This much shorter chapter lists two minor judges named Tola and Jair whose tenures lasted several decades but were apparently uneventful enough that they only merit five verses together.
Then everything goes to pot again because, according to the redactors, the Israelites begin worshiping foreign gods again. God then “sells” them to the Ammonites, a people across the Jordan – and actually, it seems like most of the action here actually does take place among the Transjordan tribes, only occasionally crossing the river to harass their neighbors. So was this all of Israel going wrong or just those tribes?
It takes eighteen years, but the Israelites finally turn to God and ask for deliverance. They correctly diagnose that this is because of their religious infidelity. Rather than giving them points for recognizing the error right away, God snarks at them about how they can go ask their new gods for deliverance if they like them so much. Seriously, God’s lines drip sarcasm. It presents the image of God pouting, and it’s not that appealing. But the Israelites don’t relent in their pleas, and they throw away their other gods, and YHWH “could no longer bear to see Israel suffer. ” (v 16) And we’re right back in that cycle I wrote about months ago, where God has set up a system of punishment that even causes him unhappiness.
The chapter ends on a cliffhanger as the commanders of Gilead try to figure out who will lead them. The answer is Jephthah, who is an interesting fellow and the subject of the next two chapters.
The Japanese: uchinomesu “to beat down, to overwhelm” (v 8), shikakeru “to begin (a fight, an attack),” kugyou “penance, austerities” (v 9), onme ni kanau “to suit your view” (v 15), taeru “to bear, to withstand” (v 16).