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Bible Commentaries
Judges 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-5

D. The fourth apostasy 6:1-10:5

The writer of Judges structured this book so the story of Gideon would be its focal center. Robert Chisholm Jr. argued that the events described in Judges 6:1 to Judges 16:31 were chronologically parallel to those in Judges 3:7 to Judges 5:31, thus harmonizing the events in Judges with 1 Kings 6:1. [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "The Chronology of the Book of Judges," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52:2 (June 2009):247-55.]

"Within the main body of the book, seven major narrative blocks can be noted. Moreover, there are certain parallel features between these narratives so that the entire book reflects a carefully worked symmetrical pattern. Furthermore this pattern has as its focal point the Gideon narrative in Judges 6:1 to Judges 8:32.

"A Introduction, Part I (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5)

B Introduction, Part II (Judges 2:6 to Judges 3:6)

C Othniel Narrative (Judges 3:7-11)

D Ehud Narrative (Judges 3:12-31)

E Deborah-Barak Narrative (Judges 4:1 to Judges 5:31)

F Gideon Narrative (Judges 6:1 to Judges 8:32)

E’ Abimelech Narrative (Judges 8:33 to Judges 10:5)

D’ Jephthah Narrative (Judges 10:6 to Judges 12:15)

C’ Samson Narrative (Judges 13:1 to Judges 16:31)

B’ Epilogue, Part I (Judges 17:1 to Judges 18:31)

A’ Epilogue, Part II (Judges 19:1 to Judges 21:25)

"This arrangement suggests that the Gideon narrative has a unique contribution to make to the theological development of the book. As the nation went from one cycle of discipline to the next, there was a continual deterioration. Also there was a shift in the ’quality’ of the judges themselves as the book advances. The Gideon narrative seems to mark a notable turning point." [Note: Tanner, p. 150. See also D. W. Gooding, "The Composition of the Book of Judges," Eretz Israel 16 (1982):70-79; and Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges: An Integrated Reading, JSOT Supplement Series 46 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987).]

Verses 1-2

Tola’s judgeship 10:1-2

Tola (meaning "worm" in Hebrew) "arose to save Israel" from the tribe of Issachar sometime after Abimelech died. One of the patriarch Issachar’s sons was also named Tola (Genesis 46:13; Numbers 26:23; 1 Chronicles 7:1-2). The writer did not record how the judge Tola rose to power or exactly when. Specifically, no mention of Yahweh raising him up appears, as was true also of Abimelech. Nevertheless this brief notation of his contribution to Israel’s national life pictures him as a worthy individual who enjoyed an orderly and stable tenure. He judged Israel 23 years.

Verses 1-5

4. The judgeships of Tola and Jair 10:1-5

No great military feats marked the judgeships of these two men. Their ministries appear to have consisted primarily in administering civil duties.

"The passages on the ’minor judges’ do not conform to the editorial plan of the stories of the ’great judges’, or to that of Jg. as a whole. Hence it would seem that they have been included, perhaps selectively, simply to supplement the number of the judges to the conventional number of twelve, thus possibly to make the judges as representative of all Israel." [Note: J. Gray, p. 310.]

Verses 3-5

Jair’s judgeship 10:3-5

The only unusual feature of Jair’s life, other than that he came from Transjordan, was that he maintained a network of 30 cities over which his 30 sons ruled in Gilead. His name means "may [God] enlighten." An ancestor named Jair appears to have settled the same area shortly after the Israelites defeated Sihon and Og (Numbers 32:41). The fact that his sons each rode on a donkey marked them as having distinguished rank in times when the Israelites had no horses. [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 372.] Only the wealthy and prominent in Israel rode on donkeys at this time.

"The ass was highly esteemed as a riding beast and many times carried with it special recognition (Judges 1:14; 1 Samuel 25:20)." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, pp. 119-20.]

The fact that Jair fathered 30 sons suggests that he practiced polygamy (cf. Gideon, Judges 8:30). Jair judged Israel for 22 years. Kamon stood about 12 miles southeast of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee).

We see in this brief record of Jair’s life continuing tendencies in Israel toward the lifestyle of the surrounding pagan nations and away from fidelity to Yahweh and His Law.

The ministries of these two minor judges teach two lessons, one negative and the other positive. Negatively, they did not change any of the previous problems in Israel but seem to have maintained the status quo. [Note: Tammi J. Schneiders, Judges, p. 158.] Positively, they indicate God’s gracious blessing of His apostate people in spite of themselves.

"Elsewhere in the Old Testament, children are gifts from God; they indicate God’s blessing. So amid the increasing chaotic and violent stories that indicate the Israelites are abandoning God, the two lists of minor judges suggest that God is not abandoning the Israelites (see Judges 2:1, where God says, ’I will never break my covenant with you.’)." [Note: McCann, p. 77.]

Verses 6-7

1. Renewed oppression 10:6-7

The Israelites’ return to apostasy brought discipline from two different directions at the same time. In the east the Ammonites oppressed Israel, while in the west God raised up the Philistines.

"The acuter [sic] pressure at this stage came from the Ammonites who were crueller [sic] in nature and more predatory in their methods than the Philistines (cf. 1 Samuel 11:1-2)." [Note: Cundall and Morris, pp. 138-39.]

These verses really introduce the judgeships of Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson (Judges 10:8 to Judges 16:31). Another possibility is that since the introductory formula in these verses is not strictly a sequence indicator, the judgeship of Jephthah may have overlapped Gideon’s somewhat.

". . . it is possible that Ammon took advantage of the terror brought on by the Midianite raids of Gideon’s day to do some raiding of their own." [Note: Washburn, p. 422.]

