Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.SIXTH SECTION
TWO JUDGES IN QUIET, PEACEFUL TIMES: TOLA OF ISSACHAR AND JAIR THE GILEADITE
The Judgeships of Tola and Jair
1And after Abimelech there arose to defend [deliver] Israel, Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. 2And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir. 3And after him arose Jair, a [the] Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years. 4And he had thirty sons [,] that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, [those] which are called Havoth-jair [the circles of Jair] unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
Judges 10:1. And after Abimelech there arose Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo. The record of this man’s life contains no stirring actions, like those of Abimelech, but tells of something better. He “delivered” and “judged” Israel. This, however, always presupposes renewed consciousness of sin on the part of Israel, and return to the living God. It is probable that the horrible deeds and the terrible end of Abimelech and Shechem made such an impression upon the conscience of Israel, as to open the way for deliverance. Under this view, the words “after Abimelech” receive a deeper significance; and the reason why the history of that personage was so copiously narrated becomes still more evident. That which at other times was the result of terrors from without, is this time brought about by the civil catastrophe within.
The deliverer’s name was “Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo.” The mention of father and grandfather both, is unusual, and occurs in the case of no other Judge. It was therefore natural, that already at an early date, and also, it would seem, by the Masora, “ben Dodo” was taken appellatively, as meaning “Son of his Uncle or Cousin.” The “his” in that case must refer to Abimelech; and Tola would have to be regarded as the son of a brother or a sister of Gideon. The son of Gideon’s brother, he cannot have been (although this is just the relation indicated by ancient expositions, cf. the πατραδέλφον of the LXX.); for he belonged not to Manasseh, but to Issachar. If a sister of Gideon had married a man of the tribe of Issachar, this person might indeed have been called an uncle (dod) of Abimelech. But if such were the relation, is it not more likely that the writer would have said, “Son of the sister of Jerubbaal?” The names Tola and Puah, as borne by sons of Issachar, are already found in Gen. 46:13. They became established in the families of that tribe, and frequently recur. It was just so in German families, especially of the Middle Ages. Particular names were peculiar to particular families. (Instead of פּוּאָה, Puah, we have פֻּוָּה, Puvah, in Gen. 46:13 and Num. 26:23, though not in all MSS. 1 Chr. 7:1 has פּוּאָה, Puah.) These names indicate a certain industry, which, it may be inferred, must have been carried on in Issachar. Tola (תּוֹלָצ) is the Kermesworm (coccus ilicis), from which the crimson, or deep scarlet color (תּוֹלַצַת שַׁנִי), of which we read so much in connection with the tabernacle, was derived; and Puah is Chaldee for rubia tinctorum, or madder red (cf. Buxtorff, sub voce). We shall not err, perhaps, if we conjecture that the third name also is added because of its agreement in meaning with the two preceding. For Dodo, if we derive it from דּוּד, dud, instead of דּוֹד, dod, cousin, means “pot,” or “vessel,” a prominent utensil in the preparation of dyes.1 Names of this kind, it is well known, are not unfrequent in the East. Hammer (Namen der Araber) even adduces the name Fihr, which signifies the stone used for grinding perfumes.
He dwelt in Shamir, on Mount Ephraim. The centre of his judicial activity was permanently fixed in Ephraim. As to Shamir, this name (on its import, compare my treatise Schamir, Erf. 1856) may be identified with Shemer, name of the owner of the hill on which king Omri afterwards built Shomeron, Samaria (1 Kgs. 16:24).
Judges 10:3–5. And after him arose Jair, the Gileadite. Just as Tola was a family-name in Issachar, so was Jair in Gilead. The ancestor of this Jair was the son of Manasseh, whose name was associated with the acquisition of the greatest part of the territory in possession of the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh. Machir, it is stated, Num. 32:39–41, took Gilead, and “Jair, son of Manasseh,” the “circles,” which were afterwards called the “circles of Jair.” It has already been pointed out in connection with our explanation of the name Hivite (Chivi), that chavah, (plur. chavoth, Eng. Ver. Havoth), means “circle,” from the form in which those villages to which it is applied were laid out (see on Judges 3:3). It would, therefore, involve a twofold error to explain Havoth-Jair, as modern expositors do, by making it analogous to such German names as Eisleben and Aschersleben; for, in the first place, chavah does not mean “life” here; and, secondly, in such names as the above, the German leben does not mean vita but mansio.
