Judges 10

Judges 10,
Thursday, May 10, 2018

Today’s chapter follows the sagas of Gideon and Abimelech by re-establishing the pattern asserted by an editorial voice in chapter 2, last Tuesday.  

Tola is the first judge after Abimelech’s come-uppance.  All we know is that he lives in Ephraim’s region, though of the tribe of Issachar.  Just as the age of patriarchs when their first son is born matters in Genesis, and their lifespans also signal their status relative to each other, notice 23 years as the measure of Tola.  Less than 40, eh?

Jair is a Gileadite.   The region of Gilead is the east bank of the Jordan, including the land of the 2.5 tribes in Joshua:  Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh.  We learn even less about Jair than we did about Tola, and he only judges for 22 years.    

Jair is said to have had 30 sons who rode 30 donkeys in 30 towns. That’s fewer than Abimelech’s 70 legitimate brothers, sons of Gideon, whom Abimelech assassinated for 70 pieces of silver paid by his mother’s brothers in Shechem.  It’s fewer than the 77 leaders of Succoth, whom Abimelech revenged himself against in yesterday’s chapter  after he razed Shechem and purged its leaders.

After Jair, the people follow the formula – their error this time named as idolatry, following other gods, and others’ gods.  Baal and Astarte are fertility, sex and money.  Your mental map should give you Aram on the southeast, Sidon on the northwest, Moab on the northeast, Ammon on the southeast, and Philistia on the south west of the Promised Land region.  

Just as the gods of each bordering peoples had been honoured by Israel, so their nations in turn oppressed Israel.  They are squeezed in a pincer movement from the southwestern Philistines, and the southeastern Amorites and Ammonites across the Jordan.  The squeeze runs for 18 years.  At least it was briefer than either of the previous 2 judges’ rules – it’s less than half a biblical span of 40, while each of them ran over half a biblical span of 40.  If course, Gideon gave us 80 years of peace, a double biblical span of 40!

Israel repents, realizes the other gods are weak and ineffectual, and puts them away to call upon Yahweh.  In response, the Ammonites rally up to Mizpah at the Jordan, on the Gilead (east side) region of the 2.5 tribes, whose commanders look for a generalissimo to rule them in the face of the Ammonite army.  Today’s bridge is crossed.

After Abimelech, 
Tola son of Puah son of Dodo,
 a man of Issachar, 
who lived at Shamir
 in the hill country of Ephraim, 
rose to deliver Israel. 
2He judged Israel
for twenty-three years.
 Then he died,
 and was buried at Shamir.
3 After him came Jair the Gileadite,
 who judged Israel
for twenty-two years.
 4He had thirty sons
who rode on thirty donkeys; 
and they had thirty towns, 
which are in the land of Gilead, 
and are called Havvoth-jair
to this day.
5Jair died,
 and was buried in Kamon.
6 The Israelites again did what was evil
 in the sight of the Lord,
 worshipping the Baals
 and the Astartes, 
the gods of Aram, 
the gods of Sidon,
 the gods of Moab,
 the gods of the Ammonites, 
and the gods of the Philistines. 
Thus they abandoned the Lord, 
and did not worship him. 
7So the anger of the Lord
 was kindled against Israel,
 and he sold them
into the hand of the Philistines
 and into the hand of the Ammonites,
 8and they crushed and oppressed the Israelites
 that year. 
For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites
 that were beyond the Jordan
 in the land of the Amorites, 
which is in Gilead. 
9The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan
 to fight against Judah
and against Benjamin
and against the house of Ephraim;
 so that Israel was greatly distressed.
10 So the Israelites cried to the Lord,
 ‘We have sinned against you,
 because we have abandoned our God
 and have worshipped the Baals.’
 11And the Lord said to the Israelites,
 ‘Did I not deliver you
from the Egyptians
and from the Amorites,
 from the Ammonites
 and from the Philistines?
 12The Sidonians also,
 and the Amalekites, 
and the Maonites oppressed you; 
and you cried to me,
 and I delivered you
out of their hand. 
13Yet you have abandoned me
and worshipped other gods; 
therefore I will deliver you no more.
 14Go and cry
to the gods whom you have chosen;
 let them deliver you
in the time of your distress.’
 15And the Israelites said to the Lord,
 ‘We have sinned;
 do to us whatever seems good to you; 
but deliver us this day!’ 
16So they put away the foreign gods
 from among them
and worshipped the Lord;
 and he could no longer bear
 to see Israel suffer.
17 Then the Ammonites
 were called to arms,
 and they encamped in Gilead; 
and the Israelites
came together,
 and they encamped
 at Mizpah
.18The commanders of the people of Gilead
 said to one another,
 ‘Who will begin the fight
against the Ammonites? 
He shall be head
over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’