Tola the Sixth Judge

“After Abimelek there arose to save Israel, Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issakar. He dwelled in Shamir in the hills of Ephraim. And he judged Israel for twenty-three years; he died and was buried in Shamir.”

(Judges 10:1-2)

It’s been about a year since we’ve looked at the book of Judges together and here we are introduced to the sixth Judge in Israel’s history. Some would argue that perhaps Abimelek could be seen as a Judge, but we should see him more as a usurper and a want-to-be king. The son of Gideon fell and fell hard.

Yet, after the fall of Abimelek, we are told that Tola was raised up to save (deliver) Israel — arguably being responsible to reunite the factions that were separated under Abimelek and to smother the rise in idolatry that was prominent under Abimelek and even under Gideon. We don’t know much about Tola. He is in the line of Issachar and seems to be named after one of his ancestors (see 1 Chronicles 7:1-2), perhaps a great-grandfather. Puah is mentioned in the line of Issachar as the brother of Tola’s namesake, so perhaps his father, too, is named after a great grandfather or uncle. In any case, such would not be uncommon in either ancient Jewish culture or in modern western culture as well. We often honor those who have gone before us by giving their name to a child of ours and, in turn, we honor our children by giving them the name of an honorable ancestor. Such seems to be the case here. 

In accord with what little we know about Tola’s family, we know very little about where he lived or where he was buried. While we certainly know where the hill-country of Ephraim is, we don’t have any record of Shamir. This probably means that it was little more than a village in the days of the judges but never developed into a substantial city. 

What we can say about Tola’s Judgeship is that it was relatively peaceful and there was no formal threat to the people of God. His job was more one of reconstruction after Abimelek’s disaster. And therein lies an important piece of wisdom for us as individuals and as a church. Sometimes (especially after defeats and great trials) we simply need periods of quiet peace with very little going on. We need times in which we can rest and reflect and learn from what has gone by, not necessarily racing from one thing to the next. Yet, how often we don’t allow for time such as that in our own lives or in the life of the church. It would be wise were we to do so.

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