Judges 5:14
Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after you, Benjamin, among your people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.
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(14) Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek.—The LXX. and Vulgate render it, “Ephraim uprooted them in Amalek.” But the meaning seems to be, “Out of Ephraim (came down to the battle) those whose root is in Amalek,” or, “among the Amalekites.” Ephraim had firmly rooted himself (comp. Isaiah 27:6; Psalm 80:10) in the country which had been the stronghold of the Amalekites. (See Judges 12:15.)

After thee, Benjamin, among thy people.—Ephraim is here addressed by a sudden change of person (comp. Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 42:20. &c). After thee, O Ephraim, came down Benjamin, mingled with thy people. The forces of “little Benjamin” are overshadowed by, and almost lost in, the crowded ranks of its powerful neighbour-tribe. In after days Benjamin clung to the skirts of Judah, but at this period his fortunes were more allied with those of Ephraim. “After thee, Benjamin,” seems to have become (perhaps from this allusion) a war-cry of the tribe (Hosea 5:8).

Out of Machir came down governors.—Machir was the only son of Manasseh (Genesis 1:23; Numbers 27:1), and is here used for the Western Manassites (Joshua 17:5). The Eastern half-tribe, no doubt, held aloof with Gad and Reuben. The silence respecting Judah is remarkable. We may conjecture that Judah and Simeon were sufficiently occupied in keeping off the Philistines, or that, having secured their own territory, they remained in selfish isolation. The word rendered “governors” (LXX., “searchers out”; Vulgate, “princes “) is more strictly “law-givers” (Sym-machus, entassontes).

They that handle the pen of the writer.—Literally, they who draw with the staff (shēbet) of the scribe (sophēr). Sophēr may mean scribe (literally, “one who counts “), and the verb rendered “handle” is, literally, “draw;” but shēbet can hardly mean “pen”; nor is it easy to say of what special use “the pen of the writer” would be in the gathering of clans to battle; nor have we the faintest indication that Zebulon had any literary pre-eminence. There can be little doubt that the meaning is, “They who lead (so in Latin, traho sometimes has the meaning of duco) with the staff of the marshal.” The sophēr is the officer (2Kings 25:19) who musters, and therefore naturally counts and enrols, the host ( Jeremiah 52:25), and the staff: is his natural “rod of power,” or ensign of office; just as it-was (vitis, Plin., H. N. xiv. 1, § 3) of Roman centurions (Vulgate, De Zebulon qui exercitum ducerent ad bel-landum).

