And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim.Jdg 10:1. There arose — Not of himself, but raised by God, as the other judges were. To defend — Or, to save, which he did, not by fighting against and overthrowing their enemies, but by a prudent and pious government of them, whereby he kept them from sedition, oppression, and idolatry. He dwelt in Shamir — Which was in the very midst of the land.
And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.
And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.Jdg 10:3-4. Jair, a Gileadite — Of Gilead, beyond Jordan. He had thirty sons — Who, it seems, were itinerant judges, and went from place to place, as their father’s deputies, to administer justice. That rode on thirty ass- colts — It was customary for the noblest persons to ride on those beasts, and that not only in Judea, but likewise in Arabia, and other countries, even among the Romans. Thirty cities, called Havoth-jair — That is, the villages of Jair. These villages were so called before this time from another Jair, but the old name was revived and confirmed upon this occasion.
And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.
And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of 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 the LORD, and served not him.Jdg 10:6. Israel served the gods of Syria — They added to their former idolatries the worship of new gods, particularly those of Syria, which were Bel, or Baal, Astarte, Dagon, Moloch, Thammuz. And the gods of Zidon — The supreme gods of the Sidonians were Baal and Ashtaroth: but it is likely they had more, such as Asaroth, Asarim, Asarah. And the gods of Moab — The principal of which was Chemosh, 1 Kings 11:7. And the gods of the children of Ammon — The chief of which was Milcom, (1 Kings 11:5,) where Ashtaroth is mentioned as the goddess of the Sidonians. And the gods of the Philistines — They had more, it seems, besides Dagon, but their names are not mentioned in Scripture. And forsook the Lord — They grew worse and worse, and ripened themselves for ruin. Before, they worshipped God and idols together: now they forsake God, and wholly cleave to idols.
And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.Jdg 10:7-8. He sold them into the hand of the Philistines, &c. — The one on the west, the other on the east, so that they were molested on both sides. That year they vexed, &c. — Or, that year they had vexed and oppressed the children of Israel eighteen years — This was the eighteenth year from the beginning of that oppression. And these eighteen years are not to be reckoned from Jair’s death, because that would enlarge the time of the judges beyond the just bounds; but from the fourth year of Jair’s reign: so that the greatest part of Jair’s reign was cotemporary with this affliction. This case of Jair and that of Samson seem to be much alike. For as it is said of Samson, that he judged Israel in the days of the tyranny of the Philistines, twenty years, Jdg 15:20; by which it is evident that his judicature and their dominion were cotemporary; the like is to be conceived of Jair, that he began to judge Israel, and endeavoured to reform religion, and purge out all abuses; but being unable to effect this, through the backwardness of the people, God would not enable him to deliver the people, but gave them up to this sad oppression; so that Jair could only determine differences among the Israelites, but could not deliver them from their enemies.
And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.
Moreover 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.
And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.Jdg 10:10. We have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim — Not contented to add idols to thee, we have preferred them before thee. All the rest of the pagan gods, mentioned Jdg 10:6, are here comprehended under the name of Baalim. They were so many and various, that they had entirely alienated the affections of the Israelites from their own, that is, the true God, as they now acknowledge in a penitential strain.
And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?Jdg 10:11. The Lord said unto Israel — Either by some prophet whom he raised up, and sent for this purpose, or by the high-priest consulting God for them by Urim and Thummim. For we find that the Israelites, notwithstanding their idolatries, when they were sorely afflicted, bethought themselves of repairing to the tabernacle, and asking counsel of the Lord. Did not I deliver you from the Amorites? — Both Sihon and Og, and their people, and other kings of the Amorites. From the children of Ammon — Who were confederate with the Moabites, Jdg 3:13-14.
The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.Jdg 10:12. The Zidonians — We do not read of any oppression of Israel, particularly, by the Zidonians. But many things were done which are not recorded. The Maonites — Either, first, those who lived in or near the wilderness of Maon, in the south of Judah, 1 Samuel 23:25; 1 Samuel 25:2; whether Edomites or others. Or, secondly, the Mehunims, a people living near the Arabians, of whom see 2 Chronicles 26:7. For in the Hebrew, the letters of both names are the same, only the one is the singular, the other the plural number.
Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.Jdg 10:13-14. I will deliver you no more — Except you repent in another manner than you yet have done: which when they performed, God suspended the execution of this threatening: Cry unto the gods you have chosen — You have not been forced to worship those gods by your oppressors; but you have freely chosen them before me.
Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.
And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.Jdg 10:15. Do thou unto us, &c. — Do not give us up into the hands of these cruel men, but do thou chastise us with thine own hand as much as thou pleasest, if we be not more faithful and constant to thee than we have hitherto been.
And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.Jdg 10:16. They put away the strange gods — As an evidence of the sincerity of their sorrow, and that they did not only confess their sins, but also forsake them. And it is probable that, for the present, a thorough reformation took place, and that they entirely quitted the worship of strange gods, and served the Lord alone. His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel — That is, upon their repentance and reformation he turned away his anger, had compassion upon them on account of their miseries, and acted toward them like one that felt their sufferings. He changed his carriage toward them, and punished their enemies as sorely as if they had grieved and injured his own person. From this chapter we may learn the amazing depravity of human nature, and how readily it falls from one degree of degeneracy to another. God, who knows what our nature is, foresaw that apostacy to idolatry would be the certain consequence of the Israelites dwelling among the heathen nations, and therefore had strictly commanded them to expel those nations entirely out of Canaan, and to have no communication with them. But the Israelites did not obey his commands in this; and, in neglecting this one thing, fell into all the errors, crimes, and miseries, which God had forewarned them would be the consequence. They thought there was but little harm in letting the Canaanites remain among them as long as they lived peaceably with them. But, alas! evil communication unavoidably corrupts good manners; they could not converse and traffic with the Canaanites without, by degrees, contracting a friendship with them, perhaps thinking they should be strengthened by these alliances with the inhabitants of the land. This naturally produced at least a complaisant deference to their customs and religious ceremonies, and, in a little longer time, the adjoining some of those customs and ceremonies with their own; till at last they fell into all the abominations of the nations; to deliver them from which, the true God had done so many wondrous works. From hence we may learn how we may, by offending in a single point only, and that not seeming in itself absolutely immoral, or of any great consequence, be by degrees carried entirely out of the paths of piety, and brought to the greatest degeneracy. We may further observe, from the circumstances of the Israelites, related in this chapter, that afflictions are of great use, and are employed by God to bring men to a right sense of their duty, and into the paths of righteousness, from which they had wandered by their follies. And we may also learn, that God is always ready to receive us with forgiveness and mercy whenever we return to him.
Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.
And the people and 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.