JUDGES CHAPTER 5
The Song of Deborah and Barak.
THE GLORY AND POWER OF ISRAEL. — V. 1. Then sang Deborah and Barak, the son of Abinoam, on that day, the song having been composed by Deborah in celebration of the great victory, saying, v. 2. Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves, literally, “for the free exhibition of warlike valor in Israel,” namely, when the people with their leaders wholly devoted themselves to God. and hazarded their lives in the strength of this faith, “for the willing war-service of the people, praise Jehovah.” To God alone all glory and honor shall ever be given. V. 3. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes, namely, all those of the heathen nations round about; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel, literally, “I to Jehovah, I will sing, will play to Jehovah, the God of Israel,” her song demanding all the more attention since she is a prophetess filled with the, Spirit of God. After this inspiring introduction the singer reminds the hearers of some of the great deeds of God in the past. V. 4. Lord, when Thou wentest out of Seir, when Thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, namely, when He prepared for the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, His coming at that time being compared to the rising of a mighty thunderstorm in the East, in the highlands of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. Cp. Ex. 19, 16; Hab. 3, 10. V. 5. The mountains melted from before the Lord, flowed away, as it were, by reason of mighty earthquakes, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel, for it was there that the disturbance was concentrated. Ps. 97, 5. After this rehearsal of God’s wonderful majesty, Deborah pictures the distress of Israel before the victory just gained. V. 6. In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, who proved himself a hero in a local attack on the Philistines, chap. 3, 31, in the days of Jael, even though this heroic woman was then already living, yet Israel as a whole was in a miserable plight, the highways were unoccupied, the people of Israel had ceased to use them for fear of their enemies, and the travelers walked through byways, made use of hidden paths, often with crooked and zigzag courses, in order to escape the vigilance of their enemies. V. 7. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, the open, unfortified hamlets were deserted for fear of marauding bands, they ceased in Israel, until that I, Deborah, arose, that I arose a mother in Israel, to nurse and protect the people with motherly care. V. 8. They, the people of Israel, chose new gods, the cause of their downfall, the reason for their misery; then was war in the gates, as a result of their having forsaken the old, the everlasting God, Deut. 32, 17. Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? There were no warriors left to protect the country against the fury of the enemies. V. 9. My heart is toward the governors of Israel, she was with them heart and soul, she inspired them with hope and trust in Jehovah, that offered themselves willingly among the people, devoting themselves to the cause of conquering the Lord’s enemies. Bless ye the Lord. V. 10. Speak, ye that ride on white asses, the nobles of the people should meditate upon the deeds of the Lord, ye that sit in judgment, on splendid rugs or mats such as were used on saddles, and walk by the way, for the simple wayfarers, the poor and lowly among the people, were also included in this admonition. V. 11. They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of His villages in Israel; then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates. This is a picture of peace times. Instead of the noise and shouting of those contending at the cisterns, anxious to get away before some band of the enemies might come along, they could now take their time and sound forth songs of praise to Jehovah for His deeds of righteousness, also in restoring freedom to the inhabitants of the open hamlets, for the people could now return without fear to the gates of their towns and cities, since the power of the oppressor was broken. V. 12. Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, utter a song; there was need of her singing her most inspiring song in imparting enthusiasm to the soldiers whom she had bidden Barak assemble. Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive; for by fighting and leading the enemy captive he would end the conflict, thou son of Abinoam. V. 13. Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people; the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty, literally, “Then went down a remnant of the powerful, the people; Jehovah went down for me among the mighty.” It was indeed only a small remnant of the powerful, a fraction of mighty Israel that went forth to battle with the tyrant, but the Lord was in their midst at the call of Deborah, and therefore they could freely risk the conflict. V. 14. Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; for to this tribe belonged Joshua, the hero against the Amalekites, Ex. 17. After thee, Benjamin, among thy people; for it was Ehud of this tribe who had rendered Benjamin illustrious. Out of Machir came down governors, men who had proved themselves able leaders of the people, also in this campaign, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer, or, “the staff of him who musters well,” men distinguished for leadership. V. 15. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah, although they brought no troops, their presence proved their interest in the campaign; even Issachar, and also Barak; he was sent on foot into the valley, he had only infantry under his command, but he made his furious, overwhelming attack nevertheless. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart; the tribe of Reuben, in its habitations along its brooks in the east country, reflected so long upon the necessity and the possibility of joining the army of Barak until it was too late. V. 16. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds to hear the bleatings of the flocks? Because the Reubenites preferred the security of their homes, they are here addressed with bitter irony. For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart; they meditated and considered the matter well enough, but they were unable to arouse themselves to action. V. 17. Gilead abode beyond Jordan, both the tribes of Reuben and Gad seemed to consider their living east of Jordan sufficient excuse for not joining their brethren; and why did Dan, whose territory was so near, remain in ships? letting his own commercial interests take preference over the needs of his brethren. Asher continued on the seashore, dwelling securely in his harbors, and abode in his breaches, in the small bays on which the harbors were located. V. 18. Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. The men of Zebulun willingly offered their souls, their lives, for the liberation of their country, and those of Naphtali on the heights of their mountainous territory. Their praise, therefore, is sung in this hymn. The soldiers of the Lord who freely set forth to battle with the enemies of Christ, with the weapons of the Spirit, are to be commended, but those who remain idle while their brethren are engaged in campaigns which threaten the very existence of the Church, deserve to be severely reprimanded.
