Judges 5:20

This verse is variously interpreted as an astrological allusion - as descriptive of a thunder-storm, accompanied by wind, hail, and floods, producing confusion (Josephus); or as suggestive of the delay which lost Sisera the opportunity. The explanation of Berthau, referring it to the Divine intervention, appears more reasonable and spiritually sufficient. All through the mind of the prophetess dwells upon God as the Helper and Avenger. But there is room for an intermediate idea. The stars are symbols of an unvarying law and universal destiny. Generalise upon the great contest between right and wrong. The combatants are not only men; the whole universe is involved. Angels join in the fray. God himself is against the sinner. The latter must be vanquished.

I. THE ULTIMATE CHARACTER OF THE CONTEST OF THE WICKED WITH THE RIGHTEOUS. An accidental circumstance may excuse it; a temporary character may be assumed by it. We may not divine the whole scope and drift of the quarrel. Truth may not be wholly on one side or the other. Sometimes a prophetic insight assures us that we are with God, or against him. Ultimately the question is one of right and wrong.

II. THE COMBATANTS INVOLVED. Not human opponents merely; the question too large for this. The laws of the universe; the angels of God; destiny; God himself - visibly contending in the person of his Son, invisibly in the councils of eternity.


Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive.
I. First, then, A STIRRING UP, OF ALL OUR POWERS TO PRAISE GOD, according to the words of the holy woman in the text, "Awake, awake" — repeated yet again — "Awake, awake."

1. What is there that we need to awaken if we would praise God? I reply, we ought to arouse all the bodily powers. Our flesh is sluggish; we have been busy with the world, our limbs have grown fatigued, but there is power in Divine joy to arouse even the body itself, to make the heavy eyelids light, to reanimate the drowsy eye, and quicken the weary brain. We should call upon our bodies to awake, especially our tongue, "the glory of our frame." Let it put itself in tune like David's harp of old. Surely we should call on all our mental powers to awake. Wake up, my memory, and find matter for the song. Tell what God has done for me in days gone by. Awake, my judgment, and give measure to the music. Come forth, my understanding, and weigh His loving-kindness in scales, and His goodness in the balances. See if thou canst count the small dust of His mercies. See if thou canst understand the riches unsearchable which He hath given to thee in that unspeakable gift of Christ Jesus my Lord. Awake, my imagination, and dance to the holy melody. Gather pictures from all worlds. Bid sun and moon stay in their courses, and join in thy new song. But especially let us cry to all the graces of our spirit — "Awake." Wake up, my love, for thou must strike the keynote and lead the strain. Wake up, my hope, and join hands with thy sister — love; and sing of blessings yet to come. Sing of my dying hour, when He shall be with me on my couch. Sing of the rising morning, when my body shall leap from its tomb into her Saviour's arms! Sing of the expected advent, for which thou lookest with delight! And oh, my soul, sing of that heaven which He has gone before to prepare for thee. And thou, my faith, awake also. Sing of the promise sure and certain. Then let us wake up the energy of all those powers — the energy of the body, the energy of the mind, the energy of the spirit. You know what it is to do thing coldly, weakly. As well might we not praise at all. You know also what it is to praise God passionately — to throw energy into all the song, and so to exult in His name. So do ye, each one of you, this day.

2. But you say unto me: "Why and wherefore should we this day awake and sing unto our God?" There be many reasons; and if your hearts be right, one may well satisfy. Come, ye children of God, and bless His dear name; for doth not all nature around you sing? If you were silent, you would be an exception to the universe. But, believer, shall not thy God be praised? I ask thee. Shall not thy God be praised? When men behold a hero, they fall at his feet and worship him. Garibaldi emancipates a nation, and lo, they bow before him and do him homage. And Thou, Jesus, the Redeemer of the multitudes of Thine elect, shalt Thou have no song? Shalt Thou have no triumphal entry into our hearts? Shall Thy name have no glory? Thou sayest, believer, "Why should I praise Him?" Let me ask thee a question too. Is it not heaven's employment to praise Him? And what can make earth more like heaven than to bring down from heaven the employment of glory, and to be occupied with it here! Besides, Christian, dost thou not know that it is a good thing for thee to praise thy God? Mourning weakens thee, doubts destroy thy strength; thy groping among the ashes makes thee of the earth, earthy. Arise, for praise is pleasant and profitable to thee. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." But I ask you one other question, believer. Thou sayest, "Why should I awake this morning to sing unto my God?" I reply to thee, "Hast thou not a cause? Hath He not done great things for thee, and art thou not glad thereof?"

