Introduction: Abimelech’s reign shows that Satan can influence people to do terrible things. But God’s love and His ability to forgive far exceeds Satan’s evil. To restore Israel following the evil reigns of both Gideon and Abimelech, He brought two quiet and selfless deliverers, Tola and Jair. Almost nothing is known about them because they humbly served God and did not place the focus of their acts upon themselves. Yet, after their deaths, Israel embraced the idols of their seven major enemies. God then again showed His love, mercy, and grace by delivering Israel. From this chapter, He reveals seven lessons regarding His love for mankind.
First, through the genealogy of His deliverer named Tola, He reveals that He shows His love for His people through His lowly, humble, and selfless servants. Second, through His many blessings for His obscure deliverer named Jair, He reveals that He will exalt His humble servants. Third, through the Jews’ return to idolatry after an approximate 40-year-period of peace and testing, He reveals that He tests your heart out of love to show you where it is evil. Fourth, through the Jews’ punishment following their worst idolatry to date, He reveals that He disciplines out of love to correct a believer’s wayward behavior. Fifth, from His refusal to intervene after hearing the Jews’ cries for help without repentance, He reveals that He may not intervene to rescue you if your repentance is not sincere. Sixth, from His intervention after the Jews continued to cry out, He reveals that His love for sinners is so intense that He cannot bear to see them suffer. Finally, the Jews’ cries for a savior foreshadowed the need of all mankind for a savior. Out of love, God sent His only son so that all might live who believe in Him in faith.
God’s appointment of Tola as His sixth deliverer. Following the evil reign of Abimelech, God restored Israel through a little known deliverer named Tola: “1 Now 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. 2 He judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried in Shamir.” (Jdgs. 10:1-2). Tola was Israel’s sixth deliverer. This account is interesting because God does not reveal any foreign enemies that Tola judged as His deliver. He instead delivered Israel from the evil that was within it. His name in Hebrew conveyed lowliness, translated as either “worm” or “grub”. Of all God’s appointed deliverers, the least is recorded about him. Not a single deed is recorded. Another son of Issachar named “Tola” also appears in Genesis (Gen. 10:1). Besides that similar reference, his name appears nowhere else in the Bible. God, however, reveals clues about this deliverer through his genealogy. The Bible typically lists a person’s father without including the grandfather’s name. By including all three names together, God invites the reader to look to the meaning of the three names in the genealogy. Tola’s father’s name “Puah” means “splendid”. His name also appears only one other time in the Bible in reference to a Hebrew midwife who defied Pharaoh (Ex. 1:15-21). The grandfather Dodo is derived from the verb דוד (dwd), which means “to fondle” or “to love.” Excluding a similar sounding name of Dodai (1 Chron. 27:4), the name also appears in only one other place in the Bible (2 Sam. 23:9, 24). Through these names, God reveals that He shows His splendid love through humble servants. Tola was lowly and had nothing to boast of in terms of military victories. Yet, He showed God’s love by restoring order and peace to Israel after Abimelech’s evil reign. “The simple details ‘he lived, he governed, he died, he was buried’ suggest an orderly and stable tenure.” (Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Judges, Ruth, Vol. 6, B & H Publishing Group 1999 p. 339). The lesson was that Israel would not find either God’s love or His peace in a boastful and prideful leader like Abimelech. Instead, they needed to test any person claiming a mandate to lead by determining if he or she was a humble servant of God.
Tola faithfully served without seeking to glorify himself1
Serve God in quiet and give Him the glory. If you seek to serve God, let your life be like Tola. Be quiet in your service. If you do things for others to see, you have received your reward. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:3-4). Likewise, when you are praised for your labors for Him, return the glory back to the source of your success, Jesus. “ . . . I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Ps. 34:1(b)). Are you quietly serving Jesus and giving Him praise for everything?
