corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.08.18
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Judges 5

 

 

Verse 1

Deborah’s Song of Triumph

Judges 5:1-31

_______________________

The Superscription

Judges 5:1

1Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

The special sign of the prophetic spirit, is the use of lyrical expression. The praise of God, and the proclamation of his mighty deeds, burst from the prophets in the rapture of poetic visions. Their language is glowing and powerful, like a torch in the night. This lofty view of the nature of poetry shows itself everywhere. Poets, says Socrates, speak like men divinely inspired, like those who deliver oracles. Among the Romans, legendary tradition (Liv. i7) told of an ancient prophetic nymph, Carmenta (from Carmen). Of no Judge is it expressly said that he was a prophet: this is affirmed of Deborah alone; and she alone among them sang,—and that, not merely as Miriam, who with her women formed the responsive choir to Moses’ Song of Solomon, but as Moses, the victor, himself.

She sang, וַתָּשַׁר. She was the creator of the song. Quite parallel is the expression, Exodus 15:1 : “then sang Moses and the sons of Israel” (יָשִׁיר), not “they sang.” Moses, divinely inspired, composed the Song of Solomon, and the people sang it. The case was similar with Deborah. The feminine of the verb, with the following connective, ו, expresses the independent creation and the joint-execution of the Song; for already in the fourth chapter, Barak stands for the most part for the people themselves. Thus, Barak has gone up to Mount Tabor, Judges 4:12; Sisera’s army is thrown into confusion before Barak, Judges 5:15; Barak pursues, Judges 5:16; etc. Here also, therefore, Barak takes the place which in the Song of Moses the “children of Israel” occupy. He and his men raise Deborah’s hymn as their song of triumph; and thus it becomes a national hymn. Song is the noblest ornament which the nations of antiquity can devise for victory. They preserve its utterances tenaciously, both as evidences of their prowess, and as incentives to action in times of dishonor. In the days of Pausanias (in the second century after Christ), and therefore about800 years after the event, the Messenians still sang a triumphal song of the time of Aristomenes (Paus. iv16). Perhaps the most interesting remnant of German recollections of Arminius, is the Westphalian popular Song of Solomon, still sung in the region of what was once the field of victory (cf. Horkel, in Der Gesch. der Deutschen Vorzeit, i257). In the case of Israel, whose victories are the steps in its national work, and the evidences of its religious truth, the interest of such a song is the greater, because there tradition moulded the conscience of the generations, and fidelity to its earliest history formed the conditions of the national calling, greatness, and glory.

The form of the Song of Solomon, as of the old Hebrew poetry generally, is that of free rhythm. The Song is a poetical stream: everywhere poetical, and yet untrammeled by any artistic division into strophes. Such a division, it is true, is not altogether wanting; but it is never made a rule. Consequently, efforts to force it systematically on the poem, while only traces of it show themselves, are all in vain. There is no want of finish; introduction and conclusion are well defined; but the pauses subordinate themselves to the thoughts, and these unfold themselves free as the waves. The peculiar character of the Song consists in the boldness of its imagery and the force of its unusual language. It appropriates, in a natural manner, all those forms which genuine poetry does not seek but produce; but it appropriates them all with a freedom which endures none as a rule, yet without, like the natural stream, violating harmony. The Song of Solomon, then, has strophes, but they are not of equal measure; it moves along in parallelisms, but with variations corresponding to the movement of the thought. The most interesting feature to be noticed, is the alliteration, which appears in the highest development and delicacy, as elsewhere only in the old Norse poems, but also with considerable freedom from restraint. It is important to notice this, because it testifies, more than any division into strophes that may exist, to the nature of the popular song and its lyrical use. The divisions which the poem certainly shows, are determined only by its own course of thought. They are: the praise of God, as introduction ( Judges 5:25); the delineation of the emergency ( Judges 5:6-8); the call to praise that the evil no longer exists ( Judges 5:9-11); delineation of the victory and the victors ( Judges 5:12-23); the fate of the enemy ( Judges 5:24-31). The renderings which distinguish the following translation from the older versions extant, will be justified under the several verses in which they occur.[FN1]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - The author’s version of the Song forms an essential part of his exposition, and we therefore substitute a translation of it, adhering as closely as practicable to his German, for the ordinary English text. For Dr. Cassel’s rendering of יִהוָֹד, cf. “Textual and Grammatical,” note1, p23. In general, it will be seen that he does not anxiously aim at literalness. The black-faced letters are designed to imitate, rather than reproduce, the alliteration which in our author’s view forms a marked feature of the poem (see above). It may be useful to some readers to be referred to the following readily accessible English versions of the Song: Robinson’s, with an extended commentary, in Bibl. Repository, 1831, p568; “Review of Hollmann on the Song of Deborah,” Chris. Spectator (New Haven), ii307; Robbins, “The Song of Deborah,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 1855, p597; Milman’s version, in Hist. of the Jews, i292; Stanley’s, in Jewish Church, i370. The whole special literature of the subject is given by Bachmann, i298 ff.—Tr.]


Verses 2-5

Introduction

Judges 5:2-5

2That in Israel wildly waved the hair

In the people’s self-devotion,—Praise God!

3Hear, O ye kings, give ear, O ye princes:

I for God,[FN2] unto Him will I sing,

I will strike the strings unto God, the Lord of Israel!

4O God, at thy march from Seir,

At thy going forth from Edom’s fields,

The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped,

Yea, the clouds dropped down water.

5The mountains were dismayed before God,

Even this[FN3] Sinai, before God, the Lord of Israel.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 5:3.—Dr. Cassel: Ich für Gott; but the accents separate אָנֹכִי from לַיהוָֹה, and there appears no good reason for disregarding them. The position and repetition of the subject אָנֹכִי serve to bring the person of the Singer prominently into view, and that not in her character as woman, but as prophetess, filled with the Spirit of God, and therefore entitled to challenge the attention of kings and princes. So Bachmann.—Tr.]