Jdg 5:14. Out of Ephraim, &c. — The prophetess, having directed their praises to the Author of their deliverance, proceeds to speak with commendation of the instruments of it, and gives us the muster of those tribes which freely offered themselves to battle. She assigns the first place to the tribe of Benjamin; the second to those of her own tribe who were settled in Amalek; the third to the Manassites beyond Jordan; the fourth to the tribe of Zebulun; and the last to the tribe of Issachar. There was a root of them against Amalek — This translation is very obscure, and therefore it might be better rendered, and more agreeably to the Hebrew, Out of Ephraim came down those who were planted, or whose rest was in Amalek; meaning some of the tribe of Ephraim, who were settled in or about the mount of Amalek. See Jdg 12:15. And out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer — Mr. Green has observed, and with great reason, that there is a manifest impropriety in penmen coming down to a battle; and that the word שׁבשׂ, shebet, which is here translated a pen, never signifies so throughout the Scriptures, but always a sceptre, or staff of command; and therefore he thinks our translation has mistaken the meaning here, and that it ought to be translated, And out of Zebulun those that rule or lead with the sceptre. The word ספר, soper, rendered writer, he thinks belongs to the next verse, and should be translated numbered. This certainly would make that verse more plain and significant. It would then be, And the princes of Issachar were numbered with Deborah; that is, these princes, together with Barak the general, were mustered along with Deborah herself.5:12-23 Deborah called on her own soul to be in earnest. He that will set the hearts of other men on fire with the love of Christ, must himself burn with love. Praising God is a work we should awake to, and awake ourselves unto. She notices who fought against Israel, who fought for them, and who kept away. Who fought against them. They were obstinate enemies to God's people, therefore the more dangerous. Who fought for them. The several tribes that helped are here spoken of with honour; for though God is above all to be glorified, those who are employed must have their due praise, to encourage others. But the whole creation is at war with those to whom God is an enemy. The river of Kishon fought against their enemies. At most times it was shallow, yet now, probably by the great rain that fell, it was so swelled, and the stream so deep and strong, that those who attempted to pass, were drowned. Deborah's own soul fought against them. When the soul is employed in holy exercises, and heart-work is made of them, through the grace of God, the strength of our spiritual enemies will be trodden down, and will fall before us. She observes who kept away, and did not side with Israel, as might have been expected. Thus many are kept from doing their duty by the fear of trouble, the love of ease, and undue affection to their worldly business and advantage. Narrow, selfish spirits care not what becomes of God's church, so that they can but get, keep, and save money. All seek their own, Php 2:21. A little will serve those for a pretence to stay at home, who have no mind to engage in needful services, because there is difficulty and danger in them. But we cannot keep away from the contest between the Lord and his enemies; and if we do not actively endeavour to promote his cause in this wicked world, we shall fall under the curse against the workers of iniquity. Though He needs no human help, yet he is pleased to accept the services of those who improve their talents to advance his cause. He requires every man to do so.Render "Of Ephraim (Deborah's own tribe) came down those whose root is in Mount Amalek Judges 12:15; after thee (O Ephraim) came Benjamin among thy people; of Machir (the west-Jordanic milies of Manasseh. See Joshua 17:1-6) there came down the chiefs, and of Zebulon they that handle the staff of the officer" the military scribe, whose duty it was, like that of the Roman tribunes, to keep the muster roll, and superintend the recruiting of the army. (See 2 Kings 25:19.) 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. Now she relates the carriage and miscarriage of the several tribes in this expedition; and she begins with


Was there a root of them; either, first, Of the Ephraimites; or, secondly, Of them that came forth to this expedition. By

root she seems to mean a

branch, as that word is sometimes used, as Isaiah 11:10 53:2; by which also she may note the fewness of those that came out of Ephraim, that

fruitful bough consisting of many branches, Genesis 49:22, yielding but one branch or a handful of men to this service.

Against Amalek, the constant and sworn enemy of the Israelites, who were confederate with their last oppressors the Moabites, Judges 3:13, and in all probability took their advantage now against the Israelites in the southern or middle parts of Canaan, whilst their main force was drawn northward against Jabin and Sisera. Against these therefore Ephraim sent forth a party; and so did Benjamin, as it here follows; and these hindered their conjunction with Jabin’s forces, and gave their brethren the advantage of fighting with Sisera alone.

After thee, Benjamin: Benjamin followed Ephraim’s example. Or, after thee, O Benjamin; and thus the pre-eminence is here given to Benjamin in two respects: First, That he was first in this expedition, as indeed he lay near the Amalekites, and by his example encouraged the Ephraimites. Secondly, That the whole tribe of Benjamin, though now but small, came forth to this war, when the numerous tribe of Ephraim sent only a handful to it.

Among the people; either, first, Among the people of Benjamin, with whom those few Ephraimites united themselves in this expedition. Or, secondly, Among the people or tribes of Israel, to wit, those who engaged themselves in this war.

Out of Machir, i.e. out of the tribe of Manasseh, which are elsewhere called by the name of Machir, as Joshua 13:31, to wit, out of the half tribe which was within Jordan; for of the other she speaks Judges 5:17.

Governors; either civil governors, the princes and great persons, who were as ready to hazard themselves and their ample estates as the meanest; or military officers, valiant and expert commanders, such as some of Machir’s posterity are noted to have been.

