Judges 5:17 Commentaries: "Gilead remained across the Jordan; And why did Dan stay in ships? Asher sat at the seashore, And remained by its landings.
Judges 5:17
Gilead stayed beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and stayed in his breaches.
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(17) Gilead abode beyond Jordan.—Gilead was the son of Machir, and grandson of Manasseh. The name is here probably meant to include Gad, as well as the half-tribe of Manasseh. The word “abode” means “stayed quietly” (Psalm 16:9), and is rendered qniesce-bat in the Vulgate.

Why did Dan remain in ships?—The sudden question is very picturesque. The other rendering, “Why did Dan fear the ships (of the enemy)? “is untenable. The possession of Joppa. one of the few seaports of Palestine, naturally influenced the pursuits of the tribe (Joshua 19:46; 2Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7); but whether they are here reproached for absorption in commerce, or for cowardice in taking refuge in their ships, is uncertain. The word rendered “remain” often involves a notion of “alarm” (Deuteronomy 32:27). If the Danite migration (Judges 18) had by this time occurred, it is almost impossible that they should not have rendered some assistance to the revolt of the northern tribes. The fact that it is not here alluded to shows the extremely early date at which this narrative must be placed.

Asher continued on the sea shore.—Aslier was the other great maritime tribe (Joshua 19:28-29). The word “continued” is, literally, “sat.”

Abode in his breaches.—The word rendered “breaches” is, literally, “clefts,” or “fissures.” The Chaldee curiously paraphrases it by “rebuilt and ¡ dwelt in the cities which the Gentiles destroyed.” Le Clerc renders it, “Sits in his precipitous rocks,” referring it to that part of the coast known as “the Ladder of Tyre;” and this is perhaps meant by the diakopas of the LXX. (Cod. Alex.). The Vulgate renders, in portibus. Probably the “creeks” of the margin of our Bibles is the correct rendering.

Jdg 5:17. Gilead abode, &c. — Or, why did Gilead abide? Gilead was divided between the children of Machir and the tribe of Gad, Joshua 13:24-31. The children of Machir came down to the battle, and therefore the tribe of Gad can only be meant here, the land of Gilead being put for the inhabitants of it. Beyond Jordan — In their own portions, and did not come over Jordan to the help of the Lord, and of his people, as they ought to have done. Why did Dan remain in ships? — Their coast being near the sea, they were wholly intent on their merchandise, and therefore did not join in this land expedition. Asher continued on the sea-shore — Where their lot lay. Abode in his breaches — Either in his creeks and small havens, where vessels lay to go out to sea, or in their broken and craggy rocks and caves.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.The land of Gilead, on the east of Jordan, was divided between Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, who are both comprehended here. Joppa was in the territory of Dan Jos 19:46, and was in later times the sea-port for Jerusalem.

His breaches - Rather havens; i. e. the creeks and bays and river-months by which their coast was broken. Joshua 19:29.

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. Gilead is sometimes taken more largely, for all the land of the Israelites beyond Jordan, as Numbers 32:1,26,29. So it is not here taken, because Gilead is here distinguished from Reuben and his land. Sometimes it is taken more strictly for that part of the land beyond Jordan which fell to the half tribe of Manasseh, as Numbers 32:39,40 Deu 3:15 Joshua 17:1. And sometimes both for that part of Manasseh’s, and for Gad’s portion, as Joshua 13:24,25,29-31. And so it seems to be understood here; and the land Gilead is here put for the people or inhabitants of it, Gad and Manasseh.

Beyond Jordan, in their own portions, and did not come over Jordan to the help of the Lord, and of his people, as they ought to have done.

Dan, whose coast was near the sea, was wholly intent upon his merchandise and shipping, as the great instrument both of his riches and safety; and therefore would not join in this land expedition.

On the sea-shore, where their lot lay.

In his breaches; either, first, In the creeks of the sea, whether in design to save themselves by ships in case of danger, as Dan also intended; or upon pretence of repairing the breaches made by the sea into their country. Or, secondly, In their broken and craggy rocks and caves therein, in which they thought to secure themselves. Gilead abode beyond Jordan,.... A country which lay on the other side Jordan, and was given by Moses, half of it to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the other half to the half tribe of Manasseh, Deuteronomy 3:12 and being here distinguished from Reuben, it seems that not only that tribe, but also the tribe of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, on that side Jordan, came not to the help of Israel; but abode where they were, attending their flocks and herds, and preferring their own private profit to the public good; yet as Gilead was given to Machir, Deuteronomy 3:15 and some are said to come out from thence to serve in this expedition, Judges 5:14 some read the words, as Kimchi observes, with an interrogation, "did Gilead abide beyond Jordan?" no, he did not; though his situation was beyond it, as well as Reuben's, yet he did not continue there, but came over to help his brethren; and so this is introduced to upbraid Reuben, and leave him without excuse, since he could as well have left his flocks as Gilead did, and come over to the help of his brethren as well as he:

