Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,CHAPTER 5
The Song of Deborah and Barak
1. The praise of Jehovah (Judges 5:1-5)
2. The condition of the people and their deliverance (Judges 5:6-11)
3. The celebration of the victory and the victors (Judges 5:12-22)
4. The fate of the enemy (Judges 5:23-31)
This is one of the prophetic songs of the Bible. It is full of the fire of passion and enthusiasm, reflecting the character of the woman through whom the deliverance had been wrought. It has been classed with the barbaric outbursts of the battle-hymns and odes of triumph of heathen nations, likened to some wild chant of a victor, whose blood-thirst has been quenched in the cruel overthrow of his enemies. Such estimates of this song, so often made by the critics of the Bible, are incorrect. Deborah speaks as a prophetess. She begins with ascribing praise to Jehovah; she ends with Jehovah. This prophetic outburst is marked by limitations. She has no glimpse of the final victory which is mentioned in other songs of triumph, and especially in the Psalms. There are phrases which the Holy Spirit utters through Deborah, which He used in other prophetic songs. The following passages of Scripture may be compared with Deborah’s words and will be helpful in the closer study of this chapter. Exodus 15:1-9; Deuteronomy 32:1-3; Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Psalm 67:1-4, 8, 11, 34- 35; Psalm 83:9-10; Habakkuk 3:1-4; Psalm 18:7; Psalm 77:11-12; Luke 1:28; Luke 1:71-74.
While all this is true and we do not forget that Deborah was the chosen instrument, raised up to effect the great deliverance, we also must recognize the strong human element which is so prominent. One must beware of giving to the deeds done, especially to the deed of Jael in its detail, divine sanction and endorsement. It was an act of courage and of faith; she was moved by faith and that faith led her to kill Sisera, the enemy of Israel.
“The act of Jael, who smote a nail into the temples of the sleeping Sisera, does not claim our approbation; still, when we estimate the character of the act, the extenuating circumstances are entitled to attention--the times in which she lived, her ardent and enthusiastic devotion to the cause of Israel, the general and glowing hatred of the tyrannical oppressor of the people, etc. If such considerations are allowed to plead in favor of a Charlotte Corday, much more appropriately do they vindicate the act of a Jael. The same remark applies to the act of Ehud, which, according to our moral principles, was an assassination worthy of reprobation alone.” (J.H. Kurtz, Sacred History)
Meroz is especially mentioned (verse 23). Deborah speaks with authority then, and has her message from the Angel of the Lord. He said: “Curse ye, Meroz, 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.” Meroz might have helped, but they lived there in luxuries. Meroz means “built of cedars”; they dwelt in palaces of cedars and lived in ease, unconcerned about the condition of their brethren. And the angel of the Lord said that they did not call up to the help of the Lord. The indifference they manifested in not helping their brethren is thus charged as not helping the Lord against the mighty. As in the New Testament so here the Lord identifies Himself with His suffering people. God deliver His people today from the indifference of Meroz, which is high treason against the Lord and His cause!
Verses 24-31 are a vivid description of what took place. The mother of Sisera is seen awaiting the return of her victorious son. She expects nothing but good and her wise ladies are with her. It is a remarkable irony. Thus all the enemies of Jehovah will perish, while for those who love Him there is glory and rest in store. Deborah could only express a longing that the enemies might perish, and those that love Him be as the sun in might and splendour. It was her prayer. We know more through the full light of prophecy how the enemies of God will perish and the glory shall be for those who love Him.