They that handle the pen of the writer, i.e. even the scribes, who gave themselves to study and writing, whereby they were exempted from military service, did voluntarily enter into this service. Or, they that drew, to wit, the people after them, as that verb is used, Judges 4:6. With the pen of the scribe or writer, i.e. who did not only go themselves, but by their letters invited and engaged others to go with them to the battle. Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek,.... In this and some following verses, Deborah makes mention of the tribes that were siding and assisting in this war, and of those that were not; and begins with Ephraim, where she herself dwelt, Judges 4:5 who was the root, foundation, and source of this expedition, that under a divine influence directed, animated, and encouraged to it; and by whom, and from whence, a detachment was sent against the Amalekites, who upon all occasions were ready to assist the Canaanites, and now were about to do it; and to prevent their junction, a party was sent from Ephraim, and by the Ehpraimites; though the Targum, and the Jewish commentators in general, refer this to a past action, which Deborah here commemorates and celebrates; and understand by "root", Joshua, who was of that tribe, and who discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword, Exodus 17:13.

after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; which the same Targum and the same writers interpret of a future fact, and as spoken of by way of prophecy; and suppose that Saul of the tribe of Benjamin is meant, and the people of Benjamin, the two hundred thousand footmen he took with him, and fought against Amalek, and destroyed them, 1 Samuel 15:1 but it is rather to be understood of the tribe of Benjamin in general, which at this time went out against Amalek, to prevent their giving any assistance to Jabin king of Canaan, and who were followed in it by a party of the Ephraimites; so that Benjamin has the greatest honour given it, partly as it was first in this affair, and partly as it was general, the whole tribe engaged, whereas only a few in Ephraim, and those stimulated by the example of Benjamin:

out of Machir came down governors; Machir was the only son of Manasseh, and therefore this must respect that tribe, half of which was settled on the other side Jordan, and to which Jarchi and other Jewish writers ascribe this, and suppose it refers to the princes and great men of it, who subdued the Amorites, and took the sixty cities of Argob in the time of Moses; though Kimchi and Ben Gersom understand it of some of them that came from thence to assist in this war; but it is clearly suggested in Judges 5:17 that they abode beyond Jordan, and gave no assistance at all; it therefore must be understood of the half tribe of Manasseh, within Jordan, from whence came great personages, with a number of men no doubt along with them, to lend an helping hand against the Canaanites, or to be employed as assistants under Barak in this expedition:

and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer; which being a maritime tribe, and employed in trade and navigation, had many clerks famous for their readiness in handling the pen; but these through a zeal for the common cause dropped their pens, and took to the sword, in vindication of the rights and liberties of themselves and their brethren; for which they are justly commended.

Out of Ephraim {i} 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.

(i) Joshua first fought against Amalek, and Saul destroyed him.

14. Out of Ephraim came down they whose root is in Amalek] i.e. those Ephraimites whose settled home was ‘in the hill country of the Amalekites,’ the latter term being used in Jdg 12:15 to describe the situation of Pirathon in the land of Ephraim. But the poet can hardly mean that only the Ephraimites of Pirathon came to the war, and there is no evidence that this district was the chief stronghold of Ephraim (Moore); moreover the Amalekites, though Jdg 12:15 implies a settlement of them in the north, belong properly to the deserts far S. of Judah (see on Jdg 1:16). Lit. the words mean ‘From E. their root (is) in Amalek,’ a singularly harsh expression. No doubt for Amalek we should read in the valley, with LXX. A, Luc., and other Verss.; for their root a verb is wanted, as in the third line of this verse; ‘they went’ shâru (cf. Isaiah 57:9, and the use of shâru = to pass along in Assyrian), suggested by Winckler, Altor. Forsch. i. 193, suits the context, but is no more than a guess.

After thee, Benjamin, among thy peoples] The pronoun thy evidently refers to Ephraim; but if the Benjamites came ‘after,’ they could not be ‘among’ the people of Ephraim; so correct after thee to thy brother (LXX. A). Thy brother Benjamin was among thy people seems to mean that, Benjamin, being too small to provide a contingent under its own chiefs, marched in the ranks of Ephraim.

