Judges 5:30
Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
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(30) Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey?—Literally, Are they not finding? are they not dividing the spoil? Is not the wealth of their booty the cause of their delay? (Comp. Exodus 15:9 : “The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil.”)

To every man.—Literally, as in the margin, to the head of a man. (Comp. Exodus 16:16; Numbers 1:2; 1Chronicles 12:23.)

A damsel or two.—Literally, a maiden, two maidens; only that the word used is strongly contemptuous, as though a captive Hebrew girl could only be described by a term of scorn. In these internecine wars the men were killed and the women reserved as slaves (Numbers 31:17-18). Commentators quote a remarkable parallel from Gibbon (2, ch. 11), where he says that two or three Gothic female captives fell to the share of each of the soldiers of Claudius II. (“Tantum mulierum cepimus,ut binas et ternasmulieres victor sibi miles possit adjungere.”—Trebellius Pollio, 8) The reading of the Peshito is, “a heap, two heaps,” as in Judges 15:16.

Of divers colours.—Literally, of dyed robes.

Of divers colours of needlework.Of dyed robes of embroidered webs.

Of divers colours of needlework on both sides.A dyed robe, two embroidered webs.

Meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?—Literally, as in the margin, for the necks of the spoil. As this gives no good sense, our version follows those which here understand “spoil” as equivalent to “spoiler.” The old versions take “spoil” in apposition to the rest of the sentence: e.g., the LXX. have, “dyed robes of embroidered webs for his neck, as spoils,” and a similar meaning is involved in the loose paraphrase of the Vulgate. Others explain it to mean that the dyed robes are to be carried on the necks of the female slaves and the captive cattle. Ewald reads shegal (“queen “) for shellal (prey “)—a brilliant and probable conjecture; for if the booty of the soldiers and the general is mentioned, the royal ladies would be hardly likely to forget themselves. In any case, the mother of Sisera is characteristically described (as Bishop Lowth has pointed out) as talking neither of the slaughter of the enemy nor the prowess of the warriors, but only of the gay and feminine booty. (Comp. “Faemineo praedae et spoliorum arderet amore,” Æn. xi. 728.) Nothing can exceed the power and skill with which in a few words the vanity, levity, and arrogance of these “wise princesses” are described, as they idly talk of colours and embroidery, and, as it were, gloat over the description; while, at the same time, an unwomanly coarseness (racham, for “maiden”) mingles with their womanly frivolity. Only we must bear in mind that they too, like Deborah and Jael, though in an ignobler way, are the creatures of their age and circumstances.

5:24-31 Jael had a special blessing. Those whose lot is cast in the tent, in a low and narrow sphere, if they serve God according to the powers he has given them, shall not lose their reward. The mother of Sisera looked for his return, not in the least fearing his success. Let us take heed of indulging eager desires towards any temporal good, particularly toward that which cherishes vain-glory, for that was what she here doted on. What a picture does she present of an ungodly and sensual heart! How shameful and childish these wishes of an aged mother and her attendants for her son! And thus does God often bring ruin on his enemies when they are most puffed up. Deborah concludes with a prayer to God for the destruction of all his foes, and for the comfort of all his friends. Such shall be the honour, and joy of all who love God in sincerity, they shall shine for ever as the sun in the firmament.Render the latter part of the verse "a booty of dyed garments for Sisera, a booty of dyed garments and of party-colored cloth, a dyed garment and two party-colored clothes for the necks of the booty," the spoil or booty being either captive damsels, or captive cattle on whose necks these clothes are to be placed (either as ornament or as a burden; compare Judges 8:21, Judges 8:26). But possibly "the necks of the booty" may mean the backs or shoulders (of men or beasts) laden with booty. 30. to every man a damsel or two—Young maidens formed always a valued part of Oriental conquerors' war-spoils. But Sisera's mother wished other booty for him; namely, the gold-threaded, richly embroidered, and scarlet-colored cloaks which were held in such high esteem. The ode concludes with a wish in keeping with the pious and patriotic character of the prophetess. Have they not divided the prey? i.e. it is certain they have got the prey, only they tarry to view it and distribute it, according to every man’s quality and merit.

Of them that take the spoil, Heb. of the prey; the prey put for the men of prey, those, or who take the prey; as kindred is put for a man of kindred, or a kinsman, Ruth 3:2; and Belial, for a man of Belial, 2 Samuel 16:7; and days, for a man of days, or an old man, Job 32:7.

Have they not sped?.... Or "found" (u) the enemy, Barak and his army, or the spoil of them? no doubt they have:

have they not divided the prey? doubtless they have, which being large, and the captives many, has taken up much of their time to look over, and make an equal and proper division of, and that most certainly is the cause of the delay:

to every man a damsel or two? or "a womb or two (w)", using both unchaste and contemptuous language (x), and pleasing themselves with the virgins of Israel being abused by the common soldiers, which was too frequently the case with the Heathens at gaining a victory:

to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides; suits of clothes of different colours, such as were the works of the women of Sidon (y), and those curiously interwoven or wrought with a needle, and that on both sides of the silk or material of which they were made; and so such as were of great worth and esteem, and such it was expected, and with confidence and assurance of it, Sisera would bring with him, and make presents of to his mother and her ladies, or which he would have for his own wear and use, or both:

meet for the necks of them that take the spoil? the general of the army, and the chief men to whom the spoil was brought, and then divided suitably to the rank and quality of every soldier. Pliny (z) says, the Phrygians first invented the art of needlework; hence the garments wrought, and those that made them, were called after their name; but it is certain it was known by the ancient Hebrews and Canaanites, see Exodus 26:36.

