Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Of these two judges no particular deeds are mentioned, no doubt because they performed none.
Tola arose after Abimelech's death to deliver Israel, and judged Israel twenty-three years until his death, though certainly not all the Israelites of the twelve tribes, but only the northern and possibly also the eastern tribes, to the exclusion of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, as these southern tribes neither took part in Gideon's war of freedom nor stood under Abimelech's rule. To explain the clause "there arose to defend (or save) Israel," when nothing had been said about any fresh oppression on the part of the foe, we need not assume, as Rosenmller does, "that the Israelites had been constantly harassed by their neighbours, who continued to suppress the liberty of the Israelites, and from whose stratagems or power the Israelites were delivered by the acts of Tola;" but Tola rose up as the deliverer of Israel, even supposing that he simply regulated the affairs of the tribes who acknowledged him as their supreme judge, and succeeded by his efforts in preventing the nation from falling back into idolatry, and thus guarded Israel from any fresh oppression on the part of hostile nations. Tola was the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, of the tribe of Issachar. The names Tola and Puah are already met with among the descendants of Issachar, as founders of families of the tribes of Issachar (see Gen 46:13; Num 26:23, where the latter name is written פּוּה), and they were afterwards repeated in the different households of these families. Dodo is not an appellative, as the Sept. translators supposed (υἱὸς πατραδέλφου αὐτοῦ), but a proper name, as in Sa2 23:9 (Keri), 24, and Ch1 11:12. The town of Shamir, upon the mountains of Ephraim, where Tola judged Israel, and was afterwards buried, was a different place from the Shamir upon the mountains of Judah, mentioned in Jos 15:48, and its situation (probably in the territory of Issachar) is still unknown.
After him Jair the Gileadite (born in Gilead) judged Israel for twenty-two years. Nothing further is related of him than that he had thirty sons who rode upon thirty asses, which was a sign of distinguished rank in those times when the Israelites had no horses. They had thirty cities (the second עירים in Jdg 10:4 is another form for ערים, from a singular עיר = עיר, a city, and is chosen because of its similarity in sound to עירים, asses). These cities they were accustomed to call Havvoth-jair unto this day (the time when our book was written), in the land of Gilead. The להם before יקראוּ is placed first for the sake of emphasis, "even these they call," etc. This statement is not at variance with the fact, that in the time of Moses the Manassite Jair gave the name of Havvoth-jair to the towns of Bashan which had been conquered by him (Num 32:41; Deu 3:14); for it is not affirmed here, that the thirty cities which belonged to the sons of Jair received this name for the first time from the judge Jair, but simply that this name was brought into use again by the sons of Jair, and was applied to these cities in a peculiar sense. (For further remarks on the Havvoth-jair, see at Deu 3:14.) The situation of Camon, where Jair was buried, is altogether uncertain. Josephus (Ant. v. 6, 6) calls it a city of Gilead, though probably only on account of the assumption, that it would not be likely that Jair the Gileadite, who possessed so many cities in Gilead, should be buried outside Gilead. But this assumption is a very questionable one. As Jair judged Israel after Tola the Issacharite, the assumption is a more natural one, that he lived in Canaan proper. Yet Reland (Pal. ill. p. 679) supports the opinion that it was in Gilead, and adduces the fact that Polybius (Hist. v. 70, 12) mentions a town called Καμοῦν, by the side of Pella and Gefrun, as having been taken by Antiochus. On the other hand, Eusebius and Jerome (in the Onom.) regard our Camon as being the same as the κώμη Καμμωνὰ ἐν τῷ μεγάΛῳ πεδίῳ, six Roman miles to the north of Legio (Lejun), on the way to Ptolemais, which would be in the plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon. This is no doubt applicable to the Κυαμών of Judith 7:3; but whether it also applies to our Camon cannot be decided, as the town is not mentioned again.
The third stage in the period of the judges, which extended from the death of Jair to the rise of Samuel as a prophet, was a time of deep humiliation for Israel, since the Lord gave up His people into the hands of two hostile nations at the same time, on account of their repeated return to idolatry; so that the Ammonites invaded the land from the east, and oppressed the Israelites severely for eighteen years, especially the tribes to the east of the Jordan; whilst the Philistines came from the west, and extended their dominion over the tribes on this side, and brought them more and more firmly under their yoke. It is true that Jephthah delivered his people from the oppression of the Ammonites, in the power of the Spirit of Jehovah, having first of all secured the help of God through a vow, and not only smote the Ammonites, but completely subdued them before the Israelites. But the Philistine oppression lasted forty years; for although Samson inflicted heavy blows upon the Philistines again and again, and made them feel the superior power of the God of Israel, he was nevertheless not in condition to destroy their power and rule over Israel. This was left for Samuel to accomplish, after he had converted the people to the Lord their God.
