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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 10

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Two Minor Judges and More Oppression

A. Two “minor” judges.

1. (Jdg 10:1-2) Tola.

After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in the mountains of Ephraim. He judged Israel twenty-three years; and he died and was buried in Shamir.

a. There arose to save Israel Tola: We are not told much about the career of the judge Tola; only that his service as a judge lasted a relatively long time (twenty-three years).

2. (Jdg 10:3-5) Jair.

After him arose Jair, a Gileadite; and he judged Israel twenty-two years. Now he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys; they also had thirty towns, which are called “Havoth Jair” to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died and was buried in Camon.

a. After him arose Jair: We also know little about Jair’s service as a leader of Israel. We do know that he served for about the same number of years as Tola before him (twenty-two years).

b. Now he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys; they also had thirty towns: This shows that Jair was a polygamous man, and a man of wealth and prestige. His many sons had fancy transportation and their own territory to rule. Jair never took the title of king but it seems that he acted like one.

B. Apostasy, servitude and supplication.

1. (Jdg 10:6) Israel’s seven-fold apostasy.

Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him.

a. Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord: This phrase is repeated seven times in the Book of Judges. It shows that the evil of Israel was even worse because they did it before the eyes of God. We could say that it is bad to commit adultery, but it is far more offensive to commit adultery before the eyes of your spouse.

b. And served the Baals and the Ashtoreths: The essence of Israel’s sin was that they served other gods. Here, seven different ethnic and national gods are mentioned that Israel went after in idolatry.

i. Israel was attracted to these other gods not because of the beauty of an idol image, but because of what was associated with the pagan deity. Baal, the weather god, was associated with financial success. Ashtoreth, the goddess of fertility, was associated with love, sex, and romance. As for the other gods of the neighboring nations around them, it was a matter of conforming to the popular culture and doing what everyone else did.

ii. Israel’s worship of neighboring gods reminds us that the people of God are often in danger of worshipping what the world worships.

c. They forsook the Lord and did not serve Him: Perhaps Israel did not consciously forsake God. Yet adding the worship of pagan gods to the worship of the true God was to forsake the Lord. It seems that Israel was willing to worship just about anything except the true God. When a man stops believing in God, he does not believe in nothing; he believes in anything.

i. “Accordingly Peter Martyr giveth these two reasons here why the Israelites went so a whoring after these false gods of the several neighbour nations: (1.) Because they so flourished in wealth and honour, when themselves were so poor and contemptible; (2.) Because the worship of the true God was so severe, but the heathenish superstition licentious and pleasing to flesh and blood.” (Trapp)

2. (Jdg 10:7-9) Israel’s servitude.

So 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 people of Ammon. From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years; all the children of Israel who were on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, in Gilead. Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.

a. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon: If Israel wanted to serve the gods of the Philistines and the Amorites, God would allow them to do so. He allowed them in the fullest sense, by selling them into servitude to the Philistines and Amorites.

b. They harassed and oppressed the children of Israel: Of course, Israel was never blessed when they served these other gods. Instead, they were harassed and oppressed; they were severely distressed – but God gave them what they wanted.

3. (Jdg 10:10-14) Israel calls to the Lord; God’s response to Israel.

And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!” So the Lord said to the children of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”

a. We have sinned against You: The words of this cry seem fine, but God’s response seems to indicate that He saw something lacking in Israel’s repentance. One may cry out to the Lord, yet really just wish things were different. Crying out to God with the voice is not necessarily the same as crying out to Him with our heart.

i. God wanted from Israel the same thing He wants from us – a heart that will put its hand to the plow and not look back (Luke 9:62). He wants us to come to the place where we know that there is nothing worth following except God.

b. Therefore I will deliver you no more: God was harsh with Israel because they had to be genuinely sick of their sin before they would genuinely turn to God. God allowed Israel to experience the sickness of their sin.

i. “For the first time it is recorded that He refused to save them, reminding them of how repeatedly they He had delivered them, and yet they had turned back to their evil courses. In the message of His anger there was clearly evident a purpose of love.” (Morgan)

ii. “This apparent rejection, and the apparent indifference to the pleas of His people, was designed to test the sincerity of their response.” (Cundall)

iii. One technique used to help people stop smoking is to put them in a small, unventilated room and make them smoke for hours on end, until they can hardly bear it. It makes them sick of smoking, and makes them truly want to stop. In the same way, sometimes God will allow the natural consequences of our sin to crash upon us in concentrated form, so we can become sick of our sin.

iv. Which you have chosen: “You have not been forced to worship these gods by your oppressors and tyrants; but you have freely chosen these gods before me.” (Poole)

4. (Jdg 10:15-16) Repentance from Israel, mercy from God.

And the children of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

a. Do to us whatever seems best to You: This indicates that Israel came to a place of total surrender to God. The prayer that comes most naturally to us is, “Do to me whatever seems best to me.” The change in heart meant that the season of affliction eventually did affect Israel in a good way.

b. So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord: Israel finally discovered that the worst of serving God is better than the best of serving idols.

c. His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel: God looked upon disobedient Israel with compassion, not hatred. It was “difficult” for God to allow Israel to stay in their misery, though it was best for them. Like the perfect loving parent, God hated to see Israel suffer, even when it was good for them. He longed to rescue them but would not do it until it was good for them.

i. “The Hebrew word literally means ‘impatient.’ It suggests God’s restlessness in the presence of suffering. It is the restlessness of His love, and that is the cause of His anger, and the governing principle in all its activities.” (Morgan)

ii. “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!” (Clarke)

iii. “His soul was grieved; not properly, or as to inward affection, for God being infinitely happy, is not capable of grieving; but figuratively, and as to outward expression. He acted towards them like one that felt their sufferings.” (Poole)

iv. “And now He grieves over you. If only you would forsake your sins and turn to Him, He would assuredly raise up a Jephthah for your help.” (Meyer)

5. (Jdg 10:17-18) Israel gathers, but without a leader.

Then the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah. And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

a. The children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah: In response to the Ammonite threat, Israel gathered together for defense.

b. Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? Israel gathered, but had no leader. God’s pattern for doing great works among His people is to raise up a man. He could do the work all by Himself; He could send angels to do the work for Him; He could use a leaderless mob or a committee. Yet God’s normal means of operating is to raise up a man, and through that man to do a great work. God uses leaders.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

Study Guide for Joshua 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Ruth 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Judges 9 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Judges 11 Next Chapter →
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