(u) "nonne invenient", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Vatablus (w) "vulvam vulvas duas", Piscator. (x) Vid. R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 59. 1.((y) Julian. Opera, par. 1. crat. 2. p. 94. Vid. Homer. Iliad. 6. ver. 289, 290. (z) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 48.

Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet {u} for the necks of them that take the spoil?

(u) Because he was chief of the army.

30. The verse has suffered from corrupt repetitions: spoil four times, divers colours three times. Omitting the superfluous words we may restore the text as follows:

Are they not finding, dividing the spoil?

a wench or two for each man

a spoil of dyed garments for Sisera;

a broidered cloth or two for my neck (?).

A wench or two: the word (only here in this sense in the O.T.) is used by Mesha in his inscription of the women captured from the Israelites (Moab. St. l. 17). Spoil of dyed garments lit. ‘booty of dyes,’ i.e. dyed stuffs. A broidered cloth or two, the construction is the same as in line 2; for the word cf. Ezekiel 16:10; Ezekiel 16:13; Ezekiel 16:18; Psalm 45:14; strictly it means variegated work, either woven or embroidered, see Exodus 38:23; spoils of this kind were much valued, cf. 2 Samuel 1:24. The end of the last line is obscure: the text runs for the necks of the spoil, as though these rich stuffs would be used to caparison the animals led in the triumph of the captors! The parallelism suggests a personal reference corresponding to Sisera; so LXX ‘for his neck as a spoil.’ Ewald ingeniously proposed for the last word queen (Psalm 44:9; Nehemiah 2:6), changing only one letter. On the whole it seems preferable to omit the word, and read for my neck or for his neck; but there can be no certainty about the restoration.

Verse 30. - Sped, i.e. come across some booty. For the necks of them that take the spoil. Literally, for the necks of spoil. It is a difficult and obscure expression. The spoil may mean the camels, horses, or mules taken from the enemy, and the articles described may mean the housings and trappings for their necks. Or the necks of spoil might mean the necks of the beasts of burden laden with spoil. Judges 5:30The princesses in attendance upon Sisera's mother sought to console her with the remark, that Sisera would have to gather together rich booty, and that his return was delayed in consequence. In the expression "the wisest of her princesses" (see Ges. 119, 2), the irony is very obvious, as the reality put all their wise conjectures to shame. תּעננּה, third pers. plur. fem. for תּענינה. The second hemistich of Judges 5:29 contains a clause inserted as a parenthesis. אף־היא is adversative: "but she;" אף is only an emphatic copula; the antithesis lies in the emphatic change of subject indicated by היא. אמריה השׁיב, lit. to bring back her words, i.e., to repeat. להּ is used in a reflective sense, "to herself." The meaning is: But Sisera's mother did not allow herself to be quieted by the words of her wise princesses; on the contrary, she kept repeating the anxious question, Why does Sisera delay his coming? In Judges 5:30 there follows the answer of the wise princesses. They imagine that Sisera has been detained by the large amount of booty which has to be divided. הלא, nonne, is he not, in the sense of lively certainty. They will certainly discover rich booty, and divide it. רחם, uterus, for puella. "A girl (or indeed probably) two girls to the head of the man," i.e., for each man. צבעים, coloured things, cloths or clothes. רקמה, worked stuff, or garments worked in divers colours (see the remarks on Exodus 26:36), is attached without the vav cop. to צבעים, and is also dependent upon שׁלל. The closing words, שׁלל לצוּארי, "for the necks," or (as the plural is also frequently used to signify a single neck, e.g., Genesis 27:16; Genesis 45:14) "for the neck of the booty," do not give any appropriate sense, as שׁלל neither signifies animals taken as booty nor the taker of booty. The idea, however, that שׁלל is used for שׁלל אישׁ, like הלך in 2 Samuel 12:4 for הלך אישׁ, viator, and חתף in Proverbs 23:28 for חתף אישׁ, seems inadmissible, since שׁלל ecni has just before been used three times in its literal sense. There is just the same objection to the application of שׁלל to animals taken as booty, not to mention the fact that they would hardly have thought of having valuable clothes upon the necks of animals taken as booty. Consequently the only explanation that remains, is either to alter לצוּארי into לצוּארו or לצוּאריו, or else to change שׁלל into שׁגל, the royal spouse. In the former case, שׁלל would have to be taken as in apposition to רקמתים צבע: a variegated cloth, two worked in divers colours for his (Sisera's) neck as booty, as the lxx have rendered it (τῷ τραχήλῳ αὐτοῦ σκῦλα). Ewald and Bertheau decide in favour of the second alteration, and defend it on the ground that שׁלל might easily find its way into the text as a copyist's error for שׁגל, on account of שׁלל having been already written three times before, and that we cannot dispense with some such word as שׁגל here, since the repetition of שׁלל three times, and the threefold use of ל, evidently show that there were three different kinds of people among whom the booty was to be distributed; and also that it was only a fitting thing that Sisera should set apart one portion of the booty to adorn the neck of his wife, and that the wisest of the noble ladies, when mentioning the booty, should not forget themselves.
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