Some of the lesser-known leaders in the Book of Judges are Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. Let us now explore the life and times of Jair, a Gileadite, who judged Israel for 22 years after the death of Tola.
Israel had a succession of rulers called judges before they became a monarchy. The Almighty raised these chiefs from the different tribes of Israel to save the nation from their enemies and bring his people back to him. Each judge was called for a particular purpose at a specific time and used by God to accomplish his plans for the chosen people.
However, Israel drifted away from God whenever a judge died and went back worshiping strange gods, practicing idolatry and fornication. There was a continuous cycle of sin and deliverance: the nation rebels; God forsakes them; they repent; God delivers them.
The judges were not just administering justice and settling disputes. They were leaders who were chosen to deliver God’s people from oppression and tyranny.
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The Fascinating Story of Jair
Jair, the seventh judge of Israel (1126 – 1104 B.C.), succeeded Tola, who ruled Israel for 23 years until his death. He had thirty sons who rode thirty ass colts or donkeys and controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which were called Havvoth Jair. In ancient Palestine, most people did not ride on donkeys, as owning one was very expensive. It only means that Jair had a huge family and was very wealthy, and occupied an elite status in the society.
Only the rich in those days could afford so many donkeys. Moreover, the donkey was highly regarded as a riding beast, and only the prominent people rode them at that time. Jair would have had many servants and would have been a well-respected member of the tribe. His many sons, donkeys, and cities are cited to affirm his influence as a leader of Israel during this time.
Jair was a minor judge since the account of his life given in the Scriptures is shorter (Judges 10:3–5) than some of the more well-known judges, such as Gideon and Samson. However, each of the minor judges played an important role in delivering Israel with the help of the Lord God Almighty.
Jair Name Meaning
The meaning of Jair in Hebrew is “Jah enlightens.” Jah is one of the names for the Creator. He judged Israel for 22 years, and when he died, he was buried in Camon, which was about 12 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. After his death, the children of Israel went back to their evil ways and served Baalim, Ashtaroth, and the gods of the neighboring countries, and forsook the Lord, and served Him not. So, the Lord handed them over into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites. They were subjugated for 18 years, and their enemies vexed them.
Alternate History of Jair
No remarkable military feats marked the judgeship of Jair. He was probably administering only civil duties. It seems Israel was peaceful during the period of his rule because no major confrontations with other nations were recorded in the Scriptures during this time. God was gracious towards his people and blessed them with tranquility.
He was the first judge from the other side of Jordan (Transjordan, an area east of the Jordan River), and this showed that the governance of Israel shifted from one tribe to another during the period of the judges. The Lord did not neglect any tribe of Israel and the judges were raised in those tribes, which were oppressed the most.
However, according to the “The Legend of the Jews” by Louis Ginzberg, Jair was wicked as Abimelech and erected an altar unto Baal. He seems to have forced the people to prostrate before the idol, failing which they were threatened with the punishment of death. Only a few people remained steadfast in their true faith and refused to commit idolatry.
They were Deuel, Jekuthiel, Shalom, Abit Yisreel, Ashur, Shemiel, and Jehonadab. They asked Jair that if Baal is God, he should speak, and then they will worship him. However, he considered this blasphemy and commanded that they be burnt. However, when his servants were about to carry out the sentence, the Archangel Nathaniel appeared and doused the fire but not before the servants of Jair were devoured by it.
The seven men escaped, and they fled unnoticed with the help of the angel as the people were struck with blindness. Then the angel came near Jair and said that since he broke the covenant, seduced the chosen people, and sought to burn God’s servants, he will be burned to death by fire. Then the angel burnt Jair along with a thousand men, who were with him serving and paying homage to Baal.
The Older Jair
Some biblical scholars believe that he was a progeny of a much older Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, who distinguished himself in an expedition against the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan. He captured the whole region of Argob and drove the Amorites from their settlements in Gilead and called them Havvoth Jair, which means towns or villages of Jair, totally sixty in number (Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14).
Jair was the son of Segub of the tribe of Judah, but his mother was from the tribe of Manasseh and he inherited the land with the sons of Manasseh due to his strong association with them.
Our series on Bible heroes, who trusted God in the middle of difficult times, were powerfully used by the Almighty despite their faults and failings, will inspire you to believe the Supreme Being for the impossible.