God’s appointment of Jair as His seventh deliverer. After Tola’s 23-year reign of peace, God raised upon another little known deliverer named Jair, who reigned from a similar 22-year-period of peace: “3 After him, Jair the Gileadite arose and judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 He 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. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.” (Jgs. 10:3-5). Jair comes from the Hebrew verb אור ('or), which meaning “to shine” or “to enlighten”. Together, his name means “may [God] enlighten.” Unlike Tola, God does not reveal anything about his father or grandfather. We are only told that he came from the tribe of Gilead. Jair is also an obscure name, appearing only three other times in the Bible (Nu. 32:41; 1 Chron. 2:22; Esth. 2:5). His 30 sons, their 30 cities and his wealth with 30 donkeys (comparable in value to owning 30 cars today), reveal that God blessed him. This blessing of peace and prosperity also extended to Israel (Block at p. 340). The 30 cities were collectively called “Havvoth-jair”, which translates as “Jair’s villages”. His burial place “Kamon” only appears here in the Bible. The name Kamon comes from the verb קום (qum), meaning to “rise up” or “stand”. Here, it implies an elevated status. Together, these ideas all convey that God elevates and blesses the lowly. His quiet and successful leadership again is instructive for believers.
Jair also served God in humility2
God offers eternal peace. Everything in the Bible has meaning. This can include the absence of detail. By including Tola’s genealogy and omitting any reference to his children, God invites the reader to look back on the peace He has granted in the past. By omitting Jair’s genealogy and including his children, God invites the reader to focus on the peace He offers in the present and the future. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). While you will experience turbulence in the world, He is the source of your peace (Eph. 2:14; Col. 3:15). Are you looking for peace in Him?
Humble yourself in faith and He will also exalt you. God will also use you when you humble yourself before Him: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam. 4:10). “So that He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (Job 5:11). A nation will also be healed when it humbles itself before God: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14). Your light may be the only Bible some will ever read. Do you walk with humility in serving God?
The Jews’ return to idolatry. Although God showed both mercy and grace in granting Israel 45 years of prosperity and peace under both Tola and Jair, the Jews took advantage of His mercy and grace by returning to their idolatrous ways: “6 Then 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.” (Jdgs. 10:6). The Jews’ descent into evil reaches its climax with their worship of seven distinct foreign idols. These include: (1) Baal, (2) Astartes, (3) the gods of Aram, (4) the gods of Sidon, (5) the gods of Moab, (6) the gods of the sons of Ammon, (7) and the gods of the Philistines. This list corresponds to the seven evil nations that inhabited the Promised Land: (1) the Hittites, (2) the Girgashites, (3) the Amorites, (4) the Canaanites, (5) the Perizzites, (6) the Hivites, and (7) the Jebusites (Dt. 7:1) (Block p. 344). The Jews had bowed down to each and every one of their enemy’s worthless idols and forsaken the one true God who delivered them. But God still loved His people enough to change them.
The Jews return to idolatry3
Out of love and grace, God tests His people’s hearts to show where they are evil. God knew in advance that the Jews would betray Him. Because He knows the future, He warned Moses that the Jews would abuse His mercy and grace by bowing down to the idols of the Jews’ enemies: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.” (Dt. 31:16-18; 2 Kgs. 22:13; Ps. 104:29; Is. 2:6). Yet, if God knew in advance that the Jews would betray Him, why would He forgive them? Because He was testing them to show them that their hearts were evil. Each time they cried out from their sins, God sent a deliverer. Yet, each time God delivered them, they returned to sin (Jdgs. 2:19). For example, after Joshua’s death, they began to worship the Canaanite gods (Jdgs. 2:10-13). Likewise, after Othniel’s death, they returned to their evil ways and found themselves in bondage again (Jdgs. 3:12-14). They also turned to evil following Ehud’s death (Jdgs. 4:1). They returned to evil following Gideon’s death (Jdgs. 9:33). Here, the Jews had just received a cumulative period of 45 years of peace under Tola (23 years) and Jair (22 years). The 40 years symbolized their testing. God had previously granted the Jews three 40-year-periods of peace as a tests (Jdgs. 3:11; 5:31; 9:28). They failed each prior test by returning to idolatry. With three strikes, they did not deserve another test. The extra five years (a symbol of grace) after the 40-year-test symbolized God’s grace in giving them another underserved test to correct them.