3. "But," saith one, "when shall I do this? When shall I praise my God?" I answer, "Praise ye the Lord, all His people, at all times, and give thanks at every remembrance of Him."

4. Yet once more, you reply to me, "But how can I praise my God?" I will be teacher of music to thee, and may the Comforter be with me. Wilt thou think this morning how great are thy mercies. Thou art not blind, nor deaf, nor dumb; thou art not a lunatic; thou art not decrepit; thou art not vexed with piercing pains; thou art not going down to the grave; thou art not in torments, not in hell. And is not this a theme for praise? Oh, must not you praise him, ye chief of sinners, whose natures have been changed, whose hearts have been renewed!

II. "ARISE, BARAK, AND LEAD THY CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, THOU SON OF ABINOAM." You understand the exact picture here. Barak had routed Sisera, Jabin's captain, and all his hosts. She now exhorts Barak to celebrate his triumph. This is a picture which is often used in Scripture. Christ is said to have led captivity captive when He ascended on high. He led principalities and powers captive at His chariot-wheels. But here is a picture for us — not concerning Christ, but concerning ourselves. We are exhorted to-day to lead captivity captive. Come up, come up, ye grim hosts of sins once my terror and dismay. Come up, ye sins, come up, for ye are prisoners now; ye are bound in fetters of iron, nay, more than this, ye are utterly slain, consumed, destroyed; you have been covered with Jesus' blood; ye have been blotted out by His mercy. Arise, celebrate your triumph, oh ye people of God! Arise, my trials; ye have been very great and very numerous; ye came against me as a great host, and ye were tall and strong like the sons of Anak. Oh, my soul, thou hast trodden down strength; by the help of our God have we leaped over a wall; by His power have we broken through the troops of our troubles, our difficulties, and our fears! Arise, and let us lead captive all our temptations. You have been foully tempted to the vilest sins. Satan has shot a thousand darts at you, and hurled his javelin multitudes of times; bring out the darts and snap them before his eyes, for he has never been able to reach your heart. Come, break the bow and cut the spear in sunder; burn the chariot in the fire.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. It was His cause; for —

(1)It had the sanction of His express command.

(2)God's hand was in it.

2. We have in view, under the blessing of God, the evangelisation of all mankind; and this is unquestionably the cause of God.(1) For God has commanded that the evangelisation of the world should be attempted by His people.(2) For God's honour is greatly involved in the success of it. Idolatry, in all its various forms, is a direct attack on God's supremacy and sovereignty.(3) In this cause we have the promise of God's presence and blessing.

II. IN CARRYING ON THIS GREAT WORK GOD HAS BEEN PLEASED TO DEMAND AND TO BLESS HUMAN EFFORTS. In the case before us the power of God was supernaturally exerted. The stars in their courses, the swelling of the river, the thunder and the tempest, were all effects of supernatural interposition. But, even in that age of miracles, these supernatural means were not intended to supersede those means which were ordinary. Deborah and Barak exerted themselves to the utmost; and, with many others, were required to come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the God of miracles. And similar is the case as to the conversion of the world to Christianity. God "gave some, apostles; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." It was by the instrumentality of holy, enlightened, zealous missionaries that our own country first received the glad tidings of salvation; it was through their agency that our rude ancestors were induced to change Thor and Woden, and all their bloody rites and awful abominations, for the simple and holy truths of the gospel. And the work we have to do must be done by the same agency. Ambassadors must be sent to the heathen, and they must declare God's message, trusting in His power and help. This is the established order of God, that they who love His cause should help it by their various instrumentality.


