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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 5

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-31

Deliverance under Deborah (4:1-5:31)

Hazor, chief city of the north, had been conquered and burnt by Joshua (Joshua 11:10-13). However, not all the people had been destroyed. Having rebuilt Hazor, they now took revenge on the northern tribes, especially Zebulun and Naphtali, and ruled them cruelly for twenty years (4:1-3). (To understand fully how God saved Israel at this time, we must read the historical outline in Chapter 4 together with the song of victory in Chapter 5.)

Israel’s deliverer on this occasion was Deborah, a woman who was already established as a leading civil administrator in the nation (4-5). With her army commander Barak, she led a large Israelite force up Mt Tabor. The plan was to make the enemy commander Sisera believe there was an armed rebellion in Israel, and so draw Sisera’s chariot forces out into the plain of the Kishon River, which lay below the Israelites (6-10).
The plan was successful. Soon after Sisera crossed the shallow stream, a tremendous rainstorm flooded the river. The soft ground quickly became one huge bog; the small stream became a raging river. The Canaanites were thrown into confusion as chariots became bogged, horses grew mad with fear, and soldiers drowned in the rushing waters. Certain of victory, the Israelites rushed down upon the enemy (11-16; see also 5:20-22).
Sisera escaped and looked for safety in the tent of his friend Heber (17; cf. v. 11). But Heber was not at home, and Sisera did not know that Heber’s wife Jael was on the side of Israel. Once Jael had made sure that Sisera was soundly asleep, she killed him (18-22). The Israelites’ victory that day gave them the confidence and courage to fight on till they destroyed the power of the enemy to enslave them (23-24).

Deborah and Barak’s song of praise recalls the dramatic activity of God, the initiative of the leaders and the willing service of the people which together produced this spectacular victory. The rainstorm that God used to fight for his people reminded them of the earthquake he sent at Mt Sinai (5:1-5; cf. Exodus 19:16).

Israel had suffered enough under the cruel Canaanites, whose raiding and violence made trade, travel and farming almost impossible. They would not even allow the Israelites to make any weapons to protect themselves. Then arose Deborah! Rich and poor alike are now urged to join with Israelites everywhere in songs of praise for God’s deliverance through her (6-11).
When Israel’s leaders stirred themselves to overthrow the Canaanites, most of the tribes joined in enthusiastically. With Benjamin and Ephraim in the lead, and Manasseh (Machir), Zebulun, Naphtali and Issachar following, the Israelites rushed down the valley and attacked the enemy. Shame on Reuben, Gad (Gilead), Asher and Dan who were selfishly concerned with their own affairs and did not come to help the other tribes (12-18).
The Canaanites came looking for victory and reward, but instead they met defeat, because God turned the forces of nature against them (19-22). Although some in Israel selfishly refused to join in the fight against the enemy, Jael risked her life to make Israel’s victory complete (23-27). The song writers pictured Sisera’s mother waiting anxiously for her hero son to return, assuring herself that the reason for his delay was that he was gathering the rewards of victory. But the Israelites knew, with a feeling of vengeful delight, that Sisera would never return (28-31).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Judges 5". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/judges-5.html. 2005.
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