Judges 5:6, 7
In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways.…
The mighty deed of Shamgar did not avail to reduce the interior of Israel to a state of order and security. Whoever Jael (the Helper) may have been, whether Ehud, Shamgar, or some other hero, even he was unable to restore confidence to the dwellers in the country, or to render communication between the towns and villages easy and secure; The description here reminds one of Germany in the tenth century, or Sicily and Greece in our own times. A strong hand and a central government are required in order to inspire confidence and to render the conditions of life uniform and reliable. A country may be great in military strength, and yet, socially and politically, at a standstill because of the absence of due internal administration, of public institutions, and zeal for the public welfare. We have here -
I. A VIVID PICTURE OF NATIONAL DECAY.
1. The means of inter-communication were rendered useless. "The highways were deserted." Main thoroughfares have ever been requisite for the proper inter-communication of the different parts and towns in a country. They are therefore one of the first means employed for opening up internal resources and developing commerce and civilisation. All really great governments have distinguished themselves in road-making; as, for instance, the Incas of Peru, the Chinese, and the Romans. It was the boast of the Roman writer that the circuit of the empire could be made through Europe, Asia, and Africa, without risk to life or property, by a private traveller. The sight of deserted highways suggests the collapse of commerce and social intercourse. It is more striking than the complete absence of roads would be. And highways that continued in disuse would soon got out of repair and be rendered impassable. In the present day a similar state of things prevails over a large part of Palestine and Asia Minor. Travellers make their journeys by night, and avoid the villages and public roads. The wandering Arab brings the desert with him wherever he goes.
2. The country districts depopulated. This would rapidly reduce the country to barrenness, and render the support of the nation more precarious. A mere tithe of the population could then be supported, and the nation would be kept in a state of weakness.
II. THE SECRET OF NATIONAL REGENERATION. Deborah was a mother in Israel. The military hero played his part, but failed of highest success. It was for her, by wise and statesmanlike measures, internal administrations and a strong central government, to bring to the people's doors the fruits of military success. She fostered a national spirit, encouraged a respect for law, and rendered it as safe to dwell in the country as within the walled city. The continuous policy of Deborah achieved the reconstitution of the land and its freedom from internal lawlessness. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.