Machir] probably stands here for Manasseh, of which it formed the chief clan; according to Joshua 17:1 Machir was the eldest, according to Genesis 50:23, Numbers 26:29 the only, son of Manasseh. The settlement of Machir in Gilead E. of Jordan (Numbers 32:39 ff., Deuteronomy 3:15) probably did not take place till later times. The context shews that governors denote military leaders, see on Jdg 5:9, and cf. Deuteronomy 33:21; in Genesis 49:10, Numbers 21:18, Psalm 60:7 the word is used of the staff or wand of a commander (translated sceptre in A. and RV.).

they that handle the marshal’s staff] or, that march with the marshal’s staff. Another designation of a chief, more exactly one who writes, enrols the muster of troops, cf. 2 Kings 25:19, Jeremiah 52:25, 2 Chronicles 26:11 referring to the later organization of the army: he carried a baton as a badge of office.Verse 14. - They who spring (whose root is) from Ephraim went against Amalek, following thee, O Benjamin, with thy people; from Manasseh (Machir, son of Manasseh, Genesis 50:23) came down governors (literally, lawgivers: cf. ver. 9), and out of Zebulun they that handle the baton of the commander, i.e. the military chiefs. Judges 5:8 describes the cause of the misery into which Israel had fallen. חדשׁים אלהים is the object to יבחר, and the subject is to be found in the previous term Israel. Israel forsook its God and creator, and chose new gods, i.e., gods not worshipped by its fathers (vid., Deuteronomy 32:17). Then there was war (לחם, the construct state of לחם, a verbal noun formed from the Piel, and signifying conflict or war) at the gates; i.e., the enemy pressed up to the very gates of the Israelitish towns, and besieged them, and there was not seen a shield or spear among forty thousand in Israel, i.e., there were no warriors found in Israel who ventured to defend the land against the foe. אם indicates a question with a negative reply assumed, as in 1 Kings 1:27, etc. Shield and spear (or lance) are mentioned particularly as arms of offence and defence, to signify arms of all kinds. The words are not to be explained from 1 Samuel 13:22, as signifying that there were no longer any weapons to be found among the Israelites, because the enemy had taken them away ("not seen" is not equivalent to "not found" in 1 Samuel 13:22); they simply affirm that there were no longer any weapons to be seen, because not one of the 40,000 men in Israel took a weapon in his hand. The number 40,000 is not the number of the men who offered themselves willingly for battle, according to Judges 5:2 (Bertheau); for apart from the fact that they did not go unarmed into the battle, it is at variance with the statement in Judges 4:6, Judges 4:10, that Barak went into the war and smote the enemy with only 10,000 men. It is a round number, i.e., an approximative statement of the number of the warriors who might have smitten the enemy and delivered Israel from bondage, and was probably chosen with a reference to the 40,000 fighting men of the tribes on the east of the Jordan, who went with Joshua to Canaan and helped their brethren to conquer the land (Joshua 4:13). Most of the more recent expositors have given a different rendering of Judges 5:8. Many of them render the first clause according to the Peshito and Vulgate, "God chose something new," taking Elohim as the subject, and chadashim (new) as the object. But to this it has very properly been objected, that, according to the terms of the song, it was not Elohim but Jehovah who effected the deliverance of Israel, and that the Hebrew for new things is not חדשׁים, but חדשׁות (Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 48:6), or חדשׁה (Isaiah 43:19; Jeremiah 31:22). On these grounds Ewald and Bertheau render Elohim "judges" (they chose new judges), and appeal to Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:7-8, where the authorities who administered justice in the name of God are called Elohim. But these passages are not sufficient by themselves to establish the meaning "judges," and still less to establish the rendering "new judges" for Elohim chadashim. Moreover, according to both these explanations, the next clause must be understood as relating to the specially courageous conflict which the Israelites in their enthusiasm carried on with Sisera; whereas the further statement, that among 40,000 warriors who offered themselves willingly for battle there was not a shield or a lance to be seen, is irreconcilably at variance with this. For the explanation suggested, namely, that these warriors did not possess the ordinary weapons for a well-conducted engagement, but had nothing but bows and swords, or instead of weapons of any kind had only the staffs and tools of shepherds and husbandmen, is proved to be untenable by the simple fact that there is nothing at all to indicate any contrast between ordinary and extraordinary weapons, and that such a contrast is altogether foreign to the context. Moreover, the fact appealed to, that אז points to a victorious conflict in Judges 5:13, Judges 5:19, Judges 5:22, as well as in Judges 5:11, is not strong enough to support the view in question, as אז is employed in Judges 5:19 in connection with the battle of the kings of Canaan, which was not a successful one, but terminated in a defeat.

The singer now turns from the contemplation of the deep degradation of Israel to the glorious change which took place as soon as she appeared: -

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