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Bible Commentaries
Judges 10

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


Judges 10:0 The Rise of Ammon.

This chapter gives an account of two judges of Israel, in whose days their parts of Israel enjoyed peace, after which, by sinning against God Israel came into further trouble, and were oppressed by their enemies eighteen years, and were invaded by an army of the Ammonites. When they cried to Yahweh for deliverance, confessing their sins, He at first refused to grant it, although on their continuing and reforming He had compassion on them, and the chapter concludes with the preparations made by both armies for battle.

Verses 1-5

Judges 10:0 The Rise of Ammon.

This chapter gives an account of two judges of Israel, in whose days their parts of Israel enjoyed peace, after which, by sinning against God Israel came into further trouble, and were oppressed by their enemies eighteen years, and were invaded by an army of the Ammonites. When they cried to Yahweh for deliverance, confessing their sins, He at first refused to grant it, although on their continuing and reforming He had compassion on them, and the chapter concludes with the preparations made by both armies for battle.

Further Judges of Israel (Judges 10:1-5 ).

Judges 10:1

And after Abimelech there arose to save Israel, Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he dwelt in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.’

It is noteworthy that it is not said of Abimelech that he delivered Israel, or saved Israel or acted as judge. His short appearance was an interlude between judges, a blot on the picture. But once again, when he was gone, God raised up judges in accordance with His will.

The first was Tola, the son of Puah (sometimes Puvah). For these names (but not the persons) as connected with Issachar, compare Genesis 46:13; Numbers 26:23; 1 Chronicles 7:1. The name Dodo appears in 1 Samuel 23:9, and, interestingly, in connection with a cult object in the Moabite stone (‘the altar-hearth of Dodo’), connected with the Israelites in Transjordan. The whereabouts of Shamir is not known.

Thus to this point we have had five judges, Othniel of Judah, Ehud of Benjamin, Shamgar, Deborah with Barak of Naphtali, Gideon of Manasseh and this, Tola of Issachar, is the sixth. He will be followed by Jair of Gilead, Jephthah of Gilead, Ibzan of Bethlehem (in Zebulun - Joshua 19:15), Elon of Zebulun, Abdon the Pirathonite, and Samson the Danite. Thus making twelve in all, the number of the tribes in the covenant.

Tola ‘saved’ Israel. This would suggest that he was more than just an administrator, but was a charismatic leader raised in a time of trouble. However, we know no more about him except that he judged Israel for twenty three years.

Judges 10:2

And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.’ We get from these two verses the sense that tranquillity had been restored. The tumult of Abimelech was over. The ‘twenty and three years’ may indicate that he judged for twenty years (half a generation) more than Abimelech was prince over Israel (Judges 9:22), an indication that righteous rule had replaced unrighteous rule.

Judges 10:3

And after him arose Jair, the Gileadite, and he judged Israel twenty and two years.’

Jair means ‘he who enlightens’. He judged in a totally different part of the country than Tola, on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead. ‘After him’ may simply signify that he arose after Tola saved Israel and began to judge. Thus the judgeships may overlap. ‘Twenty and two years’ may indicate ‘just over half a generation’. He judged the same general area as that conquered by Jair, the ‘son of Manasseh’, in Numbers 32:41 (see also Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 13:30 which connect them with Bashan which was part of ‘all the land of Gilead’ (2 Kings 10:33)), but the latter only ruled twenty three towns (1 Chronicles 2:22), although compare ‘the towns of Jair’ (Joshua 13:30). This suggests that he came from a noble and influential family. His wealth is apparent from Judges 10:4.

Judges 10:4

And he had thirty sons that rode upon thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.’

He seemingly had a number of wives who gave him thirty sons, each of whom ruled a town. The fact that they rode on ass colts stresses their position and dignity. ‘Havvoth Jair’ means ‘the tent villages of Jair’, but by now, while retaining the old name, they had progressed to small towns and cities.

Judges 10:5

And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.’

Both these judges appear to have served well and maintained submission to Yahweh, for it was only on their deaths that the children of Israel again backslid.

Verse 6

God’s Fifth Lesson - The Rise of the Ammonites and Its Consequences - Jephthah as Judge of Israel (Judges 10:6 to Judges 12:7 ).

The Sins of Israel and the Oppression of Ammon (Judges 10:6-16 ).

Judges 10:6

And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baalim, and the Ashtaroth, and the gods of Aram (Syria), and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook Yahweh and did not serve him.’