The Baals and the Ashtaroth (Asherim, Judges 10:6) were the Canaanite deities. The Lord did not give us the names of the gods of Syria (Aram) that lay to the northeast of Israel in the Old Testament. In Sidon, a town in Phoenicia to Israel’s northwest, Ashtoreth, the consort of Baal, was a chief deity (1 Kings 11:5). In Moab, to the east and south, Chemosh was the main god (1 Kings 11:33). The Ammonites worshipped Molech (1 Kings 11:7), also called Milcom (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:33). Dagon was the main idol in Philistia (Judges 16:23). These "watchdog" gods were believed to guard and favor their own particular territories. [Note: Lewis, p. 62.] Judges 10:6-7 give us the last and longest list of Israel’s sins.

The only contiguous neighbor of Israel’s that did not have a negative influence on the chosen people during the period of the judges, as far as the text reveals, was Edom. However, since about 300 years of history expired in the Judges Period, it is likely that the Edomites also opposed the Israelites.

"The spiritual trends observed in Israel at this time did not merely reflect syncretism, but in many cases involved the total abandonment of the worship of Jehovah in favor of other national deities." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 120.]

Note the correspondence between seven groups of pagan gods (Judges 10:6) and seven oppressing nations (Judges 10:11), further suggesting completeness.

"The description of Yahweh’s response to Israel’s spiritual defection confirms our suggestion that in the narrator’s mind the nation’s Canaanization is coming to a climax. First, for the first time since Judges 3:8 the text mentions God’s anger as the emotion behind his selling the Israelites into the hands of the enemies. Second, for the first time the narrator notes that Yahweh had handed his people into the power of two different nations-the Philistines and the sons of Ammon." [Note: Block, Judges . . ., pp. 344-45.]

Notice how much more diversified Israel’s idolatry had become. The Israelites were now worshipping foreign gods as well as the gods of Canaan. Furthermore they abandoned the worship of Yahweh. This situation was a new low for them in Judges.

The text reveals that the Philistines and the Ammonites began to oppress Israel simultaneously from the west and the east respectively. The writer proceeded to narrate the Ammonite account first (Judges 10:8 to Judges 12:7) and then the Philistine (Judges 13:1 to Judges 16:31).

Verses 6-15

E. The fifth apostasy 10:6-12:15

In view of Israel’s continuing and worsening apostasy, God turned His people over to the discipline of the Ammonites, whom Jephthah finally defeated, and the Philistines. He also used three other judges during this period: Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon.

Verses 8-18

2. Oppression under the Ammonites 10:8-18

The Israelites felt the main influence of the Ammonites on the east side of the Jordan River that bordered Ammon (Judges 10:8). However the Ammonites also attacked the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim west of the Jordan (Judges 10:9).

The Ammonite oppression lasted 18 years (Judges 10:8; evidently about 1123-1105 B.C.). Finally the Israelites confessed their sin of apostasy and cried out to God for deliverance (Judges 10:10; cf. Judges 3:9; cf. Judges 3:15; Judges 4:3; Judges 6:6). They had waited only seven years before appealing for His help against the Midianites (Judges 6:6). This may indicate that their hearts had become even harder toward Yahweh. Judges 6:1-6 gives the most detailed description of Israel’s oppression and of Israel’s response to their oppression. For the first time in the book, the Israelites confessed that they had sinned, but it seems that their change of heart had come too late.

The Lord reminded them, presumably through a prophet, that their behavior had fallen into a pattern of apostasy, oppression, confession, and deliverance (Judges 10:11-12). God had delivered Israel from many enemies. They were the Egyptians (cf. Exodus 1-14), Amorites (also known in Scripture as Midianites, cf. Numbers 31:3), Ammonites (Judges 3:12-30), Philistines (Judges 3:31), Sidonians (ch. 4?), Amalekites (cf. Exodus 17:8-16), and Maunites. The Maunites were probably the Midianites (chs. 6-8), according to the Septuagint. Possibly Israel had defeated each of these nations already during the amphictyony.

We need to understand God’s promise to deliver the Israelites "no more" (Judges 10:13) as conditional. He did deliver the nation later (ch. 11; cf. Exodus 32:14). Judges 10:13-14 reveal God’s "tough love" for Israel (cf. Judges 2:3; Judges 6:8-10).

". . . the emphatic declaration, ’I will deliver you no more,’ is to be understood conditionally, in case their idols were kept among them; for the divine threatenings always imply a reserve of mercy to the truly repentant." [Note: Bush, p. 140. Cf. Jeremiah 18:5-12; Jonah 3:4.]

The genuine confession and repentance of the Israelites and God’s compassion for them combined to secure Israel’s deliverance eventually (Judges 10:16). God’s wayward son, Israel, had broken His heart. These verses illustrate the tension God felt as He loved Israel loyally and yet found it necessary to discipline His first-born.

"The greatness of Jehovah and His intense love for His people is nowhere more evident than in this particular situation [Judges 10:13-16]." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 121.]

The writer introduced the battle in which God provided deliverance for His people in Judges 10:17-18. The Ammonites advanced into Gilead from the east, and the Israelites in that area congregated not far from them anticipating conflict. Even though the Israelites had confessed their sin and repented genuinely, they approached this battle carnally. Rather than inquiring of God for strategy, the Israelites looked among themselves for a human leader whom they could persuade to lead them, by promising him kingship as a reward (cf. Judges 1:1). They were rejecting Yahweh’s authority over them by doing this (cf. 1 Samuel 8:7). They soon learned that the man they chose had some glaring weaknesses (cf. King Saul).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Judges 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/judges-10.html. 2012.
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