Harry Whittaker
Judges And Ruth

13. Interim (10:1-15)

With Abimelech and his cracked skull out of the way, the record proceeds to dispose of two “minor” judges in the space of five verses. Not that they were minor really, for v. 6 continues: “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord.” Two men who could keep their fellow-Israelites from apostasy for a period of 45 years were men of stature.

Tola of Issachar rather remarkably administered his rule from Shimron in the territory of Ephraim. Was this a tactful concession to the conceit of the men of Ephraim, who made such a nuisance of themselves in the times of Gideon and Jephthah (8:1; 12:1)? Or was Shimron, named after one of Tola’s ancestors (1 Chron. 7:1), another example of interlocking tribal territories?

Tribes intermixed

It is possible to trace

It was an excellent way for Israel to learn that they were members one of another.

Jair, who had 30 sons (disciples?) who helped him in administration of the eastern tribes, and in token of their office rode of asses (not horses for war), seems to have aimed at recovering the good days in the time of Joshua, when his forefather Jair (Num. 32:41) ruled 23 out of the 60 “cities” called Havoth-jair (1 Chron. 2:22,23). Havoth really means “villages, living places”; but the comment has been well made that “to contented minds villages are cities”.

There is no story to tell about Israel when under the guidance of Tola and Jair, a fact which itself tells a good story, for “a people is happiest when there is least to record”.

But when these leaders slept with their fathers the usual religious decline set in once again. With a censure not to be restrained the compiler of the history (Samuel?) catalogues seven of the pagan deities (v. 7) which were now given priority over the God of Israel. And then, almost at once, there is listed (v. 11,12) seven of the surrounding nations who each in their turn had had their pound of flesh at Israel’s expense until Jehovah granted deliverance. Yet apostasy continued as readily as ever.

The Ammonites

The latest oppressors — Philistines and Ammonites — seem to have taken advantage of each others’ presence, the former coming in from the west, and the latter from the east: an undesigned but effective pincers movement. Accordingly the next two judges to bring deliverance were Jephthah (against the men of Ammon) and Samson (against the Philistines).

The Ammonites, with their capital at Rabbath-Ammon — the Amman in the modern state of Jordan — were related to Israel, but like those other kinsmen, the Edomites, they ever found special pleasure in hostility and violence against Israel. Here are examples:

  1. 18 years oppression till the rise of Jephthah (10:8).
  2. Ruthless conditions of peace imposed on Jabesh-Gilead (1 Sam. 11:8).
  3. Barbarous mockery of David’s friendly embassage (2 Sam. 10:4).
  4. Savage brutality against the women of Gilead (Amos 1:3).
  5. Fiendish gloating over the sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Ezek. 25:6).
  6. The assassination of good Gedaliah and those with him (Jer. 40:14; 41:2).
  7. Hindrance of the rebuilding of the temple (Neh. 4:7,8).
Usually the Ammonites were content to restrict their campaigns to Israel east of Jordan; but this time Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim all experienced the misery of their inroads.

In their wretchedness Israel turned again to the God they had ignored: “Do thou unto us whatever seemeth good unto thee: only deliver us, we pray thee, this day” (v. 15).

But at first the only reaction of heaven was: “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” Was this the contemporary high-priest refusing to intercede with God on their behalf?

This kind of rough response had its effect. The people, fleeing from the flame of affliction, threw themselves into the everlasting arms of the God of their fathers, “and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel”.

The stage was set for another heroic chapter.


Tola....Puah. Here is an echo of the names of an earlier generation in Issachar; Gen. 46:13.
Sold them. This picks up the grim idiom of Deut. 32:20.
That year; i.e., the year Jair died.
Maonites should almost certainly read “Midianites” (as in LXX).
Cry unto the gods. Compare Deut. 32:37; Jer. 2:28.
Do thou unto us. So also David; 2 Sam. 24:14

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