Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Debbora probably composed this most flowery and animated canticle, ver. 3, 7. (Calmet)
Lord. Hebrew may have different senses: "bless the Lord for having avenged Israel, the people willingly exposing themselves, or shewing their concurrence." Roman Septuagint, "What was hidden has been disclosed in Israel, when the people shewed their good will, bless the Lord." Pora, which the Vulgate has not expressed, commonly means to disclose, liberate, &c.; ethondob signifies to give freely, to expose one's self, &c. Septuagint and Theodotion together, (Calmet) and the Alexandrian copy have, "bless the Lord, for that leaders have risen up in Israel, and the people have shewn their good will." These two things were to be greatly desired, as a general can do but little without an obedient army, and the latter is, in a manner, useless, without a head. Both had been wanting in Israel for some time, and even still, some of the tribes seem to be blamed for not co-operating with zeal, ver. 15, &c. This verse is repeated as a kind of chorus, ver. 9. The zeal and concord of the little troop, which had met the formidable army of Sisara, deserved the highest applause. (Haydock) --- Men bless God when they give him thanks; superiors bless by imparting some spiritual benefit. (Worthington)
Kings. She invites all who have authority, whether in or out of Israel, to attend unto the dispensations of Providence. God alternatively cherishes and corrects his people. David makes a similar appeal to all kings and judges, Psalm ii. 10. --- It is I. She dwells with a degree of rapture on the thought that God had shewn his power so wonderfully, and had effected his gracious purpose by the hand of a woman! (Haydock) --- She directed Barac. (Worthington)
Edom. Sinai, where God gave his law amid thunder and lightning, was situated in Idumea. (Calmet) --- God displayed his glory on this mountain, and also on Mount Seir, Deuteronomy xxxiii. 2. Some believe that Debbora compares the wonders which attended the late victory, with those which God wrought when he led his victorious bands though the desert, and conquered the countries of Sehon, &c. (Haydock) --- He provided for the wants of his people, even in the most desolate regions, giving them water out of the hard (Calmet) rock of Horeb or Sinai, (Haydock) and causing all nature to change her appearance at his approach, Psalm lxvii. 8., and Exodus xix. 18. (Calmet)
The paths rested. The ways to the sanctuary of God were unfrequented; and men walked in the bye-ways of error and sin. (Challoner) --- Though Samgar and Jehel were so remarkable for their valour, as they had manifested on a late occasion, yet they did not prevent the incursions of the enemy both on the south and north. (Haydock) --- The merchants durst not travel, as usual, through the country. (Drusius) --- God had threatened the faithless Israel with this punishment, Leviticus xxvi. 22., and Lamentations i. 4., and Isaias xxiii. 8. (Calmet) --- They that went by them formerly without apprehension, are now forced to seek out bye-ways. (Haydock) --- Thus was justly punished the negligence of those who observed not the festivals of the Lord, nor frequented his tabernacle. (Menochius)
Valiant. Hebrew is also translated, "the villages ceased," as no one thought himself in safety out of the strong cities. --- Until. Hebrew, "until I, Debbora, arose, that I arose, a mother," &c. The Holy Ghost obliges her to declare her own praises. She deserved the glorious title of "mother of her country." --- Mother denotes an authority, mixed with sweetness: such had been exercised by Debbora, in deciding the controversies of the people, (Calmet) and in directing them to follow the right path. (Haydock)
Israel. What could be more astonishing and new, than this method of warfare, in which a few unarmed Israelites gain the victory over an immense army, and oblige the general, to leap from his chariot, that he may escape observation? A woman calls to battle. Hebrew is rather different, "They chose new gods:" some copies of the Septuagint have "vain gods, (Calmet) as barley bread." Others agree with the Hebrew, "Then war was in the gates." Jabin would not allow any arms in the country, and hence Samgar was forced to use the implements of husbandry. So the Philistines afterwards would not suffer the Hebrews to have a smith among them, lest they should make arms, 1 Kings xiii. 19, 22.
Princes. Hebrew, "legislators," governors, judges. I cannot refuse them due praise, and I invite them earnestly to bless the Lord, ver. 2.
Fair asses. Hebrew, "shining, white, or of divers colours, particularly red and white, with which the people were accustomed to paint their asses. (Bochart) --- The rich Arabians paint the back part red. (Tavernier iii. 5.) --- The Persians also give a yellowish hue to their horses as well as to themselves, with henna. (Chardin.) --- Asses and mules were formerly much more in use than horses, Numbers xxii. 21., Matthew xi. 25., and 3 Kings i. 33. (Calmet) --- Way. You who can now proceed on your journey without molestation, join the judges of the land in sounding forth God's praises, ver. 6. (Haydock) --- Those who bring the flesh into subjection to the spirit, ride upon fair asses, (Origen, hom. vi.; Worthington) and they may preach to others with more authority. (Haydock)
Choaked in the waters of the Cison, and of Mageddo, ver. 19, 21. Hebrew is very obscure: "from the noise of archers, in the places of drawing water, there shall they relate the justices of the Lord, the righteous acts of his villages, (or brave men) then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates," where the courts of judicature are held. The peaceful inhabitants shall be no more disturbed with the shouts of archers, but rehearsing what obligations they are under to the Lord, the warriors of Barac, they shall pursue their usual employments without fear. (Haydock) --- Septuagint, You shall make your voices heard, playing on instruments, Calmet. (anacrouomenon, pulsantium.) --- Among those who rejoice, there shall they give righteous deeds to the Lord: they have wrought justice in Israel, &c. (Haydock) --- If we neglect the points, we may render the Hebrew more agreeably to the Vulgate. "At the voice of those who are pierced with arrows in the midst of those who draw water (or are drowned) there they shall publish," &c. (Calmet) --- And obtained. This is not in Hebrew expressly; but it is added to shew that the people could now act as a free nation, having cleared their country of its enemies. (Haydock)
Captives. Hebrew, "Take thy captivity prisoner." Hold those in subjection who so lately domineered over you. (Calmet)
Remnants. Many of the Israelites had been slain by Jabin, but the Lord enabled the valiant Barac to requite him. Hebrew, "Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people. The Lord made me rule over the mighty." Barac and Debbora were raised from an humble state to govern Israel; while the nobles were passed over. (Haydock) --- The people of God, which was reduced to such abjection and misery, is now become formidable to the greatest princes, who look upon themselves as something great, and are called beneficent, Luke xxii. 25. Septuagint, "Then his (Barac's) force was magnified: Lord, humble before me those who exceed me in strength." Chaldean, "Then one of the army of Israel (Barac) crushed the power of these mighty nations," &c. (Calmet)
Out of Ephraim, &c. The enemies struggling in their flight, were destroyed, as they were running through the land of Ephraim, and of Benjamin, which lies after, that is, beyond Ephraim; and so on the very confines of Amalec. Or, it alludes to former victories of the people of God, particularly that which was freshest in memory, when the men of Ephraim and Benjamin, with Aod at their head, overthrew their enemies, the Moabites, with the Amalecites their allies. See chap. iii. (Challoner) --- Fight. Debbora insinuates that the late victory had rendered Nephthali and Issachar as famous as these tribes, which had formerly sent forth the greatest generals; Josue, who conquered Amalec, (Exodus xvii. 10,) and Aod, of the tribe of Benjamin, (Calmet) who had so greatly signalized himself, and sounded the alarm in Mount Ephraim with success, chap. iii. 13, 27. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "out of Ephraim he has torn them (Protestants, was there a root of them against, or) into Amalec, and after thee Benjamin among thy people." There was a mountain called Amalec, in the tribe of Ephraim, (chap. xii. 15,) where some victory may have been obtained, though we know not the particulars of it. (Calmet) --- They and the neighbouring tribes might have encountered Amalec, coming to assist Jabin. (Du Hamel) --- It is hardly probable that the army of Sisara would flee in that direction, as t hey would have had to encounter all the multitudes of Israel, and could have no prospect of saving themselves. Benjamin, who was farther off Debbora than Ephraim, is praised for expelling the king of Moab out of their city of Engaddi; (Haydock) or else the victories which this tribe obtained over the joint forces of the people of Israel are meant, (Calmet) as they shewed the valour of this tribe, though in so bad a cause. (Haydock) --- It is thought that the Moabites fell upon their territory only after most of the inhabitants were cut off, chap. xix., and xx. The Septuagint and Theodotion take no notice of Amalec, as they have read, Amok, a valley: "the people of Ephraim chastised them in the valley, and thy brother Benjamin, in his people." The Chaldean understands the whole verse, of the wars against Amalec, who had been routed by Josue, and would fall a prey to the arms of Saul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin. Many commentators follow this explanation. It does not appear that Barac received any aid from these tribes, nor from Machir, or any of those who lived at a distance. (Calmet) --- As for Zabulon, the Vulgate intimates that great generals were found among them but the Hebrew rather gives them the praise of learning: "They that handle the pen of the writer." (Haydock) --- Yet sopher is applied not only to writers, and to those who are learned in the law, as the scribes, Esdras, Baruch, &c., were, but also to commissaries, secretaries of state, and officers who were employed both in peace and war, 2 Paralipomenon xxvi. 11. Hence the Septuagint translate, "out of Zabulon, the powerful in the sceptre of learning;" (Calmet) (Grabe,) "of instruction." (Haydock) --- Some, without any proof, attribute the institution of these officers to Moses, others to David. We read of many who possessed this title under his reign; and ever after, the kings of Juda had scribes, as some great men had also. The kings of Persia kept secretaries to write their edicts, and some they sent, with greater authority, into the provinces. See 1 Esdras iv. 8. Ecclesiasticus (x. 5,) says, upon the person of the scribe God shall lay his honour. The scribes, or sopherim, seem therefore to have enjoyed an extensive authority, and the tribe of Zabulon used it on this occasion for the common good, (ver. 18.; Calmet) while many of the other tribes seem to be accused of backwardness in the cause of God.
Exposed. Hebrew, "he was sent on foot into the vale," to contend with the 900 chariots of Sisara. Issachar boldly followed him in battle. They came down with such fury and speed, as if they were falling headlong down a precipice. (Haydock) --- Sisara presently turned his back, being affrighted with the apparition of angels, who probably fought at the head of Barac's troop. (Salien) --- Only three tribes exposed themselves to danger, while the rest were either engaged in civil broils, or in their usual employments. (Calmet) --- Divided. By this it seems that the valiant men of the tribe of Ruben were divided in their sentiments, with relation to this war; which division kept them at home within their own borders, to hear the bleating of their flocks. (Challoner) --- Hebrew may have different explanations, "In the divisions (families) of Ruben, there are princes of a great heart," renowned for their prudence and valour: or "Ruben dwelt in his division, (or territory) there are chiefs," &c. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "for the divisions of Ruben, there were great thoughts of heart." Bonfrere supposes that these disputes excited the surprise and observations of all. (Haydock)
Borders, trusting in the strength of thy situation. Ruben was protected on all sides by the rivers Jordan, Arnon, and Jaboc.
Galaad was inhabited by the tribes of Gad and Manasses; and took no part in this war. (Calmet) --- Dan. Hebrew, "Why did not Dan remain in ships?" Debbora now rebukes those who lived on the west side of the Jordan, as well as those on the east. Dan might think himself remote enough from the kingdom of Jabin. But Aser dwelt very near, yet durst not make any attempt to throw off the yoke. --- Havens. Hebrew, "Breaches." He had, perhaps, suffered much already, (Haydock) and preferred to remain quiet, even in his half-ruined cities, before engaging in the perilous attempt of his brethren. (Calmet) --- He was too much taken up with commerce, to pay any attention to the oracles of the Lord. Grabe's Septuagint, "Aser....pitched his tents upon his cavities, or the broken ground of it," the sea shore, which is commonly intersected with a variety of rivulets amid the cliffs. (Haydock)
Merone. Hebrew, "In the heights of the field, or of Merome." Some take this place to be the lake Semechon, but we have endeavoured to shew that it was in the vicinity of Thanac, Josue xi. 5. (Calmet) --- Thabor was in the midst of a great field or plain. (Du Hamel) --- Barac seems to have been at the head of 10,000 men, of the tribe of Issachar, attacking Sisara, at the foot of Thabor, while 40,000 of the tribes of Nephthali and Zabulon, almost without arms, fell upon the kings of Chanaan, who had posted themselves near the waters of Mageddo, to intercept any recruits that might be sent from the southern tribes, ver. 8, 15, 19. (Calmet)
Spoils. So far from it, they even lost their lives. (Menochius) --- Hebrew, "they took no piece (or gain) of money." If we understand this of the Israelites , we nay say that they stopped not to plunder the slain, nor would they suffer any to redeem their life by the promise of a great ransom. Whatever riches they found afterwards, they consecrated to the Lord, in testimony of their gratitude. (Calmet) (Numbers xxxi. 54.)
