Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Judges 10:1-2. Tola of Issachar judges Israel for twenty years. Judges 10:3-5. Jair of Gilead for twenty-two years. Judges 10:6. Fresh apostasies of Israel, Judges 10:7-9 and their punishment in the oppression of the people by enemies. Judges 10:10-14. Repentance of Israel, and God’s answer to them. Judges 10:15-16. They put away their idols Judges 10:17. Gathering of Ammonites. Judges 10:18. Anxiety of the Gileadites.
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.(1) After Abimelech.—his is merely a note of time. Abimelech is not counted among the judges, though it is not improbable that, evil as was the episode of his rebellions, he may have kept foreign enemies in check.
Tola.—The name of a son of Issachar (Genesis 46:13) It means “worm” (perhaps the kermes -worm), and may, like Puah, be connected with the trade in purple dyes. He seems to have been the only judge furnished by this indolent tribe, unless Deborah be an exception. Josephus omits his name.
Puah.—Also a son of Issachar (1Chronicles 7:1).
The son of Dodo.—The LXX. render it “the son of his uncle,” but there can be little doubt that Dodo is a proper name, as in 1Chronicles 11:12; 2Samuel 23:9; 2Samuel 23:24. It is from the same root as David, “beloved.” Since Tola was of Issachar, he could not be nephew of Abimelech a Manassite.
He dwelt in Shamir.—The name has nothing to do with Samaria, as the LXX. seem to suppose. It may be Sanûr, eight miles north of Samaria.
In mount Ephraim.—As judge, he would have to fix his residence in a town more central than any in his own tribe. There was another Shamir in Judah (Joshua 15:48).
And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.(2) He judged Israel.—The recurrence of the normal verb (to judge) shows that Tola was an honour able “Suffes,” not a despot, like Abimelech. Nothing further is known about Tola.
And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.(3) Jair, a Gileadite.—In Numbers 32:41 we are told of a Jair, the son of Manasseh, who “took the small towns” of Gilead, and called them Havoth-jair. This earlier Jair, with Nobah, plays a splendid part in Jewish legend, which is only alluded to in Scripture (see Deuteronomy 3:14). In what relation the Jair of these verses stood to him we cannot, in the uncertain data of the chronology, decide. The Jair of Numbers 32:41 was descended from Judah on the father’s side, and on the mother’s was a great-grandson of Manasseh.
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.(4) Had thirty sons.—An indication of his rank and position, which assumed an ostentatious polygamy. (Comp. Judges 8:30.)
That rode on thirty ass colts.—Comp. Judges 5:10; see on Judges 12:14. Implying that Jair was able to bring up his numerous household in wealth. The horse was little used in Palestine—for which, indeed, it is little suited—till the days of Solomon (1Kings 4:26), and its introduction was always discouraged by the prophets (Deuteronomy 17:16; Joshua 11:6-9; Psalm 33:17, &c). There is a curious play of words on Jair (yair), “ass-colts” (ayārîm), and “cities,” which ought to be arîm, but is purposely altered for the sake of the paronomasia. (See on Judges 15:16.) Such plays on words in serious narratives point to a very early form of literature—but probably they then rose from some popular proverb. The LXX., like Josephus, writing for Gentiles, who did not understand the value attached to asses in Palestine, almost always euphemise the word into “colts,” or “foals” (pōlous), which here enables them happily to keep up the play of words with “cities” (poleis).
Thirty cities, which are called Havoth-jair.—Havoth means villages (LXX., epauleis), and since they are here called “cities,” and thirty are named, we must suppose that this Jair (if he was a different person from the other) had increased the number of the villages originally wrested from Og from twenty-three to thirty (Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14; 1Chronicles 2:22. In the latter passage the Jair there mentioned is spoken of as a son of Segub, and a great-grandson of Manasseh).
Unto this day.—Judges 1:26.
And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.(5) In Camon.—There seems to have been a Kamon six miles from Megiddo (Euseb. Jer.), but it is far more probable that this town was in Gilead, as Josephus says (Antt. v. 6, § 6), and there is a Kamon mentioned as near Pella by Polybius (Hist. v. 70, § 12).
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.(6) Did evil again.—Literally, added to do evil: “joining new sins to their old ones,” as the Vulg. paraphrases it (Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7, &c).