By these “circles of Jair” we are evidently to understand the whole of the present western Hauran, reaching as far as Jebel Hauran, for Kenath (the present Kenawath) is reckoned among the sixty cities of Jair (1 Chr. 2:23; 1 Kgs. 4:13). Wetzstein’s conjecture (Hauran, p. 101), that these cities are only sixty tent-villages of the nomadic order, is by no means to be accepted; for the books of Kings and Chronicles are conversant with great cities, with walls and brazen bars, in the region that “pertained to Jair.” The objection that if such cities had existed, the Assyrians could not have subjected the two and a half tribes so readily, is not borne out. In the first place, because the accounts of this conquest are very brief and scanty; and in the second place, because the history of all ages teaches us, that when the Spirit has left a people, neither fortresses nor “steep heights” avail to detain the enemy. At all events, the Assyrian successes do not prove that the architectural remains of the Hauran cannot in their elements be referred back to the time of the Amorites and Israelites. Without at present entering into any discussion of this subject, we hold the contrary to be highly probable, even though, at the places which would here come into consideration, more recent buildings bear the stamp of more recent times. Indeed, it seems to me, that just as it was possible to identify Kenath, Salcah, Golan, etc., so the name Jair also is in existence to this day. I find it in the name of the city called “Aere” by Burckhardt, “Eera” by Seetzen, and “Ire” by Wetzstein. It is still the seat of an influential (Druse) chieftain. Ritter (xv. 944) warns us against confounding it with the Aera which the Itinerary of Antonine puts in the place of the present Szanamein; but it were more proper to say that the repeated occurrence of the name, should be regarded as evidence that the whole region was once called “Jair’s circles.”
The narrator’s remark that the cities of Jair “are sailed Havoth Jair unto this day,” has been supposed to conflict with the statement of the Pentateuch, wherein this name is derived from the first Jair (cf. Hengst., Pent. ii. 193). With regard to some other names of places, such an exchange of one derivation for another, may perhaps be made out; but here it is quite impossible that one should have taken place. The narrator, who keeps the Pentateuch constantly before his eyes, designs only to remind the reader of what was there stated. In themselves, his words would have been entirely insufficient to explain the origin of the designation Havoth-Jair, seeing the discourse was about “cities” (צֲיָרִים). Moreover, the number of these cities, at a later date, was reckoned at sixty, whereas here mention is made of only thirty. The sentence is indeed peculiar on account of the double לָהֶם; for which reason a few codices read it but once. But the word does not bear the same sense in both cases. The second לָהֶם, introduces an explanatory clause; so that the meaning of the sentence is this: “thirty cities belonged to them (לָהֶם), of those2(לָהֶם) which (the relative אֲשֶׁר is frequently omitted) are called Havoth-Jair unto this day.” The closing words of this sentence (“unto this day”) are evidently a mere verbal citation from Deut. 3:14; for no other occasion exists here, where the question is only of Jair’s distinguished position, for their use. Jair, by his strength and virtue, had diffused his family over one half of the entire district, with which his ancient progenitor had long ago associated his own name.
And he had thirty sons, who rode on thirty asses, and had thirty cities. The paronomasia between עֲיָרִים, asses, and the rare form עַיָרִים for “cities,” authorizes the conjecture that we have here a sentence from a song of praise in honor of Jair and his prosperous fortune. That which is celebrated is, not that he possessed thirty asses—what would that be to a man who had thirty cities?—but that he was the father of thirty sons, all of whom enjoyed the honor and distinction implied in the statement that they rode upon asses. They rode, that is to say, not merely as men of quality—the usual explanation,—but as chiefs, governors, and judges. It was peculiar to such persons especially that they made use of the ass, as the animal of peace. Their very appearance on this animal, was expressive of their calling to reconcile and pacify. The sons of Jairs judged their thirty cities. This is something not given to all rich fathers; it was a happiness which not even Samuel the Priest was destined to enjoy.
