Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Defend - The marginal reading "to deliver," is far preferable. The word is the same as in Jdg 2:16, Jdg 2:18; Jdg 3:9, Jdg 3:15, Jdg 3:31, etc., and is the technical word applied to the judges. Compare Neh 9:27 ("saviours who saved them," the King James Version).
The term "there arose," also marks Tola as one of the Judges, properly so called, raised by divine providence.
Tola and Puah - Both names of heads of houses in the tribe of Issachar Ch1 7:1; Gen 46:13.
Shamir - Not the same as that mentioned in Jos 15:48, which was in the hill country of Judah. Issaehar would seem from this to have extended into the northern part of mount Ephraim.
Jair the Gileadite was probably the same person as is named in Num 32:41; Deu 3:14, as having given the name of "Havoth-jair" to certain villages in Bashan.
The gods of Syria - Or "Aram." In the times of the Judges the various tribes of Aramites, or Syrians, were not compacted into one state, nor were they until after the time of Solomon. The national gods of these various Aramean tribes were probably the same; and their worship would be likely to be introduced into the trans-Jordanic tribes. It has been remarked that the Hebrew words for "to divine," "to practice magic," "idolatrous priests," and other like words, are of Syrian origin. The Syriac ritual proved very attractive to king Ahaz Kg2 16:10-12. For the national gods of the Zidonians, Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines, see Kg1 11:5, Kg1 11:7,Kg1 11:33; Sa1 5:2-5.
The previous mention of the Philistines as oppressors of Israel Jdg 3:31 seems to be restricted to the south of Judah, when they cooperated with Moab. They appear to have gradually increased in power until they reached their height in the time of Saul. In the present instance they were probably in alliance with the Ammonites, holding the western tribes in check, while the Ammonites subdued those on the east of Jordan.
That year - Perhaps the closing year of the oppression, when the Ammonites passed over the Jordan. For it was this crowning oppression which brought the Israelites to repentance Jdg 10:10, Jdg 10:15-16, and so prepared the way for the deliverance. Possibly in the original narrative from which this portion of the Book of Judges is compiled, "that year" was defined.
The land of the Amorites - Namely, of Sihon king of the Amorites, Num 21:21; Deu 1:4; Jos 13:10; Psa 135:11.
(See the marginal references). The Israelites were delivered from the "Egyptians" at the Exodus; from the "Amorites" in the victories over Sihon, and Og, and the five kings of the Amorites Jos 10:5; from the "children of Ammon" by Ehud; and from the "Philistines," by the hand of Shamgar (compare Sa1 12:9).
The Zidonians - An allusion to the time of Barak, when the Zidonians doubtless formed part of the great confederacy of Canaanites under Jabin king of Hazor. See Jos 11:8.
The Amalekites - In the time of Gideon (marginal reference).
The Maonites - Probably one of the tribes of the "children of the East," who came with the Midianites and Amalekites in the time of Gideon, and may have been conspicuous for their hostility to Israel, and for the greatness of their discomfiture, though the record has not been preserved. The name is "Mehununs" in Ch2 26:7.
The historian, having related the preliminary incidents, now comes to the final issue which forms the subject matter of his narrative. On a certain occasion, as on many previous ones, the Ammonites were encamped in Gilead, with the intention of dispossessing the Israelites of the whole country, or at least as far as the river Jabbok Jdg 11:13, and of invading the West-Jordanic tribes. The children of Israel on the East of Jordan assembled together to resist them, and pitched their camp in Mizpeh. The narrative proceeds to detail what happened.
Mizpeh - , as its name, "watch-tower" or "look-out" indicates was situated on a height of Mount Gilead, and was, as such, a strong post. It is almost always written, "THE Mizpeh," or watch-tower. Four or five places of the name occur in Scripture.
And the people and princes ... - The inhabitants of Gilead appear as a separate and independent community, electing their own chief, without any reference to the West-Jordanic tribes.