Judges 5:31
So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.
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(31) So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord.—The abrupt burst in which the song rushes, as it were, to its conclusion, is very grand. The total frustration of the hopes of the princesses is all the more forcibly implied by the scorn with which it is left unexpressed. The one word “so” sums up the story in all its striking phases; and this passionate exclamation accounts, in part, for the intensity of feeling which runs through the whole poem, by showing that Deborah regards the battle as part of one great religious crusade. The completeness of the overthrow caused it to be long remembered as an example of Israel’s triumph over God’s enemies (Psalm 83:9-10; Psalm 83:12-15). When the Christian warriors of the first crusade were riding deep in the blood of the murdered Saracens, after the capture of Jerusalem, they were fully convinced that they were “doing God service;” and so filled were they with religious emotion, that at vesper-time they all suddenly fell upon their knees with streaming tears. The general dissemination of a feeling of pity—pity even for our worst enemies—is a very modern feeling, and still far from universal.

But let them that love him.—This is probably the right reading, though it was early altered into “they that love thee.”

As the sun when he goeth forth in his might.—For the metaphor, comp. Psalm 19:4-5; Psalm 68:1-3; Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43.

And the land had rest.—This is not a part of the song, but concludes the whole story (Judges 3:11; Judges 3:30; Judges 8:28). This is the last we hear of any attempt of the Canaanites to re-conquer the land which they had lost, although we see a small and spasmodic outbreak of this race in the story of Abimelech (Judges 9.).



Jdg 5:31

These are the closing words of Deborah, the great warrior-prophetess of Israel. They are in singular contrast with the tone of fierce enthusiasm for battle which throbs through the rest of the chant, and with its stern approval of the deed of Jael when she slew Sisera. Here, in its last notes, we have an anticipation of the highest and best truths of the Gospel. ‘Let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in His might.’ If we think of the singer, of the age and the occasion of the song, such purely spiritual, lofty words must seem very remarkable.

I. Note, then, first of all, how here we have a penetrating insight into the essence of religion.

This woman had been nourished upon a more or less perfect edition of what we know as the ‘Mosaic Law.’ Her faith had been fed by forms. She moved amidst a world full of the cruelties and dark conceptions of a mysterious divine power which torture heathenism apart from Christianity. She had forced her way through all that, and laid hold of the vital centre. And there, a way out amidst cruelty and murder, amidst the unutterable abominations and terrors of heathenism, in the centre of a rigid system of ceremonial and retaliation, the woman’s heart spoke out, and taught her what was the great commandment. Prophetess she was, fighter she was, she could burst into triumphant approval of Jael’s bloody deed; and yet with the same lips could speak this profound word. She had learned that ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind,’ summed up all duty, and was the beginning of all good in man. That precept found an echo in her heart. Whatever part in her religious development may have been played by the externalisms of ceremonial, she had pierced to the core of religion. Advanced modern critics admit the antiquity of Deborah’s song, and this closing stanza witnesses to the existence, at that early period, of a highly spiritual conception of the bond between God and man. Deborah had got as far, in a moment of exaltation and insight, as the teaching of the Apostle John, although her thought was strangely blended with the fierceness of the times in which she lived. Her approval of Jael’s deed by no means warrants our approving it, but we may thankfully see that though she felt the fierce throbbing of desire for vengeance, she also felt this-’Them that love Him; that is the Alpha and the Omega of all.’

Our love must depend on our knowledge. Deborah’s knowledge was a mere skeleton outline as compared with ours. Contrast the fervour of emotional affection that manifestly throbbed in her heart with the poor, cold pulsations which we dignify by the name of love, and the contrast may put us to shame. There is a religion of fear which dominates hundreds of professing Christians in this land of ours. There is a religion of duty, in which there is no delight, which has many adherents amongst us. There is a religion of form, which contents itself with the externals of Christianity, and that is the religion of many men and women in all our churches. And I may further say, there is a religion of faith, in its narrower and imperfect sense, which lays hold of and believes a body of Christian truth, and has never passed through faith into love. Not he who ‘believes that God is,’ and comes to Him with formal service and an alienated or negligent heart; not he who recognises the duty of worship, and discharges it because his conscience pricks him, but has no buoyancy within bearing him upwards towards the object of his love; not he who cowers before the dark shadow which some call God; but he who, knowing, trusts, and who, knowing and trusting ‘the love which God hath to us,’ pulses back the throbs of a recipient heart, and loves Him in return-he, and he only, is a worshipper. Let us learn the lesson that Deborah learnt below the palm-trees of Lapidoth, and if we want to understand what a religious man is, recognise that he is a man who loves God.

II. Further, note the grand conception of the character which such a love produces.

‘Let them be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.’ Think of the fierce Eastern sun, with ‘sunbeams like swords,’ that springs up from the East, and rushes to the zenith, and ‘nothing is hid from the heat thereof’-a sun the like of which we, in our cloudy skies, never see nor feel, but which, to the Oriental, is the very emblem of splendour and of continuous, victorious power. There are two things here, radiance and energy, light and might.

