Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
Verse 1. - Then sang Deborah, etc. The ode which follows was doubtless the composition of Deborah the prophetess, and was sung by her (as the gender of the Hebrew verb indicates), assisted by Barak, who perhaps sang the antistrophe (cf. Exodus 15:1, 21). It is a song of wonderful beauty and lyric power, somewhat difficult, as all Hebrew poetry is.
Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.
Verse 2. - Her first feeling was one of patriotic joy that her countrymen had been roused to the venture of war, and of gratitude to God that it was so. "For the bold leading of the leaders of Israel, for the willing following of the people, praise ye the Lord.
Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.
Verse 3. - Her song was worthy to be listened to by kings and princes. She calls their attention to the tale she had to tell of the great acts of the Lord.
LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.
Verses 4, 5. - The recent victory recalled the glories of those days when God brought up Israel from Egypt into Canaan. She specifies the march from Seir or Her, and the day when Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.
In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.
Verse 6. - From what misery God had saved the people! In the days of her predecessor Shamgar, when the Philistines overran the country, when Heber the Kenite still dwelt in the south of Judah, all traffic ceased in the land. The caravans were stopped, and travellers slunk into the by-ways.
The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.
Verse 7. - Instead of The inhabitants of the villages ceased, some render the leaders ceased. Till Deborah arose and stirred up Barak, there was no one to put himself at the head of the people.
They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?
Verse 8. - The cause of this misery was not far to seek; it was the idolatry of the people which provoked God to anger. Then their enemies were let loose upon them, and they dared make no resistance.
My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.
Verse 9. - What a contrast with that fainthearted submission was the recent triumphant rising! Exultation and thanksgiving for the devotion of the people break out again, as in ver. 2.
Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.
Verse 10. - She appeals to the nobles who ride on white (or roan) asses, and sit on rich saddle-cloths (not sit in judgment), and to the people who walk by the way, alike to speak of the great deliverance.
They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.
Verse 11. - A very difficult verse, and very variously rendered. For archers some give the interpretation dividers, i.e. MEN SHARING THE BOOTY THEY HAVE TAKEN; or, SINGING IN ALTERNATE VERSES. For They that are delivered from, some render far away from. Others again take the preposition from in the not uncommon sense of more than, meaning here louder than. The chief different senses which emerge are -
(1) that of the A.V.: "Those that can now draw water from the wells without being molested by the hostile archers shall sing praises to God in the very spots where they were wont to be attacked."
(2) "Far from the noise and tumult of those that divide the spoil among the water-troughs, there shall they sing, - etc.
(3) "With a louder voice than that of the shepherds who sing among the water-troughs (while they are watering their flocks), there shall they rehearse," etc. Or,
(4) combining (2) and (3), "With a voice louder (and more exultant) than that of those who divide the spoil, there shall they rehearse," etc. The inhabitants of his villages. Render his leaders, as in ver. 7. Then shall the people... go down to the gates of the cities for judgment, or to the bazaars, as in old times, without fear of their enemies.
Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.
Verse 12. - Awake, etc. She seems to go back in thought to the moment when she received the Divine call to her mission of deliverance, and executed it by the voice of her stirring prophecies. Then she lashed her soul into action, and roused Barak from his lethargy by the promise of spoil and victory.
Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.
Verse 13. - Then he gave dominion to a mere remnant of Israel over the powerful among the people of Canaan, the Lord gave me dominion over the mighty men of Jabin.
Out of Ephraim 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.
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.
And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.
Verse 15. - He was sent on foot into the valley. It was a mark of extraordinary valour that he rushed down from Mount Tabor on foot against the 900 iron chariots in the plain (Judges 4:14). For the divisions, etc. Or, among the water-brooks, i.e. the Reubenites, dwelling amidst their flocks among the water-brooks, were much perplexed with doubts whether they should stay still or join their countrymen.
Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.
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.
Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.
Verse 19. - The kings came and fought (cf. Joshua 11:1, 2, 5). They took no gain of money. These words may mean,
(1) they did not stop to plunder, they were intent only upon slaughter; or,
(2) they took no ransom for their enemies' lives; or,
(3) they got nothing by their fighting, for they were all killed themselves.
They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
Verse 20. - According to Josephus, a great storm in the face of the Canaanites led to their utter discomfiture, and also swelled the Kishon to overflow its banks.
The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.
Verse 21. - Ancient. The word so rendered is only found here. The brook of ancient days, or things, probably means the brook celebrated from of old by the warlike deeds done on its banks.
Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.
Verse 22. - Their mighty ones. Applied to bulls, Psalm 22:12, etc.; and to horses (A.V., his strong ones), Jeremiah 8:16; his strong horses, Jeremiah 47:3.
Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.
Verse 23. - Meroz, in the time of Jerome Meres, a village otherwise unknown, twelve miles from Samaria. The mighty. Not the same word as that so rendered in ver. 22, but that usually rendered a mighty man, or a man of war.
Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
Verse 24. - Blessed above women, etc. With the selfish indifference of the men of Meroz she contrasts the valorous enthusiasm of Jael the Kenite, and blesses her for it as emphatically as she curses the inhabitants of Meroz.
He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.
Verse 25. - A lordly dish. A dish fit for princes; perhaps one reserved for the most illustrious guests.
She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
Verse 26. - With the hammer. These words are not in the Hebrew, and should be omitted. She smote (not smote off), yea, she wounded (Psalm 68:21); she pierced through his temples.
At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
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?
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.
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.
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.