Jair was buried in Camon, doubtless one of the thirty cities of Hauran. The farther and more thorough investigation is carried in the country east of the Jordan, the more instructive will its results become. Perhaps we may take the Sahwed el-Kamh, on Wetzstein’s map, not far from Ire (Jair), for the Camon of the text. However little may be told of many of the Judges of Israel, of their place of burial information is given. The whole land was to be, as it were, a memorial hall, by which the people are reminded of the men who brought help in distress, when they repented, and which may also teach them to know that all men, however valiant, die, and that only the one, eternal God survives in deathless existence. But how inadequate monuments and sepulchres are to preserve energy and piety among the people, that the following section once more teaches.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Two judges in times of quiet. After the terrible storm, comes a calm. For half a century Tola and Jair judge Israel, without committing frightful wrongs, or performing enviable deeds. The greatness of Gideon’s times, and the baseness of Abimelech’s, are both exhausted. An unknown, but happy, generation lives and works in peace under pious Judges. No enemy threatens, the word of God is quick and active, the country prospers, commerce flourishes. A quiet life is rich in seeds. Amid the silence of repose, the germs of spring prepare themselves. It is a type of the Kingdom in the future, when through the eternal calm only the anthems of adoring choirs will be heard, like the voices of nightingales resounding through the night.
So, it is not given to every one to live a quiet, peaceful life, undisturbed by political and social alarms. Let him who enjoys it, not envy the fame with which publicity surrounds great names. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength says the prophet (Isa. 30:15).
STARKE: To govern a nation well in times of peace, is not less praiseworthy than to carry on wars and overcome enemies.—LISCO: Tola saved his people, not indeed by wars and victims, but by right and justice, by the concord and peace which he restored in Israel.
[SCOTT: The removal of hardened sinners, by a righteous God, often makes way for reformation and public tranquillity, and proves a great mercy to those who survive.—WORDSWORTH: The time in which they [i. e. Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon] judged Israel amounted to seventy years, but the Holy Spirit does not record a single act done by any one of them; and thus He leads us to look forward and upward to another life, and to that heavenly chronicle which is written with indelible characters in the memory of God Himself, and is ever open to his divine eye.—TR.]
1On the vessels excavated in the sandstone, which were used in the preparation of the purple dye at Tyre, see Wilde, Voyage in the Mediterranean, Dublin, 1840, ii. 148 ff. quoted by Ritter, xvii. 372.
2[In the text, Dr. Cassel renders לָהֶם by “those,” while here he writes “of those.” The first rendering may be defended, but the second is as doubtful as it is unnecessary. If the intention be to avoid all appearance of conflict with the Pentateuch, this is just as effectually reached by the unimpeachable version of De Wette: Man nennet Jair’s Dörfer bis auf diesen Tag—they are called Jair’s Villages unto this day. יִקְרְאוּ is the indeterminate 3d per. plural, and (as is remarked by Bertheau and Keil) does not at all affirm that the name was now first given. לָהֶם is the dative of that to which the name is given, and stands first for the sake of emphasis; “they had thirty cities, precisely those cities people call Havoth-Jair.”—TR.]
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.SEVENTH SECTION
THE OPPRESSION OF THE MIDIANITES. JEPHTHAH, THE JUDGE OF THE VOW
Renewed apostasy and punishment. Awakening and repentance.