2 Judges 5:5.—זֶה סִינַי: literally, “this Sinai.” “Sinai is present to the poetic eye of Deborah” (Wordsworth). Dr. Cassel translates by the definite article, der Sinai.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 5:2. The above translation of Judges 5:24 differs from all earlier renderings, which however also differ more or less from each other. The most interesting among them is that of those Greek versions which render “ἐν τῷ ἄρξασθαι ἀρχηγόυς.” It has been followed by a multitude of esteemed expositors (Schnurrer, Rosenmüller, Ewald, Bertheau, Böttger, Kemink); and yet it betrays its Egyptian origin, since in connection with בִּפְרֹעַ פְּרָעוֹת it thought only of the Egyptian Pharaoh or king, and expounded accordingly. A similar, more homiletical interpretation proceeds from the Targum. This was more naturally reminded of פּוּרְעֲבוּת, ultio, vindicta; the Midrash, by speaking of the cessation of the sufferings, whose previous existence is implied in the necessity for vengeance, shows that it adopts the same interpretation. Teller also, perhaps unconsciously, arrived at the same explanation. The interpretation of Raschi, who takes פֶּרַע as equivalent to פֶּרֶץ, and of those who suppose it equivalent to פֶּרֶט, may, like various others, be passed over in silence. The natural exposition, which is always at the same time the poetical, has on all sides been overlooked. פֶּרַע is undoubtedly (as in Arabic) the hair of the head, and more particularly the long, waving nair, the coma,[FN5] as appears from Ezekiel 44:20. פְּרָעוֹת is its plural form, and is used in Deuteronomy 32:42, where blood is spoken of as flowing down from the hairy head (מֵראֹשׁ פַּרְעוֹת אוֹיֵב). Hence the verb פָּרַע, (cf. κομᾷν, to cultivate the hair), signifies “to make loose,” to allow to “become wild,” as when the hair flies wild and loose about the neck; wherefore it is said of Aaron ( Exodus 32:25) that he had caused the people פְּרָעֹה, “to grow wild,” and of the people that they “had grown wild” (פָּרֻעַ). The circumstances under which the hair was allowed to grow, are well known. The person who makes a vow, who would be holy unto God, is directed ( Numbers 6:5) to let his hair grow (גַּדֵּל פֶּרַע). The instance of Samson, to which we shall come hereafter, is familiar. The present occasion for this observance arose בְּהִתְנַדֵּב עָם,[FN6] when the people consecrated themselves, devoted themselves (se devovit), to God,—the people, namely, who gave heed to the voice of Deborah, and placed themselves in the position of one who called himself holy unto God. Israel, through disobedience, had fallen into servitude. Those who followed Barak, had faith in God; upon the strength of this faith they hazarded their lives. They devoted themselves wholly as a sacrifice to God. The verse therefore exhibits a profound apprehension of the essential nature of the national life. It sets forth the ground of the very possibility of the Song of Solomon, and therefore stands at its head. Israel could be victorious only by repentance and return to obedience.[FN7] The prophetess delineates, poetically and with forcible beauty, the people’s great act of self-devotion, when whole tribes give themselves to God,—their hair streaming, their hearts rejoicing,—and place their strength and trust in Him. They were the κάρηκομόωντες[FN8] of a divine freedom. This interpretation also brings the parallelism out clearly: בִּפְרֹעַ stands in both causal and appositional correlation with בְּהִתְנַדֵּב. The preposition בְּ points out the condition of the people in which they conquered and sang. The Song is the people’s consecration hymn, and praises God for the prosperous and successful issue with which He has crowned their vows. “Praise ye God,” it exclaims, “for the long locks,”—i.e. for and in the people’s consecration. The result of every such consecration as God blesses, is his praise. And now, the nations must hear it! The object of Israel’s national pride, is its God. Hence, Israel’s song of triumph is a call upon surrounding kings to hear what God did for his people when they gave themselves up to Him.[FN9]

Judges 5:3. Hear, O ye kings and princes. Both are expressions for the “mighty ones” among the nations, cf. Psalm 2:2. רֹזְנִים are the great, the strong. Rosen manifestly answers to the Sanskrit vrisna (Benfey, i332), Old High German rîso, giant.—Deborah proposes not merely to sing, but adds, I will play (אֲזַמֵּר). As in the Psalm, singing and playing are joined together, one representing thought, the other sound. The action expressed by זִמֵּר, is performed on various instruments (cf. Psalm 144:9, “ten-stringed lute”), chiefly on the cithern, a species of harp or lyre ( Psalm 98:5, etc.), but also with timbrels and citherns ( Psalm 149:3, cf. Psalm 81:3). Miriam also accompanied her antiphonal song with timbrels (tympanis, Exodus 15:20), Jephthah’s daughter used them as she came to meet her father ( Judges 11:34). Nor can they have failed as an accompaniment to the Song of our prophetess. Tympana (toph, timbrels) appear in antiquity as the special instrument of impassioned women (Creuzer, Symbolik, iii489). The derivation of the word זָמַר is not clear. Delitzsch is doubtless right in deciding (Psalter, i19) that it has nothing to do with the samar which signifies to “prune the vine.” That samar reminds one of the Greek σμίλη, a clasp and carving-knife. Simmer, to play (scil. mismor, ψαλμός), distinguishes itself as an onomatopoetic word. The primitive Greek singer, whose contest with the muses in cithern-playing Homer already relates, was named Thamyris (Il. ii594).

