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Sefer Shoftim Chapter 10
Second Chances?

In Chapter 9 we learned of the disastrous rule of Avimelech and in Chapter 10 we hear about the next two leaders of the Jewish people - Tola (23 years) and Yair (22 years). Following on from their rule, the Jewish people served many different idols and abandoned God. In response, God sends invading Philistine and Ammonite armies. They rule over the Jewish people for 18 years.


We do not have much information about these two leaders named Tola and Yair. We are told that Yair had thirty towns and thirty sons and that his sons rode thirty donkeys. The Radak (Rabbi David Kimche, 13th century biblical commentator) states that this is a symbol of status, for only nobility could ride at this time. Yair is in fact the first Jewish leader to be mentioned in this way, which suggests that he cared more about his status and wealth than his Divinely given leadership role. Once again, we are seeing the level of leaders decline as we venture further into the book of Shoftim.


Our chapter continues to tell us how the people cried out to God for salvation, but this time God says “no”. God reprimands them harshly as He has redeemed them before, yet they have not learned from their mistakes. Rather, God states, they should ask for salvation from the pagan gods they so ardently serve. Finally, the people sincerely repent, ridding their homes of their idols and crying out to God wholeheartedly. God hears and saves them from their enemy. From this we learn the power of sincere repentance: we should always keep trying and never give up hope.


Another shift in the cycle

God accepts the people’s repentance and sends them a new Shofet. However, a shift has occurred. From now on, the salvation will never be complete. This dialogue between God and the people has occurred twice before in the book of Shofetim, in Chapters 2 and 6. Each time, this symbolises the end of that spiritual and historical era and the start of a different stage in the period of Shofetim. Following on from Devorah in Chapter 6, we saw that the leaders were now tainted by personal failings. Gidon constantly sought Divine reassurance and Avimelech, as discussed in the previous article, was doomed from the outset. However, these two still managed to protect the Jewish people from their enemies.


From Chapter 10 onwards we will see a further weakening in the calibre of our leaders. From now, the leaders will not be fully successful on a personal or national level. The leaders will be of a lesser stature and their victories will be of a lesser scale. The Jewish people will not be completely at peace again from now on for the rest of the period of the Shoftim. Yes, God has given the people another chance, but it is a chance on a lower scale. While second chances might be equal, sixth chances are not.

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