THE DEFEAT AND DEATH OF SISERA. — V. 19. The kings came and fought, said figuratively of the leaders of Jabin’s army; then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo, for the two cities are barely three miles apart, and the plain is watered by several small tributaries of the Kishon. They took no gain of money, they did not get so much as one piece of silver as booty nor one ounce of money to buy them off. V. 20. They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera, literally, “From heaven fought the stars, from their courses they fought against Sisera“; by an extraordinary phenomenon the Lord sent confusion into the ranks of the enemy. V. 21. The river of Kishon swept them away, snatched them away, as they attempted to cross it in their headlong flight, that ancient river, the river Kishon; the very brook was an instrument of help against the foe. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength, or, “Step forth with strength,” as Deborah urges herself onward in singing of the mighty defeat. V. 22. Then were the horse-hoofs broken by the means of the prancings, the prancings of their mighty ones, or, “Then stamped the hoofs of the horses from the rushing, the rushing of his champions,” as the foe, panic-stricken before Israel, dashed away in furious flight. V. 23. Curse ye: Meroz, said the Angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. When they could have been of assistance to the army of Barak, in destroying the fleeing foes, they refused to help. V. 24. Blessed above women shall Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite, be; blessed shall she be above women in the tent. People of Meroz, members of the nation of Israel, refused to help, but Jael, though only a woman, though a mere dweller in tents and not of the descendants of Jacob, made use of the opportunity offered her. V. 25. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter, the very thickest, the most excellent cream, in a lordly dish, in a show-bowl, the finest vessel in the tent. V. 26. She put her hand to the nail, the tent-pin, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. The very fierce and vivid description may be rendered: She swung it upon Sisera, she pierces his head, and she crashes and pounds through his temples. V. 27. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down; at her feet he bowed, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell down dead. So the smitten chieftain drew himself together after the first blow was struck, sought to rise, and fell back. Twice more he writhed convulsively and then died. And now the last scene is pictured. V. 28. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, full of uneasiness and impatience over the delay of her son, otherwise so quick in returning with rich booty, Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots? If he himself is delayed, why does he not at least send word of the success of his enterprise? V. 29. Her wise ladies answered her, with the wisdom of pride that cannot conceive of a defeat for Sisera; yea, she returned answer to herself, v. 30. Have they not sped? Have they not divided the prey, thereby being detained so long; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colors, beautiful colored or purple robes, a prey of divers colors of needlework, of divers colors of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoi1, color-embroidered vestments, two for his neck as booty? “The glowing heat of her prophetic enthusiasm shines through the irony with which she places the vain pride of unbelieving enemies over against the almighty power of God. It is not an irony of hatred, disfiguring the face with scornful smiles, but such as springs from the consciousness that God’s wisdom and power are superior to all heroes and heathen.” (Lange.) V. 31. So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord, fallen and brought to naught like Sisera; but let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. The rising of the sun in his full strength is a fitting picture of the rising of Israel to an ever more glorious manifestation of power, according to the intention of the Lord. And the land had rest forty years.