For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough


“And after Abimelech there arose to defend (deliver) Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim,” Jgs 10:1.

The meaning of Tola a worm from which is produced crimson or scarlet dye, as used for example in the Tabernacle furnishings, reminds us of what is written of the Lord in Ps 22:6, “But I am a worm, and no man,” and points to the fact that this Tola, like all the judges, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As has been noted by others, the brief periods of earthly peace occupy little space in our history books.  It is the times of war and trouble that fill the pages.  And so here, the paucity of detail relative to the eras of Tola and Jair (the judge who followed Tola), may indicate that they were times of relative peace, further confirmation that both of them portray Him Who is the Prince of Peace.  The very fact of their having been raised up to deliver Israel, however, indicates that the peace followed the deliverances which they brought to Israel.

It is to be noted that in Tola, God would have us see a figure or type of Christ as the One Who procured our peace through His death at Calvary, as it is written, He hath “made peace by the blood of his cross,” Col 1:20; but in Jair He would have us see, not only Christ reigning in the coming Millennium, but also the peace that every believer can enjoy here and now in the midst of earthly circumstances.  Nor should we miss the significance of its being said that the time of their judgeship came after the disastrous rule of Abimelech.  It was after the Lord’s defeat of Satan at Calvary that peace has been made available to men; and it will be after Satan’s imprisonment in the abyss that the earth will enjoy a thousand years of peace.  It is the Lord’s soon-coming return in power and glory that will bring to an end the misrule of all earth’s “Abimelechs,” each one being but the minion of him who robbed the earth of peace long ago when he persuaded Adam to disobey God.

God’s introduction of Tola begins with the statement that he “arose to defend (deliver) Israel.”  In him, God would have us see the One Who is not only the Defender of Israel, but of all who trust Him as Savior.  No man can pluck the believer out of His hand.

Tola’s brief genealogy is also meant to instruct us, for Puah means he was scattered, the scattering being associated with the blowing or scattering of the breath in speech.  Can the application be to anyone except Him Who is the Living Word?  Never man spoke as He did.  But like seed scattered in sowing, He was the corn of wheat that was “sown” in the earth in death, so that there might be a vast harvest of men and women redeemed for God’s eternal glory, as it is written, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” Jn 12:24.

Dodo meaning his beloved needs no comment.  There is only One of Whom God could say, “This is my beloved Son.”

Further instruction comes from its being said that he was of the tribe of Issachar, meaning he will be hired: there is reward: he will bring reward.  This points to the servant character of the true Tola, Who came to do His Father’s will, to occupy the place of a Servant so that we who were the unwilling slaves of sin, might be delivered, and given the privilege of yielding willing service to the God of heaven.

The emphasis upon reward reminds us that Christ also had the reward in view, for He is the One, “... who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame ....” (Heb 12:2).  But what is that joy?  It is the joy of having multitudes of redeemed men and women with Him for ever in heaven. 

But this Tola, who was of the tribe of Issachar, dwelt “in mount Ephraim” meaning double ash heap: I shall be doubly fruitful.  This unites service and fruitfulness, and reminds us of the transcendent fruitfulness that has sprung from the Lord’s willing service.  It is impossible to number the vast harvest of redeemed souls that will finally result from the sowing of that one Seed in death at Calvary.  It is God’s desire that the same fruitfulness should attend our service.

It is to be noted incidentally that there is no contradiction between the seemingly disparate meanings of Ephraim, for it is only as we cast on the “ash heap” the worthless things of earth that we will be spiritually fruitful.

And the name of the place where he dwelt in Ephraim was Shamir keeping: guarding, the thought of guarding being connected with a thorn hedge.  We should never forget that He Who is the Guardian of our souls, the “Hedge” around us, is He Who became what the thorns represent: sin, see Ge 3:18, as it is written, “For he hath made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Co 5:21.

Relative to thorns as the symbol of sin, there is a deeper significance than is usually perceived in the Lord’s being crowned with thorns prior to His crucifixion.  In removing the thorns from the earth and placing them on Christ’s head, the soldiers were unwittingly indicating the transfer of the curse from the ground to the head of Christ, it being written, “Christ hath redeemed from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree,” Gal 3:13.

10:2.  “And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.”

Because he was only a man, he must die, and be buried in Shamir, symbol of the earth bearing the thorns which are the emblem of the curse.  The true Tola was also buried here in “Shamir,” but He arose, Victor over death, His resurrection the assurance that all who die in faith will also have a part in the resurrection of life, He being the Firstfruits of that resurrection.

As with all of the judges, however, Tola is a figure, not only of Christ, but of what every believer should be, and the first lesson to be learned is that if Christ is to be reproduced in us, then we too must be willing to occupy the same place as He, i.e., the place of a “worm.”  “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” Mt 20:26-28.

There must be also what is represented by Puah.  We must be willing to be “scattered” among men as God’s ambassadors, our lips bringing to men and women the words of life.  And our lives are to be the living demonstration of what is represented by Dodo, i.e., that as God loves us, and has given His Son to redeem our souls, so must we also love men, that love being demonstrated, not in the shallow sentimentality that passes in the world for love, but in a faithful proclamation of the gospel, warning men of their danger, and imploring them to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

We too are to have our eyes on the reward, not on the worthless baubles of earth.  We are to live as did Christ, and as did Paul who declared, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” Php 3:13-14.

Even as we dwell here in “Shamir,” a world of sin and death, we are to manifest that we are spiritual Ephraimites, producing fruit for God’s glory, and our own eternal enrichment and honor.

Tola’s death, however, reminds us that we too have but a brief time here on earth.  He is a wise man who lives his life in the consciousness of its brevity and uncertainty, and in the knowledge that “the deeds done in the body” are fraught with eternal consequences.  We will be eternally rich or poor depending on whether we live for Christ or self.


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough