Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
Jud 5:1-31. Deborah and Barak's Song of Thanksgiving.
1. Then sang Deborah and Barak … on that day—This noble triumphal ode was evidently the composition of Deborah herself.
Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.
2, 3. The meaning is obscurely seen in our version; it has been better rendered thus, "Praise ye Jehovah; for the free are freed in Israel—the people have willingly offered themselves" [Robinson].
Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.
LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.
4, 5. Allusion is here made, in general terms, to God's interposition on behalf of His people.
Seir … the field of Edom—represent the mountain range and plain extending along the south from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf.
thou wentest out—indicates the storm to have proceeded from the south or southeast.
The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.
In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.
6-8. The song proceeds in these verses to describe the sad condition of the country, the oppression of the people, and the origin of all the national distress in the people's apostasy from God. Idolatry was the cause of foreign invasion and internal inability to resist it.
The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.
They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?
My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.
9. expresses gratitude to the respective leaders of the tribes which participated in the contest; but, above all, to God, who inspired both the patriotic disposition and the strength.
Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.
10. Speak—that is, join in this song of praise.
white asses—Those which are purely white are highly prized, and being costly, are possessed only by the wealthy and great.
Ye that sit in judgment—has been rendered, "ye that repose on tapestries."
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.
11-14. The wells which are at a little distance from towns in the East, are, in unsettled times, places of danger. But in peace they are scenes of pleasant and joyous resort. The poetess anticipates that this song may be sung, and the righteous acts of the Lord rehearsed at these now tranquil "places of drawing water." Deborah now rouses herself to describe, in terms suitable to the occasion, the preparation and the contest, and calls in a flight of poetic enthusiasm on Barak to parade his prisoners in triumphal procession. Then follows a eulogistic enumeration of the tribes which raised the commanded levy, or volunteered their services—the soldiers of Ephraim who dwelt near the mount of the Amalekites, the small quota of Benjamin; "the governors," valiant leaders "out of Machir," the western Manasseh; out of Zebulun.
Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.
Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.
Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.
And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.
15. Then comes a reproachful notice of the tribes which did not obey the summons to take the field against the common enemy of Israel. By the
divisions—that is, the watercourses which descend from the eastern hills unto the Jordan and Dead Sea.
For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart—They felt the patriotic impulse and determined, at first, to join the ranks of their western brethren, but resiled from the purpose, preferring their peaceful shepherd songs to the trumpet sound of war.
Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.
17, 18. Gilead abode beyond Jordan—that is, Both Gad and the eastern half to Manasseh chose to dwell at ease in their Havoth-jair, or "villages of tents," while Dan and Asher, both maritime tribes, continued with their ships and in their "breaches" ("havens"). The mention of these craven tribes (Jud 5:18) is concluded with a fresh burst of commendation on Zebulun and Naphtali.
Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.
19-22. describes the scene of battle and the issue. It would seem (Jud 5:19) that Jabin was reinforced by the troops of other Canaanite princes. The battlefield was near Taanach (now Ta'annuk), on a tell or mound in the level plain of Megiddo (now Leijun), on its southwestern extremity, by the left bank of the Kishon.
they took no gain of money—They obtained no plunder.
They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
20. the stars in their courses fought—A fearful tempest burst upon them and threw them into disorder.
The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.
21. the river of Kishon swept them away—The enemy was defeated near "the waters of Megiddo"—the sources and side streams of the Kishon: they that fled had to cross the deep and marshy bed of the torrent, but the Lord had sent a heavy rain—the waters suddenly rose—the warriors fell into the quicksands, and sinking deep into them, were drowned or washed into the sea [Van De Velde].
Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.
22. Then were the horse hoofs broken by the means of the prancings—Anciently, as in many parts of the East still, horses were not shod. The breaking of the hoofs denotes the hot haste and heavy irregular tramp of the routed foe.
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.
23. Curse ye Meroz—a village on the confines of Issachar and Naphtali, which lay in the course of the fugitives, but the inhabitants declined to aid in their destruction.
Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
24-27. is a most graphic picture of the treatment of Sisera in the tent of Jael.
He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.
25. butter—curdled milk; a favorite beverage in the East.
She put her hand to the nail, 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.
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.
The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
28-30. In these verses a sudden transition is made to the mother of the Canaanite general, and a striking picture is drawn of a mind agitated between hope and fear—impatient of delay, yet anticipating the news of victory and the rewards of rich booty.
the lattice—a lattice window, common to the houses in warm countries for the circulation of air.
Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
29. her wise ladies—maids of honor.
Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
30. to every man a damsel or two—Young maidens formed always a valued part of Oriental conquerors' war-spoils. But Sisera's mother wished other booty for him; namely, the gold-threaded, richly embroidered, and scarlet-colored cloaks which were held in such high esteem. The ode concludes with a wish in keeping with the pious and patriotic character of the prophetess.
So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.