JAIR (Heb. יָאִיר; "who gives light").
(1) Family and head of an ancestral house in the tribe of Manasseh (Num. 32:41). According to i Chronicles (2:21–22), Jair was the son of Segub of the tribe of Judah – Segub being a son of Hezron who married a daughter of Machir – but was associated with his mother's tribe and inherited with the sons of Manasseh. According to the Chronicler's account the settlements called Havvoth-Jair resulted from peaceful expansion. According to the Pentateuch's account, however, it was after the defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and the conquest of most of the Transjordanian territory, that the family of Jair took the towns (ḥavvot) of the Amorites in Argob as far as the "border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites" (Deut. 3: 14), i.e., in the region north of the Yarmuk. The ḥavvot were a fertile strip of "fortified cities, with high walls, gates, and bars" (Deut. 3:4–5; i Kings 4:13), up to 60 in all (ibid.). Some have connected Hebrew havva with Ugaritic and Arabic words for "stockade, circle of tents or houses." According to i Chronicles 2:22, the number of the cities of Jair was 23 and the rest belonged to the other sons of Manasseh (ibid., 23). Some of these cities are mentioned in the *el-Amarna letters (no. 256) and among the cities taken by Thutmose iii. Archaeological investigation has revealed that this region was inhabited continuously throughout the Bronze Age. In King Solomon's time this region was a part of the sixth vice-regal division (i Kings 4:13). These *Havvoth-Jair may not have been the same as the ones mentioned in Judges 10:4, which were merely small towns and not fortified cities (see below).
(2) Jair of Gilead judged Israel in the generation preceding Jephthah (Judg. 10:3–5) for 22 years. The text hyperbolizes his greatness and wealth (cf. Judg. 12:9–14), stating that he had "thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities…" There would seem to be some connection between these 30 cities in the land of Gilead and those in the Bashan (possibly it is to these that the text refers in i Kings 4:13). Jair was buried in Qamon, which is probably Qamm, 4 km. (c. 3 mi.) north of Tayyiba in northern Galilee.
[Yehoshua M. Grintz /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
Jair Son of Manasseh in the Aggadah
Jair was born during the lifetime of Jacob and did not die until the children of Israel entered their land (bb 121b). Other sources are more specific and state that Jair was killed during the first, abortive attack on *Ai. He was in fact the only victim, the "36 men" referred to in Joshua 7:5 being a way of referring to Jair, who was "equal to the majority of the Sanhedrin [of 71]" (Lev. R. 11:7). Abraham had been told by God that all his descendants, with the single exception of Jair, would fall in the battle for the city. As a result of his prayer that this tragedy be averted (Gen. R. 39:16), the decree was reversed and Jair alone fell in the battle (Alphabet of Ben Sira, 49).
Press, Ereẓ, 1 (1951), 36, s.v.Argov; 2 (1948), 255, s.v.Ḥavvot Ya'ir; Pritchard, Texts, 486; Bergman, in: jpos, 16 (1936), 235–7. add. bibliography: S. Japhet, i & ii Chronicles (1993), 80–81; J. Tigay, jps Torah Commentary Deuteronomy (1996), 36; M. Cogan, iKings (ab; 2000), 209; B. Levine, Numbers 21–36 (ab; 2000), 497–98.