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(MT versing)
Oppression of Philistines and Ammonites Tola Tola and Jair Tola Tola
10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2
Jair Jair Jair
10:3-5 10:3-5 10:3-5 10:3-5 10:3-5
Israel Oppressed Again Jephthah
Jephthah Jephthah
10:6-9 10:6-9 10:6-9 10:6-9 10:6-16
10:10-16 10:10-14 10:10-16 10:10
10:15-16 10:15-16
10:17-18 10:17-18 10:17-18 10:17-18 10:17-18

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. Judges 10:1-5 lists two of the minor judges. A remaining list of minor judges is found at the conclusion of Judges 12.

  2. There seems to be some connection between the persons mentioned in the early part of Judges 10 and later tribal names within Issachar. It is uncertain how these are exactly related (cf. Gen. 46:13; Num. 26:33; and 1 Chr. 7:1-2).

  3. James Martin, The Book of Judges, p.133, suggests that "Judges 10:6-16 is a deuteronomistic sermon on the general theme of apostasy and repentance, now used to introduce the Jephthah story."

    Because of all the nations/peoples mentioned which do not fit into this period of Israel's history, that comment may be accurate.

  4. The account of Jephthah is seen by some to begin in Jdgs. 10:6, but 10:6-16 is really a summary of the next literary unit which deals with the invasion of the Ammonites and the Philistines.


1Now after Abimelech died, Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, arose to save Israel; and he lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2He judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried in Shamir.

10:1 "Now after Abimelech died" The life story of Abimelech, Gideon's son by a Canaanite concubine, is recorded in Judges 9.

▣ "Tola" We do not know very much about this man except that his name (BDB 1069 II) is similar to "scarlet." This is one of the sons of Issachar who will later become a tribal group.

Tola was a significant regional deliverer (NASB, "saved," BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) for central Israel for an extended period (i.e., twenty years).He is only called a "minor judge" because there is less recorded about him and his exploits than other judges, such as Gideon and Samson.


▣ "the son of Puah, the son of Dodo" This is the only mention of these ancestors in the OT.

▣ "he lived in Shamir" The name's root (BDB 1038 I) means "thornbush" or "sharp." We do not know the site of this city but it is in the hill country of Ephraim. It is not the city by the same name in Judah (cf. Jos. 15:48).

3After him, Jair the Gileadite arose and judged Israel twenty-two years. 4He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are called Havvoth-jair to this day. 5And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

10:3 "Jair" His name (BDB 22) means "enlightener." He was a Gileadite, which means he settled in the trans-Jordan area (i.e., tribal area of Manasseh, cf. Num. 32:41; Deut. 3:14).

10:4 "He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys" This imagery expressed the wealth and power of these ancient judges (cf. Jdgs. 12:9,14).

▣ "they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are called Havvoth-jair" The word "donkey" (BDB 747) has the same root as "city" (BDB 746 II). It is a word play in Hebrew (see footnote in JPSOA). The name "Jair" (BDB 22) is also a similar sounding root.

  1. donkey ‒ עיר
  2. tent village ‒ עיר
  3. Jair ‒ יאיר

▣ "to this day" The phrase "to this day" shows that the author is writing at a later time.

10:5 "Kamon" This location is unknown but probably was in the tribal allocation of eastern Manasseh (ABD, p. 5).

6Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him. 7The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the sons of Ammon. 8They afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in Gilead in the land of the Amorites. 9The sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed.

10:6 "the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord" This is "the" recurrent phrase in Judges 1-16. It shows the vicious cycle of the apostasy of the people of God, even though they were in the Promised Land (i.e., Abrahamic promise) with the presence of the Levites, priests, and Temple (i.e., Moses' revelations).


▣ "they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him" These two VERBS combine to show how Israel turned from YHWH to other gods (i.e., Jdgs. 10:13).

