Judges 10:3-5: The Judgeship of Jair

Verse 3:[1] And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.


[Jair, a Gileadite] That is, of the Trans-jordanian Manassites (Bonfrerius), who were dwelling near mount Gilead (Lapide).


A Gileadite; of Gilead beyond Jordan.


Verse 4:[2] And he had thirty sons that (Judg. 5:10; 12:14) rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, (Deut. 3:14) which are called Havoth-jair (or, the villages of Jair;[3] Num. 32:41[4]) unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.


[Upon thirty colts of she-asses, עֲיָרִים[5]] They translate it, colts (Septuagint, Jonathan, Arabic, Pagnine, Montanus); colts of she-asses, or of asses (Munster, Vatablus, Piscator, Dutch, English, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Castalio, Syriac), that is, mules excellent and young (Vatablus). Therefore, Cajetan is deceived, who understands the colts of horses; since (says he) these things are recorded for the glory of their father. For the use of horses by the Jews was either non-existent, or exceedingly rare. Horses were not to be multiplied by the King, Deuteronomy 17:16. Hence also captured horses were hamstrung, Joshua 11:6; 2 Samuel 8:4; 1 Chronicles 18:4. See also Isaiah 36:8. Add that Kings and the sons of Kings were riding upon mules; 2 Samuel 13:29; 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33, 38, 44 (Bonfrerius).


Rode on ass colts, because horses were scarce there, and were not to be multiplied by the king himself, Deuteronomy 17:16. Hence their kings and kings’ children used to ride upon mules, 2 Samuel 13:29; 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33, 38, 39. Compare Judges 5:10; 12:14.


[And thirty princes of cities] This principate was subordinated to the principate of their father, and was rendered to judge and govern the people according to the Divine laws alone; not for unbridled domination (Bonfrerius).


[In Hebrew it is, וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֥ים עֲיָרִ֖ים לָהֶ֑ם] And thirty cities, or towns, were to them [thus all interpreters]: that is, They were in charge of thirty cities (Vatablus, Bonfrerius). The plural of עִיר/city is עָרִים, in the place of which he put עֲיָרִים, [as the Hebrews say] דֶּרֶךְ צָחוּת, for the sake of elegance (Munster); so that it might be an allusion to עֲיָרִים/colts, and an elegent paronomasia[6] (Munster).


[Which from his name were called Havoth-Jair (thus Pagnine, Montanus), חַוֹּ֣ת יָאִ֗יר] The towns (cities [Jonathan, English, Vatablus], villages [Drusius], hamlets [Munster]) of Jair (Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio). Now, it is חַוָּה, a collection of a few houses dwelling together, or, as it is an allusion of the Hebrews, living together[7] (Munster). You will say, But well before now they were having this name from the other Jair, Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:4, 14; not just thirty, but sixty, towns of Jair: how then do they here receive their name from the other Jair? Response: In Scripture a name is said to be imposed, even when it is merely confirmed by some event. Thus the names of Beer-sheba in Genesis 26:33, and of Israel in Genesis 35:10, are said to be imposed, although they had already previously been imposed, the former in Genesis 21:31, the latter in Genesis 32:28 (Bonfrerius). Likewise in this passage, that name is confirmed to them, and, as it were, bestowed anew, on account of a new reason, namely, that thirty Princes, the sons of Jair, had been set over these thirty cities: but no mention is made here of the thirty others, because those were not related to these Princes (Lapide). They were called the villages of Jair, whether from the name of this, or from the name of the prior, Jair, of whose posterity perhaps this Jair was (Piscator). Perhaps this Jair was a grandson of the former, and therefore retain his family name. To this Jair those cities had come, which that other Jair had seized from the Canaanites. And so he is a Noble Judge, while the prior two were lowly (Martyr). The former Jair assigned names to those villages, and perhaps the hamlets, as they were, he left without walls: The latter Jair, who surrounded them with walls, and raised them into towns, confirmed and strengthened the name, and made it more famous (Tirinus).


Havoth-jair. Objection: These villages were called so before this time from another Jair, Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14. Answer: They are not said to be now first called by that name, but to be still so called, because the old name was revived and confirmed upon this occasion; as Sheba is said to be called Beer-sheba, upon an occasion mentioned Genesis 26:33, though it was so called before upon a more ancient occasion, Genesis 21:31. Possibly this Jair had enlarged or fortified these towns, and so they were justly denominated from him, no less than from the former.


Verse 5:[8] And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣קָם אַחֲרָ֔יו יָאִ֖יר הַגִּלְעָדִ֑י וַיִּשְׁפֹּט֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עֶשְׂרִ֥ים וּשְׁתַּ֖יִם שָׁנָֽה׃


[2] Hebrew: וַֽיְהִי־ל֞וֹ שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים בָּנִ֗ים רֹֽכְבִים֙ עַל־שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים עֲיָרִ֔ים וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֥ים עֲיָרִ֖ים לָהֶ֑ם לָהֶ֞ם יִקְרְא֣וּ׀ חַוֹּ֣ת יָאִ֗יר עַ֚ד הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּאֶ֥רֶץ הַגִּלְעָֽד׃


[3] Hebrew: חַוֹּ֣ת יָאִ֗יר.


[4] Numbers 32:41: “And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof (אֶת־חַוֹּתֵיהֶם), and called them Havoth-jair (וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶתְהֶ֖ן חַוֹּ֥ת יָאִֽיר׃).”


[5] עַיִר, male ass, may be related to a verbal root עיר, to escape through sprightliness.


[6] That is, a play on words.


[7] Here, חַוָּה is related to חָיָה, to live.


[8] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣מָת יָאִ֔יר וַיִּקָּבֵ֖ר בְּקָמֽוֹן׃

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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