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.
Verse 1. - Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo. Nothing more is known of Tola than what is here told us, viz., his name, his parentage, his dwelling-place, his office, the length of time which he held it, and the place of his burial. Who were the enemies from whom Tola was raised up to save Israel we are not told. There was probably no great invasion or grievous servitude, but perhaps frequent border wars requiring an able and watchful chief to maintain the independence of Israel. Tola and Puah (otherwise written Puvah) were both names of families in Issachar (Genesis 46:13; Numbers 26:23). Shamir in mount Ephraim, to distinguish it from Shamir in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:48). Both are otherwise unknown.
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.
Verse 3. - Jair. We read of Jair the son of Segub, the son of Machir's daughter by Hezron, in 1 Chronicles 2:21-23, and are there told that he had twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead (called Havoth-jair), which were included in the territory of the sons of Machir. The same information is given in Numbers 32:40-42, and in Deuteronomy 3:14, 15, in both which passages Jair is styled the son of Manasseh, and is stated to have called the cities after his own name, Havoth-jair. In the present verse we are also told that Jair the judge was a Gileadite, and that he had thirty sons who had thirty cities in Gilead called Havoth-jair. The question arises, Can these two be the same person? If they are, Deuteronomy 3:14 must be a later parenthetical insertion, as it has very much the appearance of being. The notice in Numbers 32:41 must also refer to later times than those of Moses, and we must understand the statement in 1 Chronicles 2:22, that "Segub begat Jair," as meaning that he was his lineal ancestor, just as in Matthew 1:8 we read that "Joram begat Ozias," though three generations intervened between them. If, on the other hand, they are not the same, we must suppose that Jair in our text was a descendant of the other Jair, and may compare the double explanation of the name Havoth-jair with the double explanation of Beer-sheba given Genesis 21:31; Genesis 26:31-33; the threefold explanation of the name Isaac, Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:12; Genesis 21:6; and the double explanation of the proverb, "Is Saul among the prophets?" given in 1 Samuel 10:11, 12; 1 Samuel 19:23, 24. The Hebrew name Jair is preserved in the New Testament under the Greek form of Jairus (Mark 5:22).
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.
Verse 4. - Thirty ass colts. The number and dignity of these knightly sons of Jair shows that Jair himself, like Gideon (Judges 8:30), assumed the state of a prince. The word in Hebrew for ass colts is identical with that for cities, as here pointed, and this play upon the words belongs to the same turn of mind as produced Jotham s fable and Samson's riddle (Judges 14:14).
And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.
Verse 5. - Jair... was buried in Careen. A city of Gilead according to Josephus, and probability. Polybius mentions a Camoun among other trans-Jordanic places, but its site has not been verified by modern research. Eusebius and Jerome place it in the plain of Esdraelon, but without probability. The careful mention of the place of sepulture of the judges and kings is remarkable, beginning with Gideon (Judges 8:32; Judges 10:2, 5; Judges 12:9, 10, 12, 15; Judges 16:31; 1 Samuel 31:12; 2 Samuel 2:10, etc.).
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.
Verse 6. - Did evil again. We may conclude that Tola and Jair had used their influence to maintain the worship of Jehovah; but at their death idolatry broke out with more virulence than ever. Not only were the many altars of Baal and Ashtoreth honoured, as in former times, but new forms of idol-worship, according to the rites of all the neighbouring nations, were introduced among them. The gods of Syria, i.e. Aram, who are not usually named, but whose worship is spoken of (2 Chronicles 28:23), and whose altar attracted the attention of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:10), and one of whom was Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18); the gods of the Zidonians, Baal and Ashtoreth, probably with rites somewhat differing from those of Canaan; Chemosh, the god of the Moabites; Milcom or Moloch, the god of the children of Ammon; and Dagon, the god of the Philis-tines - all were worshipped, while the service of Jehovah was thrust aside (see 1 Kings 11:5-7).
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.
Verse 7. - The anger of the Lord, etc. See Judges 2:13, 14. Into the hands of the Philistines. Probably the same Philistine domination as is described more fully in the history of the judgeship of Samson (chs. 13-16.). But now the writer confines his attention first to the oppression of the Ammonites.
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.
Verse 8. - That year. It does not appear clearly what particular year is meant. Jarchi explains it as the year in which air died. It may mean the very year in which the idolatries spoken of in ver. 6 were set up, so as to mark how closely God's chastisement followed the apostasy from him. They, i.e. the children of Ammon. Eighteen years. The same length as that of the Moabite servitude (Judges 3:18). The land of the Amorites, i.e. the territory of Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan (Numbers 32:33). In Gilead - in its widest acceptation, including, as in Deuteronomy 34:1; Joshua 22:9, 13, 15; Judges 20:1, the whole country held by the Amorites on the east of Jordan, and given to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. But in its narrower and stricter sense Gilead was bounded on the north by Bashan proper, and on the south by the Mishor, or plain of Medeba, which lay between the valley of Heshbon and the river Arnon, thus excluding that part of the territory of Reuben from Gilead (see Joshua 13:9-11). Originally, as we learn from Judges 11:13-22, the territory bounded by the Arnon on the south, by the Jabbok on the north, by the wilderness on the east, and by the Jordan on the west, had belonged to Moab, but the Amorites had taken it from them before the conquest of Sihon by the Israelites.