Judges 5:4-5. O God at thy march from Seir. An Israelitish song can praise God only by rehearsing the history of Israel. For the fact that God is in its history constitutes the sole foundation of Israel’s national existence and rights over against other nations. But this immanence of God in the history of the people, manifests itself most wonderfully in those events through which, as by steps, Israel became a nation. For not in Egypt, where Israel was a servant, was the nation born, nor through the exodus alone; the nationality of Israel is the child of the desert. There, through the self-revelation of God, Israel became a free people. The journey through the desert—of which Sinai was the central point,—by the giving of the law and the impartation of doctrine, by the wonderful provision of food and the gift of victory, and by the infliction of awful judgments, became one continuous act of divine revelation. Thus, Israel came forth from the desert a perfected nation. The prophetic insight of the Hebrew poets, at one clear glance, traces the desert-birth of the nation back to the manifest nearness of God as its cause. All that happened to the people came from God. “The Lord came from Sinai,” says the Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 33:2), “and rose up from Seir; He shined forth from Mount Paran.” The 114 th psalm ( Judges 5:2) represents the exodus from Egypt as the beginning of Israel’s nationality: “Then Judah became his sanctuary.” Deborah takes Seir and Edom, whence Israel entered history as a nation, as representatives of the whole desert; which from her position was, even geographically, quite natural. The 68 th Psalm, borrowing from this passage, at the same time explains it by substituting more general terms for Seir and Edom:[FN10] “When thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness.” The wilderness was the theatre of the revelation of God. There He appeared to his people. Where is there another nation to whom this occurred? “Hear, ye kings,” cries the prophetess, what nation was ever raised up, instructed, and led, by the manifest presence of such a God?

The earth trembled. The superior grandeur of Scriptural over the noblest Hellenic conceptions, is scarcely anywhere more clearly apparent. The earthquake, with Hesiod and others, is symbolic of conflict between the powers above and those below, between Zeus and Typhon:—

“Great Olympus trembled beneath the immortal feet

Of the Ruler rising up, and hollow groaned the earth. …

The earth resounded, and the heavens around, and the floods of ocean.”[FN11]

To the prophetic spirit of Deborah, also, and of the Psalm, the earthquake becomes a powerful symbol; but it is the symbol of the creature’s humility and awe on account of the sacred nearness of God. For Israel’s sake, God descended from on high; the creature knows its Lord, and trembles. The earth trembles,[FN12] and “the heavens pour.” (In the desert peninsula of Sinai the latter is a wonder. Even at this day, the Bedouins cherish the superstition that Moses had in his possession the book which determines the fall of rain.) The heavens lose their brazen aridity; whatever is hard and unyielding, firm as rock and stone, becomes soft and liquid:[FN13] the mountains stagger, the rocks flow down like water (נָזְלוּ). The earthquake-belt that girdles the Mediterranean afforded numerous instances of such phenomena. Tremendous masses of rock have been shaken down from Mount Sinai by earthquakes (Ritter xiv601, etc.). Even this Sinai. That Isaiah, Sinai especially, Sinai before all others is the mountain that shook when God descended, according to the statement, Exodus 19:18; “and the whole mount quaked greatly.” Thunders rolled and heavy clouds hung upon its summit ( Exodus 19:16). “The mountains saw thee,” says Habakkuk ( Judges 3:10), “and they trembled; the overflowing of the waters passed by.” “What ailed you, ye mountains, that ye trembled like lambs?” asks the Psalmist, Psalm 114:6 : “Before the Lord the earth trembled, before the God of Jacob.”

These introductory ascriptions of praise to God, have no reference to the battle at the Kishon. They magnify the power and majesty of Israel’s God, as manifested in the nation’s earlier history. Such is the God of Israel, the nations are told. Such is He who has chosen Israel for his people. It was there in the desert that they became his; and for that reason the poet selects the scenes of the desert as the material of her praise. She speaks with great brevity: the 68 th Psalm amplifies her conceptions. Very unfortunate is the conjecture (Böttger) that by Sinai Tabor is meant. It is altogether at variance with the spirit of the old covenant, which could never consent to make Sinai the representative of any less sacred mountain. Moreover, the battle was not on Tabor, but in the plain, near the Kishon. With Judges 5:5 closes that part of the Song by which the “kings and princes” are informed that the God whom the elements fear, has become the Lord of Israel. With Judges 5:6 the poetess first enters on the history of the state of affairs which existed in Israel previous to her great deed.

Footnotes:

FN#2 - Judges 5:3.—Dr. Cassel: Ich für Gott; but the accents separate אָנֹכִי from לַיהוָֹה, and there appears no good reason for disregarding them. The position and repetition of the subject אָנֹכִי serve to bring the person of the Singer prominently into view, and that not in her character as woman, but as prophetess, filled with the Spirit of God, and therefore entitled to challenge the attention of kings and princes. So Bachmann.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Judges 5:5.—זֶה סִינַי: literally, “this Sinai.” “Sinai is present to the poetic eye of Deborah” (Wordsworth). Dr. Cassel translates by the definite article, der Sinai.—Tr.]

FN#4 -

בִּפְרֹעַ פְּרָעוֹת בְּישׂרָאֵל

בְּהִתְנַדֵּב עָם בָּרְכוּ יִהוָֹה

FN#5 - That we must go back to the sense of this word, is also admitted by Keil; but he attaches a meaning to it which It never has. [Keil: פְּרָעוֹת here means properly comati, hairy persons, i. e. those who are endowed with strength. The champions in battle are meant, who by their prowess and valor preceded the people.”—Tr.]

FN#6 - The verb נָדַב occurs only in Exodus,, Ezra, Chronicles, and here.

FN#7 - The Targum, though merely paraphrastic, in its spirt agrees entirely with this interpretation.