6And the children [sons] of Israel did evil again [continued to do evil] in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and served [the] Baalim, and [the] Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria [Aram], and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children [sons] of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord [Jehovah], and served not Him. 7And the anger of the Lord [Jehovah] was hot [kindled] against Israel, and he sold [delivered] them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children [sons] of Ammon. 8And that year they vexed and oppressed the children [sons] of Israel eighteen years,3 all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, 9which is in Gilead. Moreover, the children [sons] of Ammon passed over [the] Jordan, to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim: so that Israel was sore distressed.4 10And the children [sons] of Israel cried unto the Lord [Jehovah], saying, We have sinned against thee, both [namely], because we have forsaken our God, and also [omit: also; read: have] served [the] Baalim. 11And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto the children [sons] of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians [from Mizraim, i. e. Egypt], and from the Amorites, from the children [sons] of Ammon, and from the Philistines?5 12The Zidonians also [And when the Sidonians], and the Amalekites, and the Maonites did oppress you; [,] and ye cried to me, and [then] I delivered you out of their hand. 13Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. 14Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation [distress]. 15And the children [sons] of Israel said unto the Lord [Jehovah], We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. 16And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord [Jehovah]: and his soul was grieved for [endured no longer] the misery of Israel.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
[1 Judges 10:8—Dr. Cassel translates this clause as follows (reading כַּשָּׁנָה, instead of בַּשָּׁנָח, see the Commentary below): “And they vexed and plagued the sons of Israel, as this year, eighteen years long,” etc. The better way is to repeat the idea of the verbs after “eighteen years,” thus: “And they broke and crushed the sons of Israel in that year; eighteen years did they oppress all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan,” etc. רָעַץ and רָצַץ come from the same root, and are synonyms used to strengthen the idea.—TR.]
[2 Judges 10:9.—Literally: “and it became exceedingly strait to Israel,” cf. Judges 2:15. On the use of the fem. gender (וַתֵּצֶר, from יָצַר) in impersonal constructions, see Green, Gram., 243, 3.—TR.]
[3 Judges 10:11.—For Dr. Cassel’s rendering of this verse, see the comments on it. The sentence is anacoluthic in the original; the construction being changed at the beginning of the next verse.—TR.]
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
Judges 10:6. And the sons of Israel continued to do the evil in the sight of Jehovah. Sin and forgiveness are the hinges of all history; especially of the history of Israel, including in that term the spiritual Israel of modern times. They follow each other like night and morning. As soon as the prayers and faith of a great man cease from among the people, and the earth is heaped over his grave, the new generation breaks loose, like an unrestrained youth. After Jair’s death, idolatry spreads far and wide. Israel plays the harlot, in the east with Aram, in the west with the Phœnicians, in the southeast with Moab and Ammon, in the southwest with the Philistines. Those gods are named first, whose people have already oppressed Israel, and have been turned back by men of God. First, the Baalim and Ashtaroth, whose service Gideon especially, the Jerubbaal, overthrew (Judges 6:25); next, the gods of Aram, whose king was defeated by the hero Othniel; then, the gods of Zidon, the mention of whom—since Zidon, the metropolis, stood for all Phœnicia, i. e. Canaan—reminds us of the victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin, king of Canaan; and finally, the gods of Moab, smitten by Ehud. Israel served these gods, although they were unable to stand before the eternal God. And beside these, it now also serves the gods of the Ammonites and Philistines. These also will first cause it to experience oppression; but then, though only after long penance, become the occasion of divine displays of grace and mercy to Israel. In truth, this “young” Israel serves all gods, except only the living and the true. It runs after every superstition, every delusion, every sensual gratification, every self-deception, but forgets the truth and peace of God. It seeks false friends, and forsakes the true.
Judges 10:7–10. And He delivered them into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the sons of Ammon. As far as their sufferings and conflicts with the western nations are concerned, these are related subsequently under the history of Samson. The chastisement which they experience by means of Ammon, leads the way. This falls especially upon the people east of the Jordan, the neighbors of Ammon; and the enervating and weakening effects of sin and unbelief become clearly manifest in the fact that one of the most valiant of the Israelitish tribes, Gilead, the home, as it were, of heroes, is not able successfully to oppose the enemy. Israel is pressed, plagued, plundered; “as in the first year,6 so through eighteen years” (for בַּשָּׂנָה read כַּשָּׁנָה). The inflictions to which they were obliged to submit one year, the spoliation of their harvests, the plundering of their villages, the imposition of tribute, are repeated year after year, eighteen times. The manifest weakness of Israel, the dismemberment of the nation, so that one tribe finds no help from any other (Judges 12:2), emboldens the oppressor. Ammon passes over the Jordan, and attacks Israel in the heart of its most powerful tribes, without meeting resistance. But how came Israel into such a condition of disruption? Whence this inability to unite its forces against the overbearing enemy? This question has already been answered in Judges 10:6. The people has forsaken the one God, and worships many idol gods. Falling away from the national faith, it has fallen into the disintegration of egoism. The tribes are divided by their special idols, their respective evil consciences, and by local selfishness. Only one thing is common to all,—despondency and powerlessness; for the ideal spirit of the theocratic people, the source of union and courage, is wanting. Hence, after long distress, they all share in a common feeling of repentance. They come now to the tabernacle, long neglected—for while attending at near and local idol temples, they have forgotten to visit the House of God—and say: we have sinned.