When God tests your heart, repent of the evil He exposes. Your old sins should not weigh you down. Instead, rejoice that God has given you the chance to learn and change from your prior mistakes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Jam. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). He tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). David invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). When He tests you and shows you evil in your heart, do you confess it and repent of it?
God’s punishment of the Jews for their idolatry. Although God loved His people, He allowed them to be punished to correct their wayward behavior: “7 The 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. 8 They 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. 9 The sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed.” (Jgs. 10:7-9). This was the first time that God had handed the Jews over to two different nations at the same time, the Philistines and the Ammonites. As the Jews ignored His others attempts at correction, His discipline became more severe.
God disciplined Israel for its idolatry4
God will discipline you out of love as well. God disciplines those whom He loves (Heb. 12:6). When He disciplines you, rejoice that He is molding you into His image.
The Jews’ cries for help without repentance. As they had done previously, the Jews cried out for help. Yet, this time, God did not intervene because He knew that the Jews were not truly broken and ready to forgo their idolatry: “10 Then 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.’ 11 The Lord said to the sons of Israel, ‘Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? 12 Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. 13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.’” (Jdgs. 10:10-14). Here, God listed seven times that He had intervened for His people. These included: (1) the Amorites in northern Jordan (Nu. 21:21-35); (2) the Ammonites in Moab (southern Jordan) (Jdgs. 3:15-30); (3) the Philistines (Jdgs. 3:31); (4) Sidon, the Canaanites in southern Lebanon (Jdgs. 4:10-24); (5) the Amalekites who fought with Moab (Jdgs. 6:3, 33); (6) the Midianites from the Arabian Peninsula (Jdgs. 7:12); and (7) a previously unlisted group called “Moan.” This may have been the Meunites, who also inhabited the vast Arabian Peninsula (Block p. 347). This list of seven interventions does not count the time that God heard the cries of the Jews in Egypt and intervened (Ex. 3:7). “Many times He would deliver them; they, however, were rebellious in their counsel, and so sank down in their iniquity. Nevertheless He looked upon their distress when He heard their cry; and He remembered His covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.” (Ps. 106:43-45; Jdgs. 2:18). Yet, out of love, He refused to rescue them without a real change in their hearts. That would only lead to more pain. Thus, without a sincere repentance, He would not intervene to help them.
When you are in distress, repent and cry out to God for deliverance
God can also hand sinners over to their sins. If you openly embrace sin, God may hand you over to your sin to correct you: “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” (Ro. 1:24). Thus, the beginning of all knowledge is to fear God by hating evil (Prov. 1:7; 8:13).
God’s mercy and grace and His intense love for His people. Although subsequent events would show that the Jews’ repentance was again shallow and without a real change in behavior, God intervened because He could no longer bear their suffering: “15 The sons of Israel said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.’ 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer.” (Jdgs. 10:15-16). God shows that He loves His people so much that He cannot bear to see them suffer. “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Is. 49:15).
God’s love should also make it hard to ignore the suffering around you. Do you love others enough to help the suffering of sinners, the poor, and the oppressed? (Micah 6:8).
The people’s longing for a savior. The Jews showed their need for a savior by asking for one. Yet, they still had not fully returned to God because they failed to ask Him for one: “17 Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead. And the sons of Israel gathered together and camped in Mizpah. 18 The 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.’” (Jdgs. 10:17-18). The Jews were desperately searching for a volunteer to lead them in battle. Their hearts were so far removed from God that they did not think to offer sin offerings and pray for guidance.
God knows your need for a savior to cleanse you, even when you don’t. Every person has fallen short of God’s glory because of their sins (Ro. 3:23). Everyone needs a savior. All believers need to be cleansed of their sins by the Savior. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). God knows your need to be cleansed of sin even if you don’t. For this reason, He sent Jesus to die for your sins and cleanse you of all unrighteousness (Jo. 3:16). Knowing the price he paid for you, what are you doing with your life to thank Him? (Ro. 12:1-2).
If you are in bondage, turn to Jesus as your true deliverer5