  1. forsook ‒ BDB 736, KB 806, Qal IMPERFECT with waw
    1. YHWH ‒ Deut. 28:20; 31:16; 32:15; Jer. 1:16; Jonah 2:9
    2. His covenant ‒ Deut. 29:25; 1 Kgs. 19:10, 14
  2. serve ‒ BDB 712, KB 773, Qal PERFECT (i.e., fulfill the requirements of YHWH's covenant) ‒ Exod. 3:12; 4:23; 7:16; Jos. 24:15, 16; Job 21:15; Ps. 22:30; Mal. 3:14

The Israelites were told again and again not to serve other gods ‒ Deut. 4:28; 5:7; 7:4, 16; 8:19; 12:30; 13:6-7; 28:14, 36, 64; 29:25-26; 30:17; 31:20; Jos. 23:16; Jdgs. 2:19; 3:7; 10:6, 10.

▣ "they served the Baals and the Ashtaroth" Baal and Ashtaroth are Canaanite fertility gods. From archaeological studies in the Promised Land it seems they were either (1) brother and sister or (2) lovers. They followed the ancient fertility pattern of a dying and rising god based on the cycles of nature, which was so common in the ancient world. They were worshiped by imitation magic involving sacred prostitution (cf. Jdgs. 2:11-19).


▣ "the gods of Syria" Although we do not know the exact names of these gods, it is obvious that the gods of Syria, or Amram, are similar to the gods of Canaan. Hadad was the name of the male fertility god, similar to Canaanite, Ba'al. The female counterpoint was Astartu or Athtart, more commonly known as Anath.

▣ "the gods of Sidon" The main god of the Phoenicians was Melquat. However, we know from Ahab and Jezebel that Tyranian Ba'al worship was also dominant in this locale.

▣ "the gods of Moab" For a similar listing of gods, see 1 Kgs. 11:5-7, where they were still prevalent in the days of Solomon. The gods of Moab would be Chemosh and Milcom.


▣ "the gods of the sons of Ammon" This would be the gods Molech and Milcom. They have the consonants "mlk" in them and are somehow probably related to a corruption of the Hebrew word for king, Melek (BDB 572).

▣ "these gods of the Philistines" We know one of these gods from the story of Samson. His name is Dagon and he was a fish god or fertility god. The Philistines were Aegean mercenaries who settled in the southern Palestinian coast somewhere around 1250 B.C. They did not establish their own culture but simply amalgamated with the culture where they settled. This means that they probably also incorporated the fertility gods of Canaan. They were the only uncircumcised group in this part of the world.

10:7 "The anger of the Lord burned against Israel" This is anthropomorphic language.

It clearly illustrates

  1. God's hatred of sin, rebellion, and disobedience
  2. God is no respecter of persons. The Canaanites sinned; He took them out of the land (cf. Gen. 15:12-22). Israel sinned; He took them out of the land (i.e., the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, cf. Isa. 10:5; 28:21; 51:20).


▣ "He sold them. . ." The words "ransom" and "redeem" mean "to buy back." The ANTONYM is "sold," which is imagery for YHWH's rejection (cf. Jdgs. 2:14; 3:8; 4:2,9; 1 Sam. 12:9; Isa. 50:1; 52:3). He will not be their "Divine Warrior." The covenant is conditional.



10:8 "for eighteen years" This terrible cycle of oppression had been going on for eighteen years. God allowed this because of the apostasy of His people.

Two strong VERBS are used to describe Israel's punishment from YHWH (Jdgs. 10:7).

  1. "afflicted" (lit. "shattered") ‒ BDB 950, KB 1271, Qal IMPERFECT with waw; this VERB is found only here and Exod. 15:6
  2. "crushed" ‒ BDB 954, KB 1285, Poel IMPERFECT with waw; this VERB is used in the "cursing and blessing" section of Deut. 28:33; it is used of Abimelech's skull being crushed by a stone in Jdgs. 9:53

These two VERBS have a similar sound, which may be an intentional word play.