These gods would include Ashtoreth (of Zidon - 1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:33), Baal-peor and Chemosh (of Moab - Numbers 21:29; Num 25:3 ; 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 11:33), Melek (Molech, Milcom - of Ammon - Leviticus 18:21; 1Ki 11:5 ; 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 11:33), and Dagon and Baalzebub (of the Philistines - Judges 16:23; 1 Samuel 5:2-7; 2 Kings 1:2-3). Molech was particularly known as a god requiring human sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35).

From this it is apparent that a large part of the people were now seeking different gods in different parts of the country. This was to ‘forsake’ Yahweh. They no doubt kept up some formal observance of His requirements but they found the other gods more exciting and stimulating, and less demanding, and they could see them and be awed. It may also be that in some cases, such as the Philistines, Ammon and Moab, they were required to worship these gods because of the pressure from their oppressors.

Note that the number of gods mentioned is seven. This was in order to incorporate into the idea all the gods of all the nations, for seven is the number of divine completeness.

Verses 7-8

Judges 10:7-8 a.

‘And the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon, and that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel.’

This is a general description before each will be dealt with in full detail, the Ammonites first. The Philistines in the west on the coastal plain and the Ammonites in east Transjordan had Israel trapped in between them. The writer informs us that this was because Yahweh was sick of their behaviour and idolatry so that He ceased to protect them and handed them over into virtual slavery.

The Philistines were powerfully established on the coastal plain in the west and were now expanding outwards seeking tribute. This would affect a number of the tribes and many Israelite cities came under their sway, and on the whole this expansion now continued, with intermissions, until the time of David. Until then lowland Israel was never really fully free from the Philistine menace, and at times this also extended into the mountains. If they wanted Dagon, said Yahweh, they could have him! The beginning of the deliverance from them will come in later chapters

Meanwhile pressure also came from the east. The selling into the hands of the children of Ammon affected mainly Beyond Jordan, but it extended for a time into the lands of Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim west of Jordan. This was of a less permanent nature, but dreadful while it lasted. They were a cruel people and their god Melek (Molech is the same name with the vowels of bosheth (shame) implanted) demanded continual human sacrifice. Ammon surrounded their territory with small circular tower fortresses built of large stones (Numbers 21:24, as confirmed by archaeology) and regularly worked in conjunction with Moab (Judges 3:13; Deuteronomy 23:3-5; 2 Chronicles 20:1-30). They also worked in conjunction with the Amalekites (Judges 3:13) and the Midianites (Numbers 22:7 with Deuteronomy 23:3-5).

“That year” refers to the year when they first began their maraudings (Judges 10:7).

Judges 10:8 b

‘For eighteen years they oppressed all the children of Israel who were beyond Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.’

This oppression would include the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh and was similar in length of time to that previously by the Moabites, Ammonites and Amalekites (Judges 3:13-14). We need not doubt that the Moabites were also active here. But while in Judges 3:0 the Moabite king was the stronger, here the Ammonite king was the stronger.

Verse 9

And the children of Ammon passed over Jordan, to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was sore distressed.’

This indicates the power of this king of Ammon. He was strong enough not only to afflict the tribes east of the Jordan but also to make incursions west of the Jordan, and attack the larger tribes there. Indeed he may have done this periodically. His main aim there was tribute and booty, but east of Jordan it was also an attempt to annex back land which Ammon had lost to the Amorites centuries before, land which was now controlled by the Israelites,.

Verse 10

And the children of Israel cried to Yahweh, saying, “We have sinned against you, both because we have forsaken our God, and have served the Baalim.”

Once again oppression brought the children of Israel to their senses. But this time they were to find out that His attitude had hardened. Those who go on sinning in the face of His mercy find eventually that the way back is harder. The mention of the Baalim shows that this was still their central sin, common to them all, and it was probably intended to include their dabbling with the other gods, which was equally heinous (Baalim = ‘lords’).

Verse 11

Judges 10:11 a

‘And Yahweh said to the children of Israel.’

An unusual use in the predicate of ‘the children of Israel’ used only when covenant matters were very much in mind. Here they had sought to renew the covenant, but Yahweh’s reply was to be stern. He probably spoke through a prophet.

Judges 10:11-12

“Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?”

The Hebrew is difficult here but the sense is clear. Yahweh reminded them of all He had done for them in the past. The first from the Egyptians was the great deliverance. But this was followed by deliverance from the Amorites when they fought Sihon and Og (Numbers 21:21-35), from the children of Ammon (and Moab) in Judges 3:13, and from the Philistines by the hand of Shamgar (Judges 3:31).”