FN#8 - “Long-haired,” cf. the Homeric καρηκομόωντας Αχαιοὺς, “long-haired Greeks,” Il. ii11, etc. Among the later Greeks, long hair was the badge of freedom, and hence was not allowed to slaves. See Smith’s Dict. Antiquities, s. v. “Coma.”—Tr.]

FN#9 - Dr. Bachmann adopts the view of Judges 5:2 given by the LXX. according to the Alexandrine Codex: ἐν τῷ ἄρξασθαι ἀρχηγοὺς ἐν ̓Ισραήλ, and translates, “that the leaders led,” etc. The idea of “leading” or “going before,” he says, may be readily derived from the radical meaning of פָּרַע, to break forth,” sc. into prominence (hervorbrechen). His criticism on our author’s translation is as follows: “To say nothing of the fact that the partitive (?) בְּיִשׂרָאֵל excites surprise, standing as it does in parallelism with עָם, it may well be doubted whether the expression taken in this sense would ever have been intelligible, notwithstanding the alleged explanatory apposition of the second member of the verse; at all events, in the language of the law פָּרַע denotes, not an Acts, but a condition (the consequence of the תַּעַר לֹא־יַעְבֹר, Numbers 6:5), such as at the beginning of the fulfillment of a vow of consecration—and to a beginning the reference would have to be here,—could have no existence.”—Tr.]

FN#10 - For בְּצֵאתְךָ מִשֵּׂעִירִ, Psalm 68 substitutes לִפְנֵי עַמֶּךָ, and for בְּצַעְךְּךָ מִשְּׂדֵה אֱדוֹם it has בְּצַעְדְּךָ בִישִׁימוֹן.

FN#11 - Hesiod, Theogon., v840, etc.

FN#12 - Cf. Jeremiah 10:10; Joel iv (iii.) :16, etc.

FN#13 - “The mountains melt like wax,” cf. Psalm 97:5.


Verses 6-8

The Previous Distress

Judges 5:6-8.

6After[FN14] the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,

After the Helper’s (Jael’s) days,

The highways were deserted.

The traveller went in winding ways.

7Deserted were Israel’s hamlets,[FN15] deserted,

Till I Deborah rose up—rose up a mother in Israel.

8New gods had they got them[FN16]—therefore the press of war approached their gates;[FN17]

Among forty thousand in Israel was there found[FN18] or shield or spear?

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 5:6.—On this translation of בְּ, compare the author’s remarks below. The justification they attempt, Isaiah, however too forced and artificial to be satisfactory. The passages cited in its support, are rather against it. For in Numbers 14:11, it is the very fact that Israel’s unbelief exists contemporaneously, in the presence, as it were, of mighty wonders, that makes it so culpable. And so in the passages cited from Isaiah ( Judges 5:25; Judges 9:11 (12); Judges 10:4), it is the continuance of Jehovah’s anger while surrounded, so to speak, by the terrible evidences of previous punitive inflictions, that gives it its full dreadfulness. It seems necessary, therefore, to take בְּ here in the sense of “in,” “during.” It is necessary, further, to place Shamgar not in, but after, the eighty years’ rest procured by Ehud, cf. on Judges 3:31; for while the “land rested,” such a state of affairs as Deborah here describes cannot have existed. He belongs to the period of the Canaanite oppression in the north, and fought against the Philistines who rose up in the south (so Bachmann and others). A single exploit is told of him; and the comparatively inferior position assigned him in the Book of Judges, seems to warrant the conclusion that it was the only remarkable deed he did. That deed, however, was one which would make him universally known and held up as a great hero. Deborah seizes on this popular estimate of Shamgar, in order by contrast to heighten the glory of the divine deliverance just achieved. Such was your condition when your great hero lived, she says: but now, behold, what hath God wrought!—The words בִּימֵי יָעֵל, “in the days of Jael,” contain another difficulty. It must strike every one as inappropriate that one who, so far as we know, had only now become famous, and that by a deed of deliverance, namely, Jael, the slayer of Sisera, should be connected with the past misery. Dr. Cassel’s suggestion that יָעֵל is to be taken as a surname or popular designation of some hero (see below), becomes therefore exceedingly attractive. But according to our view of בִּ, the hero thus designated cannot be Ehud, but must be Shamgar.—Tr.

2 Judges 5:7—פּרָזוֹן. Gesenius and Fürst define this word as properly meaning, “rule, dominion;” here, concrete* for “rulers, leaders.” So also Bertheau, De Wette, Bunsen, and similarly many previous expositors and versions: LXX, Cod Vat. δυνατοί, al. codd. οἱ κρατοῦντες (Cod. Al. simply transfers the word, and writes φράζων); It. Vers. potentes, Vulg. fortes. This undoubtedly yields a good sense; but, as Bachmann points out, it rests on a meaning of the root פָּרַז, which although belonging to it in Arabic, it does not practically have in Hebrew. Moreover, it appears to be a hazardous proceeding to separate פְּרָזוֹן from פְּרָזָה in signification, if not (as Fürst does) in root-relations. Accordingly, Bachmann and Keil, like our author and others, explain פְּרָזוֹן by פְּרָזָה, and make it mean the “open country,” or “the unwalled cities or villages of the open country.” In this they only follow the Targum, Peshito, most of the Rabbins, and many earlier and later expositors. The form of the word shows that it is properly an abstract, cf. Ges. Gr. 83, 2; 84, 15; Ewald, 163, b, d. Keil and Cassel make it apply in the concrete to the cities, villages, or hamlets, Bachmann to the population, of the open country (Landvolk). The connection of the passage, he thinks, requires a personal, not local, signification; for as Judges 5:8 a corresponds to (or rather gives the ground of) Judges 5:6 c d, so Judges 5:7 a (the cessation of פְּרָזוֹן) must correspond to Judges 5:8 b (the absence of shield and spear). He further argues that as in Judges 5:2; Judges 5:7 b, and8 b, בְּיִשׂרָאֵל refers to the people of Israel, it must also refer to them in Judges 5:7 a; and, finally, that the signification “rural population,” is more suitable in Judges 5:11. The ultimate result is the same whether one or the other interpretation be adopted; yet, as Bachmann’s arguments do not appear to have much force, and as the immediately preceding mention of highways leads the mind to think of local centres of population rather than of the population itself, we prefer to interpret villages or hamlets.—Tr.]

