Tom Lowe

May 5, 2011

Chapter 49
The Judge Jair [Judges 10.3-10.5]

Scripture: Judges 10.3-10.5 (KJV)

3 And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.
4 And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.
5 And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.

Commentary (Judges 10.3-5; KJV)
Commentary (Judges 10.3-5; GW)

The overthrow of the men of Shechem and of Abimelech is followed by temporary peace, after which the people fall again into wicked idolatry, and Jehovah gives them into the hands of the nations whose gods they serve. They are treated poorly by their enemies, who create hardships and suffering for the children of Israel. At some point, they cry out to Jehovah, who reprimands them for their past conduct, and sends them back to the gods they had been worshipping. Then the people put away the strange gods from among them. Jehovah is moved with compassion and raises up judges to lead them; first was Tola (the subject of Chapter 48), and the second was Jair.

3 And after him arose Jair (see Article 10.2), a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.—Judges 10:3 (KJV)
3 And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.—Judges 10:3 (GW)

And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite…he was a citizen of the half tribe of Manasseh, on the other side of the Jordan River, which inhabited the land of Gilead, and he is the first of the judges that was from that side of the Jordan; it pleased God, before the government was finally settled in a particular tribe, to shift it from one tribe to another, and to honor them all, and to show that although the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, were separated from their brethren by the river Jordan, they were not neglected by the Lord; and generally speaking judges were raised up in all those tribes which were oppressed the most, and those that were liable to be oppressed by their enemies, like Gilead was oppressed by the Ammonites; consequently Jair, and the judge that followed him, Jephthah, were from Gilead.

Jair had the same name as a very famous man who was from the same tribe, but lived in Moses's time. He was very active in conquering the northeastern territory, and as the founder of Havoth-jair, or "Jair's villages,” [1]Numbers 32:41, [2]Joshua 13:30, [3]Deuteronomy 3.14, [4]1Chronicles 2:22. It should be noted that this man had twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead, according to [4]1 Chronicles 2.22, whereas, the Judge Jair had thirty cities, according to the next verse.

Some have imagined a conflict between what is written here and the statement in [5]Numbers 32:39-41, where another Jair, probably an ancestor of this one, named certain cities which he conquered Havoth-Jair, but many Jewish names were repeated generation after generation. Indeed, it is true today. For example: In 1952, a certain writer met General Ulysses S. Grant in command of a large military unit in Japan, but he was not THE General Grant of the Civil War period, but only a descendant of his.

and judged Israel twenty two years; Jair was the eighth judge of Israel, and he ruled for twenty-two years, about as long as Tola reigned; but he ministered as a judge with a certain "attitude". He is another of the so-called minor judges. These three short verses relate all that is actually known of him. We are not given the corroboration, but from the context we can say confidently that he protected them from their enemies, administered justice to them, and preserved the true religion. The name Jair is the same as the N.T. name "Jairus." Dalglish pointed out that this and the following verse feature what appears to be a play on words. "J-air, the name of the judge, also appears as `[~a-ir]' meaning `donkey,' and as `[~`ir]' meaning city"!


Article 10.2: The Judge Jair
JAIR - ja'-er:
(1) Jair (ya'ir, "he enlightens" or "one giving light"):
(a) Son, i.e. descendant of Manasseh ([1]Numbers 32:41; [2]Deuteronomy 3:14; [3]Joshua 13:30; 1 Kings 4:13; [4]1 Chronicles 2:22). According to 1 Chronicles 2:21 if he was the son of ScRub, son of Hezron, a descendant of Judah, who married the daughter of Machir, son of Manasseh. He was thus descended both from Judah and Manasseh. At the time of the conquest he distinguished himself by taking the tent-villages HAVVOTH-JAIR (which see). The accounts of his exploit are difficult to harmonize.
(b) One of the judges. He is said to have had 30 sons, who rode on 30 ass colts, and who had as many cities, known as Havvoth-jair. Most likely, the judgeship of Jair coincided with the time period of Ruth.

