The Word Made Fresh
1After Abimelech, a man from the tribe of Issachar became the next judge to lead Israel. His name was Tola. He was the son of Puah and grandson of Dodo. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. 2He was their judge for twenty-three years. He died and was buried at Shamir.
3Then there was Jair of Gilead. He was Israel’s judge for twenty-two years. 4He had thirty sons. They rode on thirty donkeys and they possessed thirty settlements in Gilead. Today they are called the Settlements of Jair. 5When Jair died he was buried in Kamon.
6But the people of Israel once again fell back into practices the LORD saw as evil. They worshiped the Baals, the Astartes, the gods of Aram and Sidon and Moab, and the gods of the Amorites and the Philistines. They abandoned their worship of the LORD. 7The LORD was angry and gave them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8who defeated and oppressed the people of Israel that year. 9For eighteen years they oppressed the Israelites beyond the Jordan in Gilead — the land of the Amorites. 9The Ammonites also came across the Jordan to oppress Judah and Benjamin and Ephraim. All of Israel was in deep distress.
10Then they cried out to the LORD and confessed, “We have sinned against you, our God by leaving you and worshiping the Baals.”
11The LORD said, “Don’t you remember that I rescued you from the Egyptians, and the Amorites, Ammonites, and Philistines? 12And when you cried out to me because you were oppressed by the Sidonians, Amalekites, and Maonites, didn’t I save you from them? 13And still you turned your back on me and worshiped other gods. I am done with rescuing you. 14Go beg those other gods you’ve been running after. Let them save you.”
15The Israelites said, “We have sinned! Do whatever you will with us, but help us today!” 16Then they cast aside the foreign gods among them and began again to worship the LORD, and the LORD could not bear their suffering any longer.
17The Ammonites gathered their armed men in Gilead and the Israelites gathered their men at Mizpah. The leaders of God’s people in Gilead conferred with one another, wondering who would lead the attack against the Ammonites and become the champion of all those in Gilead.
1-5: The brief careers of two more judges are outlined — Tola and Jair. Some say that these two serve as a sort of summary of Gideon and Abimelech. Tola “rose to deliver Israel,” as did Gideon, but Jair seems intent mainly on solidifying the wealth and power of himself and his family, much like Abimelech’s selfish power grabbing. His ambitions result in the clan of Gilead essentially becoming a separate tribe, as we shall soon discover.
6-9: The Israelites again gravitate toward the religious practices of the various Canaanite peoples. Astarte (also known as Ishtar) was originally the evening star (Venus) worshiped as a goddess. Her mention indicates an even wider conversion to pagan practices. God turns away, and soon they are oppressed by the people who brought us Baal.
10-16: Again, they cry out to God. This time God says, “Forget it!” but the Israelites will not take “no” for an answer because they know from past history that God is the only source of help for them. They go so far as to “put away the foreign gods from among them” — the very thing they avoided doing when Joshua led them across the Jordan (see the notes on Joshua 24). When they begin again to worship only God, God’s heart is softened, but as yet no deliverer is named.
17-18: The chapter ends with the Ammonites amassing on the frontier and the Israelites arrayed against them, but still leaderless.
It really is amazing how forgiving God is. Time and again the people ignore God and worship other gods and other things, and even though God’s patience is stretched to the limit, God never abandoned them altogether. God will never abandon you and me, either, but we are the ones who have to turn around, not God.