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Bible Commentaries
Judges 10

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-5



The close of the last lesson shows idolatry creeping into Israel, the fruit of which is reaped in the years following. God is forgotten and Gideon also (Judges 8:34-35 ), the meaning of the last verse being interpreted by the story of Abimelech.

This Abimelech fraternized with his nearest of kin, the relatives of his mother’s side (Judges 9:1-3 ), a striking instance, as one says, of the evils of polygamy, where one son of a father has connections and interests totally alien to his brethren. Contrast the verses just alluded to with Judges 8:22-23 and observe the difference in spirit and motive between father and son.

What is meant by the allusion to the “one stone” in Judges 9:5 on which Abimelech slew his brothers, it is difficult to say. Some think he dashed them from one rock, and others that the stone was the pagan altar on which their lives were sacrificed.

JOTHAM’S PARABLE (Judges 9:7-21 )

The reason Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, was spared from the general slaughter is given in Judges 9:5 . The spot chosen for his proclamation was the public place of Shechem, and “the parable drawn from the rivalry of the various trees was appropriate to the foliage in the valley below.” With a little exertion of voice it is said he could easily be heard in the city.

Someone may ask an explanation of Judges 9:13 , and in what sense wine could be said to “cheer” God? Jotham not being present to explain the expression, we are at a loss, for it is not God who is here speaking, but man, whose word God is causing to be recorded. Wine was sometimes used in sacrifices as was oil. The latter is said to “honor” God (Judges 9:9 ), and perhaps in the same sense it is meant that wine cheered Him.

Note the malediction Jotham pronounces on Abimelech and Shechem (Judges 9:20 ), and the fulfillment we reach at the close of chapter 9. Thus would it appear that Jotham was in this case a prophet and minister of God.

GAUL’S CONSPIRACY (Judges 9:22-49 )

The combination of Abimelech’s usurpation and Shechem’s idolatry did not work well, for by and by God sent a judgment upon them (Judges 9:22-25 ). Gaal, who, some think, represented the original Canaanites of the locality, took advantage of the feeling against Abimelech and raised an insurrection (Judges 9:26-29 ). Zebul, the ruler of the city, is loyal, and informs on him (Judges 9:30-33 ) with the result following (Judges 9:34-40 ). Subsequently Shechem itself is destroyed (Judges 9:41-45 ), and the people who took refuge in the stronghold consumed with fire (Judges 9:46-49 ).

ABIMELECH’S DEATH (Judges 9:50-57 )

A subsequent campaign against Thebez, now called Tubas, was not so successful (Judges 9:50-55 ), and Abimelech like Sisera, came to his end at the hand of a woman. Thus his evil deeds met their reward (Judges 9:56-57 ).


Not much is said about these two judges, and yet together they ruled forty- five years. As foreign aggression is not spoken of, the probability is that the “defense” or saving of Israel referred to was from internal dissension of usurpation like that of Abimelech. For this cause they have sometimes been called “civil” judges.

Something of the magnificence of the second of the two may be gathered from verse 4. To ride on an ass is characteristic of royalty in those times, and if each of these sons did that, and each had his own city to rule, Jair’s possessions were extensive. Havoth-jair, interpreted into English, means “the towns of Jair.”

It will be interesting to compare Numbers 32:41 , Deuteronomy 3:14 and 1 Chronicles 2:22 for the story of an earlier Jair. Although the two have points of unusual similarity they were evidently different persons.


1. What is the spiritual condition of Israel following Gideon’s death?

2. Give the history of Abimelech’s rise to power.

3. Recite Jotham’s parable and give its application.

4. What shows Jotham to have been a prophet?

5. Give the history of Shechem’s destruction.

6. With what earlier military captain may Abimelech be compared in his death?

7. What characteristic has sometimes been given the judgeships of Tola and Jair, and why?

8. What is the meaning of Havoth-jair?

9. Have you compared the histories of the two Jairs?

Verses 6-18



The story of these verses suggests that preceding the deliverance of Gideon’s time (chap. 6). There seem, indeed, to have been no such widespread idolatry and iniquity in Israel before, and for eighteen years the nation suffered at the hands of the Ammonites on the east and the Philistines on the west (Judges 10:8 ). The Ammonites were very bold and pressed their conquests across the Jordan (Judges 10:9 ).

