Notes on Judges 10, verses 6-18

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 10:6, KJV: And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.

After these two judges died, Israel began to worship the gods/deities of every nation surrounding themL Baalim and Ashtaroth were Canaanite deities; Syria, to the north; Zidon/Sidon to the northwest; Moab and Ammon to the east; and the Philistines to the south and west. Israel deliberately forsook the True God.

7 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.

This time the LORD “sold” Israel into the “hands” or control of the Philistines and Ammonites. Earlier Israel had been in subjection to the Moabites and Ammonites (Judges 3), but God used Ehud to bring deliverance. Jabin was king of Canaan and oppressed Israel for 20 years but God delivered Israel from him through Barak, Deborah, and Jael (Judges 5). The Philistines had tried to invade or oppress Israel but Shamgar killed 600 of them by using an ox goad (Judges 3:31)!

Israel had had some time of peace during the time when Tola and Jair served as judges but now they had again abandoned the LORD. Israel was again going to suffer oppression because of this sin.

8 And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that (were) on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which (is) in Gilead.

There are two periods of time mentioned that could be easy to miss. The writer first speaks of how “they”, either the Philistines or Ammonites, “vexed and oppressed” the Israelites. Note that the oppressors are not specified for this one-year campaign, nor which part of Israel suffered because of this (it could have been the whole nation).

The second period of time was the 18-year oppression of the tribes east of the Jordan, ironically the same area where Jair, and possible his sons, had served as a Judge for 22 years (verse 3). Most likely this was the Ammonites as they already were living on the east side of the Jordan and Israel was forbidden to claim any of their territory (Deut. 2:19). The Philistines would have had to cross over any number of hills and the Jordan River in order to reach the land of Gilead. This was because they lived close to the Mediterranean, a good distance from the Jordan.

9 Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed.

The Ammonites were not only attacking the eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh) but also the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. These three tribes were basically in the center of Israel.

10 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.

“Baalim” is the plural form of “Baal” in Hebrew. Israel had worshiped “Baal-Peor” in Numbers 25, Baal-Berith in Judges 8, plus any number of “local” deities named after “Baal”.

In other chapters, the LORD had sent a messenger to speak to Israel. The Angel of the LORD spoke to Israel in chapter 2, Deborah judged Israel in chapter 4, and there was a prophet in chapter 6, but no messenger is mentioned in this chapter. One wonders why it took them 18 years to get to the point of recognition that they had sinned against the LORD.

Had they learned nothing from their past?

11 And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, (Did) not (I deliver you) from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?

Note how the LORD first reminds them of the many times He had previously delivered Israel. Years before, He had taken them out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and into Canaan. The Books of Exodus through Deuteronomy give details about this. The Book of Joshua and the earlier chapters of Judges describe Israel’s deliverance from the Amorites, Ammonites, and Philistines. It is true that God used human leaders and other people in this process but ultimately all victories came from Him.

12 The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.

The Zidonians/Sidonians are seldom mentioned before this time. Asher failed to drive out the Zidonians but lived among them, in violation of God’s directives (compare Judges 1:31-32 with Deuteronomy 7).

The Amalekites were one of Israel’s first enemies after Israel left Egypt (Exodus 17:8-16).Joshua led the Israelites to victory over them but did not completely destroy them (he was not commanded to do so). Later Amalek and Ammon joined with Moab to oppress Israel (Judges 3). More recently, the Amalekites and Midianites and possibly others had oppressed Israel in the days of Gideon (Judges 6-8).

The identity of the Maonites is not certain but they may have been included (“the children of the east“, Jud. 6:2) with the Midianites and Amalekites. They are mentioned as a tribe or unit only here and probably should not be confused with the Ammonites.

13 Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.

This was neither the first nor the last time Israel would forsake God, the True God. At least four or five times since the death of Joshua, Israel abandoned the God of Israel for various pagan deities (Judges 2:11-13, 3:7, 3:12, Gideon’s own father: Judges 6:25-28; 8:33, and this was early in Israel’s history). They had rejected their God, the God of Israel, but now they are pleading with Him for help. God was furious with Israel at this point and told them He wasn’t going to help them anymore, in so many words.

14 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

Here God tells Israel to cry out to the other gods/goddesses they had been worshiping for deliverance. He and Israel both knew these idols were powerless! These idols did not stop the Philistines or Ammonites from attacking Israel, nor had any other idol protected them from other attacks.

And yet, Israel still refused to turn back to the God of Israel until they had been under oppression for 18 years according to verse 8.

15 And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.

This was a genuine cry of repentance. Israel confessed to their sins against God, and asked no conditions of Him, only for deliverance.

16 And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.

They made proof of their repentance and confession by putting away the “strange” or foreign gods in their possession. Rachel may have started this trend when she stole her father’s (Laban) “gods” (see Genesis 31). Jacob’s extended family still had some of these gods when Jacob returned to Bethel and commanded the people to get rid of these things. He buried them under an oak tree (Genesis 35:1-4).

Later Israel still had some pagan/foreign gods in their possession when Joshua gave them the challenge of their lifetimes, to either worship any of these foreign gods or to put them away and worship the True God, The God of Israel (Joshua 24). Now they “served the LORD” and His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. Someone once observed that when one returns to the Lord, He was there all along!

17 Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.

Ammon was encamped in Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan. The number of these soldiers is not given, nor how many Israelites remained over there.

The location of this Mizpeh is not certain but probably was in the land of Gilead also. There were at least two other places named Mizpeh, both on the west side of Jordan. Samuel would later judge Israel by traveling from Bethel Gilgal, and Mizpeh (1 Samuel 7) and several years later, King Asa of Judah used the (abandoned?) materials from Ramah to build Geba and Mizpah (1 Kings 15:21-22) in the land of Benjamin. Neither of these places seems likely in this context.

18 And the people (and) princes of Gilead said one to another, What man (is he) that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.

This is an indication that the battle was shaping up on the east side of Jordan in Gilead. Incredibly, the Israelites are looking for a military or political leader to be their champion instead of seeking the LORD. Had they not learned anything by looking to people and not to the LORD?

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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