1. Some are hearty in the cause of God.

2. Others cherish a spirit of indolence and carelessness.

IV. GOD TAKES ESPECIAL NOTICE OF THE CONDUCT OF HIS PEOPLE IN REFERENCE TO THE DEMAND MADE UPON THEM FOR THIS CAUSE; AND HE MAKES AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION IN HIS CONDUCT TOWARDS THOSE WHO COME FORWARD, OR REFUSE TO COME FORWARD, IN HIS CAUSE. Those who refused to come forward are recorded as infamous, and are covered with everlasting disgrace; those who came forward are mentioned with distinguished honour, and were no doubt blessed ever afterwards. For God will be no man's debtor; He may make us wait for payment, but, such is His condescension and grace, He will be in no man's debt. Come up to the help of the Lord, and you shall have the approbation of Almighty God. Come up to the help of the Lord, and you will gain the esteem and good wishes of your fellow-Christians and ministers, who, when they see their humble efforts are not unfruitful, but that you are becoming complete in every good word and work, will gladly spend and be spent in your service. Come up to the help of the Lord against His enemies, and you shall have the increasing influence of God to render beneficial all the means you enjoy. Come up to the help of the Lord, and your happiness shall increase, your consolations shall abound — you shall be blessed in the Lord. Come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty, and you shall have the satisfaction of knowing that your labour is not in vain. For the Word of the Lord shall not return unto Him void. You shall reap in due season, if you faint not.

(J. Bunting, M. A.)

On account of their unfaithfulness the children of Israel were oppressed by Jabin for twenty years; then the oppressed people cried unto God, and Deborah and Barak were called to lead them to freedom. In this great song Deborah brings out the characteristics of the several tribes at the national crisis. She sets forth how some of them promptly entered upon the struggle for liberty; how others were miserably indifferent and unpatriotic; and in the text a vivid stroke or two shows that whilst Reuben was deeply interested and agitated by what was transpiring, he refrained from taking any part in the actual fight. "By the watercourses of Reuben there were great searchings of heart," and that was all. "Great were the debates," "great were the resolves"; but they never proceeded to action.

I. The text is a rebuke to the THEORIST. The Reubenites were the thinkers of their age. They were not indifferent to public questions; they recognised the problems of their day, and mentally wrestled with them; but they drew the line at action. All action seemed so unsatisfactory that they could not persuade themselves to reduce their splendid patriotic theories to experiment. So to-day there is a tribe of idealists. They are full of thought, rich in ideas, masterly in systems; but they find it impossible to pass from reflection to effort. Thought is large, action is insignificant; thought is swift, action is tardy; thought is triumphant, action is full of interruption, shortcoming, and failure; and so the theorist abides in his arm-chair watching pictures in the fire. To follow the facts and movements of the world as a supreme game of chess delights the philosophic mind, but to interest ourselves in any commonplace practical endeavour to aid the needy is voted a belittling vulgarism. Amiel says, "Reverie is the Sunday of the mind"; and the whole life of some men is a Sunday, they know no working-days. They deplore personal defects, yet they do not bravely take themselves to task and struggle into a better life; they ponder social evils, but nothing comes of the intellectual agitation; they have their ideas and aspirations concerning the heathen world, yet they take no part in missionary enterprise. Their whole life is spent in observation, reasoning, and soliloquy. This will not do. Deborah scorns the idle theorists, and their position is always ignoble. We account men meritorious as they master the difficult conditions of human life; society has no prizes for mere dreamers. He who gives a cup of cold water to a thirsty soul is infinitely better than the idealist whose sparkling fountains and flowing rivers are mere mirages of the brain. We must have thought, theory, programme; we must have the dreamer, the philosopher, the debater, only the pondering of the mind must be succeeded by the labour of the hands. When Cavour died, Elizabeth B. Browning wrote: "That noble soul who meditated and made Italy has gone to the diviner country." "Meditated and made." It is all there. We must meditate and make. Not that we can by any means realise all our dream, but we must strive thereunto. Some hit of reality must testify to the genuineness of our great thought and purpose.

