Judges 5:10
Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.
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(10) Speak.—Rather, Think of it. or, perhaps, “Meditate the song.” It is placed in the original in far more forcible position at the end of the verse.

Ye that ride on white asses.—That is, nobles and wealthy (Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14). The word can hardly mean “white,” because there are no such things as white asses. It means rather “bright-coloured” (Ezekiel 27:18), “glossy-skinned,” or “dappled” (super nitentes asinos, Vulg.). These were the more valuable sort of asses, and were used by the rich and great. It is only because this was not understood among the Greeks and Romans, who despised the ass, that the LXX. and Josephus so often disguise the word in writing for Gentiles, using pōlon, “steed,” or the general word hupozugion, “beast of burden,” instead. No incident was more derided among the Gentiles than the riding to Zion of her king, “meek and sitting upon an ass” (Zechariah 9:9), (see the Life of Christ, 2:197). Here though the Alexandrine MS. of the LXX has “on female asses of the South “—i.e., of Ethiopia—we find in other MSS. “on beasts of burden.”

Ye that sit in judgment.—Rather, ye that sit on rich divans, though our version follows the Vatican MS. of the LXX., the Chaldee, and the Vulgate. The Hebrew is, ye that sit on middin,” and some Jews understood it to mean “at Middin”—i.e., ye inhabitants of the town Middin (which is mentioned in Joshua 15:61, and which they suppose may have been peculiarly oppressed and insulted by the enemy). Others, again, suppose that middin is saddle-cloths (comp. Matthew 21:7). The Alexandrine MS. of the LXX. has epi lampênômi.e., on sedans or covered chariots. There can be little doubt that it means “bright carpets” (compare mad in Psalm 109:18).

And walk by the way.—Rather, ye that walk in the way. Deborah appeals (1) to the wealthy, riding through the safe highways: (2) to those of all classes who now sit at ease on divans, bright with carpets, of which Easterns are so fond: and (3) to foot-passengers in the ordinary life—to join in the thought and song of praise. On the phrases “sitting at home and “walking on the roads” to describe the ordinary avocations of life, see Deuteronomy 6:7 : “When thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way.”

Jdg 5:10. Speak ye — Celebrate the praise of our mighty God, and give him thanks. The word שׂיחו, sichu, however, here rendered, Speak ye, more properly signifies to consider, meditate, or reflect deeply, namely, on the miserable condition they were in before, and on the great deliverance God had wrought out for them. Ye that ride on white asses — That is, magistrates and nobles, who used to do so, Jdg 10:4; Jdg 12:14. These could not appear in any splendour during the servitude and oppression under Jabin, but now were restored to their dignity, which she calls upon them to consider, and for which to praise the Lord. There were few horses in Judea but what were brought out of other countries, so that the greatest persons rode on asses, as appears by the sacred history; but in this country they were commonly of a red colour, (whence, as Bochart observes, an ass hath the name of כמור, chamor,) and therefore white, or, as he translates the word, whitish asses, or those streaked with white, were highly esteemed for their rarity. Ye that sit in judgment — Those that sat as judges in the gates, which were no longer possessed by the enemies, she here exhorts to join with the nobles before mentioned. And walk by the way — The merchants, traffickers, and others, who could now travel safely about their business, which they durst not do before this deliverance, Jdg 5:6; for which, therefore, they were bound to praise God.

5:6-11. Deborah describes the distressed state of Israel under the tyranny of Jabin, that their salvation might appear more gracious. She shows what brought this misery upon them. It was their idolatry. They chose new gods, with new names. But under all these images, Satan was worshipped. Deborah was a mother to Israel, by diligently promoting the salvation of their souls. She calls on those who shared the advantages of this great salvation, to offer up thanks to God for it. Let such as are restored, not only to their liberty as other Israelites, but to their rank, speak God's praises. This is the Lord's doing. In these acts of his, justice was executed on his enemies. In times of persecution, God's ordinances, the walls of salvation, whence the waters of life are drawn, are resorted to at the hazard of the lives of those who attend them. At all times Satan will endeavour to hinder the believer from drawing near to the throne of grace. Notice God's kindness to his trembling people. It is the glory of God to protect those who are most exposed, and to help the weakest. Let us notice the benefit we have from the public peace, the inhabitants of villages especially, and give God the praise.Ye that ride on white donkeys ... - i. e. nobles or magistrates. Deborah appeals to the classes mentioned in Judges 5:6-7, to bear witness to the happy change that had followed the overthrow of Jabin.

