Judges 5:18
Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
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(18) Jeoparded their lives.—Comp. Judges 9:7; Isaiah 53:12. The courage of Zebulon and Naphtali is contrasted with the empty debates of Reuben, the sloth of Gilead, the cowardly selfishness of Dan and Asher.

In the high places of the field.—That is, on Mount Tabor. The Hebrew word is the Meroms; hence the Vulgate has in regione Merome. (Comp. Joshua 11:5; Joshua 11:7.)

Jdg 5:18. Zebulun and Naphtali, &c. — These were the two tribes out of which Barak, by the order of God, (Jdg 4:6,) drew ten thousand men, who charged the enemy from mount Tabor; and Deborah here celebrates their gallant behaviour. That jeoparded their lives — Hebrew, חרŠ, cherep, despised their lives, or exposed them to the danger of death, as making no account of them, in comparison of joining with their brethren to shake off the yoke of the Canaanites, and recover their liberty. They chose rather to venture upon a generous and honourable death than to enjoy a shameful and servile life. In the high places of the field — That is, upon that large and eminent plain in the top of mount Tabor, where they put themselves in battle array, and expected the enemy; though, when they saw that the Canaanites did not come up to them, they marched down to meet them.

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.In contrast with the selfishness of the tribes just named, Deborah reverts with enthusiasm to the heroic prowess of Zebulun and Naphtali. 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. Jeoparded, Heb. despised, or reproached, or contemned, comparatively; they chose rather to venture upon a generous and honourable death, than to enjoy a shameful and servile life.

In the high places of the field, i.e. upon that large and eminent plain in the top of Mount Tabor, where they put themselves in battle-array, and expected the enemy; though when they saw he did not come up to them, they marched down to meet and fight him.

Zebulun and Naphtali were a people,.... These two tribes were chiefly concerned in this war; out of them were the 10,000 men that followed Barak, who willingly offered themselves, and were the most active and vigorous:

that jeoparded themselves unto the death; exposed them to the utmost danger, fearless of death itself: or reproached (k) their lives; were careless of them, valued them not; they were not dear to them, but were ready to part with them freely, in the cause of liberty in which they were engaged:

in the high places of the field; on the top of Mount Tabor, where they were mustered, and from whence they beheld the vast host of Sisera surrounding them; and yet, with an undaunted bravery and courage, descended the hill to fight with them. The Vulgate Latin version reads, "in the country of Merome"; in the plains and fields of it, near which were the waters of Merom, where Joshua fought Jabin, a former king of Canaan, and supposed by some to be the same with Kishon here, Joshua 11:5.

(k) "probris affecit", Pagninus; so the Targum.

Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
18. In contrast to the lethargy of the tribes on the E. and N. was the heroic valour of Zebulun and Naphtali.

the high places of the field] is hardly applicable to the field of battle, which was a plain; perhaps the general meaning is, the two tribes came fearlessly down from their mountain homes prepared to sacrifice all for the cause. See further on Jdg 4:6.

Judges 5:18Zebulun and Naphtali acted quite differently. Zebulun showed itself as a people that despised its life even to death, i.e., that sacrificed its life for the deliverance of its fatherland. Naphtali did the same in its mountain home. The two tribes had raised 10,000 fighting men at Barak's call (Judges 4:10), who constituted at any rate the kernel of the Israelitish army.

If we run over the tribes enumerated, it seems strange that the tribes of Judah and Simeon are not mentioned either among those who joined in the battle, or among those who stayed away. The only way in which this can be explained is on the supposition that these two tribes were never summoned by Barak, either because they were so involved in conflict with the Philistines, that they were unable to render any assistance to the northern tribes against their Canaanitish oppressors, as we might infer from Judges 3:31, or because of some inward disagreement between these tribes and the rest. But even apart from Judah and Simeon, the want of sympathy on the part of the tribes that are reproved is a sufficient proof that the enthusiasm for the cause of the Lord had greatly diminished in the nation, and that the internal unity of the congregation was considerably loosened.

In the next strophe the battle and the victory are described: -

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