Abbott and Costello, Simon and Garfunkel, Batman and Robin, Captain and Tennille. Culture is filled with dynamic duos. (Well, we might need to rethink that last one. But you get the point.)
However, when it comes to judging a fledgling nation, no one—and I mean no one—compares to the renowned duo of…Tola and Jair!
Hmmm, perhaps an explanation is in order.
Tola and Jair were Israel’s sixth and seventh judges, respectively, leading Israel for a combined forty-five years. Yet for whatever reason, the author of Judges lumped the poor chaps together in chapter 10 and limited their life stories to three verses each. By comparison, Gideon’s exploits received three chapters. And Samson (not exactly an expected candidate for canonization) got four.
To be fair, Shamgar, Israel’s third judge, got only one sentence (Judges 3:31). But at least there we learn that Shamgar smote 600 pesky Philistines with a cattle prod. What did Tola use while judging? A sword? A spear? A surprisingly lethal garden hoe? Alas, we’ll never know. All we know of Tola is his tribal lineage, hometown, how long he judged, and his burial site. Badda-bing, badda-boom.
We are given a few more tidbits about Jair. Judges 10:4 says, “He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys.” From this, we can infer that ol’ Jair took God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” quite seriously. He also had a healthy transportation budget.
All said, the bulk of Judges 10 is devoted not to Tola and Jair, but to a summary of Israel’s continued rejection of the Lord. Consequently, God gave the people over to their enemies again. Then Israel, again, cried out to the Lord for help.
At first, God refused: “Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them deliver you whenever you are oppressed” (vv.13–14). But Israel persisted in crying out and removed their idols, so God mercifully delivered them.
Israel’s repentance didn’t last long. Soon their hearts strayed again, and their problems worsened.
Israel’s cyclical and sobering rebellion is instructive. True repentance isn’t a quick fix, like changing a flat tire on the highway just to make it to the nearest mechanic. True repentance involves a Spirit-led change of heart—turning from wrong and choosing right. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2Corinthians 7:10).
Thankfully, God is merciful and patient with His children as we grow in our understanding and practice of true repentance. “The LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy” (Isaiah 30:18).
Like ancient Israel, our hearts stray toward cyclical rebellion. But praise God that He has provided all we need for true repentance through the atoning sacrifice of His Son and the sanctifying work of His Spirit!