The gods of Syria.—Heb. Aram. (See Genesis 35:2; Genesis 35:4.) Manasseh seems to have had an Aramean concubine (1Chronicles 7:14), who was mother of Machir. Of Syrian idolatry we hear nothing definite till the days of Ahaz (2Kings 16:10; 2Kings 16:12):—
“Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer’s day.”—Par. Lost, 1
The gods of Zidon.—1Kings 11:5. As Milton borrowed his details from the learned Syntagma de Diis Syris of Selden, we cannot find better illustration of these allusions than in his stately verse:—
“Ashtoreth, whom the Phoenicians cali
Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns,
To whose bright image nightly by the hour
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs, “—Id.
The gods of Moab.—1Kings 11:7.
“ Chemosh, the obscene dread of Moab’s sons.
From Areer to Nebo, and the wild
Of southmost Abarim . . .
Peor his other name.”—Id.
“First Moloch, horrid king. . . . Him the Ammonite
Worshipped in Rabba and his watery plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon.”—Id.
“Who mourned in earnest when the captive ark
Maimed his brute image; head and hands lopt off
In his own temple on the grunsel edge,
Where he fell flat and shamed his worshippers.
Dagon his name—sea-monster—upwards man
And downwards fish.”—Id.
Of the Philistines.—Judges 3:31.
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.(8) That year.—The narrative is evidently imperfect, as no year is specified.
Vexed and oppressed.—This again is a paronomasia, or assonance, like “broke to yoke” in English,
The land of the Amorites.—The kingdoms of Og and Sihon.
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.(9) Moreover.—Rather, and. Eighteen years’ oppression of the Trans-jordanic tribes emboldened them to attack the others.
Was sore distressed.—The same expression is used in Judges 2:19.
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.(10) Cried unto the Lord.—Judges 6:6; 1Samuel 12:10.
And the Lord said.—The method of the Divine communication is not specified. A stern experience might have spoken to the national conviction with prophetic voice.
From the Egyptians.—Exodus 1-14
From the Amorites.—Numbers 21:3-21; Joshua 10
From the children of Ammon.—Judges 3:13.
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.(12) The Sidonians.—Judges 3:3; Judges 18:7-28. Nothing very definite is recorded of deliverance from the Sidonians; but (as we have seen) the narrative of the book is typical rather than exhaustive. (Comp. Psalm 106:42-43.)
The Maonites.—As the LXX. here read Madian (and in some MSS. Canaan; Vulg., Chanaan), it seems probable that there has been an early corruption of the text. In the Arabic version we have “Moabites.” There was a town Maon in the desert of Judah (Joshua 15:55; 1Samuel 23:24; 1Samuel 25:2), but this cannot be meant. There is also a Beth Meon in the tribe of Reuben (Numbers 22:38; Baal Meon, Jeremiah 48:23), and a Meon in Arabia Petræa. Mehunims are also mentioned in 2Chronicles 26:7, and Meonim in 1Chronicles 4:41. If this is an allusion to some disaster of which we have no record given we must suppose that Meon was once the capital of some tribe which subsequently dwindled into insignificance.
Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.(13) I will deliver you no more.—A threat which, as the sequel proves, was (as in other passages of Scripture) to be understood conditionally (Jeremiah 18:7-8).
Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.(14) Go and cry unto the gods.—With this bitter reproach comp. Deuteronomy 32:37-38; 2Kings 3:13; Jeremiah 2:28.
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.(15) Deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.—The invariable cry of the soul in trouble. With the former half of the verse comp. 1Samuel 3:18; 1Samuel 15:26.
And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.(16) They put away the strange gods.—The moment the sincerity of their repentance was proved, God hears them (Genesis 35:1; 1Samuel 7:3; 2Chronicles 15:8).
His soul was grieved.—Literally, was shortened. (Comp. Zechariah 11:8.)
Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.(17) Then.—Rather, and, a general note of time.
Were gathered together.—Literally, were cried together. Conclamati sunt.
In Mizpeh.—A very common name, since it means “watch-tower.” This is doubtless the Mizpeh in Gilead (Judges 11:29; Joshua 11:3), also called Ramoth-Mizpeh, or Ramoth-Gilead (Joshua 13:26; Joshua 20:8). (Comp. Genesis 31:49).
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.(18) The people and princes.—There is no “and” in the original; but it cannot be a case of apposition, because the term “people” is never applied to “princes.”
Head.—Comp. Judges 11:11.