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.
Verse 9. - The children of Ammon, etc. It would seem that at this time the king of the children of Ammon was also king of the Moabites, since he laid claim (Judges 11:13, 24) to the land which had once belonged to Moab. If we may trust the king of the Ammonites' statement, the object of the war was to recover that land, and he carried the war across the Jordan into the territory of Judah and Ephraim in order to compel the Israelites to give it up.
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.
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?
Verse 11. - Did not I deliver you, etc. These references to former deliverances are of great historical value, and not the least so as they allude to events of which the existing records give no account, or a very imperfect one. They show the existence of a real history in the background of that which has been preserved in the Bible (see Judges 8:13, note). From the Egyptians, as related at large in the Book of Exodus; from the Amorites, as related in Numbers 21:21-35; from the children of Ammon, who were confederate with the Moabites under Ehud, as we learn from Judges 3:13; from the Philistines, as is briefly recorded in Judges 3:31.
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.
Verse 12. - The Zidonians also. This allusion is not clear; it may mean the subjects of Jabin king of Canaan, as the northern Canaanites are called Zidonians in ch. 18:7; and this agrees with the order in which the deliverance from the Zidonians is here mentioned, next to that from the Philistines, and would be strengthened by the conjecture that has been made, that Harosheth (Judges 4:2) was the great workshop in which the tributary Israelites wrought in cutting down timber, etc. for the Phoenician ships; or it may allude to some unrecorded oppression. The Amalekites, who were in alliance with the Midianites (Judges 6:3, 33), as previously with the Moabites (Judges 3:13) and with the Canaanites (Judges 4:14), and whose signal defeat seems to have given the name to the mount of the Amalekites (Judges 12:15). The Maonites. It is thought by many that the true reading is that preserved in the Septuagint, viz., the Midianites, which, being the greatest of all the foes of Israel, could scarcely be omitted here (see chs. 6, 7, 8.). If Maonites or Maon is the true reading, they would be the same people as the Mehunim, mentioned 2 Chronicles 26:7 (Maon, sing., and Meunim, plur.).
Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.
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.
And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.
Verse 16. - And they put away the strange gods. Here at length were "the fruits meet for repentance," and "the returning to the Lord their God;" the intended result of the severe but loving correction (see Homiletics, Judges 6:25-32). Cf. Genesis 35:2; 1 Samuel 7:3, in which passages, as here, the phrase the strange gods is the correct rendering; not, as in the margin, gods of strangers. The Hebrew phrase here rendered his soul was grieved occurs Numbers 21:4; Judges 16:16; Zechariah 11:2; it means was impatient - literally, was shortened, i.e. he could bear it no longer. A somewhat similar description of the Divine relenting is contained in the beautiful passage Hosea 11:7-9.
Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.
Verse 17. - This verse ought to begin the new chapter. The preliminary matter of Israel's sin, of their oppression by the Ammonites, of their repentance and return to the God of their fathers, and of God's merciful acceptance of their penitence and prayer, was concluded in the last verse. The history of their deliverance by Jephthah begins here. And the children of Ammon, etc., i.e. they encamped, as they had done during the previous seventeen years, in Gilead, either to carry off the crops or to wring tribute from the people, or in some other way to oppress them, expecting no doubt to meet with tame submission as before. But a new spirit was aroused among the Israelites. By whatever channel the bitter reproach in vers. 11-14 had been convey. ed to them, probably by the same channel, whether angel, or prophet, or high priest, had an answer of peace come to them on their repentance, and so they were roused and encouraged to resistance. As a first step, they encamped in Mizpeh (see Judges 11:11, 29, 34). Mizpeh, or Mizpah of Gilead, is probably the same as Mizpah in Gilead where Laban and Jacob parted (Genesis 31:25, 49); as Ramoth-Mizpeh (Joshua 13:26), called simply Ramoth in Gilead (Joshua 20:8; 1 Chronicles 6:80); and as the place well known in later Israelite history as Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 4:13; 1 Kings 22:3, 6), situated in the tribe of Gad, and a strong place of much importance. It was the place of national meeting for the whole of Gilead. Mizpah means the watch-tower, and would of course be upon a height, as the name Ramoth-Mizpeh, the heights of Mizpeh, also shows. It almost always preserves its meaning as an appellative, having the article prefixed, ham-mizpah, which is its usual form; only once ham-mizpeh (Joshua 15:38), and Mizpeh (Joshua 11:18; Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 22:3), and once Mizpah (Hosea 5:1). Whether Mizpeh in Judges 20:1-3 is the same will be considered in the note to that passage. The modern site is not identified with certainty; it is thought to be es-Salt.
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.
Verse 18. - Gilead. See note to ver. 8. The people and princes. There is no and in the Hebrew. It is perhaps better, therefore, to take the words in apposition, as meaning, And the assembly of the chiefs of Gilead. The first step was to find a competent leader, and they agreed to appoint such an one, if he could be found, as their permanent head and captain.