That sit in judgment - Rather "that sit on saddles, or horse-cloths," a further description of those who ride on asses.

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."

Speak; celebrate the praises of our mighty God, whose hand hath done this.

Ye that ride on white asses, i.e. magistrates and nobles, who used to do so, Judges 10:4 12:14; horses being in a manner forbidden there, Deu 17:16.

Ye that walk by the way, i.e. you that now can safely travel about your business in those highways, which before you durst neither ride nor walk in. So great and mean persons are jointly excited to praise God.

Speak, ye that ride on white asses,.... Though in some countries, as in ours, it is reckoned disgraceful to ride on asses; so Leo Africanus (b) makes mention of a preacher in Africa, who was called the ass rider; because he was continually, sitting on an ass; yet in Judea, where there were no horses, or very few, it was accounted honourable; so it was in the time of our Lord; for his riding on an ass to Jerusalem was not mean and disgraceful, but honourable and glorious: and so it certainly was in those early times of the judges; for we read of the sons of two of them, which were very numerous, that rode on asses' colts, Judges 10:4, and it seems that white asses were the most valuable, and chiefly used by great personages. The ass in the Hebrew language has its name from redness, that being the usual colour of them in those parts; and hence they were hateful to the Egyptians, because that their Typhon was of that colour (c); but there were some that were white, as there are wild ones now of that colour. A traveller (d) in those parts in the beginning of the last century tells us, that on the banks of the Euphrates they beheld every day great droves of wild beasts, as wild asses "all white", &c. The word we translate "white" is "zechorot", and perhaps may describe the same animal the Ethiopians call "zecora", and some "zebra"; said to excel in beauty all four footed creatures in the whole world. It is an animal of the size of a mule, found in the woods beyond Abyssinia, is easily tamed, and is the frequent and chief present of the kings of that country; about its loins is a circle of a black colour, in the form of a girdle, which is followed with more on each side, according to the part of the body, some broader, others narrower, both black and white, or of an ash colour, so neat that they seem to exceed the art of the most eminent painter; its only deformity are its ears, which are long; hence it is called by the Portuguese the wild ass, though wrongly; of what value and esteem it was appears from the large price it has been sold for; one, that was the gift of a king to a Turkish governor, was sold to an Indian for 2,000 pieces of Venetian money, to make a present of to the great Mogor, king of the Indians (e), which was the value of nine hundred pounds. Those that rode on these creatures were the princes and nobles of Israel; though they are generally interpreted by the Jewish commentators of merchants that rode from place to place about business; and these are called upon to speak of the wonderful things God had done for Israel, in freeing them from the bondage of the Canaanites, so that these nobles or merchants might ride about the country without any fear; and to discourse of them to others, and in their meditations give praise to God on account of them:

ye that sit in judgment; which seems to describe judges upon the bench, sitting to hear and try causes, and pass righteous judgment; these are also exhorted to give thanks to the Lord, that they were now restored to their seats of judgment, from which they were driven; or where they could not peaceably exercise their office, which they now might and did: Cocceius renders the word "on measures", as if these were persons that presided over measures, and took care that they were just and right. Though Kimchi and Ben Melech say, that Middin, which we render "in judgment", is either the name of a city in the book of Joshua; see Gill on Joshua 15:61, or the name of a way (f) well known, in which they were afraid to go because of the enemy, but now went in it with safety, and therefore had reason to speak well of God, and praise his name; but this is rather intended in the next clause:

and walk by the way; the common people that travelled from place to place on business, who before were obliged to leave the public roads, and go in byways, Judges 5:6 but now could travel in the common road without fear, and therefore ought to be thankful.