‘As the sun when he goeth forth in his strength.’ Deborah was a ‘prophetess,’ and people say, ‘What did she prophesy?’ Well, she prophesied the heart of religion-as I have tried to show-in reference to its essence, and, as one sees by this phrase, in reference to its effects. What is her word but a partial anticipation of Christ’s saying, ‘Ye are the light of the world’; and of His disciple’s utterance, ‘Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light’?

It is too plain to need any talking about, that the direct tendency of what we venture to call love to God, meaning thereby the turning of the whole nature to Him, in aspiration, admiration, longing for likeness, and practical imitation, is to elevate, ennoble, and illuminate the whole character. It was said about one woman that ‘to love her was an education.’ That was exaggeration; but it is below the truth about God. The true way to refine and elevate and educate is to cultivate love to God. And when we get near to Him, and hold by Him, and are continually occupied with Him; when our being is one continual aspiration after union with Him, and we experience the glow and rapture included in the simple word ‘love,’ then it cannot but be that we shall be like Him.

That is what Paul meant when he said, ‘Now are ye light in the Lord.’ Union with Him illuminates. The true radiance of saintly character will come in the measure in which we are in fellowship with Jesus Christ. Deborah’s astronomy was not her strong point. The sun shines by its own light. We are planets, and are darkness in ourselves, and it is only the reflection of the central sun that ever makes us look silvery white and radiant before men. But though it be derived, it is none the less our light, if it has passed into us, as it surely will, and if it streams out from us, as it no less surely will, in the measure in which love to God dominates our whole lives.

If that is so, dear brethren, is not the shortest and the surest way to have our faces shining like that of Moses when he came down from the mountain, or like Stephen’s when he ‘saw the heavens opened,’ to keep near Jesus Christ? It is slow work to hammer bits of ore out of the rock with a chisel and a mallet. Throw the whole mass into the furnace, and the metal will come out separated from the dross. Get up the heat, and the light, which is the consequence of the heat, will take care of itself. ‘In the Lord’ ye shall be ‘light.’

Is Deborah’s aspiration fulfilled about me? Let each of us ask that. ‘As the sun when he goeth forth in his strength’-would anybody say that about my Christian character? Why not? Only because the springs have run low within is the stream low through the meadows. Only because the love is cold is the light feeble.

There is another thought here. There is power in sunlight as well as radiance. On that truth the prophetess especially lays a finger; ‘as the sun when he goeth forth in his strength.’ She did not know what we know, that solar energy is the source of all energy on this earth, and that, just as in the deepest spiritual analysis ‘there is no power but of God,’ so in the material region we may say that the only force is the force of the sun, which not only stimulates vegetation and brings light and warmth-as the pre-scientific prophetess knew-but in a hundred other ways, unknown to her and known to modern science, is the author of all change, the parent of all life, and the reservoir of all energy.

So we come to this thought: The true love of God is no weak, sentimental thing, such as narrow and sectional piety has often represented it to be, but it is a power which will invigorate the whole of a man, and make him strong and manly as well as gentle and gracious; being, indeed, the parent of all the so-called heroic and of all the so-called saintly virtues.

The sun ‘goeth forth in his strength,’ rushing through the heavens to the zenith. As one of the other editions of this metaphor in the Old Testament has it, ‘The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more until the noontide of the day.’ That light, indeed, declines, but that fact does not come into view in the metaphor of the progressive growth towards perfection of the man in whom is the all-conquering might of the true love of Jesus Christ.

Note the context of these words of our text, which, I said, presents so singular a contrast to them. It is a strange thing that so fierce a battle-chant should at the end settle down into such a sweet swan-song as this. It is a strange thing that in the same soul there should throb the delight in battle and almost the delight in murder, and these lofty thoughts. But let us learn the lesson that true love to God means hearty hatred of God’s enemy, and that it will always have to be militant and sometimes stern and what people call fierce. Amidst the amenities and sentimentalities of modern life there is much necessity for remembering that the Apostle of love was a ‘son of thunder,’ and that it was the lips which summoned Israel to the fight, and chanted hymns of triumph over the corpses borne down by the rushing Kishon, which also said: ‘Let them that love Him be as the sun when he shineth forth in his strength.’ If you love God, you will surely be a strong man as well as an emotional and affectionate Christian.

That energy is to be continuous and progressive. The sun that Deborah saw day by day spring from his station in the east, and climb to his height in the heavens, and ray down his beams, has been doing that for millions of years, and it will probably keep doing it for uncounted periods still. And so the Christian man, with continuity unbroken and progressive brilliance and power, should shine ‘more and more till the unsetting noontide of the day.’

III. That brings me to the last thought, which passes beyond the limits of the prophetess’ vision. Here is a prophecy of which the utterer was unaware.

There is a contrast drawn in the words of our text and in those immediately preceding. “So,” says Deborah, after the fierce description of the slaughter of Sisera-’So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord! but let them that love Thee be as the sun when he shineth in his strength.’ She contrasts the transiency of the lives that pit themselves against God with the perpetuity that belongs to those which are in harmony with Him. The truth goes further than she probably knew; certainly further than she was thinking when she chanted these words. Let us widen them by other words which use the same metaphor, and say, ‘they that be wise’-that is a shallower word than ‘them that love Thee’-’they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’ Let us widen and deepen them by sacreder words still; for Jesus Christ laid hold of this old metaphor, and said, describing the time when all the enemies shall have perished, and the weeds have been flung out of the vineyard, ‘Then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father,’ with a brilliancy that will fill heaven with new splendours, bright beyond all that we see here amidst the thick atmosphere and mists and clouds of the present life!