          _________________________________________verse 3 notes___________________________________
[1]Num 32:41 (NKJV) “Also Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its small towns, and called them Havoth Jair.” Havoth-jair—That is, the villages or habitations of Jair; and thus they should have been translated. As these two tribes and a half were the first, says Ainsworth, who had their inheritance assigned to them in the promised land, so they were the first of all Israel that were carried captive out of their own land, because of their sins. "For they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after other gods. And God delivered them into the hands of Pul and Tiglath-Pilneser, kings of Assyria, and they brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and Gozan, unto this day." See 1 Chronicles 5:25, 26.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[2]Josh 13:30 (NKJV) “Their territory was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair which are in Bashan, sixty cities;” The towns of Jair—These were sixty cities; they are mentioned afterwards, and in 1 Chronicles 2:21, etc. They are the same with the Havoth-jair mentioned Numbers 32:41. Jair was son of Segub, grandson of Esron or Hezron, and great-grandson of Machir by his grandmother's side, who married Hezron of the tribe of Judah. See his genealogy, 1 Chronicles 2:21-24.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[3]Deuteronomy 3:14 (NKJV) “Jair the son of Manasseh took all the region of Argob, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and called Bashan after his own name, Havoth Jair, to this day.)” Jair the son of Manasseh took all the country of Argob -- The original inhabitants of the province north of Bashan, comprising sixty cities (De 3:4), not having been extirpated along with Og, this people were afterwards brought into subjection by the energy of Jair. This chief, of the tribe of Manasseh, in accordance with the pastoral habits of his people, called these newly acquired towns by a name which signifies "Jair's Bedouin Villages of Tents."—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[4]1Chronicles 2:22, 23 (NKJV) “Segub begot Jair, who had twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead. (Geshur and Syria took from them the towns of Jair, with Kenath and its towns--sixty towns.) All these belonged to the sons of Machir the father of Gilead.”

Jair, who had three and twenty cities in the land of Gilead -- As the son of Segub and the grandson of Hezron, he was of the tribe of Judah; but from his maternal descent he is called (Nu 32:41 De 3:14) "the son of Manasseh." This designation implies that his inheritance lay in that tribe in right of his grandmother; in other words, his maternal and adopting great-grandfather was Machir the son of Manasseh. Jair, inheriting his property, was his lineal representative; and accordingly this is expressly stated to be the case; for the village group of "Havoth-Jair" was awarded to him in that tribe, in consequence of his valiant and patriotic exploits. This arrangement, however, took place previous to the law (Nu 36:1-13), by which it was enacted that heiresses were to marry in their own tribe. But this instance of Jair shows that in the case of a man obtaining an inheritance in another tribe it required him to become thoroughly incorporated with it as a representative of the family through which the inheritance was received. He had been adopted into Manasseh, and it would never have been imagined that he was other than "a son of Manasseh" naturally, had not this passage given information supplementary to that of the passage in Numbers.
Kenath -- This place, along with its group of surrounding villages, was gained by Nobah, one of Jair's officers sent by him to capture it (Nu 32:1, 2).
All these belonged to the sons of Machir -- In their number Jair is included as having completely identified himself by his marriage and residence in Gilead with the tribe of Manasseh.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary  
[5]Numbers 32:39-41 (NKJV) “And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it.  So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he dwelt in it. Also Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its small towns, and called them Havoth Jair.”


4 And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead—Judges 10:4 (KJV)
4 And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.—Judges 10.4 (GW)

And he had thirty sons that [6]rode upon thirty ass colts…In those times, when Israel had few horses, it was considered honorable to ride on donkeys and it was a sign of distinguished rank. The judges who rode a circuit from city to city used donkeys, [7](Judges 5:10) and this was the situation with these sons of Jair, who were appointed by their father to be his representatives  as itinerate judges, to ride about, and to administer justice throughout Israel, as did Samuel's sons who were judges under him, [8](1 Samuel 8:1-3), but they were not good judges. The knowledge that Jair has thirty sons is not conclusive evidence that he had more than one wife; much less that he had more than one at a time. There are instances, in this country, of men having as many children by two successive wives. The times when so many `sons' could ride unhindered would have to have been times of peace, and good administration and they were definitely men of authority.

All that we are told about this man is that he had thirty sons and he bought each one of them a little donkey. He did not get them a Jaguar, Mustang, Pinto, or Cougar; he gave each boy a donkey. What a sight it must have been to see these thirty boys ride out of Gilead!

In Jair’s story I can see three things: (1) prosperity without purpose; (2) affluence without influence; (3) prestige without power.

In that day a donkey was a mark of prosperity; today it may be a Mercedes. That was the thing that denoted a man’s wealth. For example, Judges 5:10 says, “Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.” This verse speaks about the upper echelon, or the establishment. The donkey was a mark of wealth and was the animal that kings rode upon. There has always been a question about whether or not they had horses in that day. In Scripture the little donkey is the animal of peace and the horse is the animal of war (the horse was imported into that land). But the little donkey was actually the mark of prosperity and the mark of a king.