(b) Descriptio Africae, l. 5. p. 574. (c) Plutarch. de Iside. (d) Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 106. (e) Ludolph. Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 10. Vid. Philostorg. Eccles. Hist. l. 3. c. 11. (f) Vid. David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 19. 3.

Speak, ye that ride on {e} white asses, ye that sit {f} in judgment, and walk by the way.

(e) You governors.

(f) Or by Middin, as in danger of your enemies.

10. In this most obscure verse the poet is generally supposed to call upon various classes of Israelites to take their share in celebrating the victory.

Tell of it] So LXX, Vulgate The verb means talk (against) Psalm 69:12, or speak (to) Job 12:8, but properly to meditate upon, muse Psalm 105:2; Psalm 145:5 etc.; it does not occur in early literature (Genesis 24:63 is textually doubtful). The word is corrupt.

ye that ride on white asses] more exactly, as the Arabic shews, tawny, reddish-grey, asses, i.e. choice animals such as would be ridden by persons of dignity; the leading men in ancient Israel used to ride on asses, just as members of the ruling house in Zanzibar, and as the sheikhs in S. Arabia, do at the present day. Cf. Jdg 10:4, Jdg 12:14, 2 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 19:26.

rich carpets] from a word which means garment, raiment (e.g. Jdg 3:16), here supposed to refer to the raiment, i.e. saddle-cloths, of the asses. This is highly precarious, and the word, which is irregular though perhaps not impossible in form1[34], must be considered corrupt. LXX. cod. A interprets the two lines as referring to a triumphal procession; LXX. cod. B, Targ., Vulgate in judgement, by a false etymology.

[34] Instead of îm, it has the plur. ending în, the normal form in Aramaic; which occurs, however, regularly in the Moabite Stone, and in the O.T. 25 or 26 times (15 in Job) in passages either dialectical or late.

Verse 10. - She appeals to the nobles who ride on white (or roan) asses, and sit on rich saddle-cloths (not sit in judgment), and to the people who walk by the way, alike to speak of the great deliverance. Judges 5:10And all classes of the people, both high and low, have reason to join in the praise. Those who ride upon white, i.e., white-spotted asses, are the upper classes generally, and not merely the leaders (cf. Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14). צהר, lit. dazzling white; but since there are no asses that are perfectly white, and white was a colour that was highly valued both by Hebrews and Arabs, they applied the term white to those that were only spotted with white. Those who sit upon coverings (מדּין from מד, a covering or carpet, with the plural termination ין, which is to be regarded as a poetical Chaldaism) are the rich and prosperous; and those who walk on the way, i.e., travellers on foot, represent the middle and lower classes, who have to go about and attend to their affairs. Considered logically, this triple division of the nation is not a very exact one, as the first two do not form a true antithesis. But the want of exactness does not warrant our fusing together the middle term and the first, and understanding by middin either saddles or saddle-cloths, as Ewald and Bertheau have done; for saddle-cloths are still further from forming an antithesis to asses, so that those who ride upon white asses could be distinguished, as the upper classes and leaders, from those who sit upon saddles, or are "somewhat richer." Moreover, there is no reason for regarding these three classes as referring simply to the long line of warriors hastening from the victory to the triumphal fte. On the contrary, all classes of the people are addressed, as enjoying the fruits of the victory that had been obtained: the upper classes, who ride upon their costly animals; the rich resting at home upon their splendid carpets; and the poor travellers, who can now go quietly along the high-road again without fear of interruption from the foe (Judges 5:6). שׂיחוּ is rendered "sing" by many; but this rendering cannot be sustained from Psalm 105:2 and Psalm 145:5, and it is not necessary on the verse before us, since the well-established meaning of the word "ponder," reflect, sc., upon the acts of the Lord, is a perfectly suitable one.
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