3 Judges 5:8.—Dr. Cassel’s translation conforms more closely to the original: Gewählt hatten sie neue Götter,—“they had chosen new gods.” The above English rendering was adopted in order to reproduce the alliteration of the German.—Tr.]

4 Judges 5:8.—אָז֖ לָחֶ֣ם שְׁעָרי֑ם: literally, “then war (was at the) gates.” לָחֶם is best explained as a verbal noun from piel, the vowel of the final syllable of the absolute לָחֵם being shortened because of the close connection with the following word, and the retraction of the tone being omitted on account of the toneless initial syllable of שְׁעָרִים (Bertheau, Keil, Bachmann). שְׁעָרִים may be genitive (in which case לָחֶֽם must be in the construct state) or accusative of place, which is more simple.—Tr.]

5 Judges 5:8.—אִם־יֵרָאֶה. According to Keil and others אִם introduces a negative interrogatory. But as אִם with simple, direct questions is rare, cf. Ges. Gr. 153, 2, Bachmann prefers to regard it as the אִם of obtestation: “if shield or spear were seen!” i.e. they were not seen. So also Bertheau, Gesenius, Fürst (in their Lexicons), and many others.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 5:6-8. After the days of Shamgar, שַׁמגַּר בִּימֵי. The difficulty of the passage can scarcely be removed, if, as is usually done, the preposition בְּ be taken in the sense of “in,” “during.” During the days of Shamgar such misery cannot have come upon Israel. The narrator could not in that case have said of him, Judges 3:31, that he “delivered Israel,” just as ( Judges 5:15) he speaks of Ehud as a “deliverer.” If Shamgar was no deliverer, how can it be said “and after him (or like him, i.e. Ehud, cf. on Judges 3:31) was Shamgar?” It seems impossible to assume (as nevertheless Keil also does), that the poetess could say of the days of such a hero, that there was no resistance and defense, no sword or shield, in Israel. The disparaging connection in which, were this assumption true, it would please her to exhibit the hero, is also wholly at variance with her spirit. To this must be added that, as was above shown to be probable, Shamgar’s famous exploit and further activity fall within the eighty years of “rest” after Ehud. At all events, Shamgar’s fame is related before the time in which Israel again begins to sin, and consequently again falls into servitude. It cannot therefore be otherwise understood, than that Deborah retraces the misery of her people up to the time of this last hero. “Since the days of Shamgar,” i.e. upon and after his days, the highways began to be deserted.[FN19] Philologically, this form of expression is not without analogies. God says ( Numbers 14:11), “They believe not me, בְּכֹל הָאֹתוֹת”, in, i.e. after “all the wonders I have done among them.” In the same manner we are to interpret בְּכָל several passages of Isaiah ( Judges 9:11 (12); Judges 5:25; Judges 10:4): “the Syrians and Philistines devour Israel,—in all that, after all that, notwithstanding all that, his anger is not turned away.” Thus the sense of our passage also becomes clear. Notwithstanding that the days of Shamgar have been, i.e. after them, misery began. His heroic deed against the Philistines, was the last great act performed by Israel. But the author adds, “in, after, the days of Jael.” That this cannot be the stout-hearted woman who slew Sisera, is self-evident, since Deborah, speaking of her contemporary, could not say “in the days of Jael.” But apart from this, the Song itself ( Judges 5:24) distinguishes this Jael by carefully designating her as the “wife of Heber, the Kenite.” Moreover, Jael is properly a man’s name. The other assumption, however, that Jael was a Judges, who lived before Deborah’s time, rests on slender foundations. It is utterly inconceivable that the narrator, who communicates the Song of Deborah, had he so understood it, would not have told us something of this Judge Jael. He would at all events have inserted his name, at least in some such manner as that of Shamgar himself, of Elon the Zebulonite, and of Abdon ( Judges 12:11-15), of whom nothing is reported beyond the general fact that they judged Israel. The only remaining supposition, and one fully accordant with the poetic cast of the Song of Solomon,, Isaiah, that Jael was the knightly surname of Shamgar, or even more probably of Ehud. We know that Gideon is frequently mentioned by his heroic name Jerubbaal, and that Samson is simply styled Bedan ( 1 Samuel 12:11). That Jael might readily become the beautiful popular designation of a man so determined and rapid in his movements as Ehud, is evident, whether we take it to mean the Mountain-climber, the August One, the Prince, or the Rock-goat, whose facile ascent to the most inaccessible rocky heights is astonishing. Most probably, however, the name is connected with the word הוֹעִיל, to help. The same word, which is often used negatively concerning heathen gods (לאֹ יוֹעִילוּ, “they help not,” 1 Samuel 12:21, Jeremiah 2:8, etc.), is here employed positively to denote one who was a “Helper” of Israel in distress. The sense, moreover, becomes thus perfectly clear: “After the days of Shamgar, after the days of Jael (Ehud),” the people perished through their sins; that Isaiah, as Judges 4:1 asserts, and Judges 5:8 of this chapter confirms,—“they had chosen themselves new gods.”

