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Bible Commentaries
Judges 10

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries




This character, of course, is one of the minor judges, concerning whom these short verses reveal all that is known concerning him.

Verses 1-2

“And after Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Isaachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in the hill-country of Ephraim. And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.”

It is somewhat unusual to find the names of BOTH the father and the grandfather in this type of account, and here it might be due to the fact that Dodo was one of David’s “mighty men” (2 Samuel 23:9; 2 Samuel 23:24 and 1 Chronicles 11:12; 1 Chronicles 27:7). Also, if the reference here is to one of David’s mighty men, it would indicate a long skip in the genealogy between Dodo and Puah, as is customary in Biblical genealogies.

“Shamir” “There was also another Shamir in the Highlands of Judah (Joshua 15:48).”(F1)

There have been several speculative reasons proposed as explanations of why so little is said of this judge. However, there is no satisfactory resolution of the question. Perhaps the best view is that the period of his judgeship was a time of relative quiet and peacefulness. It may be presumed that during his judgeship, Israel avoided the idolatry that later led to their distress.

(1) JAIR

Here is another of the so-called minor judges, concerning whom these short verses relate all that is certainly known of him.

Verses 3-5

“And after him arose Jair, the Gileadite; and he judged Israel twenty and two years. And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havoth-jair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.”

“Jair the Gileadite” “The name Jair is the same as the N.T. name `Jairus.’“(F2) Dalglish pointed out that this and the following verse feature what appears to be a play on words. “J-air, the name of the judge, also appears as `[~a-ir]’ meaning `donkey,’ and as `[~`ir]’ meaning city”!(F3)

“They rode on thirty ass colts” “The ass was highly esteemed as a beast for riding, and was used by men and women of rank.”(F4)

Some have imagined a conflict between what is written here and the statement in Numbers 32:39-41, where another Jair, probably an ancestor of this one, named certain cities which he conquered Havoth-Jair, but many Jewish names were repeated generation after generation. Indeed, it is true today. In 1952, this writer met General Ulysses S. Grant in command of a large military unit in Japan, but he was not THE General Grant of the Civil War period, but only a descendant of his.

“Unto this day” This, as we believe would be a reference to the times of Samuel, the most likely author of Judges. Yates referred to the date of the writing of Judges as being approximately, “During the 1050-1000 B.C. era.”(F5) This would have been either in the reign of King Saul or in the early part of the reign of King David.

“They rode on thirty ass colts” “The times when so many `sons’ could ride unhindered would have had to be times of peace, that is, good administration.”(F6) Strahan, following the lead of early critics, considered the names of Tola and Jair as, “The names, not of individuals, but of clans,”(F7) but that foolish error of the radical critics has been refuted by Boling in Anchor Bible, “Recently, scholars have determined these to be historical figures.”(F8)

“Jair died and was buried in Kamon” Some present-day scholars seem to be agreed that, “The place of Jair’s burial is usually identified with Qamm, on the Jordan-Irbid road.”(F9) However, Dalglish writes that, “The site of Kamon has not been satisfactorily identified.”(F10)

Verses 6-9


“And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Sidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook Jehovah, and served him not. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the children of Ammon. And they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel that year: eighteen years oppressed they all the children of Israel that were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Ammonites, which is in Gilead. And the children of Ammon passed over the Jordan to fight against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed”

Beginning here, and through the end of the chapter, we have what some have called an expansion of the usual introductory paragraph recounting the usual cycle, of apostasy, oppression, crying unto Jehovah, and the sending of relief. The surprise that some have expressed at this is due to their failure to recognize the fact that we have here a double introduction: (1) There is the introduction to the judgeship of Jephthah and his deliverance of Israel out of the hand of the Ammonites, and (2) this chapter also is an introduction anticipating the conflict of Samson with the Philistines. “This also explains the fact that the Samson narrative, which is the second longest in the Book of Judges, has but a single verse introducing the story.”(F11)

Yates also agreed that, “This chapter is introductory to the Samson story (Judg. 10:13:1-16:31), as well as to the judgeship of Jephthah (Judges 11:1-40).”(F12)

“And Israel served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth…” In addition to these, they also served: (2) the gods of Syria (which are never mentioned by name); (3) of Sidon (Astarte); (4) of the Moabites (Chemosh); (5) the Ammonites (Milcom); (6) or Molech; and (7) the god of the Philistines (Dagon). As Keil noted, “Seven of these heathen deities are mentioned as being served by the Israelites.”(F13) Some writers express amazement at the repeated apostasies of Israel, wondering how a people so often blessed of God could again and again resort to idolatry, but, human nature being what it is, there is noting unusual about it. This is exactly the thing that always happens when a people is not diligent to cultivate and nurture the spiritual resources which God has provided.

This very day, America is threatened with a total relapse into idolatry. Oh yes, the old idols of antiquity are no longer visible, but the drunkards of our era are worshipping Bacchus no less than did the ancient citizens of Crete; and our sex-mad generation is worshipping Aphrodite Pan Demos no less than the wicked inhabitants of Corinth at the top of their Acro Corinthus; and the diabolical leaders of Communistic tyranny all over the world, such as the evil masters of Cuba, China, and Russia (until recently), these evil denizens, are worshipping Mars (the God of War) no less than did the ancient Romans.

Also, as William Jennings Bryan said a few years ago, “What about the gods of Fashion, Travel, Money, Power, Pleasure, Self, etc.”? Are not millions worshipping these gods?