II. The text is a rebuke to the CRITICAL. The Reubenites were the critics of the age. "Great were the debates." They read the minutes of the last meeting; they submitted a resolution as to what might be done; then they ably discussed the whole situation; the ornaments of debate shone out; an amendment was proposed that nothing be done, the vote was taken, the amendment was declared to be carried by a large majority, and the assembly retired to lunch. And one can easily imagine the course of the debate. Some would object to a movement led by a woman; others would question the qualifications of Barak; many would think that it was not the psychological moment; and those with a flavour of military genius would doubt the plan of campaign. The critical tribe is with us still. We have a host of people who are interested in the great struggle of light and darkness, but whose interest ends with information, discussion, and opinion. We have such critics outside the Church. They are prepared, at five minutes' notice, to discuss any religious, moral, social, or political question; yet they make no practical effort whatever to grapple with the evils they dissect. Especially do these critics love to scourge the Church. How well they can describe the evil! How clearly they can see what ought to be done! How rough they are upon the blunders of philanthropists and evangelists! But all ends there; they spend no time, or gold, or blood in any form of practical amelioration. How false is the position of the critic, and how ignoble the whole spirit of barren criticism! How contemptible the carpet knight lecturing the scarred heroes of the battlefield! How ridiculous the musical amateur exposing the faults of Handel and Mozart! How despicable the scribbler of a day making merry over the shortcoming of literary masterpieces! "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds?" is the derisive question of Deborah. The Reubenites thought themselves superior persons, but the singer suggests a cutting contrary. A love of ease partly explained their conduct. They liked the shepherd's lute better than the war-trumpet with its toils and sufferings. The love of gain also explained the absence of the Reubenites from battle. And they were cowards. There was not a spear in Israel, and Jabin had thousands of chariots of iron. Deborah pours scorn on the windy orators. The day is coming, too, when God will pour scorn upon the phrase-makers. He will laugh at the laughers, criticise the critics, scorn the scorners. Let us act. "God's words are things," says Luther; and unless we strive to make our words things they become falsities, vanities, mockeries. One of the great heroes of to-day is the hero of the paper-knife, the critic who flourishes his wooden weapon as if it were some famous blade of victory. The poorest plough that will scratch the ground, the most ramshackle basket that will carry a little seed, the rustiest hook that will serve for a sickle, is better than the paper-knife. A drop of blood is more than a vat of ink or a world of talk. The poorest methods of service, the homeliest instruments of practical endeavour, count for far more in the sight of God than a magazine of polished and attenuated shafts which neither smite nor bite. Let us not waste life in opinion, discussion, or criticism, but deny ourselves in daily efforts seeking some real good. Our Master did not redeem us by words, but by tears and blood; and the best thing for us is with fewest words to take up our cross and follow Him.

III. The text is a rebuke to the SENTIMENTALIST. There were "great searchings of heart." The Reubenites were men of fine feeling, of intense emotion; only the emotion evaporated when the resolution was duly entered upon the minutes. A large circle of these sentimentalists survive. They pride themselves on the depth and tenderness of their feeling, yet their feeling never compels action and sacrifice. They feel for the poor, the ignorant, the suffering, the fallen, and most for themselves. In prayers, sermons, hymns, and sacraments the fountains of the deep are broken up without leaving any fertilising stream. It is really a fearful thing that sentiment should be so constantly wasted that the very word itself comes at last to be regarded as expressing something unreal. Sympathy is the richest element in the human heart, and it is an awful loss to society that so much of it should be vainly lavished on unsubstantial scenes and images, on airy nothings. We talk of the loss of force in Niagara, but there is a far more terrible loss of precious energy in the unavailing stream of feeling which passes away in imaginative moods. If we could harness the Niagara of human sympathy, and set it to work in educating the ignorant, in helping the helpless, in nursing the sick, in reclaiming the fallen, what gracious revolutions would be worked in a day! Feeling is worth nothing if it bear no tangible fruit. Our Master wept, but He also bled.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds?
There is a touch of scorn, as well as of reproach, in the question of the prophetess. And the question is one which, in the spirit of it, may be addressed to thousands to-day. There is a great battle now going on in the world — the battle between truth and error, right and wrong, love and misery. The conflict involves self-denial; and we have simply no right to "abide in the sheepfolds."

I. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO SACRIFICE DUTY TO COMFORT. We are all tempted thus to prefer our own ease to the doing of our duty. There are multitudes, indeed, who will sacrifice comfort for the sake of some selfish end: their love of money, or of fame, or of pleasure, will lead them to take upon themselves a large amount of toil and trouble. But when it is a question of simple duty there are many who will shirk such duties rather than sacrifice their own personal ease. They would like to do good in the world; but it is too much trouble! Many a man shirks the duties of citizenship on the plea that he has no ambition to distinguish himself in public life. He finds his fireside very comfortable; the bosom of his family is his "sheepfold." Others shirk their duty to the Church and the cause of Christ simply through their love of selfish ease; they will not take the trouble to "do good as they have opportunity."

II. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO SACRIFICE DUTY TO PEACE. It is right that you should shrink from the din of controversy and strife, and that you should prefer to live in concord with your neighbours; but it is wrong that, on this account, you should withhold your testimony and your influence from the cause of truth and justice.

III. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO SACRIFICE DUTY TO GAIN. When Christ calls you into the conflict against the world's evil, when He calls you to protest by your own example against all dishonesty and falsehood, then you must be prepared to sacrifice some of the profits which fall to the lot of less scrupulous men, and you must be content, if necessary, with a smaller sheepfold.

(T. C. Finlayson.)

The divisions of Reuben
Could such a thing as actual neutrality have been possible under the circumstances, the men of Reuben would have represented such an attitude. But under the circumstances it was impossible. No member of the favoured race could be actually neutral when his brethren were struggling for liberty and life. Not to assist was to oppose. To look on coldly was to help the foe. They saw their brethren gathering on the opposite bank. They heard the sound of the trumpet and the noise of war. Would they not arise and join them? Could they be indifferent when the very existence of their nation was at stake? But against this higher impulse had to be set considerations of worldly profit and loss. "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks?" It was this fatal sound that decided them. It was with them as it so often is with us — the nearer the temptation, the more powerful it becomes. Had they marshalled themselves for war, and left their homes, the bleatings of the sheepfold would never have reached their ears, and the higher impulse would have prevailed; but as they lingered vacillating by the sheepfolds, the nearer attractions of home and prosperity proved too strong. The great opportunity passed away, leaving an indelible stain on the history of the tribe. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Were they happy? A double-minded man is never happy. Unstable in all his ways, he can neither enjoy the world nor God. They might escape danger, but they could not escape the "great searchings of heart." Their conscience smote them, even while their worldly prosperity continued. They lost the power to enjoy what they had sacrificed their character to retain. Ah, how many Reubens have we still in the Church of Christ! — men who make fair promises under the influence of a momentary excitement or a higher emotion, but whose hearts are not fully surrendered to God. They grasp after the good things of the world, and love them. They seek the good opinion of their fellow-men, and love it. If a Christianity can be discovered which shall cost them nothing, which shall not even lower them in the estimation in which men of the world hold them, such a Christianity they are ready to accept; but the Christianity of the manger and of the Cross, of Gethsemane and Calvary, they shirk from with ill-concealed aversion.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

How strong it makes a family when all the sisters and brothers stand together, and what an awful wreck when they disintegrate, quarrelling about a father's will and making the surrogate's office horrible with their wrangle! If you only knew it, your interests are identical. Of all the families of the earth that ever stood together, perhaps the most conspicuous is the family of the Rothschilds. As Meyer Anselm Rothschild was about to die in 1812 he gathered his children about him, Anselm, Nathan, Charles, and James, and made them promise that they would always be united on "'Change." Obeying that injunction, they have been the mightiest commercial power on earth, and at the raising or lowering of their sceptre nations have risen or fallen. That illustrates how much on a large scale, and for selfish purposes, a united family may achieve. But suppose that, instead of a magnitude of dollars as the object, it be doing good and making salutary impression and raising this sunken world, how much more ennobling! Sister, you do your part, and brother will do his part.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Why did Dan remain in ships?
? — I dare say Dan could have given what might have seemed to himself a very sensible answer. Surely it would never have done for Dan to lose his commerce. Surely it was most important that he should retain his mercantile position. To leave his ships and go to fight the Lord's battle in the field would have been to turn his back upon his most obvious interests. He had no men to spare; no time to spare; no money to spare. Far too busy were the Danites to think of their brethren in the field. It mattered not that national liberty and religion might be lost so long as Dan retained his ships. Go to the streets of one of our great towns, and you will see the same thing re-enacted. Men running to and fro as though life were at stake in every effort, toiling at their business all day long, and when night comes too wearied to think of spiritual things. They have too much to do — are far too busy to think of the business of life!... Why! does he not know that his ships are doomed sooner or later to fearful shipwreck? Dost thou not know, O lover of the world, that the day must come when thou and thy darling idols will have to part? What profit on thy dying bed to remember that thou hast laboured here for that which thou canst not carry with thee? Thou hast enlarged thy barns, increased thy merchandise, raised thy family in the world, and left thy children in prosperity; and now the sentence falls upon thy trembling soul, "Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward." Poor consolation under the sentence of doom to remember that thy coffers are full while thy soul was starved.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Early in this century a minister in England, who has since spent many years in the foreign missionary field, was requested to preach, at a meeting of some of his brethren, on the too prevalent disposition among professing Christians to inactivity in religion. Somewhat to their surprise, he read as his text, "Why did Dan remain in ships?" After explaining the text in its connection, and that the Danites resembled many Christians at present, he showed their inactivity to be —