The highways were deserted, חָדְלוּ אְָרָחוֹת: literally, they ceased to be highways. No one travelled on the public roads, because there was no security. The enemy plundered all through the country. He who was obliged to travel, sought out concealed by-paths, in order to elude the tyrant and his bands. These few lines give a striking picture of a land languishing under hostile oppression. חָדְלוּ פְרָזוֹן, open places, hamlets, ceased to exist. פְּרָזוֹן is the open country, in distinction from cities surrounded by walls and gates. One imagines himself to be reading a description of the condition of Germany in the 10 th century, when the Magyars invaded the land (cf. Widukind, Sächs. Gesch. i32). Henry I. is celebrated as a builder of cities, especially because by fortifying open villages he rendered them more secure than formerly against the enemy. All ancient expositors, Greek as well as Chaldee and later Rabbinic, consent to this explanation or פּרָזוֹן[FN20] (cf. Schnurrer, p46). Judges 5:8 also agrees with it: no place without walls was any longer secure against the hostile weapons of those who oppressed Israel; the conflict was pushed even to the very gates of the mountain fortresses. The attempt to make the word mean “princes,” “leaders,” labors under great difficulties; which modern expositors, almost all of whom have adopted it, have by no means overcome. It raises an internal contradiction to connect חָדְלוּ with פְּרָזוֹן, when taken in this sense. We can very properly say רֹעְבִיכ חָדְלוּ, “the hungry cease to be such,” but not “princes.” Of a banished dynasty there is no question. A Judge there was not; none therefore could cease to be. The lack of military virtue is first mentioned in Judges 5:8. Situated as Israel was, the misery of the people might be measured by the extent to which their fields and rural districts were devastated and rendered insecure. As to their “princes,” their hereditary chiefs, they in fact still existed. Nor does the form of the word need any correction (cf. Judges 5:11).

Till I arose (עַד שַׁקַּמְתִּי for עַד אֲשֶׁר קַמְתִּי) a mother in Israel:[FN21] who, as it were, bore Israel anew. It was the regeneration of Israel’s nationality that was secured at the Kishon. How came it about (she adds, Judges 5:8), that Israel had so fallen as to need a new mother? They had chosen “new gods” for themselves. The eternal God, before whom the mountains trembled, Him they had forsaken. Hence the loss of all their strength. They were hard pressed, up to the very gates of their fortresses. (לָחֶם is not simply war, but an already victorious and consuming oppression.) Resistance in the open field there was none anywhere. Among forty thousand not one sought safety by means of sword and shield.[FN22] The poet says “new gods,” not “other gods.” The objective idea is of course the same, but not the subjective thought as here entertained. For Israel had from of old its everlasting God,—Him whose glory the poem had delineated at the outset. But instead of that God, Israel chose them new gods, whom they had not formerly known. There is a profoundly significant connection of thought between this passage and the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:17. There the thought, which is here implied, lies fully open: “They shall sacrifice to gods whom they never knew, to new gods, that came newly up, whom their fathers feared not.” The heathen gods of Canaan are in truth all new to Israel; for their own God had already chosen them in the desert, before ever they set foot in the land. Israel’s recent ruin was the consequence of their serving these new gods. That all manliness had vanished, that servitude prevailed up to the gates of their fortresses, that they were shut out from highway, hamlet, and fountain, was the bitter fruit of their unfaithfulness to their ancient God. Nor was deliverance possible, until, as the result of Deborah’s efforts, the people became regenerated by means of the ancient truth.

Footnotes:

FN#14 - Judges 5:6.—On this translation of בְּ, compare the author’s remarks below. The justification they attempt, Isaiah, however too forced and artificial to be satisfactory. The passages cited in its support, are rather against it. For in Numbers 14:11, it is the very fact that Israel’s unbelief exists contemporaneously, in the presence, as it were, of mighty wonders, that makes it so culpable. And so in the passages cited from Isaiah ( Judges 5:25; Judges 9:11 (12); Judges 10:4), it is the continuance of Jehovah’s anger while surrounded, so to speak, by the terrible evidences of previous punitive inflictions, that gives it its full dreadfulness. It seems necessary, therefore, to take בְּ here in the sense of “in,” “during.” It is necessary, further, to place Shamgar not in, but after, the eighty years’ rest procured by Ehud, cf. on Judges 3:31; for while the “land rested,” such a state of affairs as Deborah here describes cannot have existed. He belongs to the period of the Canaanite oppression in the north, and fought against the Philistines who rose up in the south (so Bachmann and others). A single exploit is told of him; and the comparatively inferior position assigned him in the Book of Judges, seems to warrant the conclusion that it was the only remarkable deed he did. That deed, however, was one which would make him universally known and held up as a great hero. Deborah seizes on this popular estimate of Shamgar, in order by contrast to heighten the glory of the divine deliverance just achieved. Such was your condition when your great hero lived, she says: but now, behold, what hath God wrought!—The words בִּימֵי יָעֵל, “in the days of Jael,” contain another difficulty. It must strike every one as inappropriate that one who, so far as we know, had only now become famous, and that by a deed of deliverance, namely, Jael, the slayer of Sisera, should be connected with the past misery. Dr. Cassel’s suggestion that יָעֵל is to be taken as a surname or popular designation of some hero (see below), becomes therefore exceedingly attractive. But according to our view of בִּ, the hero thus designated cannot be Ehud, but must be Shamgar.—Tr.