Carl F. H. Henry, editor of “The Christian Century,” published an article November 5, 1980, p. 32, warning America about the consequences of its current lapse into idolatry.

“God may thunder His awesome [@paradidomi] (I abandon them, or I give them up, as in Romans 1:24 ff) over America’s professed greatness. Our massacre of one million fetuses a year; our deliberate flight from the monogamous family; our normalizing of fornication and adultery; our shameful acceptance of homosexuality and other sexual perversions - all these things represent a quantum leap in moral deterioration, a leap more awesome than even the gulf between conventional weapons and nuclear missiles. Today, American has all but tripped the worst ratings on God’s Richter scale of fully-deserved moral judgment.”(F14)

The awesome record of God’s punitive judgments upon the antediluvian world, upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and upon many cultures and civilizations since them should be enough to warn America that:

There is by us unseen

A hidden boundary between

God’s mercy and God’s wrath!

Verses 10-16


“And the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah, saying, We have sinned against thee, even because we have forsaken our God, and served the Baalim. And Jehovah said unto the children of Israel, Did not I save you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried unto me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will save you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress. And the children of Israel said unto Jehovah, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; only deliver us, we pray thee, this day. And they put away the foreign gods from among them, and served Jehovah; and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel”

“We have sinned” “The penitential confession of Israel’s sins undoubtedly had its setting in a fast called together by their leaders.”(F15) If this was the case, there was probably a prophet who, upon behalf of Jehovah, spoke the stern words of Judges 10:13-14.

“Did I not deliver you,” Reference is here made to no less than seven nations from whose power the Lord had delivered Israel. These are: (1) The Egyptians; (2) the Amorites; (3) the Ammonites; (4) the Philistines; (5) the Sidonians; (6) the Amalekites; and (7) “The Maonites who are otherwise unknown to this period.”(F16) It is surprising that the Midianites were not included here, but it may be, as suggested by Dalglish, that, “`Maonites’ is here a reference to the Midianites.”(F17) Indeed, the Septuagint (LXX) version here has `Midianites.’

Hervey observed that, “These references to former deliverances of Israel are of great historical value… They show the existence of a real history in the background of that which has been preserved in the Bible.”(F18) Furthermore, there are references here that mention events recorded in Exodus and in Numbers 21:21-35, thus giving irrefutable evidence of the existence of the entire Pentateuch at a time long before the monarchy had been established in Israel.

“Ye have forsaken me” Above, we observed that these words were possibly spoken by a prophet, but it is more likely, as Keil stated it, that, “If it had been a prophet who spoke, such an event would surely have been recorded. The message of these verses was evidently delivered in front of the tabernacle, where the people had rallied and called upon the Lord. The message came either through the High Priest, or through an inward voice in which God spoke to the hearts of His people.”(F19)

The repentance of Israel reported in these verses was no merely perfunctory maneuver. It was genuine. “(1) They confessed their sins to the Lord (Judges 10:10; Judges 10:15 a). (2) They bared their backs for punishment (Judges 10:15 b). (3) They put away the idols representing foreign gods (Judges 10:16 a). (4) They served the Lord (Judges 10:16 b).”(F20) It appears that there was also a full recognition of the fact that Israel deserved the punishment that God had brought upon them.

“They put away their foreign gods” This contrasts with “other gods” in Judges 10:13; and the radical critics who held sway earlier in this century, promptly, found this to be evidence of two different sources! Moore wrote that, “`Foreign gods’ is the phrase of E, for which the Deuteronomic expression is `other gods.’“(F21) We have called attention to this as a classical example of the arrogant stupidity of those late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Biblical critics! Boling said of such earlier critics that this blunder resulted from their failure to observe, “The change of speakers; the Lord speaks in Judges 10:13, and the author of Judges speaks in Judges 10:16.”(F22) Their error was in finding “two sources” instead of finding “two speakers.”

“His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel” It is not definitely stated here that God would deliver Israel again, but the following sequence of events related to Jephthah indicate that he surely did so. The Scriptures often speak of God’s love for Israel in terms of human love and compassion, and this one reminds us of another example.

“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I cast thee off, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboiim? my heart is turned within me, my compassions are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in wrath.” (Hosea 11:8-9).

Upon the basis of such passages as this, we are justified in receiving the statement in Judges 10:16 b as a strong indication that God would again deliver Israel.

Verses 17-18


“Then the children of Ammon were gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together and encamped in Mizpah. And the people, the princes of Gilead, said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead”

As Yates noted, “This forms an introduction for the story of Jephthah.”(F23)

“Israel… encamped in Mizpah” Of course, Mizpah was also in Gilead; and, as, “Four or five places of this name are found in Scripture,”(F24) we cannot be certain just exactly where this was. Bruce identified it with that place, “Where Jacob and Laban piled `the cairn of witness’ (Genesis 31:46 ff).”(F25) This, of course, could be correct.

“The people of Gilead, the princes of Gilead” These phrases are in apposition, and the meaning would be clearer if the passage were written, The people of Gilead, that is, the princes of Gilead.

The big problem they confronted was that of finding a capable commander to lead them in the impending war with the Ammonites. As an inducement, they promised that whoever consented to do this would be recognized as their ruler.

“He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead” This means that he would be head over those tribes of Israel which dwelt east of the Jordan River. Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh were those tribes.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Judges 10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/judges-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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