Judges 10:11, 12. And Jehovah said to the sons of Israel, Not from Mizraim (Egypt), and from the Amorite, from the sons of Ammon, and from the Philistines! It is the Priest who answers the people, in the name of God, through Urim and Thummim, as in Judges 1:1. It has been observed that in Judges 10:6 seven different national idols are enumerated as having been served by Israel, and that in Judges 10:11 and 12 seven nations are named, out of whose hand Israel had been delivered. The number seven is symbolical of consummation and completion. All false gods, whom Israel has foolishly served, are included with those that are named in Judges 10:6, from the northeast and southeast, the northwest and southwest. Such, undoubtedly, is likewise the sense of Judges 10:11 and 12. To Israel’s prayer for deliverance from Amnion in the land of the Amorite, and from the Philistines, God replies, reproachfully: that Israel bears itself as if it had sinned for the first time, and asked deliverance in consideration of its repentance. But, says God, from of old I have liberated you from all the nations that surround you,—from Egypt first, and from every nation that troubled you—east, west, north, and south,—in turn. The voice of God speaks not in the style of narrative, but in the tone of impassioned discourse. Under general descriptions, it comprehends, with rhetorical vigor, special occurrences. It introduces the Ammonites, Philistines, and Amorites, immediately after Egypt, because these nations are now in question. Have I not already, since your exodus from Egypt, given you peace, even from these very Philistines (Ex. 13:17), Ammonites (Num. 21:24), and Amorites (Num. 21:21ff )? Thereupon, the discourse passes over into another construction; for from the ancient part it turns now to events of more recent times. In those early times, when Moses led you, you saw no oppression, but only victory. Later, when Zidonians, Amalekites, and Maonites oppressed you, I helped you at your cry. All three names indicate only in a general way, the quarters from which the more recent attacks had come. Since Joshua’s death, Israel had experienced only one attack from the north and northeast, all others had come from the east and southwest. That from the north, was the act of Jabin, king of Canaan. It is true, that in the narrative of Barak’s victory, the name Zidonians does not occur; but Zidon is in emphatic language the representative, the mother as she is called, of Phœnicia, i. e. Canaan. In a like general sense do Amalek and Maon here stand for those eastern tribes from whose predatory incursions Israel had suffered; for Amalek, the earliest and most implacable enemy of Israel, assisted both Midian and Moab in their attacks. Thus also, the mention of Maon becomes intelligible. Modern expositors (even Keil) consider the Septuagint reading Μαδιάμ (Midian) to be the correct one. We cannot adopt this view; for this reason, if no other, that difficult readings are to be preferred to plain ones. Maon is the name of the southeastern wilderness, familiar to us from David’s history. The name has evidently been preserved in the Maon of Arabia Petræa (cf. Ritter, xiv. 1005). Amalek and Maon represent the Bedouin tribes, who from this quarter attacked Israel. Every point from which Israel could be assailed has thus been included; for the first three nations, Philistines, Ammonites, and Amorites, range from the southwest to the northeast, just as the other three, Zidonians, Amalekites, and Maonites, reach from the northwest to the southeast.
