G-d Says No. (Well, Okay, Maybe a Little)By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
After Avimelech, Israel was ruled by Tola for 23 years, then Yair for 22 years. (This actually totals 44 years, as there was one year in which both ruled.) The Jews then backslid into their bad habits and started worshipping idols again. G-d therefore allowed the nation to fall into the hands of Ammon and the Philistines. The Jews cried out for salvation and G-d said no. He had redeemed them many times and they always went back to their evil ways, so this time they could ask the idols to save them.
Even though G-d said no, the Jews did a sincere teshuva (repentance) and got rid of their idols. They said to G-d that they would rather be punished directly by Him than by foreign nations. Since they did a sincere repentance, G-d agreed to save them. There was a change, however. Prior to this time, great leaders would redeem Israel completely. The Judges who would arise from this point on, while still great people, were also flawed. And while Israel would receive relief from their enemies, those enemies would not be completely repelled.