1. Unreasonable. They knew the state of the country, its dangers, and the assurance of victory; — how unreasonable that a whole tribe should under such circumstances remain inactive.

2. It was injurious. By their inactivity the hands of their brethren were weakened, an opportunity was given to the enemy to triumph, and personal injury was sustained.

3. It was sinful. The command of God was disregarded; they availed not themselves of opportunities to be useful, and forbore to destroy their enemies.

That jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field
The late Wilmot Brooke, the pioneer missionary to the Soudan, who died on March 19th, anticipated his swiftly-approaching end. At the Church Missionary House just before starting on his last expedition in May, 1891, he remarked: "I have five times had African fever of the most deadly kind. No one is ever known to have recovered seven times from this fever. You must expect that some of us will fall; I shall not be surprised if my call comes in six months. Still I am determined to go. Friends tell me what madness it is to run such risks. But when men were called to storm Delhi and Lucknow, they cheerfully came forward, knowing that death was certain. The strongholds of heathenism and Mohammedanism can only be stormed by acting for God in the same spirit. My action is not the outcome of rashness on my part. I am going after the calmest and fullest consideration."

The stars in their courses fought against Sisera
All things, even the stars in their courses, fight against every one who, like Sisera, puts himself in opposition to the plans of the Ruler of the universe. If you co-operate with, and act according to the laws of God, then you will in the long run prove victorious; if you do not, why then these laws will crush you. They are stronger than you. A man is powerful or powerless just in proportion as he submits to God's laws. And, first, to speak of physical laws, or those relating to matter. It is by obeying nature that we learn her secrets. A medical man in the kingdom of nature cures or kills, just in proportion as he has carefully or carelessly studied the laws of health and obeys them. By studying and making use of the physical laws of God's universe we can improve health and prolong life. On the other hand, there is no favourite of nature who can be intemperate and not suffer from ill-health, or live near bad drainage and escape fever. No matter how intellectual or even religious you may be, if you hold your hand in the fire it will certainly be burned. A Christian is as liable to losses in his business if he does not conform to the laws of commerce, on which wealth depends, as an atheist is. Transgress God's physical laws, and even the stars in their courses fight against you. Just so there are spiritual and moral laws, by compliance with which we receive blessings, and which, if not obeyed, are as ready as the stars to fight against us. Such laws are these: "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us." "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." Without God we can do nothing. Let us conduct ourselves in every relation and occupation of life as if we believed we were what we are — "workers together with God" — and all things must work together for good. Let us put ourselves in opposition to Him, and all things, even the stars in their courses, shall fight against us.

(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)


1. This lesson is a song of thanksgiving. It reminds us at once of the duty of gratitude to God at all times, but especially after any great deliverance. The miracle of the cleansing of the lepers puts in a picture the rarity of thanksgiving — when ten pray, but one gives thanks.

2. Then, this song was a spontaneous outburst of praise immediately after the reception of the blessing. Thanksgiving was, as it should be, prompt.

3. The victory was ascribed to God: "Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel." Thanksgiving is only possible when there is faith, when the eye of the soul penetrates beyond what are called "second causes," and traces the events of this life to the providence of God.

4. But a particular instrument which God employed for carrying out His purposes is recognised in the text: "the stars," etc. Viewed literally, what is meant by this? It is the description of some wonder wrought by God in the battle, which aided the overthrow of Jabin's host and Jabin's general.


1. "The stars in their courses" have been supposed to represent the angels of God.