Verse 12

The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites did oppress you, and you cried to me, and I saved you out of their hands.”

The Zidonian oppression is not mentioned elsewhere but would have been exerted against the northern tribes. The Amalekites were continual enemies right from the beginning (Exodus 17:13; Judges 3:13). The Maonites, possibly the Meunim, were people connected with Ma‘an, south east of Petra, who regularly associated with the Moabites and the Ammonites (1 Chronicles 4:41; 2 Chronicles 20:1 NIV; RSV; RV margin) and Arabians (2 Chronicles 26:7). The LXX has ‘Midianites’ instead of Maonites, but that was probably due to the fact that the Maonites were obscure, although there may have been close links between the two.

Seven oppressors are mentioned, the number of divine perfection. This summarises therefore all who had oppressed them at any time. When these people had oppressed them in one way or another they had cried to Yahweh and He had delivered them.

Verses 13-14

Yet you have forsaken me, and served other gods, and for this reason I will save you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen, let them save you in the time of your distress. ”

As they have, once they were delivered, continually turned their back on Yahweh to serve other gods, let them now go to those gods to deliver them. Yahweh was finished with them. Let them look to the other gods to save them, and see what the result would be.

Verse 15

And the children of Israel said to Yahweh, “We have sinned, you do to us whatever seems good to you, only deliver us, we pray you, this day.” ’

The children of Israel remembered Yahweh’s promises to Abraham, and were confident that He would pity them. They could not believe that he would not honour His promises. That is always a good place to start when we seek God. So they admitted their sins and sought Him for deliverance, telling Him that He could punish them as He wished if only He would deliver them.

Verse 16

Judges 10:16 a

‘And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served Yahweh.’

His words had hit them hard. There was a wholesale cleansing and reformation, although we do not know how far it reached. Perhaps it was mainly limited to east of Jordan. So great was the distress that they removed all traces of Baalim from their houses, and all the household idols, and destroyed the altars of their other gods. They recognised that if Yahweh was to accept them again they must be thorough. Then they went to the central sanctuary and made all the necessary offerings, renewed their covenant with Yahweh, and returned home determined to obey His laws and walk in His ways.

Judges 10:16 b

‘And his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.’

Yahweh saw their repentance and He heard their cry, and He felt for His people and their misery. ‘His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.’ This is human language, an anthropomorphism. How great is the goodness and mercy of God. So He determined that once again He would deliver them through someone raised up to help them. But possibly His choice owed much to the fact that they had treated Him as an outcast, for He would save them through an outcast.

Verse 17

The Conflict With Ammon and The Rise and Victory of Jephthah (Judges 10:17 to Judges 11:40 ).

Judges 10:17 a

‘Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead.’

It may well be that the Ammonites and their allies saw the religious reformation in Israel as an act of rebellion. The Ammonites had placed their gods in Gilead and now they had been torn down, and what was more, the people of Israel here had been consorting with others in their tribal confederacy (a result of the reformation). This could only spell danger. It may also be that they had withheld tribute. So the armies of Ammon and their allies invaded Gilead, and encamped there, to find out what was happening, and to frighten Gilead into submission. ‘Gilead’ here probably represents the whole of the Beyond Jordan tribes.

Judges 10:17 b

‘And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped at Mizpah.’

In conformity with their renewed faith in Yahweh, and recognising that they must prepare to fight with Ammon, Israel also gathered together and set up camp. ‘Israel’ here probably means the Beyond Jordan tribes. But they had one problem, they needed a champion.

Mizpah. The word means ‘watchtower’. There were thus a number of Mizpahs. This one was in Gilead and was where Jephthah set up house. It may be the same as Ramath-Mizpeh - ‘the height of Mizpah’ (Joshua 13:26). Some have thus connected it with Ramoth Gilead, but this is uncertain.

Verse 18

And the people, the princes of Gilead, said to one another, “What man is he who will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’

At this stage they had no judge over them so that having gathered for battle they had no warleader. It is, however, significant that the writer makes clear that they did not look for the answer from Yahweh. Instead they surveyed their own resources. Whoever would take over the responsibility, and was acceptable, would be made their ‘head’. But they could only think of one who was suitable and he was not available. Perhaps that is why they did not seek Yahweh’s advice, for they knew that this man could not be Yahweh’s choice. For he was the bastard child of a wanton woman, probably a prostitute. They were not aware that in spite of all he had a deep faith in Yahweh.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Judges 10". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/judges-10.html. 2013.
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