Judges 4:11
Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
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(11) Heber the Kenite.—See Judges 1:16; Judges 3:31; Numbers 10:29.

Which was of the children of Hobab.—Rather, had separated himself from Kain,from the children of Hobab. Nomadic settlements are constantly liable to send off these separate colonies. The life and movements of the Kenites resembled those of gipsies, except that they had flocks and herds. To this day a small Bedouin settlement presents very nearly the same aspect as a gipsy camp.

The father in law of Moses.—Rather, the brother-in-law. The names for these relationships are closely allied. (See Note on Judges 1:16.)

Pitched his tent.—(Genesis 12:8, &c.) The “tents” of the Bedouin are not the bell-shaped tents with which we are familiar, but coverings of black goats’ hair, sometimes supported on as many as nine poles. The Arab word for tent is beit, “house.”

Unto the plain of Zaanaim.—Rather, unto the terebinth in Zaanaim. (See Joshua 19:33.) Great trees are often alluded to in Scripture. (Allon-Bachuth, Genesis 35:8, “the oak of Tabor”; 1Samuel 10:3, “the oak of the house of grace”; 1Kings 4:9, “the enchanters’ oak”; Judges 9:37; Joshua 24:26, &c.) This terebinth is again alluded to in Joshua 19:33; and the size and beauty of the terebinths on the hills of Naphtali, to which we find allusion in the blessing of Jacob, probably led to its adoption as the symbol of the tribe. “Naphtali is a branching terebinth” (Genesis 49:21). The word elon (אלון) is constantly rendered “plain” by our translators (Judges 9:6-37; Genesis 12:6; Genesis 13:18; 1Samuel 10:3, &c), because they were misled by the Targums and the Vulgate, which render it sometimes by vallis and convallis. They always render the cognate word allon by “oak,” and, in the looseness of common nomenclature, the “oak” and the “terebinth” were not always carefully distinguished. There is a large terebinth, called Sigar em-Messiah, six miles north-west of Kedes. The word Zaanaim (also written Zaannanim) means “wanderings,” or “unlading of tents,” with possible reference to this nomad settlement. The LXX. render it “the oak of the covetous,” because they follow another reading. In contrast with these “wandering tents” of the Bedouin, Jerusalem is called in Isaiah 33:20 “a tent that wanders not.”

Ewald, following the Targum, makes it mean “the plain of the swamp,” and this is also found in the Talmud, which seems to indicate this place by Aquizah hak-Kedesh (“swamp of the holy place”).

Which is by Kedesh.—Oaks and terebinths are still found abundantly in this neighbourhood; and such a green plain studded with trees would be a natural camping-ground for the Kenites.

Jdg 4:11-12. Now Heber the Kenite — The husband of Jael. Had severed himself from the Kenites — From the rest of his brethren, who lived in the wilderness of Judah. What the reason was of his leaving them, is not known; but there was a special providence of God in it. Pitched his tent — That is, his dwelling, which probably was in tents, as shepherds used to live. They showed Sisera — That is, his people showed him, or his spies.

4:10-16. Siser's confidence was chiefly in his chariots. But if we have ground to hope that God goes before us, we may go on with courage and cheerfulness. Be not dismayed at the difficulties thou meetest with in resisting Satan, in serving God, or suffering for him; for is not the Lord gone before thee? Follow him then fully. Barak went down, though upon the plain the iron chariots would have advantage against him: he quitted the mountain in dependence on the Divine power; for in the Lord alone is the salvation of his people, Jer 3:23. He was not deceived in his confidence. When God goes before us in our spiritual conflicts, we must bestir ourselves; and when, by his grace, he gives us some success against the enemies of our souls, we must improve it by watchfulness and resolution.Read, "Heber the Kenitc had severed himself from the Kenites which were of the children of Hobab," etc., "unto the oak (or terebinth tree) in Zaanaim" (or Bitzaanaim, which Conder identifies with Bessum, twelve miles southeast of Tabor, and near Kedesh on the Sea of Galilee). This migration of Heber the Kenite, with a portion of his tribe, from the south of Judah to the north of Naphtali, perhaps caused by Philistine oppression, had clearly taken place recently. It is mentioned here to account for the subsequent narrative, but possibly also because the news of the great muster of the Israelites at Kedesh had been carried to Sisera by some of the tribe Judges 4:12, whose tents we are here informed were in the immediate neighborhood of Kedesh. 11. Now Heber the Kenite … pitched his tent—It is not uncommon, even in the present day, for pastoral tribes to feed their flocks on the extensive commons that lie in the heart of inhabited countries in the East (see on [216]Jud 1:16).