The repentance of Israel (Judges 10:10 ) seems to have been genuine for there is no cloaking of their sin, and yet Jehovah would put in the plow deeper (Judges 9:11-14 ). Just how the communication of these verses was made the record says not. It may have been gathered in substance from the providences in the case, or it may have come directly through the high priest; probably the latter. Nevertheless, when they are ripe for mercy the mercy comes (Judges 10:15-16 ). The ripeness is shown in their putting away sin, and making their backs bare for the punishment, whatever it may be, “Do anything you will to us, O Lord, but send deliverance.” When the sinner in the present dispensation gets into this place of surrender, help through Christ is not long delayed. Compare the close of Romans 7:0 with the opening verses of the next chapter in that epistle.


Jephthah was low-born and had a hard time of it (Judges 11:1-3 ). He was at the head of a band of outlaws, with a history not unlike David at one time; but he was a gallant leader and his innings have come at last (Judges 11:4-11 ). Notice that Jephthah was not without a knowledge of God as shown in Judges 11:9 and Judges 11:11 , so that with all his roving habits and his life of plundering on his enemies, the Ammonites perhaps, he may have been more godly and loyal than the people who cast him out.

THE AMBASSAGE TO AMMON (Judges 11:12-28 )

The record of these verses is self-explanatory, and is noticeable, first, for Ammon’s false assumption based on an untrue interpretation of history (Judges 11:12-13 ); second, Jephthah’s acquaintance with Israel’s past, pointing to the accuracy with which the records were kept, notwithstanding the long period of turmoil since Moses’s day (Judges 11:14-22 ); and third, his abounding faith in Jehovah’s power in the premises (Judges 11:23-27 ).

JEPHTHAH’S VOW (Judges 11:29-40 )

The vow of Jephthah is celebrated for its awfulness and, like others, we have tried to explain it in some other than its literal sense, but the effort has not brought satisfaction. We can understand why he made it, because it was a custom with heathen chieftains on the eve of battle to promise their gods oblations or booty; and also because vows were practiced by the Israelites and approved of God, as we saw in Leviticus 27:0 and other scriptures, although, of course, not vows of this kind. Jephthah lived beyond the Jordan, far from the tabernacle, and on the borders of a heathen country, where human sacrifices were common. It was, too, a time of great spiritual declension in Israel. All these things are to be considered, and yet why did he do it, and why did God permit it, abhorrent to Him as it must have been, if it absolutely occurred? We might as well ask the old question, Why did God permit sin? We can say nothing in answer, but simply wait. There are many mysteries to try our faith and patience. One thing is certain, it furnishes an awful lesson against rash and hasty vows.

It is but just to add that the other view of this matter is that Jephthah consecrates his daughter to a life of virginal service. This indeed would have been a serious sacrifice to him as it ended his hopes as the head of his line, inasmuch as she was his only child. It also deprived her of the crown of motherhood. Judges 11:39-40 are thought to offer justification of this “life of service” view.


Ephraim shows the same jealous spirit in this case as in the earlier time of Gideon. They wanted the glory without earning it, and, although Jephthah dealt with them almost as tactfully as his predecessor, the issue was different (Judges 12:1-3 ).

Judges 12:6 shows the test by which the escaping Ephraimite was discovered. Shibboleth means a stream, and sibboleth a burden. The appropriateness in the demand that they pronounce the first word is that they were trying to pass the fords of Jordan. The Ephraimites had a dialect peculiarity that identified them anywhere.


1. How long was Israel in bondage at this time and to what peoples?

2. How does she testify her sincere repentance?

3. Have you examined the passages in Romans?

4. Give the early history of Jephthah.

5. Give evidences of his reverence for Jehovah.

6. Give the story of Jephthah’s debate with Ammon.

7. Give the story of his vow.

8. Give the story of the word shibboleth.

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Judges 10". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/judges-10.html. 1897-1910.
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