You remember that the Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a little donkey. We misinterpret Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Zechariah does not mean that the Lord Jesus is humble because He is riding on a little donkey. He is humble in spite of the fact that He is riding upon an animal which only kings ride. If He had not been King, it would really have been a presumption to ride into Jerusalem on that donkey as He did and receive all of the adulation and hosannas from the crowd that day.

Jair was obviously a man of wealth and prominence to be able to afford thirty donkeys. He gave each one of his sons a donkey, so he must have had a thirty–car garage! This was the mark of a benevolent father. He was generous, and I think he spoiled his sons. He got them what they wanted. They lived in the lap of luxury and with golden spoons in their mouths. Donkeys probably came in several models, and Jair bought each son the latest thing. But did these donkeys bring glory to God? Did they make Jair a better judge? Did they bring blessing to the people? Did any one of these boys go out as a missionary? No. They lived in Gilead.

It is true that there is nothing particularly wrong with donkeys. On the other hand, there is nothing particularly right with a man who is a judge and spends a whole lot of time with many boys and donkeys. This is important for us to see. Our Lord rode into Jerusalem on a little donkey to fulfill prophecy and to present Himself as King, and the hosannas were sung. Satan was angry and the religious rulers protested as Christ rode through the gate and into the city. But all of Jair’s donkeys never lifted one hosanna. When these animals brayed, I think Satan smiled and the mob was entertained. Jair is a picture of prosperity without purpose, friend, and it is a dangerous thing. We see the same picture in the days of Noah when they were marrying and giving in marriage. This is also demonstrated in the account of Solomon sending out ships to bring back apes and peacocks—peacocks for beauty and apes for entertainment.

Years ago a high school class in the state of Washington came up with this motto for their graduating class: “Pep without purpose is piffle.” Well, it is not much of a motto, but it certainly expresses present–day conditions. We have prosperity but without purpose. May I ask you what the goal of your life is? Is it pointless? Is it aimless? Have you found life pretty boring? Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “How stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me the uses of this world.” What we need today is direction and dimension in our lives. We need a cause, and the cause of Jesus Christ is still the greatest challenge any man can have. Old Jair was some judge, wasn’t he?

Jair’s days were also marked by prestige without power. He was the outstanding man in the community. The traffic cops probably never gave any of his sons a ticket. But verse 5 does not speak of a monument for Jair. He was buried in an unknown spot. He never performed one conspicuous act. He never did a worthwhile deed. He never gained a victory. He may have had thirty donkeys, but he had no spiritual power. We are living in a day when the church has lost its power. What a picture we have in this man Jair.

Right before World War II, the city of Pasadena was having its annual Rose Parade. The float that was entered by the Standard Oil Company was covered with American Beauty roses. It was a sight to behold. The theme of the parade was, “Be prepared.” Right in the middle of the parade the Standard Oil Company’s float ran out of gas. It stopped right where I was viewing the parade. I couldn’t help but laugh. If there was one float that should not have run out of gas, it was that one. Standard Oil Company should have had plenty of gas! As I looked at the float, I saw a picture of many Christians today. They are beautiful, but they have no power in their lives. They have beauty and prestige, but no power. That was judge Jair for you. He did nothing, died, and was buried. (From J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible)

and they had thirty cities, which are [1, 3]called Havothjair (see Article 10.4) unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead (see Article 10.3); They had possession of thirty of the sixty cities [9](1 Kings 4:13; [4]1 Chr. 2:23) which formed the ancient Havoth-jair. I believe that the phrase “unto this day,” is a reference to the times of Samuel, the most likely author of Judges. Yates referred to the date of the writing of Judges as being approximately, "During the 1050-1000 B.C. era." This would have been either in the reign of King Saul or in the early part of the reign of King David.

The fact that Jair had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys who headed up thirty towns suggests that he was a polygamous man and a man of wealth and prestige - though he never took the title "king" he certainly acted like one. It appears that there was both peace and prosperity during the time that Jair governed Israel; he had, it seems, provided for his family, and given a village to each of his thirty sons, which they fortified and enlarged. The names of them were established by the ancestor that originally conquered them, but under the Judge the old name was revived and confirmed; Havoth-jair--the villages of Jair.