Stars, or angels, who are compared to the stars, and often fought for Israel, 2 Machabees x. 29. (Vales, Philos. chap. xxxi.) (Calmet) --- The favourable and malignant influences of the stars, which the Rabbins talk of, would here be nugatory, (Haydock) unless they might contribute to bring on rain. (Cajetan) --- Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 6.) informs us that a furious tempest of hail, &c., met the enemy in the face, and rendered all their efforts useless. (Calmet) --- A similar instance of the divine protection was obtained by the prayers of the thundering legion, in the army of M. Aurelius; (Tertullian; Eusebius, Hist. v. 5.) and again, when Theodosius attacked the tyrant Eugenius, of which Claudian speaks, (in 3 Cons. Honor.) "Te propter gelidis Aquilo de monte procellis---Obruit adversas acies, revolutaque tela---Vertit in Auctores et trubine repulit hastas---O nimium dilecte Deo, cui fundit ab antris---Æolus armatas hiemes, cui militat æther---Et conjurati veniunt ad classica venti." (Haydock) --- Courses. This miracle was of a different kind from that which proved so fatal to the enemies of Josue. (Lyranus) --- Septuagint (Alexandrian), "They fought with (meta) Israel," for which Grabe puts, against Sisara. (Haydock)
Dragged. Protestants, "swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon." --- Cadumim, which the Protestants translate ancient, (Haydock) means also eastern. The former epithet seems very insignificant. Some assert, that the Cison divided its streams about Mount Thabor, and one part ran towards the east into the lake of Genesareth, which is here designated, while the other empties itself above Carmel into the great sea. But there is no proof of this assertion in the Scripture, nor in Josephus. We read (Judith vii. 3,) of a place, which the Syriac properly calls Cadmon, and the Vulgate Chelmon, in this neighbourhood. Instead of Kedumin, Symmachus and Theodotion read Kodssim, which the former translates, "the holy vale." Many of the army (Calmet) of the kings, and perhaps of Sisara also, (Haydock) endeavouring to make their escape, were drowned in the Cison. (Calmet)
Ver 22. Broken (ceciderunt) "fell off," the hoofs being fractured by the hard road, while the riders galloped full speed. (Haydock) --- Some translate the Hebrew, "the hoofs of the horses made a sound like that of a hammer beating an anvil, on account of the hurry of the strong ones who push them forward." Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum, as Virgil attempts to imitate the sound in verse. Others, "the hoof....was broken by the precipitation (Calmet) (Protestants, prancings, the prancings of the mighty ones; Haydock) of those who fled." Formerly, Xenophon observes, the horses were not usually shod with iron. The feet of Bucephalus were consequently much worn. Yet some took the precaution to defend the feet of their horses with brass, (Homer) or iron, in the shape of crescents. (Eustathius) --- Nero shod his mules with silver; (Suetonius) and Popea, his wife, had shoes of gold for her more delicate beasts. Soleas ex auro quoque induere solebat. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxiii. 11.) --- Yet many excellent horses in Arabia and Tartary are never shod. (Tavern. T. i. B. ii. 5.)
