Bible References: Judges 10:3-5
Heart of Story: The 7th judge in the Promised Land, Jair was deemed a minor Judge. Here is what the Bible recorded about his tenure as judge: He (Tola) was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel 22 years. Jair had 30 sons, who rode 30 donkeys. They (Jair and sons) controlled 30 towns in Gilead. When Jair died he was buried at Kamon.
Back Story: The timeframe for Jair’s judgeship was approximately 1210 B.C. Notice that he was a judge on the eastern side of the Jordan River in East Manasseh. The land that he judge was known as Gilead which is in present-day northern Jordan. The land was originally part of the land assigned to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. It is bound on the north by the kingdom of Bashan and on the south by the plains of Moab.
The name Gilead was from a man of the same name. Gilead was a grandson of Manasseh through Makir (a direct son of Manasseh). Gilead has many sons. When the Children of Israel settled the Promised Land, Gilead’s sons settled in the region that became East Manasseh. Apparently, Gilead’s family was so influential that a portion of the tribal lands of Reuben and Gad were called by the name of Gilead.
Story Line: Jair was a well-respected city member that became a judge in the region. The Bible did not record how Jair became a judge. Was he chosen by God or by the men of his town(s)? Jair was a judge for 22 years. He was a wealthy man and a man of status in his region of the country. His sons governed their own towns and had personal transportation, i.e., donkey. Towns are larger than villages and encompassed villages in the regions. In comparison to villages, towns had larger populations and a town wall for protection. Likely, Jair and each of his sons had personal servants and abundant land and/or flocks. Owning a donkey or a horse in ancient Israel was a sign of great wealth and possibly great prestige. Jair, being the father of 30 sons, each of whom ruled a town, must have been a well-respected town leader who was chosen by elders to become a judge.
Jair was buried at Kamon (Camon, Qamon), a town in Gilead in the tribal lands of Gad. The town was small but on a slight elevation. Perhaps it was the location of a look-out that watched for raiders and incursions from nations in the surrounding areas. The Bible did not record if Jair continued to be a judge until the time of his death or when he died he ceased being a judge.
Pondering Relationships: Jair had more than one wife as indicated by the number of his son, i.e., 30. No concubines were associated with him. Despite practicing polygamy there is no record of trouble from wives. Nor was there recorded fighting among the sons, perhaps because they lived apart and each governed their own town. None of Jair’s sons attempted to set themselves up as a king before or after his death. Nor is there a record of his sons leading any of the towns they ruled over into idolatry.
One of the responsibilities of a judge was to settle legal disputes. Because no national enemies are associated with Jair’s judgeship, I conclude that he as a judge more in the judicial sense than as a military leader. Possible, he traveled from his home to each of his 30 sons’ town and beyond to settle legal cases.
Reflection: In one of my college teaching jobs, a student told me that I was “clean.” When I asked what she meant, she informed me that there were no negative discussions about me in the community. I think that was a compliment. Was Jair “clean?”
Copyright: July 8, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth
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