2. Warfare against evil is one part of the angels' functions. Holy Scripture recounts their military operations (Revelation 12:7). St. Jude describes another altercation (ver. 9). Daniel relates a third (Daniel 10:13). And again, at the end of the world (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:8), the angels "shall sever the wicked from among the just," and consign them to punishment (Matthew 13:49, 50).

3. We may not know how these spiritual beings "fought against Sisera," any more than we can tell how the angel of the Lord caused the pestilence in the days of David (1 Chronicles 21:15); but we do know that angels are the ministers of God (Psalm 104:4), and carry out His behests.

4. If the stars represent the angels of God, then, on the other hand, the victory over Sisera, and the instrument by which it was achieved, form an apt image of the overthrow of Satan's power by the Cross.


1. When this lesson is said to contain "praise of Jael's perfidy," and that from the lips of an inspired prophetess, it may be urged in reply, that it is a commendation of the brave deed of Jael and her disinterested zeal for the welfare of God's people, whilst the treachery which accompanied it was in keeping with the low moral condition of the age and person — with "the light of the times."

2. We may learn from the general subject the duty of thanksgiving, and that its fulfilment involves a belief in the doctrine of Divine providence.

3. According to the literal interpretation of the text, we are led to the conviction that even such matters as the weather may be guided by God to fulfil His purposes, and that His directing touch is effective in a region far beyond the ken of human science, which can only extend to the proximate causes of things.

4. The spiritual meaning should remind us that the angels of God assist us in our conflict with the evil one, and by Divine appointment "succour and defend us on earth"; so that, in our struggles with the power of darkness, we may take the words of the prophet as a ground of confidence, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (2 Kings 6:16).

(Canon Hutchings.)

O my soul, thou hast; trodden down strength
I. THE INTERPOSITION BY WHICH THE SOUL TREADS DOWN ALL OPPOSITION AND GAINS THE VICTORY. It matters not how weak the creature may be if the Lord interpose. They had nothing to do but follow on: it was the Lord that took spirit out of the enemy, and that caused the enemy to err. These things remind us of what an awful thing it is to be an enemy to God — under sin, under the wrath of God, under the curse of the law, and under the powers of darkness; and all the time we are there, we are reckoned enemies, and we are under judgment. What a fearful position! and yet we are by nature unconscious of it, and unconcerned about it. Let us, then, look at these interposing stars, by which we tread down strength. But in so doing we must be careful not to forget one thing, and that is the chief thing; and that is Jesus Christ, the Morning Star. He is that interposing light, by whom we have the victory. But it says, "the stars in their courses." The people of God at large are called stars, but ministers especially. Hence you read of His holding the seven stars in His right hand; the seven stars are the angels or messengers of the Churches. And so I take the stars, then, if I spiritualise it, fighting against Sisera, to mean the prophets testimonially standing against the powers of darkness.

II. THE VAIN ATTEMPT OF THE ENEMY TO ESCAPE The river Kishon swept the enemy away. Many people say, "Well, I am no enemy." You are, unless you are a friend.

(James Wells.)

Abinoam, Amalek, Anath, Asher, Barak, Benjamin, Dan, Deborah, Heber, Issachar, Jael, Machir, Naphtali, Reuben, Seir, Shamgar, Sisera, Zebulun
Canaan, Edom, Gilead, Jordan River, Kishon River, Megiddo, Meroz, Seir, Sinai, Taanach
Courses, Fighting, Fought, Heaven, Heavens, Highways, Sisera, Sis'era, Sky, Stars
1. The Song of Deborah and Barak

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Judges 5:1-31

     5420   music

Judges 5:14-31

     5091   Deborah

Recreant Reuben
Why satest then among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks? At the watercourses of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.'--JUDGES v. 16 (R.V.). I. The fight. The warfare is ever repeated, though in new forms. In the highest form it is Christ versus the World, And that conflict must be fought out in our own souls first. Our religion should lead not only to accept and rely on what Christ does for us, but to do and dare for Christ. He has given Himself for us, and has thereby
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'All Things are Yours'
'They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.'--JUDGES v. 20. 'For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.'--Job v. 23. These two poetical fragments present the same truth on opposite sides. The first of them comes from Deborah's triumphant chant. The singer identifies God with the cause of Israel, and declares that heaven itself fought against those who fought against God's people. There may be
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Love Makes Suns
'Let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.' JUDGES V. 51. 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
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Songs of Deliverance
The results which accrued from the conquest achieved by Barak, are upon a small scale similar to those which come to us through the deliverance wrought out by the Lord Jesus Christ. I shall take our text and spiritualize it, viewing its joyous details as emblematic of the blessings granted to us through our Redeemer. Those who went to draw water at the wells after Barak's victory, were no longer disturbed by the robbers who lurked at the fountains for purposes of plunder; and instead of drawing the
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 13: 1867