Meroz. Where this land of Meroz was, which is here laid under a curse, we cannot find: nor is there mention of it any where else in holy writ. In the spiritual sense, they are cursed who refuse to assist the people of God in their warfare against their spiritual enemies. (Challoner) --- Eusebius seems to have thought that Merom, a body of water, and the village of Meroz (Haydock) were the same place, 12 miles from Sebaste. The inhabitants were surely under an obligation of assisting their brethren; and these, it appears, lived in the vicinity, and neglected their duty. Septuagint (Alexandrian) reads Mazor. Some stars are styled Mazzaroth, Job xxxviii. 32. --- Angel, Michael; or the high priest, or Barac, Debbora, &c. See chap. ii. 1. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "Curse ye Meroz, (said the angel of the Lord) course ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof." --- To help. Protestants, "to the help of the Lord against the mighty." Septuagint, "our helper is the Lord in the mighty warriors." He assists their endeavours, which would otherwise prove unsuccessful. (Haydock) --- The Jews thin that Barac cursed Meroz, the star or the angel of the Chanaanites, who protected Sisara. (Chaldean) See Serarius, q. 15. Others say that he was an ally of the general, who was excommunicated by Barac, at the sound of 400 trumpets. But these opinions only deserve contempt. (Calmet)
Among. Hebrew, "above." After cursing those who befriended the enemy, Debbora pronounces a blessing upon Jahel. (Haydock) --- The blessed Virgin is surely still more entitled to praise. (Worthington) --- Tent. It was esteemed a mark of virtue for a woman to keep at home. (Drusius)
Dish. Hebrew sephel; whence the symplue of the Lydians, Tuscans, and Romans, was probably derived, denoting a bowl or jug with a handle, designed for libations. They were formerly made of potter's ware, fictilibus prolibatur sympuciis, or sympulis. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxv. 13.) "Aut quis---Sympuvium ridere Numæ, nigrumve catinum---Aut vaticanas fragiles de monte patellas---Ausus erat." (Juvenal, Sat. vi.) (Calmet)
Sisara. Hebrew says with the hammer; (Protestants,) "she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken (the nail) through his temples." But we may rather translate, (Haydock) "she pierced his head, she struck it, and pierced through this temples." (Calmet) --- For we cannot suppose that she severed his head from his body with the hammer; but she fastened it to the ground with the nail, chap. iv. 21.
Wretched. Hebrew, "he expired where he fell down." (Haydock) --- Debbora represents Jahel as ready to tread the unhappy Sisara under her feet, if he should offer to stir. She thrice repeats his death.
His mother, &c. This poetical imagination is very natural. --- Room. Hebrew, "through the lattices," eshnab, of which the windows then consisted, Proverbs vii. 6. (Calmet) --- Horses. Protestants, "why tarry the wheels of his chariots?" (Haydock)
Wives. This is not expressed in Hebrew, "his wise ladies answered her," or joined in her lamentations. Then the mother comforted herself with the hope that they might possibly be employed in dividing the spoils. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "yea she answered herself, Have they not gained the victory? have they divided the prey? to every man a damsel, yea two? to Sisara a booty of divers colours," &c. (Haydock) --- Perhaps instead of damsel, literally, "a belly or two," which occurs no where else, the Hebrew should be, "to the general a most beautiful embroidery work." (Calmet)
Necks. Hebrew, "the spoils of various colours, the embroidery of divers colours, on both sides, for the necks (of the captors) of the spoil." (Haydock) --- Or more simply, "for the neck (general) of the army;" (Vatable) or "the necks of the soldiers," who will be laden with the abundance of spoils. (Calmet) --- The ladies dwell with great delight on the thought of possessing rich embroidery or needle work. How dreadfully would their hopes be blasted, when a few hours after they saw Barac at their gates, and their city in flames! (Haydock)
Rising. Hebrew, when he goeth forth in his might." Let the just advance in virtue, and glory, as the sun becomes more beautiful and hot as he leaves the horizon, on a clear summer day. This comparison is often applied to the servants of God, Ecclesiasticus xvi. 16., 2 Kings xxiii. 5., and Matthew xiii. 45. (Calmet)