10:9 "also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim" This is an account of an armed foray of the Ammonites into the central area of the west bank. However, the major oppression is in the general area of Ammon in the trans-Jordan area of Bashan and Gilead.

▣ "so that Israel was greatly distressed" This VERB (BDB 864, KB 1050, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is intensified by the addition of the ADVERB "sorely" (BDB 547).

This VERB has the opposite connotation of the Hebrew concept of "to be free," "to be spacious," "to be unrestricted." Israel was "hemmed in" by her enemies on several sides. She was trapped and without hope, without the help of her covenant God. But they had rejected Him and gone after the Canaanite gods, who could not deliver them (cf. Jdgs. 10:13-14).

10Then the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord saying, "We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals." 11The Lord said to the sons of Israel, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? 12Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. 13Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. 14Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress." 15The sons of Israel said to the Lord "We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day." 16So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer.

10:10 This was a verbal affirmation of their sin and idolatry.


10:11 "The Lord said to the sons of Israel" This was probably through a prophet. The amazing thing is that He still listened to them when they sinned against Him again and again (cf. Jdgs. 10:12).


▣ "the Egyptians" This refers to YHWH's routing them during exodus.

▣ "the Amorites" This refers to the defeat of Og and Bashan on the eastern side of the Jordan (cf. Num. 21:21ff).


▣ "the sons of Ammon" An excellent summary of what is known about these tribal groups is found in Young's Analytical Concordance of the Bible, p. 32.

▣ "the Philistines" This may refer to the actions of Shamgar of Jdgs. 3:31.

▣ "the Sidonians" We have no account of the defeat of this group of people unless they are somehow related to Deborah's defeat of the northern Canaanite confederation stationed in Hazor (Judges 4; 5).

▣ "the Amalekites" These marauding desert warriors are often identified with Moab (cf. Jdgs. 3:13) or Midian (cf. Jdgs. 6:3, 33). Again, a good summary is found in Young's Analytical Concordance, p. 31.

▣ "the Maonites" There is a group by this name who later will become enemies of Judah (cf. 1 Chr. 4:41; 2 Chr. 20:1; 26:7). However, in this period they are unknown. The LXX changed the text at this point to the term "Midianites" and that fits the context much better. The UBS Text Project gives "Maon" a "C" rating (considerable doubt), p. 101.

10:13 "I will deliver you no more" This is an Oriental overstatement by YHWH, or the rest of the book of Judges is absolutely contradictory. God wanted them to know that He was not the God simply of the crisis times. His purpose in Israel was to reveal Himself through them, and this could not be accomplished in the vicious cycle of apostasy in which Israel had become involved.


10:14 This is ironic, biting sarcasm from the mouth of God (cf. Deut. 32:37-38) to a people who knew better but were still going after other gods who were not really gods.

Note the VERBS:

  1. go ‒ BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE
  2. cry out to other gods ‒ BDB 277, KB 277, Qal IMPERATIVE
  3. let them deliver you ‒ BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

10:15 "do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day" If this wasn't so sad, it would be humorous. The people of God say, "Well, you're right, God, but one more time please do this for us." Foxhole religion has always been a problem of semi-religious humanity who only want God to meet their immediate needs.

10:16 "He could bear the misery of Israel no longer" This is literally "His soul was short with the misery." The NASB margin and the Peshitta see this phrase as referring to Israel, not YHWH.

17Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead. And the sons of Israel gathered together and camped in Mizpah. 18The people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, "Who is the man who will begin to fight against the sons of Ammon? He shall become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."

10:17-18 This introduces the story of Jephthah (cf. Jdgs. 10:17-12:7).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why do we not know more about these minor judges?
  2. Why did the people of God go after the gods of Canaan?
  3. Why is Jdgs. 10:15 so important?
  4. How is Jdgs. 10:16 an act of repentance?

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