Israel's Renewed Apostasy and Consequent Punishment - Jdg 10:6-18
As the Israelites forsook the Lord their God again, and served the gods of the surrounding nations, the Lord gave them up to the power of the Philistines and Ammonites, and left them to groan for eighteen years under the severe oppression of the Ammonites, till they cried to Him in their distress, and He sent them deliverance through Jephthah, though not till He had first of all charged them with their sins, and they had put away the strange gods. This section forms the introduction, not only to the history of Jephthah (Judg 11:1-12:7) and the judges who followed him, viz., Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon (Jdg 12:8-15), but also to the history of Samson, who began to deliver Israel out of the power of the Philistines (Judg 13-16). After the fact has been mentioned in the introduction (in Jdg 10:7), that Israel was given up into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites at the same time, the Ammonitish oppression, which lasted eighteen years, is more particularly described in Jdg 10:8, Jdg 10:9. This is followed by the reproof of the idolatrous Israelites on the part of God (Jdg 10:10-16); and lastly, the history of Jephthah is introduced in Jdg 10:17, Jdg 10:18, the fuller account being given in Judg 11. Jephthah, who judged Israel for six years after the conquest and humiliation of the Ammonites (Jdg 12:7), was followed by the judges Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, who judged Israel for seven, ten, and eight years respectively, that is to say, for twenty-five years in all; so that Abdon died forty-nine years (18 + 6 + 25) after the commencement of the Ammonitish oppression, i.e., nine years after the termination of the forty years' rule of the Philistines over Israel, which is described more particularly in Jdg 13:1, for the purpose of introducing the history of Samson, who judged Israel twenty years under that rule (Jdg 15:20; Jdg 16:31), without bringing it to a close, or even surviving it. It was only terminated by the victory which Israel achieved under Samuel at Ebenezer, as described in 1 Sam 7.
In the account of the renewed apostasy of the Israelites from the Lord contained in Jdg 10:6, seven heathen deities are mentioned as being served by the Israelites: viz., in addition to the Canaanitish Baals and Astartes (see at Jdg 2:11, Jdg 2:13), the gods of Aram, i.e., Syria, who are never mentioned by name; of Sidon, i.e., according to Kg1 11:5, principally the Sidonian or Phoenician Astarte; of the Moabites, i.e., Chemosh (Kg1 11:33), the principal deity of that people, which was related to Moloch (see at Num 21:29); of the Ammonites, i.e., Milcom (Kg1 11:5, Kg1 11:33) (see at Jdg 16:23). If we compare the list of these seven deities with Jdg 10:11 and Jdg 10:12, where we find seven nations mentioned out of whose hands Jehovah had delivered Israel, the correspondence between the number seven in these two cases and the significant use of the number are unmistakeable. Israel had balanced the number of divine deliverances by a similar number of idols which it served, so that the measure of the nation's iniquity was filled up in the same proportion as the measure of the delivering grace of God. The number seven is employed in the Scriptures as the stamp of the works of God, or of the perfection created, or to be created, by God on the one hand, and of the actions of men in their relation to God on the other. The foundation for this was the creation of the world in seven days. - On Jdg 10:7, see Jdg 2:13-14. The Ammonites are mentioned after the Philistines, not because they did not oppress the Israelites till afterwards, but for purely formal reasons, viz., because the historian was about to describe the oppression of the Ammonites first. In Jdg 10:8, the subject is the "children of Ammon," as we may see very clearly from Jdg 10:9. "They (the Ammonites) ground and crushed the Israelites in the same year," i.e., the year in which God sold the Israelites into their hands, or in which they invaded the land of Israel. רעץ and רצץ are synonymous, and are simply joined together for the sake of emphasis, whilst the latter calls to mind Deu 28:33. The duration of this oppression is then added: "Eighteen years (they crushed) all the Israelites, who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites," i.e., of the two Amoritish kings Sihon and Og, who (dwelt) in Gilead. Gilead, being a more precise epithet for the land of the Amorites, is used here in a wider sense to denote the whole of the country on the east of the Jordan, so far as it had been taken from the Amorites and occupied by the Israelites (as in Num 32:29; Deu 34:1 : see at Jos 22:9).
They also crossed the Jordan, and made war even upon Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim (the families of the tribe of Ephraim), by which Israel was brought into great distress. ותּצר, as in Jdg 2:15.
