May 6, 2023
“After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tolah, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in the mountains of Ephraim...”
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"After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tolah, 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. 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. 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." Judges 10:1-6 (NKJV)
Chances are that Tolah and Jair are not on your list of favorite Bible characters. We really don’t know much about them. Scholars refer to Tolah and Jair as “minor judges” – as opposed to “major judges” like Deborah or Gideon. The fact that Tolah and Jair receive less “ink” in the Bible does not mean they were of no importance. If we squint at the details, we can see how these men contributed to both the salvation and degradation of their generations.
Tolah: Verse 1 is clear to state that Tolah arose to save Israel. It speaks to the goodness of the Lord. We do not know whether Tolah established stability through administration or military victory. But his saving work (however it was displayed) came after Abimelech, the destroyer, had done serious damage. At the time of deepest darkness, the Lord appointed Tolah for a saving mission. And we expect that from the Lord. He does not go on rebuking forever, allowing His people to be trampled without hope, but after the Valley of the Shadow, He anoints our heads with oil - from sorrow and sighing to joy and gladness. God will never allow the “Abimelechs” of this World to be the last word for His people!
Jair: If in Tolah’s regime, we find a hint of the Lord’s goodness in Jair, we catch a glimpse of man’s potential for badness. Look carefully. The text only depicts Jair’s wide influence through his thirty sons. That does not necessarily imply any wrongdoing. In ancient Israel, numerous sons were a gift from the Lord and a means of protection from one’s enemies. However, the accounting of Jair’s thirty sons (not to mention numerous daughters he surely sired) implies multiple wives. The text records no displeasure about this. Yet, when we heard about Gideon’s seventy sons (chapter 8), the writer gave the explanation, “for he had many wives,” a circumstance which made the Abimelech fiasco possible. So, now we know why Israel fell back into moral disrepair after Jair’s reign as Judges ended. Jair sought the trappings of kingship despite official denials of it. He led Israel by bad example through serving himself and established a culture of compromise that endured.
Surely, we understand, Jair. Even in our service to God and community, in all our ways, there is the subtle urge to secure our position, display our status, extend our influence and guarantee our recognition. Yet, our plans to unseat the true “King” will always have a way of being exposed from behind, even our largest fig leaves.
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©Steve Wiggins 2021