Article 10.3: Gilead
Gilead (hill of testimony), (Gen. 31:21), a mountainous region east of Jordan. From its mountainous character it is called "the mount of Gilead" (Gen. 31:25). It is called also "the land of Gilead" (Num. 32:1), and sometimes simply "Gilead" (Ps. 60:7; Gen. 37:25). It comprised the possessions of the tribes of Gad and Reuben and the south part of Manasseh (Deut. 3:13; Num. 32:40). It was bounded on the north by Bashan, and on the south by Moab and Ammon (Gen. 31:21; Deut. 3:12-17). "Half Gilead" was possessed by Sihon, and the other half, separated from it by the river Jabbok, by Og, king of Bashan. The deep ravine of the river Hieromax (the modern Sheriat el-Mandhur) separated Bashan from Gilead, which was about 60 miles in length and 20 in breadth, extending from near the south end of the Lake of Gennesaret to the north end of the Dead Sea. Abarim, Pisgah, Nebo, and Peor are its mountains mentioned in Scripture.


Article 10.4: Havoth-Jair
Havoth-Jair is the name used by the Bible to refer to a certain group or groups of villages on the east of the Jordan. In various biblical passages, the towns are identified as
• 60 towns in Machir (the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh) with Machir ancestry (Numbers 32:41, Deuteronomy 3:14)
• 33 villages in Gilead (Gad) with Machir ancestry (1 Kings 4:13, 1 Chronicles 2:22)
• 30 villages in Gilead with Gilead ancestry (Judges 10:4)
The group in Machir are identified by the bible as having been well fortified with high walls and gates (Deuteronomy 3:4-5, Joshua 13:30, 1 Chronicles 2:23), and in the time of Solomon are said to have formed a part of Ben-geber's commissariat district (1 Kings 4:13). This group is clearly identified by the bible as having been the main towns of the Argob, a rocky region in the otherwise gentle plain of Bashan, and having been originally ruled over by king Og, before Israelite dominion.
The name Havoth-Jair can mean hamlets of Jair, and the bible portrays these as having been founded by a person named Jair who conquered the previous towns and villages in these locations; in the case of the villages with Machir ancestry it is a Jair named as a son of Manassah, while those with Gilead ancestry are identified as being founded by a Jair who is a Gileadite. According to critical scholarship this is likely to be folk etymology, particularly as in the eyes of archaeologists, the Israelite invasion of Canaan (and hence Jair being the particular conqueror for these locations) is non-historic, and the Israelites were most likely just a group of Canaanites.[1] Translating Jair, the name Havoth-Jair is seen to mean hamlets of the enlightened one, and could in fact be a reference to Og, or another ruler.
It is thought possible that the three groups of towns in fact refer to the same set of places, but that the different reports of ancestry and locations reflect the geo-political circumstances of the towns and villages, in the time periods that each particular part of the bible were written.
  [1]Israel Finkelstein, The Bible Unearthed

_____________________________________verse 4 notes______________________________________________

[6]rode "Speak, you who ride on white donkeys, Who sit in judges' attire, And who walk along the road” (Judges 5:10; NKJV).”  “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” (Judges 12:13-14; NKJV).
[7](Judges 5:10; NKJV) "Speak, you who ride on white donkeys, Who sit in judges' attire, And who walk along the road.”  white asses -- Those which are purely white are highly prized, and being costly, are possessed only by the wealthy and great. Ye that sit in judgment -- has been rendered, "ye that repose on tapestries."—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[8](1 Samuel 8:1-3; NKJV) “Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.”
[9](1 Kings 4:13; NKJV) “Ben-Geber, in Ramoth Gilead; to him belonged the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, in Gilead; to him also belonged the region of Argob in Bashan--sixty large cities with walls and bronze gate-bars;”

5 And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.—Judges 10:5 (KJV)
5 And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.—Judges 10.5 (GW)

And Jair died, and was buried in Camon. Josephus calls it a city within the boundaries of Gilead, which was probably on account of the assumption, that it would not be likely that Jair the Gileadite, who possessed so many cities in Gilead, would be buried anyplace else than Gilead. But this assumption is a very questionable one. Since Jair judged Israel after Tola the Issacharite, a more natural assumption is that he lived in Canaan proper. Jerom, under this word Camon, mentions a village in his times, called Cimana, situated on the plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon and six miles north of Legion, as you go toward Ptolemais; but, Reland supports the opinion that he was buried in Gilead, and to buttress his claim, he advances the fact that Polybius mentions a town called Καμοῦν, located near Pella and Gefrun, as having been taken by Antiochus. This is the Camon Polybius speaks of among other cities of Peraea, taken by Antiochus. Some present-day scholars seem to be in agreement that, "The place of Jair's burial is usually identified with Qamm, on the Jordan-Irbid road." However, Dalglish writes that, "The site of Kamon has not been satisfactorily identified." With such a wide range of opinions, I would say that the location of Camon, where Jair was buried, is uncertain, and is not mentioned again.

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