When the Israelites cried in their distress to the Lord, "We have sinned against Thee, namely, that we have forsaken our God and served the Baals," the Lord first of all reminded them of the manifestations of His grace (Jdg 10:11, Jdg 10:12), and then pointed out to them their faithless apostasy and the worthlessness of their idols (Jdg 10:13, Jdg 10:14). וכי, "and indeed that," describes the sin more minutely, and there is no necessity to remove it from the text-an act which is neither warranted by its absence from several MSS nor by its omission from the Sept., the Syriac, and the Vulgate. Baalim is a general term used to denote all the false gods, as in Jdg 2:11. This answer on the part of God to the prayer of the Israelites for help is not to be regarded as having been given through an extraordinary manifestation (theophany), or through the medium of a prophet, for that would certainly have been recorded; but it was evidently given in front of the tabernacle, where the people had called upon the Lord, and either came through the high priest, or else through an inward voice in which God spoke to the hearts of the people, i.e., through the voice of their own consciences, by which God recalled to their memories and impressed upon their hearts first of all His own gracious acts, and then their faithless apostasy. There is an anakolouthon in the words of God. The construction which is commenced with ממּצרים is dropped at וגו וצידונים in Jdg 10:12; and the verb הושׁעתּי, which answers to the beginning of the clause, is brought up afterwards in the form of an apodosis with אתכם ואושׁיעה. "Did I not deliver you (1) from the Egyptians (cf. Ex 1-14); (2) from the Amorites (cf. Num 21:3); (3) from the Ammonites (who oppressed Israel along with the Moabites in the time of Ehud, Jdg 3:12.); (4) from the Philistines (through Shamgar: see Sa1 12:9, where the Philistines are mentioned between Sisera and Moab); (5) from the Sidonians (among whom probably the northern Canaanites under Jabin are included, as Sidon, according to Jdg 18:7, Jdg 18:28, appears to have exercised a kind of principality or protectorate over the northern tribes of Canaan); (6) from the Amalekites (who attacked the Israelites even at Horeb, Exo 17:8., and afterwards invaded the land of Israel both with the Moabites, Jdg 3:13, and also with the Midianites, Jdg 6:3); and (7) from the Midianites?" (see Judg 6-7). The last is the reading of the lxx in Cod. Al. and Vat., viz., Μαδιάμ; whereas Ald. and Compl. read Χαναάν, also the Vulgate. In the Masoretic text, on the other hand, we have Maon. Were this the original and true reading, we might perhaps think of the Mehunim, who are mentioned in Ch2 26:7 along with Philistines and Arabians (cf. Ch1 4:41), and are supposed to have been inhabitants of the city of Maan on the Syrian pilgrim road to the east of Petra (Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 734 and 1035: see Ewald, Gesch. i. pp. 321, 322). But there is very little probability in this supposition, as we cannot possibly see how so small a people could have oppressed Israel so grievously at that time, that the deliverance from their oppression could be mentioned here; whilst it would be very strange that nothing should be said about the terrible oppression of the Midianites and the wonderful deliverance from that oppression effected by Gideon. Consequently the Septuagint (Μαδιάμ) appears to have preserve the original text.
Instead of thanking the Lord, however, for these deliverances by manifesting true devotedness to Him, Israel had forsaken Him and served other gods (see Jdg 2:13).
Therefore the Lord would not save them any more. They might get help from the gods whom they had chosen for themselves. The Israelites should now experience what Moses had foretold in his song (Deu 32:37-38). This divine threat had its proper effect. The Israelites confessed their sins, submitted thoroughly to the chastisement of God, and simply prayed for salvation; nor did they content themselves with merely promising, they put away the strange gods and served Jehovah, i.e., they devoted themselves again with sincerity to His service, and so were seriously converted to the living God. "Then was His (Jehovah's) soul impatient (תּקצר, as in Num 21:4) because of the troubles of Israel;" i.e., Jehovah could no longer look down upon the misery of Israel; He was obliged to help. The change in the purpose of God does not imply any changeableness in the divine nature; it simply concerns the attitude of God towards His people, or the manifestation of the divine love to man. In order to bend the sinner at all, the love of God must withdraw its helping hand and make men feel the consequences of their sin and rebelliousness, that they may forsake their evil ways and turn to the Lord their God. When this end has been attained, the same divine love manifests itself as pitying and helping grace. Punishments and benefits flow from the love of God, and have for their object the happiness and well-being of men.
These verses form the introduction to the account of the help and deliverance sent by God, and describe the preparation made by Israel to fight against its oppressors. The Ammonites "let themselves be called together," i.e., assembled together (הצּעק, as in Jdg 7:23), and encamped in Gilead, i.e., in that portion of Gilead of which they had taken possession. For the Israelites, i.e., the tribes to the east of the Jordan (according to Jdg 10:18 and Jdg 11:29), also assembled together in Gilead and encamped at mizpeh, i.e., Ramath-mizpeh or Ramoth in Gilead (Jos 13:26; Jos 20:8), probably on the site of the present Szalt (see at Deu 4:43, and the remarks in the Commentary on the Pentateuch, pp. 180f.), and resolved to look round for a man who could begin the war, and to make him the head over all the inhabitants of Gilead (the tribes of Israel dwelling in Perea). The "princes of Gilead" are in apposition to "the people." "The people, namely, the princes of Gilead," i.e., the heads of tribes and families of the Israelites to the east of the Jordan. "Head" is still further defined in Jdg 11:6, Jdg 11:11, as "captain," or "head and captain."