plain of Zaanaim—This is a mistranslation for "the oaks of the wanderers." The site of the encampment was under a grove of oaks, or terebinths, in the upland valley of Kedesh.

Heber; the husband of Jael, Judges 4:17.

The Kenite; of whom see Numbers 24:21,22 Jud 1:16. Hobab; called also Jethro. See Numbers 10:29. From the Kenites; from the rest of his brethren, who lived in the wilderness of Judah, Judges 1:16; which removal is here mentioned, lest any should wonder to find the Kenites in this place.

His tent, i.e. his dwelling, which probably was in tents, as shepherds used.

Now Heber the Kenite,.... A descendant of Kain, a principal man among the Midianites; the Targum calls him the Salmaean:

which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses; who came along with the children of Israel through the wilderness into the land of Canaan, and first settled about Jericho, and then removed into the wilderness of Judah, Judges 1:16,

had severed himself from the Kenites; which dwelt in the said wilderness; to whom he belonged when this separation was made, and on what account is not certain. Abarbinel thinks that it was done now, and with a design to help Israel, that hearing Barak was gone up to Mount Tabor, and seeing Sisera prepared to fight with him, he made as if he was disgusted with his own people, and separated from them, that Jabin, with whom he was at peace, might the more confide in him; when it was out of love to Israel, and with a view to assist them, as occasion should offer, that he removed; but this is not very likely, as these Kenites were a people that kept themselves from meddling with military affairs as much as possible:

and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh: for these people dwelt in tents as the Midianites did, from whence they sprung, and as the Scenite Arabs; and yet near to cities, as here, and in places fit for the pasturage of their cattle, in which they were chiefly employed, and here pitched upon a plain where were fields and meadows: the Targum calls it a plain of pools, where were pools of water for the watering of their flocks; or rather it might be rendered the oak or grove of oaks of Zaanaim, the same with Alonzaanannim; see Gill on Joshua 19:33. This place lay between Harosheth of the Gentiles, from whence Sisera came, and Mount Tabor, where Barak was. This little piece of history is inserted here, partly to account for it that there should be any Kenites here, when we are told before they settled in the wilderness of Judah, and partly on account of the following narrative of Sisera being slain by this man's wife.

Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent {f} unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

(f) Meaning, that he possessed a great part of that country.