Whether the Orders Will Outlast the Day of Judgment?
Objection 1: It would seem that the orders of angels will not outlast the Day of Judgment. For the Apostle says (1 Cor. 15:24), that Christ will "bring to naught all principality and power, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father," and this will be in the final consummation. Therefore for the same reason all others will be abolished in that state. Objection 2: Further, to the office of the angelic orders it belongs to cleanse, enlighten, and perfect. But after the Day of
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Why is it that Our Lord Has Tarried Till Now? Why Has not the Redeemer Returned Long Ere This?
At first sight perhaps this inquiry might appear almost irreverent and some may feel inclined to remind us that "secret things belong unto the Lord." In response we would say, It is not in any spirit of idle curiosity nor is it to indulge an inquisitive speculation that we take up this question, but simply because we believe that a humble examination of it will prove profitable to our souls, inasmuch as the answer to our inquiry demonstrates the wisdom and grace of Him with whom we have to do. Of
Arthur W. Pink—The Redeemer's Return

Hindrances to Revivals.
Text.--I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you."--Nehemiah vi. 3. THIS servant of God had come down from Babylon to rebuild the temple and re-establish the worship of God at Jerusalem, the city of his fathers' sepulchres. When it was discovered by Sanballat and certain individuals, his allies, who had long enjoyed the desolations of Zion, that now the temple, and the holy city were about to be rebuilt, they raised a great
Charles Grandison Finney—Lectures on Revivals of Religion

The Publication of the Gospel
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it [or of the preachers] P erhaps no one Psalm has given greater exercise to the skill and patience of commentators and critics, than the sixty-eighth. I suppose the difficulties do not properly belong to the Psalm, but arise from our ignorance of various circumstances to which the Psalmist alludes; which probably were, at that time, generally known and understood. The first verse is the same with the stated form of benediction
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2

Salvation Published from the Mountains
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! I t would be improper to propose an alteration, though a slight one, in the reading of a text, without bearing my testimony to the great value of our English version, which I believe, in point of simplicity, strength, and fidelity, is not likely to be excelled by a new translation
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1

The Sovereignty of God in Operation
"For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be the glory for ever. Amen" (Romans 11:36). Has God foreordained everything that comes to pass? Has He decreed that what is, was to have been? In the final analysis this is only another way of asking, Is God now governing the world and everyone and everything in it? If God is governing the world then is He governing it according to a definite purpose, or aimlessly and at random? If He is governing it according to some purpose, then
Arthur W. Pink—The Sovereignty of God

Appendix ix. List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Ancient Rabbinic Writings
THE following list contains the passages in the Old Testament applied to the Messiah or to Messianic times in the most ancient Jewish writings. They amount in all to 456, thus distributed: 75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the Prophets, and 138 from the Hagiorgrapha, and supported by more than 558 separate quotations from Rabbinic writings. Despite all labour care, it can scarcely be hoped that the list is quite complete, although, it is hoped, no important passage has been omitted. The Rabbinic references
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The Hebrews and the Philistines --Damascus
THE ISRAELITES IN THE LAND OF CANAAN: THE JUDGES--THE PHILISTINES AND THE HEBREW KINGDOM--SAUL, DAVID, SOLOMON, THE DEFECTION OF THE TEN TRIBES--THE XXIst EGYPTIAN DYNASTY--SHESHONQ OR SHISHAK DAMASCUS. The Hebrews in the desert: their families, clans, and tribes--The Amorites and the Hebrews on the left bank of the Jordan--The conquest of Canaan and the native reaction against the Hebrews--The judges, Ehud, Deborah, Jerubbaal or Gideon and the Manassite supremacy; Abimelech, Jephihdh. The Philistines,
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 6

For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel, the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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