FN#15 - Judges 5:7—פּרָזוֹן. Gesenius and Fürst define this word as properly meaning, “rule, dominion;” here, concrete* for “rulers, leaders.” So also Bertheau, De Wette, Bunsen, and similarly many previous expositors and versions: LXX, Cod Vat. δυνατοί, al. codd. οἱ κρατοῦντες (Cod. Al. simply transfers the word, and writes φράζων); It. Vers. potentes, Vulg. fortes. This undoubtedly yields a good sense; but, as Bachmann points out, it rests on a meaning of the root פָּרַז, which although belonging to it in Arabic, it does not practically have in Hebrew. Moreover, it appears to be a hazardous proceeding to separate פְּרָזוֹן from פְּרָזָה in signification, if not (as Fürst does) in root-relations. Accordingly, Bachmann and Keil, like our author and others, explain פְּרָזוֹן by פְּרָזָה, and make it mean the “open country,” or “the unwalled cities or villages of the open country.” In this they only follow the Targum, Peshito, most of the Rabbins, and many earlier and later expositors. The form of the word shows that it is properly an abstract, cf. Ges. Gr. 83, 2; 84, 15; Ewald, 163, b, d. Keil and Cassel make it apply in the concrete to the cities, villages, or hamlets, Bachmann to the population, of the open country (Landvolk). The connection of the passage, he thinks, requires a personal, not local, signification; for as Judges 5:8 a corresponds to (or rather gives the ground of) Judges 5:6 c d, so Judges 5:7 a (the cessation of פְּרָזוֹן) must correspond to Judges 5:8 b (the absence of shield and spear). He further argues that as in Judges 5:2; Judges 5:7 b, and8 b, בְּיִשׂרָאֵל refers to the people of Israel, it must also refer to them in Judges 5:7 a; and, finally, that the signification “rural population,” is more suitable in Judges 5:11. The ultimate result is the same whether one or the other interpretation be adopted; yet, as Bachmann’s arguments do not appear to have much force, and as the immediately preceding mention of highways leads the mind to think of local centres of population rather than of the population itself, we prefer to interpret villages or hamlets.—Tr.]

FN#16 - Judges 5:8.—Dr. Cassel’s translation conforms more closely to the original: Gewählt hatten sie neue Götter,—“they had chosen new gods.” The above English rendering was adopted in order to reproduce the alliteration of the German.—Tr.]

FN#17 - Judges 5:8.—אָז֖ לָחֶ֣ם שְׁעָרי֑ם: literally, “then war (was at the) gates.” לָחֶם is best explained as a verbal noun from piel, the vowel of the final syllable of the absolute לָחֵם being shortened because of the close connection with the following word, and the retraction of the tone being omitted on account of the toneless initial syllable of שְׁעָרִים (Bertheau, Keil, Bachmann). שְׁעָרִים may be genitive (in which case לָחֶֽם must be in the construct state) or accusative of place, which is more simple.—Tr.]

FN#18 - Judges 5:8.—אִם־יֵרָאֶה. According to Keil and others אִם introduces a negative interrogatory. But as אִם with simple, direct questions is rare, cf. Ges. Gr. 153, 2, Bachmann prefers to regard it as the אִם of obtestation: “if shield or spear were seen!” i.e. they were not seen. So also Bertheau, Gesenius, Fürst (in their Lexicons), and many others.—Tr.]

FN#19 - The use of בְּ in, in the sense of upon = after, cannot be considered surprising, when the poetical freedom of the language is taken into account. Even our German auf “upon” or “on”), of which Grimm says that in many cases it has appropriated the meaning of in, affords an instance of the same kind. To pass by other examples, we also say with equal propriety, “in vielen tagen” (in many days), and “nach vielen tagen” (after many days), not only when the reference is to the future, but even when it is to the past.—Although Shamgar slew the Philistines with an ox-goad, that fact cannot explain the non-employment of sword and lance in Judges 5:8 of the Song; for, as Barak’s heroes show ( Judges 4:16), there is no want of weapons, but of courage to use them.

FN#20 - Keil also has adopted it.

FN#21 - Wordsworth: “Until that 1 Deborah arose. Deborah, as an inspired person, looks at herself from an external point of view, and speaks of herself objectively, considering all her acts as due, not to herself, but to the Spirit of God. She does not praise herself, but blesses God who acted in her: so did Moses (see Numbers 12:3), and so Samuel ( 1 Samuel 12:11).—Tr.]

FN#22 - Isolated interpretations of the Middle Ages, taken up by a few moderns, find the subject in Elohim, as if “God had chosen new things.” But Judges 5:8 itself opposes this construction, to say nothing of the contradiction which it involves with the whole course of thought. To adopt Kemink’s correction, הַנָּשִׁ ם, “God chose women,” would only increase the distortion of the hymn, which even without this would arise from the change of subject. That not Elohim but Jehovah, would be used, were God the subject, is remarked by Bertheau (p88), who in his turn, however, unfortunately gives a wrong sense to Elohim.


Verses 9-11

The summons to praise god for deliverance

Judges 5:9-11

9My heart (was) with the Orderers of Israel,

Who devoted themselves among the people,—Praise God!

10 Ye who ride on beautifully-saddled asses,

Who sit on mats,

And walk through ways,—Sing!

11Instead of the cry of the contending at the cisterns,

They praise there the benefaction of God,

The benefaction of his freedom in Israel,—

When the People of God hastened down to the gates.