Judges 10:13–16. Go, and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen. From all nations, says the voice of God, have I liberated you. It has been demonstrated to you that I am your true Deliverer, and that all the tribes round about you are your enemies, especially when they perceive that you have forsaken Me. Every part of your land teaches this lesson; and yet you apostatize always anew. I have chosen you without any merit on your part, to be a great nation, and you have left Me; go, therefore, in this your time of need, and get you help from the idol gods whom you have chosen in my place. This answer cuts the sharper, because the idols to whose service Israel apostatized, were identical with the very nations by whom they were oppressed. For every idol was national or local in its character. God speaks here with a sorrow like that of a human father who addresses an inconsiderate child. Nothing but a sharp goad of reprehension and threatening will drive it to serious and thorough consideration. But though inconsiderate, it nevertheless continues to be a child. The father, though for the present he disown it, cannot in good earnest intend to abandon it altogether. And, in truth, Israel did not miscalculate. When they not only confessed their sins, but even without any visible assistance, imitated Gideon, and in faith removed their idol altars, the anger of their Father was at an end. The phrase וַתִּקְצַ ר נַפְשׁוֹ, elsewhere employed of men (cf. Num. 21:4, where the people find the way of the wilderness too long), is here applied with artless beauty to Israel’s tender Father. “His soul became too short” for the misery of Israel, i. e. the misery of the penitent people endured too long for Him. He could no longer bring himself to cherish anger against them. The love of God is no rigid human consistency: it is eternal freedom. Man’s parental love is its image, albeit an image obscured by sin. The parable of the Prodigal Son, especially, gives us some conception of the wonderful inconsistency of God, by which after chastisement He recalls the penitent sinner to himself. Nothing but the freedom of God’s love—ever right as well as free—secures the world’s existence. Love—as only God loves; love, which loves for God’s sake; love, that pardons the penitent offender seven and seventy times,—is true consistency. Put away the strange gods, and the withered stock will become green again. This Israel experiences anew, and first in Gilead.
This notice, however brief, of the removal of all strange gods, and of Israel’s return to Jehovah, is the necessary, intimately connected, introduction to the narrative of the deeds of Jephthah. It is indispensable to the understanding of his victory and suffering. It explains, moreover, why in the narrative concerning him, only the name Jehovah appears. It teaches us to consider the nature and measure of that life in which God, once lost but found again, reigns and rules.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Apostasy and Repentance. Neither Deborah’s jubilant song of triumph, nor Gideon’s exulting trumpet notes, could secure succeeding generations of Israel against renewed apostasy. It reappeared even after a season of quiet piety. But equally sure was the coming of divine judgments. They came from all sides, in ever-growing severity and magnitude. The gods of the heathen brought no help,—for they were nothing; and yet for their sake had Israel betrayed its living God. Then Israel began seriously to reflect. They not merely wept, they did works of true repentance. And whenever, by prayer and actions, they call upon their merciful God, He, like a tender father, cannot withstand them. He hears and answers.
Not so do men act toward each other; and yet they are called on to walk in the footsteps of Christ. What wonder that men find their kindness ill requited, when God experiences a similar treatment! But how then dare they cherish anger, when besought for reconciliation! If God was moved, how can we remain untouched? And yet grudge-bearing is a characteristic against which even pious Christians bear no grudge. The sinless God forgives, and gives ever anew,—and witnesses of God, men of theological pursuits, cherish ill-will and rancor for years!
“How well, my friend, in God thou livest,
Appears from how thy debtor thou forgivest.”
STARKE: Men are very changeable and inconstant, and prone to decline from the right way; neither sufficiently moved by kindness, nor influenced by punishment.—THE SAME: True repentance consists not in words but in deeds.—LISCO: Israel confesses its guilt and ill-desert and gives itself wholly up to God’s will and righteous chastening; yet, full of faith, asks for merciful, albeit unmerited, deliverance.—GERLACH: That the Lord first declares that He will no longer help Israel, afterwards, however, takes compassion on them and makes their cause his own, is a representation which repeats itself frequently in the Old Testament. Each of its opposite elements is true and consistent with the other, as soon as we call to mind that God, notwithstanding his eternity and unchangeableness, lives with and loves his people in time, and under human forms and conditions.
3[Judges 10:8—Dr. Cassel translates this clause as follows (reading כַּשָּׁנָה, instead of בַּשָּׁנָח, see the Commentary below): “And they vexed and plagued the sons of Israel, as this year, eighteen years long,” etc. The better way is to repeat the idea of the verbs after “eighteen years,” thus: “And they broke and crushed the sons of Israel in that year; eighteen years did they oppress all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan,” etc. רָעַץ and רָצַץ come from the same root, and are synonyms used to strengthen the idea.—TR.]