and why did Dan remain in ships? the Danites inhabiting Joppa, and other places bordering on the Mediterranean sea, attended their navigation and merchandise; and which they chose rather to do, than to appear in the field of battle in the behalf of their brethren; judging this to be a sufficient excuse, though the question put implies the contrary; according to the Targum, they were meditating a flight, and put their goods into ships to flee with them, should Sisera get the day:

Asher continued on the sea shore; on the shore of the Mediterranean sea, attending traffic and business, and did not concern themselves at all in this war:

and abode in his trenches; in his towns and cities, the walls of which had been broken down by the Canaanites, and remained unrepaired, nor were they suffered to repair them; and therefore excused themselves on this account from engaging in the war, being obliged to stay at home to keep and defend their cities; which were in such a ruinous and weak condition, that the enemy might enter at any time: some render it, "in their creeks" (i) bays and havens where they had much shipping, and which required their attendance.

(i) "in portubus", V. L. "ad sinus suos", some in Vatablus.

{n} Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his {o} breaches.

(n) She reproves all those who did not come to help their brethren in their time of need.

(o) Either by hearing of the sea, or by mining,

Verse 17. - In ships. The celebrated hat. hour of Joppa (Jonah 1:3), now Jaffa, was in the tribe of Dan. His breaches. The creeks and bays where they kept their fishing. boats. The whole nation had good reason to make this reflection, as the warriors, having returned home, were now relating the mighty acts of the Lord among the women who were watering their flocks, and the people had returned to their towns once more. This is in all probability the idea of the obscure verse before us, which has been interpreted in such very different ways. The first clause, which has no verb, and cannot constitute a sentence by itself, must be connected with the following clause, and taken as an anakolouthon, as יתנּוּ שׁם does not form a direct continuation of the clause commencing with מקּול. After the words "from the voice of the archers," we should expect the continuation "there is heard," or "there sounds forth the praise of the acts of the Lord." Instead of that, the construction that was commenced is relinquished at יתנּוּ שׁם, and a different turn is given to the thought. This not only seems to offer the simplest explanation, but the only possible solution of the difficulty. For the explanation that מן is to be taken as signifying "away from," as in Numbers 15:24, etc., in the sense of "far from the voice of the archers, among the watering women," does not suit the following word שׁם, "there," at all. It would be necessary to attribute to מן the meaning "no more disquieted by," a meaning which the preposition could not possibly have in this clause. מחצצים are not sharers in the booty, for חצץ simply means to cut, to cut in pieces, to divide, and is never applied to the sharing of booty, for which חלּק is the word used (vid., Judges 5:30; Psalm 68:13; Isaiah 9:2). מחצּץ is to be regarded, as the Rabbins maintain, as a denom. from חץ, to hold an arrow, signifying therefore the shooter of an arrow. It was probably a natural thing for Deborah, who dwelt in Benjamin, to mention the archers as representatives of warriors generally, since this was the principal weapon employed by the Benjaminites (see 1 Chronicles 8:40; 1 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:7; 2 Chronicles 17:17). The tarrying of the warriors among the drawers of water, where the flocks and herds were being watered, points to the time of peace, when the warriors were again occupied with their civil and domestic affairs. יתנּוּ is a simple aorist. תּנּה, lit. to repeat, then to relate, or praise. "The righteousness of Jehovah," i.e., the marvellous acts of the Lord in and upon Israel for the accomplishing of His purposes of salvation, in which the righteousness of His work upon earth was manifested (cf. 1 Samuel 12:7; Micah 6:5). פּרזונו צדקות has been rendered by modern expositors, either "the righteous acts of His guidance or of His decision" (Ewald and Bertheau), or "the righteous acts of His commanders," or "the benefits towards His princes (leaders) in Israel" (Ros. and others). But neither of these can be sustained. We must take פּרזון here in just the same sense as in Judges 5:7; the country covered with open towns and villages, together with their inhabitants, whom Jehovah had delivered from the hostile oppression that had rested upon them, by means of the victory obtained over Sisera. After that victory the people of the Lord went down again to their gates, from the mountains and hiding-places in which they had taken refuge from their foes (Judges 5:6, Judges 5:7), returning again to the plains of the land, and the towns that were now delivered from the foe.
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