Verses 1-5: Tola and Jair ruled Israel as judges for forty-five years. Not much is said about their time, but we can gather that these were good, godly men. Their time as rulers was such that it was peaceful in Israel.
Verses 6-18: Again Israel turns to false gods. God punishes them by turning them over to the people of Ammon and the Philistines for servitude and oppression. The people recognize their error after this consequence and cry out to God, at last recognizing true divinity.
God sends a stinging rebuke and invites them to call upon those false gods for their deliverance. Israel throws away their false gods and prays for deliverance once more. We get a glimpse of the love that God has for us in the last part of verse 16: “ . . . And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” Hope glimmers as preparations are made to challenge the people of Ammon.
Why did Israel keep going back to false gods despite the consequences? In this instance, enough time has passed since their last transgressions that there would be no recent memory of that suffering. The memory of enslavement and servitude that God’s wrath brought as consequence was too distant and not relevant. Compare this faint memory with the strong temptation of Baal, Ashtoreth, and the other regional false deities, and one could see how Israel would leave God again. They were living among people whose gods encouraged sin and alluring pleasure. Without a strong sense of faith and loyalty, Israel would not last long among the heathen.
It is not difficult to make the application here. The further we stray from God, the stronger the temptations become. And leaving God comes in countless forms. One can keep attending church services and be thinking the darkest thoughts all the while. If we stop praying, we very slowly deny God’s part in our life. When we stop studying, we stop listening to God and then we heed other much less perfect instruction.
Satan will defile your soul in just this way. Little by little. Piece by piece. We have to take tight hold of our salvation and keep it close to our heart, close to our intellect, if we are to have that home with Him in eternity.