11. Now Heber the Kenite] The verse explains, with a view to Jdg 4:17 ff., how the Kenites, who belonged properly to southern Palestine (see on Jdg 1:16), came to be in this region: the family of Heber had branched off (cf. Genesis 10:5; Genesis 10:32) from the main clan, and pitched their tents as far north as the Tree of Bezaanim (so read, as below), near Kedesh. The words even from the children of Hobab … Moses are a gloss on from Kain, probably derived from Jdg 1:16 in its original form. It is impossible to reconcile the geographical data in the narrative as it stands. Heber’s encampment is here said to be near Kedesh, which must be Kedesh-naphtali, judging from Jdg 4:17 b, where Heber is brought into relation with Jabin king of Hazor. But Jdg 4:18 ff. require a position for the Kenite tents in quite a different quarter, near the battle-field by the Kishon, on the route of Sisera’s flight. Kedesh and Hazor are elements in the story of Jabin (see Jdg 4:6 n.); while Jael, and from her we can hardly separate Heber, belongs to the story of Sisera; yet in Jdg 4:17 b Heber is connected with Jabin. The difficulty may be relieved by supposing that the writer who combined the two stories, the writer responsible for making Sisera the general of Jabin’s army Jdg 4:7, has here confused Kedesh in Naphtali with another place of the same name, and thus brought Heber into connexion with Jabin, though originally they had nothing to do with each other. Two alternatives as to the position of another Kedesh may be considered. (1) In 1 Chronicles 6:72 a Kedesh in Issachar is mentioned (but Joshua 19:20; Joshua 21:28 give Kishion), perhaps Tell Abû Ḳudçs between Megiddo and Taanach; this would suit Jdg 4:11; Jdg 4:17 a, 18 ff. Near this must be placed the Tree of Bezaanim, doubtless a sacred tree, not necessarily an oak. The name occurs again in Joshua 19:33 (see RVm.), but not in such a way as to determine its situation; it is mentioned as lying on the boundary of Naphtali, and this raises a difficulty—it could not be described as ‘near Kedesh’ in Issachar (? Abû Ḳudçs). (2) Bezaanim (so read for in Zaanannim), Βεσεμιείν Joshua 19:33 LXX. B, is identified by Conder (Tent Work, p. 68 ff.), followed by G. A. Smith (Hist. Geogr., p. 395f.), with Khirbet Bessûm on the plateau W. of the lake of Tiberias; to the W. there lies a Kedesh, 12 m. from Tabor, on the lake; not far off is Dâmiyeh, perhaps the Adâmi of Joshua 19:33. We thus obtain the required conditions; but the identifications are very uncertain, and if we accept them we must give up the identification of Harosheth with Ḥârithîyeh, which would then lie too far from the battle-field. There are difficulties in both explanations, fewest perhaps in (1).

Verse 11. - Translate, Now Heber the Kenite had severed himself from the Kenites, viz., from the sons of Hobab, etc. The Kenites, as we read in Judges 1:16, had settled in the wilderness of Judah, south of Arad, in the time of Joshua. Heber, with a portion of the tribe, had migrated later to Naphtali, probably at the time When the Philistines were pressing hard upon Judah, in the days of Shamgar and Jael (Judges 3:31 and Judges 5:5). Judges 4:11Barak replied that he would not go unless she would go with him - certainly not for the reason suggested by Bertheau, viz., that he distrusted the divine promise given to him by Deborah, but because his mistrust of his own strength was such that he felt too weak to carry out the command of God. He wanted divine enthusiasm for the conflict, and this the presence of the prophetess was to infuse into both Barak and the army that was to be gathered round him. Deborah promised to accompany him, but announced to him as the punishment for this want of confidence in the success of his undertaking, that the prize of victory - namely, the defeat of the hostile general - should be taken out of his hand; for Jehovah would sell (i.e., deliver up) Sisera into the hand of a woman, viz., according to Judges 4:17., into the hand of Jael. She then went with him to Kedesh, where Barak summoned together Zebulun and Naphtali, i.e., the fighting men of those tribes, and went up with 10,000 men in his train ("at his feet," i.e., after him, Judges 4:14; cf. Exodus 11:8 and Deuteronomy 11:6) to Tabor ("went up:" the expression is used here to denote the advance of an army against a place). Kedesh, where the army assembled, was higher than Tabor. זעק, Hiphil with acc., to call together (cf. 2 Samuel 20:4-5). Before the engagement with the foe is described, there follows in Judges 4:11 a statement that Heber the Kenite had separated himself from his tribe, the children of Hobab, who led a nomad life in the desert of Judah (Judges 1:16), and had pitched his tents as far as the oak forest at Zaanannim (see at Joshua 19:33) near Kedesh. This is introduced because of its importance in relation to the issue of the conflict which ensued (Judges 4:17 ff). נפרד with Kametz is a participle, which is used in the place of the perfect, to indicate that the separation was a permanent one.
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