Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. How readily do we recognize these five names? These are the names of some of the lesser-known judges of Israel. Their names don’t ring echoes of great valor and conquest, like Samson, or even Gideon. Their time spent as judges was different, and they all have a couple of things in common with each other that I’d like to point out, but let’s first take a look at these texts:
After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola 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.
After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons. And he gave away thirty daughters in marriage, and brought in thirty daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem. After him, Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel. He judged Israel ten years. And Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the country of Zebulun. After him, Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy young donkeys. He judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mountains of the Amalekites.
These five men, which are written about above, led Israel for a collective of 70 years, that’s equivalent to over 17 terms for the U.S. presidency. That’s a lot of time and a lot of history! But as we just read, very little history is recorded concerning these 70 years. In fact, on the surface, it seems that the only notable history is how some of these leaders had an enormous amount of children. But I believe there is a much greater point to all of this, but that point does not come into the light until the verses following the scriptures that deal with these five men.
After Tola and then Jair judged Israel, the scripture says: “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 10:6). Likewise, after Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon judged Israel, the text says “Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years” (Judges 13:1).
Can we see a pattern? The scriptures reveal that it was only after these men judged Israel and died that the people turned away from the Lord to serve idols. So then, what is so significant about the lives of these five men is that they were able to keep the nation faithful to God. And that is a tremendous task, isn’t it? Few have had the strength, faith, and courage to do what these me were able to accomplish.
In relation to the good way that these men led Israel, we see the cause-and-effect, that there was peace in Israel. We remember Samson, Gideon, and others, who made great conquests and shed much blood, and we should remember the great things that the Lord did through such men, but we ought not to forget the men who were able to keep the people of God safe, secure, and at peace. No, there is not any “Hollywood” excitement in the lives of these men, and that’s just the way I like it because that’s exactly what I want today. I want peace without having to battle for it. In the church, I have fought for peace and truth before, and I would do it again without hesitation; but I do not want to do it again. It is agonizing to deal with wickedness corrupting the fold of God. I can attest that I’ve suffered great physical ailments in the past due to conflict brought on by vile men of vile passions. So, if a local church can accomplish peacefulness without compromising what is right, then they have accomplished a very high thing, and that’s the group I want to be a part of. That’s the group that can press forward to accomplish other great things that the Lord designed the church to do. May we all appreciate the examples of these five judges and press on to live faithfully like them.
Article by Tanner Campbell.