Question: "Who were Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon?"
Answer: Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon were each judges who led Israel and are mentioned in Judges 10—12. They are sometimes considered “minor judges,” since their accounts are shorter than some of the other judges’ (such as Gideon or Samson), yet each of their accounts includes important information and lessons for the book’s original readers and for readers today.
Tola: Judges 10:1–2 records, “After the time of Abimelek, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir.” Tola the judge is not to be confused with the Tola mentioned in Genesis 46:13 and elsewhere in biblical genealogies.
Jair: This judge is described in Judges 10:3–5: “[Tola] was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair. When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.” Jair’s numerous sons, donkeys, and cities are mentioned to emphasize his influence and wealth as leader of Israel during this time.
Ibzan: Judges 12:8–10 notes, “After [Jephthah], Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.” Though Ibzan was born and died in the same town, his 60 children gave him tremendous influence. His sons married women from outside his clan, and his daughters were given to men outside his clan. This would have created many alliances with other Israelites and would have extended his influence as a leader.
Elon: We read in Judges 12:11–12 that, “After [Ibzan], Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. Then Elon died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.” Little is known of this leader, yet his tribe, length of leadership, and death are each meticulously recorded.
Abdon: Judges 12:13–15 reveals, “After [Elon], Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.” A man of much wealth and with a large family, Abdon, from the tribe of Ephraim, would have been well-known in his time.
Each judge was called by God to rescue the Israelites at a specific time and for a specific purpose. Still today, God uses His people in specific places and times to accomplish His plans in ways that help many.