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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Tola judges Israel twenty-three years, Judges 10:1, Judges 10:2. Jair is judge twenty-two years, Judges 10:3-5. After him the Israelites rebel against God, and are delivered into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites eighteen years, Judges 10:6-9. They humble themselves, and God reproves them, Judges 10:10-14. They put away their strange gods, and gather together against the Ammonites, Judges 10:15-17. The chiefs of Gilead inquire concerning a captain to head them against the Ammonites, Judges 10:18.
1And 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.
Tola the son of Puah - As this Tola continued twenty-three years a judge of Israel after the troubles of Abimelech's reign, it is likely that the land had rest, and that the enemies of the Israelites had made no hostile incursions into the land during his presidency and that of Jair; which, together continued forty-five years.
2And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.
3And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.
4And 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.
He had thirty sons, etc. - It appears that there was both peace and prosperity during the time that Jair governed Israel; he had, it seems, provided for his family, and given a village to each of his thirty sons; which were, in consequence, called Havoth Jair or the villages of Jair. Their riding on thirty ass colts seems to intimate that they were persons of consideration, and kept up a certain dignity in their different departments.
5And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.
6And 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.
And served Baalim - They became universal idolaters, adopting every god of the surrounding nations. Baalim and Ashtaroth may signify gods and goddesses in general. These are enumerated:
1. The gods of Syria; Bel and Saturn, or Jupiter and Astarte.
2. Gods of Zidon; Ashtaroth, Astarte or Venus.
3. The gods of Moab; Chemosh.
4. Gods of the children of Ammon; Milcom.
5. Gods of the Philistines; Dagon.
See 1 Kings 11:33 (note), and 1 Samuel 5:2 (note). These are called gods because their images and places of worship were multiplied throughout the land.
7And 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.
The anger of the Lord was hot - This Divine displeasure was manifested in delivering them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites. The former dwelt on the western side of Jordan; the latter, on the eastern: and it appears that they joined their forces on this occasion to distress and ruin the Israelites, though the Ammonites were the most active.
8And 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.
9Moreover 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.
10And 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.
11And 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?
And the Lord said - By what means these reproofs were conveyed to the Israelites, we know not: it must have been by an angel, a prophet, or some holy man inspired for the occasion.
12The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and 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.
15And 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.
We have sinned - The reprehension of this people was kind, pointed, and solemn; and their repentance deep. And they gave proofs that their repentance was genuine, by putting away all their idols: but they were ever fickle and uncertain.
16And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.
And his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel - What a proof of the philanthropy of God! Here his compassions moved on a small scale; but it was the same principle that led him to give his Son Jesus Christ to be a sacrifice for the sins of the Whole world. God grieves for the miseries to which his creatures are reduced by their own sins. Be astonished, ye heavens, at this; and shout for joy, all ye inhabitants of the earth! for, through the love whence this compassion flowed, God has visited and redeemed a lost world!
17Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.
The children of Ammon were gathered together - Literally, they cried against Israel - they sent out criers in different directions to stir up all the enemies of Israel; and when they had made a mighty collection, they encamped in Gilead.
18And 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.
What man is he that will begin to fight - It appears that, although the spirit of patriotism had excited the people at large to come forward against their enemies, yet they had no general, none to lead them forth to battle. God, however, who had accepted their sincere repentance, raised them up an able captain in the person of Jephthah; and in him the suffrages of the people were concentrated, as we shall see in the following chapter. In those ancient times much depended on the onset; a war was generally terminated in one battle, the first impression was therefore of great consequence, and it required a person skillful, valorous, and strong, to head the attack. Jephthah was a person in whom all these qualifications appear to have met. When God purposes to deliver, he, in the course of his providence, will find out, employ, and direct the proper means.