Chapter 10


The Period of Decline (10:1-16:31)

            • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Each of the five minor judges judged Israel for a specific number of years; in this period of decline after Gideon, the formula ‘there was peace in the land’ (3:11, 30; 5:31; 8:28) never recurs. The details given for these enigmatic figures include their origin and burial, and perhaps a brief genealogy or something notable about their families. Four of the five names appear in other genealogical records: Tola and Puah as clans of Issachar (Gen 46:13; Num 26:23), Elon as a descendant of Zebulun (Gen 46:14; Num 26:26), and Jair at various points (see Num 32:41; Deut 3:14; Josh 13:30; 1 Kgs 4:13),. The lack of specific military exploits and the common reference to ‘judging’ suggests they had some kind of administrative or judicial function.”

Tola Becomes Israel’s Judge

        • After Abimelech, Tola rose to save Israel. Tola was from the tribe of Issachar and he lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. His father was named Puah, and his grandfather was named Dodo. He judged Israel for twenty-three years, then he died and was buried at Shamir.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Although the alottment of Tola’s tribe was in the Jezreel Valley, he had moved up to live in the hill country of Ephraim at Shamir, about 7 miles south of Tell Balatah.”

Jair Becomes Israel’s Judge

        • After Tola, Jair, a Gileadite, rose and judged Israel for twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are still called Havvoth-Jair to this day. When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.

        • NLT Illustrated notes that Havvoth-Jair is Hebrew for “Towns of Jair.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible and ESV Archaeology Study Bible commentators differ on what tribe would’ve been associated with:

        • NLT: “Jair was apparently a descendant of an earlier Jair of the tribe of Manasseh (see Num 32:41; Deut 3:14; 1 Kgs 4:13).”

        • ESV: “A Gileadite would be from the tribe of Gad, whose territory was in Jordan, across the fords from Ephraim.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Thirty sons suggests a multiplicity of wives, which may suggest that Jair functioned as a major chieftan or a minor monarch. Interpreted sociopolitically, the territory governed by Jair seems to have consisted of a confederacy of 30 cities. The significance of the donkeys is not clear, though the narrator’s choice of terms seems to highlight their function as riding rather than pack animals. The prestige associated with owning asses is reflected not only in the Song of Deborah (5:10), but in extra-Biblical writings as well. To describe each son as riding on his own donkey is like saying each son was given his own Porsche.”

The Ammonites Oppress Israel

        • Again, the Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight. They served the Baals, the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, and the gods of the Ammonites and Philistines. They abandoned Yahweh and did not serve Him.

        • So Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites who began to oppress and crush them that year. They oppressed all the Israelites east of the Jordan River, in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead, for eighteen years. The Ammonites also crossed over the Jordan River to fight against Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.

          • Guzik writes, “If Israel wanted to serve the gods of the Philistines and the Amorites, God would allow them to do so. He allowed them in the fullest sense, by selling them into servitude to the Philistines and Amorites…Of course, Israel was never blessed when they served these other gods. Instead, they were harassed and oppressed; they were severely distressed – but God gave them what they wanted.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “After dominating Gilead (Gad’s tribal territory) just to their west, the Ammonites now cross the ford into the hill country of Judah and Ephraim.”

        • Israel was in great distress so they cried out to Yahweh saying, “We have sinned against You; we have abandoned our God and worshiped the Baals.”

        • Yahweh said to the Israelites, “Didn’t I rescue you from the Egyptians, Amorites, Ammonites, Philistines, Sidonians, Amalekites, and Maonites when they oppressed you and you cried out to Me? Yet, you have abandoned Me and served other gods, so I will not rescue you again. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen and let them save you in your time of distress.”

          • Guzik writes, “The words of this cry seem fine, but God’s response seems to indicate that He saw something lacking in Israel’s repentance. One may cry out to the LORD, yet really just wish things were different. Crying out to God with the voice is not necessarily the same as crying out to Him with our heart…God was harsh with Israel because they had to be genuinely sick of their sin before they would genuinely turn to God. God allowed Israel to experience the sickness of their sin…One technique used to help people stop smoking is to put them in a small, unventilated room and make them smoke for hours on end, until they can hardly bear it. It makes them sick of smoking and makes them truly want to stop. In the same way, sometimes God will allow the natural consequences of our sin to crash upon us in concentrated form, so we can become sick of our sin.”

        • The Israelites responded to Yahweh, “We have sinned. Do whatever You see fit to us, only, please rescue us today!” So, they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served Yahweh; and He couldn’t bear Israel’s misery any longer.

        • Two questions arise in response to this passage: why didn’t God respond to the Israelites’ repentance initially, and did God change His mind? HCSB answers with the following:

            • Scripture declares that God does not change (1 Sam 15:29; Ps 15:4; Mal 3:6; Jms 1:17). Here the Lord declares that He will not deliver His people again. Yet, in Judges 10:16, He is moved by the suffering of His people, and 11:32 records that He delivered them once again. God has established general principles by which He operates, one being that He judges those who sin but reconciles sinners to Himself upon their sincere repentance (Deut 29:17-30:10; 2 Ch 7:13-14). God had graciously delivered Israel (Jdg 10:1-5), but Israel turned away from the Lord to serve other gods, incurring His judgment. When they cried out to the Lord, expecting Him to deliver them on the basis of their acknowledgment of disloyalty, He declined. In this He appears to have violated His principle of reconciliation in response to repentance, but vv. 14-16 reveals that the Israelites’ repentance was not sincere, for idols remained in their midst. When they finally removed their foreign gods to worship the Lord alone, He responded by reconciling them to Himself and delivering them from their enemies. God neither changed His mind nor His forgiving character (eg Ex 34:6-7; Ps 51:1), but operated in accordance with His character (Jdg 2:11-23).”

        • Guzik writes, “This indicates that Israel came to a place of total surrender to God. The prayer that comes most naturally to us is, ‘Do to me whatever seems best to me.’ The change in heart meant that the season of affliction eventually did affect Israel in a good way…Israel finally discovered that the worst of serving God is better than the best of serving idols…God looked upon disobedient Israel with compassion, not hatred. It was ‘difficult’ for God to allow Israel to stay in their misery, though it was best for them. Like the perfect loving parent, God hated to see Israel suffer, even when it was good for them. He longed to rescue them but would not do it until it was good for them.” Guzik then includes some valuable insights from well-known commentators:

            • The Hebrew word literally means ‘impatient.’ It suggests God’s restlessness in the presence of suffering. It is the restlessness of His love, and that is the cause of His anger, and the governing principle in all its activities.” (Morgan)

            • God grieves for the miseries to which his creatures are reduced by their own sins. Be astonished ye heavens, at this; and shout for joy, all ye inhabitants of the earth! For, through the love whence this compassion flowed, God has visited and redeemed a lost world!” (Clarke)

            • And now He grieves over you. If only you would forsake your sins and turn to Him, He would assuredly raise up a Jephthah for your help.” (Meyer)

        • Then the Ammonites were summoned together and they camped in Gilead, and the Israelites gathered together and camped at Mizpah. Then the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to each other, “Who will be the man who will start the fight with the Ammonites? He will be the head over all those living in Gilead.”

          • Guzik says, “In response to the Ammonite threat, Israel gathered together for defense. Israel gathered, but had no leader. God’s pattern for doing great works among His people is to raise up a man. He could do the work all by Himself; He could send angels to do the work for Him; He could use a leaderless mob or a committee. Yet God’s normal means of operating is to raise up a man, and through that man to do a great work. God uses leaders.”

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