These were the deities of the peoples bordering Israel on all sides. The number and distribution reveal that there was a mass turning to idolatry.
Baalim, and Ashtaroth. See on ch. 2:11, 13.
The gods of Syria. Syria (or Aram) was the country extending from Phoenicia to the Euphrates. Damascus was the best-known city of the area. Chief gods of that region were Hadad, Baal, Mot, and Anath. The OT mentions a god called Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18).
Gods of Zidon. That is, of Phoenicia, the main city only being mentioned. The gods of the Phoenicians were those of Canaan and Syria.
Gods of Moab. The Moabite Stone and the book of Kings (1 Kings 11:33; etc.) show that this deity was the god Chemosh.
Gods of the children of Ammon. One of the Ammonite gods was Molech (1 Kings 11:7, 33; see on Lev. 18:21).
Gods of the Philistines. These were Canaanite deities taken over by the Philistines, the most prominent of whom were Dagon and Baal-zebub.
7. Children of Ammon. At this time probably the worst threat to Israel was from the east, where the Ammonites were subjugating the tribes on the other side of Jordan. The Ammonites were a pastoral people from the eastern desert. The Philistines also were becoming strong and were oppressing the Israelites in Judah and Dan. There Samson became the center of opposition to Philistines domination (ch. 13:1–5).
9. Passed over Jordan. Emboldened by their victories over the tribes in Gilead, the Ammonites crossed the Jordan River and began raiding all central Palestine where the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim dwelt.
10. Cried unto the Lord. At least this much is praiseworthy, but their admission of the fact that they had sinned and their cry for help were still not acceptable, for they were not accompanied by true repentance. Yet the Lord acknowledges the slightest inclination of the sinner toward God, and seeks to lead the sinner on to true reform.
11. The Lord said. How the Lord spoke to the Israelites is not here indicated, but it was by means of a prophet (PP 557). The burden of the prophet’s message was to remind the backsliding people of their ungratefulness. Despite the many wonderful deliverances God had wrought for them, they had not learned the folly of idolatry.
From the Amorites. See Joshua 10:5–27.
From the children of Ammon. See on Gen. 19:38.
From the Philistines. See on ch. 3:31.
12. Zidonians. See pp. 67–71.
Amalekites. They were allies of Moab (ch. 3:12, 13) and of Midian (ch. 6:3).
Maonites. There is no record of a deliverance from these people, just as the record is brief concerning an earlier deliverance from the Ammonites, Philistines, and Sidonians mentioned previously. Perhaps they were the same people as the Mehunims of 2 Chron. 26:7 and the Meunites of 2 Chron. 20:1, RSV, and 1 Chron. 4:41, RSV. If so, they lived in the area south of the Dead Sea. The brevity of information concerning some of these incidents shows that the book of Judges does not give an exhaustive history of the times, but that it relates episodes of the period as illustrative and typical of the behavior of the Israelites and of God’s efforts to help them.
13. Deliver you no more. This threat is to be understood conditionally (Jer. 18:7, 8), as the subsequent events show.
14. Let them deliver you. The irony of this must have cut deep, because the idols to whose service Israel had turned were the deities of those nations by whom they were oppressed. God speaks here with a sorrow like that of a father reasoning with an inconsiderate child whom nothing but a sharp goad of rebuke and chiding will drive to serious thought. Though God for the present disowned Israel, He did not abandon them permanently. He sent judgments in ever-increasing severity and magnitude. Again it should be remembered that the rejection here threatened is only of the nation of Israel insofar as it failed in fulfilling its divine appointment. The door to personal salvation for individual Israelites continued open. During the dark years of apostasy there continued to be a remnant who refused to bow to Baal.
15. Whatsoever seemeth good. The Israelites in their affliction acknowledged their error and asked the Lord to punish them in any way He saw fit, but only to save them from their enemies. Like David in later times, they preferred to fall into the hands of the Lord, for His compassion was great; but of the cruelty of men, they had had enough.
16. Put away the strange gods. The Lord’s pointed, solemn, yet kind rebuke delivered by the prophet had the desired effect. The people repented of their ways, and brought forth fruits indicative that their repentance was genuine.
Was grieved. Literally, “was shortened.” Today we would say, “He became impatient.” That is, God could bear Israel’s distress no longer. His pity for Israel and His indignation against their oppressors, mingled together, caused Him to act. He would stand aloof no longer. Whenever, by prayer and sincere repentance, men call upon their merciful God, He, like a tender father, hears their plea.
Men do not always display this attribute of God in their dealings one with another even though they may profess to walk in the footsteps of Christ. They continue to cherish anger when others are seeking reconciliation If God was moved with compassion toward rebellious Israel, how can they remain untouched by the pleas of those who are of like passions as they are Grudge bearing is an altogether too frequent characteristic of many seemingly pious Christians. The sinless God, who has been infinitely more mistreated, forgives, and continues to forgive, whereas God’s professed children so often cherish ill will and rancor for years Men ought to ponder seriously the petition in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).
17. Gathered together. Literally, “were called together,” “were summoned.”
Encamped in Gilead. For the past 18 years the Ammonites had come every season to Israelite territory to carry off crops and to exact tribute. No doubt they were expecting servile submission again such as they had wrung from the people each year before.
Assembled themselves. By the same medium that the divine reproof had been brought to Israel (vs. 11–14), they had probably received word that God had accepted their repentance. At any rate they now had gathered sufficient courage to plan resistance.
Mizpeh. Literally, “outlook point.” Generally the word indicates a watchtower or point of observation on high walls. The place is probably identical with the “Mizpeh of Gilead” (ch. 11:29). It may have been the same Mizpah where Jacob and Laban parted (Gen. 31:25, 49). Some would identify Mizpeh of Gilead and Ramathmizpeh (Joshua 13:26) with Ramoth-gilead (Joshua 20:8; 1 Kings 4:13; 22:3, 6). It was situated in the territory of Gad and was a strong place of much importance.
18. What man? The princes of the tribes east of the Jordan had acted in concert to gather armed Israelites to oppose the Ammonites, but after assembling, they felt that they were in need of a leader who was wise in warfare, courageous in battle, and sufficiently diplomatic to weld the various contingents into a strong fighting force. In those days the outcome of wars generally depended on one pitched battle, and the princes recognized that they must choose carefully. In other crises God had chosen the leader, but this time He had probably not indicated a choice, so the people were forced to use their own best sanctified judgment and select one from their number. God honored their choice by putting His Spirit upon him (ch. 11:29). His character may not have been the best, but inasmuch as God chooses to work through human agencies, He is dependent for His choice upon the men who are available. Even today God carries on His work through imperfect human channels. If this fact were better understood, there would be less criticism of those whom God has called into service.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–16 PP 557, 558
7–10 PP 557
10–16 5T 640
11–14 PP 557
16 Ed 263; PP 558