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Judges chapter 10

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What does Judges chapter 10 mean?

This chapter comes after the death of Gideon and the short rule of his son Abimelech over Shechem and the surrounding region (Judges 9). Perhaps to calm the chaos of Abimelech's reign of terror, two more judges rise to save Israel. Little is revealed about either of them. The first is Tola of the tribe of Issachar. Tola saves Israel in some way, perhaps resolving the power struggles that would have resulted from Abimelech's actions. He rules over Israel as judge for twenty-three years from his home in a town called Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim (Judges 10:1–2).

Jair the Gileadite rules as judge next, for twenty-two years. He operates from his home east of the Jordan River in the region of Gilead. Jair has thirty sons, each of whom rides a donkey and rules over a city in an area called by the title Havvoth-jair, which literally means "the settlements of Jair" (Judges 10:3–5).

Following Jair's rule, Israel returns to the typical pattern of the book of Judges (Judges 2:11–19). They ignore God to worship false idols, forsaking the Lord. This time, their worship includes more than just the Canaanite gods known as Baals and Ashtaroth (Judges 3:7; 8:33). Israel also embraces the deities associated with the nations around Israel, including Syria, Sidon, Moab, the Ammonites, and the Philistines. God is furious. He "sells" them—meaning He allows them to be taken (Deuteronomy 30:15–19; Judges 2:1–3)—into oppression under the Ammonites (Genesis 19:36–38; Judges 3:13) and the Philistines (Genesis 10:13–14; Exodus 13:17). These foes crush Israel, in their respective regions, for eighteen years (Judges 10:6–8).

The Ammonites oppress those living east of the Jordan River in the region of Gilead, but they also push over the river to attack the territories of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. Finally, the suffering of Israel grows painful enough that they once more cry out to the Lord. This time, though, their plea for mercy takes the form of a confession. They admit to sin through idolatry and all the depravity that came with it (Deuteronomy 12:29–31). Rather than immediately promising deliverance, God responds by listing many of the nations from whom He has saved Israel over the years (Judges 10:9–12).

In a shocking statement, the Lord then flatly refuses to save Israel again. Instead, in a suggestion brimming with sarcasm, God tells Israel to turn to their idols and false gods for help. To their credit, the people seem to understand the greater point, and they prove their true repentance through action. They again confess to their sinful ways and get rid of the idols. They begin to serve the Lord again, asking for His deliverance but agreeing that He can do with them as He chooses. God's intent was never for Israel to suffer forever, and He prepares for their next rescue (Judges 10:13–16).

The Ammonites begin to mount another attack against the Israelites from Gilead. The Israelites in Gilead assemble their own fighting force and encamp against the Ammonites. A battle is clearly coming. However, the leaders of Gilead admit they have nobody to lead their army against the Ammonites. They announce an incentive: whomever takes the job will become a "captain" or "chief" over all of Gilead (Judges 10:17–18).

God ultimately sends an unlikely answer: Jephthah (Judges 11:1–3), an outcast warrior with questionable friends.
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