4[Judges 10:9.—Literally: “and it became exceedingly strait to Israel,” cf. Judges 2:15. On the use of the fem. gender (וַתֵּצֶר, from יָצַר) in impersonal constructions, see Green, Gram., 243, 3.—TR.]
5[Judges 10:11.—For Dr. Cassel’s rendering of this verse, see the comments on it. The sentence is anacoluthic in the original; the construction being changed at the beginning of the next verse.—TR.]
6[On this translation, see note 1 under “Textual and Grammatical.” Dr. Cassel evidently takes שָׁנָה הָהִיא “this year,” to mean the first year of the oppression. Others (Usher, Bush, etc.) make it the last year both of the oppression and of Jair’s life. But this is altogether unlikely. Hitherto, apostasy and servitude have always followed the death of the Judge. If the present case were an exception, the narrator would certainly have noted it as such. The use of the word “this,” would perhaps be quite plain, if we could have a glance at the sources from which the narrator here draws.—TR.]
Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.Repentance followed by energy, concord, and mutual confidence.
CHAPTER 10:17, 18.
17Then [And] the children [sons] of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children [sons] of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh [Mizpah]. 18And the people and princes [the people (namely) the chiefs] of Gilead said one to another, What man is he [Who is the man] that will [doth] begin to fight against the children [sons] of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
The call of Gideon to be a deliverer took place just when the national distress was at its greatest height, and Midian had entered on a new expedition of pillage and plunder. A like coincidence marked the present crisis. The sons of Ammon were just making a new incursion into Gilead, when they met with a new spirit. The signature of apostasy and sin, is discord and weakness, despondency and self-seeking, issuing in failure and disaster, whenever action be undertaken. The sign of conversion and true penitence is concord and confidence, leading, by God’s assistance, to victory.
Judges 10:17. And the sons of Ammon were gathered together . . . . the sons of Israel also assembled themselves. The phrase “sons of Israel” does not always include all the tribes. The men of any single tribe may be so designated. The narrator uses the expression here, however, in order to intimate that though Gilead alone actually engages in the war it is nevertheless done as Israel, according to the mind and spirit of the whole nation. As soon as Israel repents, the collective national spirit, the consciousness of national unity through the calling of God, reawakes in each of the tribes. The localities at which the respective armies are said to have assembled and prepared for the conflict, will be considered under Judges 11:29.
Judges 10:18. And the body of the nobles of Gilead said. The hitherto cowed Israelites assembled themselves; but that was not all: they were moreover united in all they did. The narrative says expressly הָעָם שָׂרֵי גִלְעָד, “the people of the nobles of Gilead,” i. e. all, without exception.7 No envious, self-seeking voice of protest or dissent was heard. In times in which distress is recognized with real repentance, private interests cease to govern. People then begin to honor truth and actual merit. No deference is then paid to personal vanity, family connections, or wealth; but, all by-views and self-seeking being set aside, he is sought after who renders service. The nobles of Gilead could not more clearly indicate their new temper, than by unitedly promising to subordinate themselves to him who begins to render the banners of Israel once more victorious, as their head.
It is to be noted that they say, “whoso beginneth to fight against the sons of Ammon.” In him who first again gains an advantage over the enemy in battle, it will be manifest that God is with him. He, accordingly, is to be, not what Gideon’s legions desired him to become, their מֹשֵׁל, ruler, nor what the sinful people of Shechem made of Abimelech, their מֶלֶךְ, king, but their רֹאשׁ, leader. Him, who conquers with God, they desire to follow unanimously, as a common head.
And this one soon appeared.
7[Dr. Cassel evidently takes הָעָם as stat. const. Scarcely correct. First, because of the article (cf. Ges. Gram. 110, 2); and, secondly, because עַם never stands for the mere notion of totality. It is better to take גִלְעָד שָׁרֵי as standing in apposition to הָעָם; “the people (namely) the chiefs of Gilead,” i. e. the people through their chiefs, as represented by them.—TR.]