Nor need we stop even there, for Jesus Christ not only laid hold of this metaphor in order to describe the eternal glory of the children of the Kingdom, but at the last time that human eyes on earth saw Him, the glorified Man Christ Jesus is thus described: ‘His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.’ Love always tends to likeness; and love to Christ will bring conformity with Him. The perfect love of heaven will issue in perfect and perpetual assimilation to Him. Science tells us that the light of the sun probably comes from its contraction; and that that process of contraction will go on until, at some point within the bounds of time, though far beyond the measure of our calculations, the sun himself shall die, the ineffectual beams will be paled, and there will be a black orb, with neither life nor light nor power. And then, then, and after that for ever, ‘they that love Him’ shall continue to be as that dead sun once was, when he went forth in his hot might.

Jdg 5:31. So let thine enemies perish, O Lord — That is, so suddenly, so surely, so effectually and irrecoverably; an elegant apostrophe of the prophetess this, in turning and addressing her speech to God; that as her speech began with him, so it might likewise conclude with him. And with what gracefulness, and, at the same time, with what grandeur and sublimity does she change the subject! How was it possible for her to conclude her song in a finer manner than by this sudden, but, at the same time, earnest wish that all the enemies of Jehovah might perish as Sisera had done. And that all that love him might, like the rising sun, proceed from strength to strength, till they should arrive at the highest pitch of glory. Deborah was a prophetess, and this prayer may be considered as a two-fold prediction, importing both that, in due time, all God’s enemies shall perish; and that those who love him in sincerity, and persevere in so doing, shall shine for ever as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

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.A most striking conclusion, in which the spiritual truth, which the whole narrative is intended to convey, comes out. The enemies of the Lord will perish like the host of Sisera, and all their hopes will end, like those of Sisera's mother, in bitter disappointment and shame; but all that love our Lord Jesus Christ shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Compare Matthew 13:43; Daniel 12:3. 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. So, i.e. so suddenly, so surely, so effectually and irrecoverably.

When he goeth forth in his might; when he first riseth, and so goeth on in his course, which he doth with great might, even as a strong man that runneth a race, Psalm 19:5, and so as no creature can stop or hinder him; even so irresistible let the people be.

Forty years; how to be computed, See Poole "Judges 3:11".

So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord!.... As Sisera and his army did, and be disappointed as his mother and her ladies were; which is not only a wish or prayer that it might be, but a prophecy that so it would be:

but let them that love him; that love the Lord superlatively and sincerely, with all their heart and soul, and from love serve and fear him:

be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might; in the middle of the day, when its heat and light are the greatest, and in the summer solstice, in the month of June, when the sun is in Cancer, as Ben Gersom and Abarbinel observe, and it is hottest: the sense is, let the true friends of God be as bright and as glorious, and increase in light, lustre, and splendour, as that glorious luminary in midday, and be no more liable to be resisted and stopped by their enemies, and as much out of the reach of them as that is:

and the land had rest forty years; these are not the words of Deborah, whose song ends with the last clause, but of the writer of this book; which years, according to most, are to be reckoned from the death of Ehud, including the twenty years' bondage under Jabin, as Ben Gersom and Abarbinel; so that strictly speaking the rest was but twenty years; one would think they should be reckoned from the victory obtained over Jabin king of Canaan.

So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the {x} sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.

(x) Shall grow daily more and more in God's favour.

31. Conclusion.

So let all thine enemies perish] With the same completeness, with the same overthrow of proud confidence. The language recalls Psalm 68:2-3; Psalm 92:9. It is taken for granted that Israel’s enemies are Jehovah’s also. Jehovah’s friends are compared to the rising of the sun, an impressive figure which fitly closes the Ode. It is remarkable to find such an expression as them that love him at this early date. This idea is strongly characteristic of Deut., and of Dtc. passages in the Hexateuch, e.g. Exodus 20:6 = Deuteronomy 5:10; cf. the late Psalm 31:23; Psalm 97:10; Psalm 145:20.

And the land had rest] A chronological note added by the Rd; see on Jdg 3:11.

Verse 31. - A fine application of the whole subject! Each such victory was a foretaste of the final victory over sin and death, and of the glory of the redeemed Church.

Judges 5:3131a So shall all Thine enemies perish, O Jehovah!

But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its strength.

This forms the conclusion of the song. כּן, so, refers to the whole of the song: just in the same manner as Sisera and his warriors. The rising of the sun in its strength is a striking image of the exaltation of Israel to a more and more glorious unfolding of its destiny, which Deborah anticipated as the result of this victory. With the last clause, "And the land had rest forty years" (cf. Judges 3:11, Judges 3:30; Judges 8:28), the account of this event is brought to a close.

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