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 5:9. Deborah has delineated, first, the glorious majesty of God; then, in contrast therewith, the ruin which overtook Israel because it forsook Him, and chose new gods who cannot help, till she arose, a mother in Israel. With that she returns to the beginning. For what had she done? She had called on the people to turn back, and consecrate themselves to God. When everything lay prostrate, Barak and his faithful followers had taken the vows of God upon themselves. If Deborah had become a “strong one” (gibbor) in Israel, so had those who followed her inspiring call. If she speaks of herself as Deliverer, it is not without including those to whom she imparted her faithful and courageous “heart.” Judges 5:9 resumes Judges 5:2. The ground of all her praise, is that Israel turned again to God. This had been stated in Judges 5:2; here, by way of farther transition from Judges 5:7, she adds the expression “my heart:” she has infused the new spirit into Israel. She has imparted her heart to the people, as a mother to her children. The “heart” is the seat of divine inspirations and hopes; it is the organ that praises, desires, and seeks after God. The contents of Deborah’s heart flowed over into Israel. “If thou wilt go with me,” says Barak, “then I will go.” “My heart,” she exclaims, “was with the orderers of Israel,” with those who devoted themselves, so that they devoted themselves, when they devoted themselves as חֹקְקֵי of Israel.[FN23] The explanation of חֹקְקֵי has been thought more difficult than it is. It has already been remarked above, that the duty of a Judge was to execute the mishpat, the law of Israel, according to the ordinances of Moses. Whenever a Judge reintroduced the observance of the law, divine order sprang up anew among the people. Now, הֹק and מִשְׁפָּט are ever conjoined (cf. Exodus 15:25). “What nation is there,” asks Deuteronomy 4:8, “that has such chukkim and mishpatim?” “Hear, O Israel, “reiterates Moses, in Deuteronomy 5:1, “the chukkim and mishpatim which I speak in your ears.” “Joshua made a covenant with the people ( Joshua 24:25), and set them chok and mishpat.” What the Shophet is for the mishpat, that the Chokek is for the chok. Both words have the same grammatical form; both have the same historical relations. Whoever watched over the chok of Israel, was a chokek. They were the Orderers of Israel; for chok is the “order” resulting from law. The men who followed Deborah, the leaders of the people, who staked their lives for Israel’s nationality in God, were not shophetim,—for that word was already used in a definitely restricted sense; but to the name chokekim, which the prophetess gives them, they were justly entitled. They were men of law and national order.

Judges 5:10. Praise God. The Song of Deborah is a hymn of praise to God: praise forms the keynote to all its variations. The refrain of Judges 5:2 is here repeated, because the thought of Judges 5:2 has come up in a new form. The arrangement of the poem is delicate and beautiful. Judges 5:2 called on all to praise God. Thereupon she herself began to sing, Judges 5:3 : “I will praise;” her own personality comes to view in her song of God, and again in the saving power through which she became a mother of Israel. From Judges 5:9 she transfers the work of praise to others. The self-devotion of “her heart” had communicated itself to the people. “Praise God,” she resumes; but now they are to sing who have been delivered, and enjoy the fruits of victory. The whole Song is a hymn of freedom. How extreme and miserable was the recent oppression! The country was full of danger, intercourse interrupted, life enslaved. But now everything is free again. Every kind of movement is practicable. The highways are secure Therefore, praise is to employ all who enjoy this return of rest. Whoever now is able to travel, without being hindered, robbed, or put in peril of his life, is to thank God who restored him this privilege. They who can ride, rest, or walk in peace again—for now animals are not stolen, tents are not plundered, foot-travellers are not murdered,—are to know and proclaim the preciousness of this new blessing. It is the habit of Biblical writers to comprehend the various movements of persons under the terms “walking, standing, and sitting” (cf. Psalm 1:1). Here, where the freedom of the open country is spoken of, riding is naturally mentioned in the place of standing, which was included in the other expressions. The riders are represented as riding on אתֹנוֹת צחֹרוֹת. To ride on asses, was certainly a well-known custom (cf. Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14); but the mention of “white,” or as it is commonly rendered, “white-dappled” asses, would not be very suitable. Even though the connection of the word צְחֹרוֹת with those roots which signify “to glisten,” should be finally established, still it will always seem more appropriate to refer it to the beautiful, ornamented coverings that served for saddles. But there seems to be also a philological affinity between tsachar and what the Greeks and Romans called σάγμα, σάγη, sagma,[FN24] and the Germans saumsattel (pack-saddle). Asses, we know, carried burdens: provisions, corn, wine, etc. ( Genesis 42:25; Genesis 45:23; 1 Samuel 25:18; cf. Bochart, Hieroz. i184). They are to this day the important beast of burden in Palestine; and to leave the ass unladen, even on steep mountain paths, is considered injurious (Ritter, xvii295). The Targum (Jonathan), in its rendering of Leviticus 15:9, uses the word σάγη; for זָגָא, and not זוֹנָא, is to be read in its text at that place (a fact overlooked by Sachs, Beiträge zur Sprachf., note2, 196). The thought suggests itself naturally that restored freedom and security must have been of special value to those who transported important and costly articles. The passage becomes peculiarly significant, if brought in to connection with the safety of traffic and intercourse, consequent upon the enemy’s destruction.—And sit on mats. Since here also the blessings of freedom are the subject of discourse, those only can be meant who were accustomed to sojourn in tents and tent-villages. “To spread the covering,” and “to pitch the tent,” are to this day equivalent expressions. “To sit on cloths,” was the poetic phrase for dwelling in the open country, in hamlets, oases, and on highways, without needing the protection of walls and fortifications. מִדִּין (mats) is undoubtedly a plural of מַד, garment. It is in keeping with the make of ancient, especially of oriental dress, that the various terms for garment, covering, cloth, are more indefinite and interchangeable than in modern times.[FN25] Such, for instance, is the case with בֶּגֶד, garment ( Numbers 4:6-13); compare also כְּסוּת, covering ( Deuteronomy 22:12). For the establishment of this general signification of מִדִּין, Teller has rendered meritorious service. In a manuscript note in a copy of his “Notœ Criticœ,” now in my possession, he directs attention to ἱμάτιον as a cognate word. At all events, that also has the double sense of garment and covering, or cloth. The same, as is well known, is the case with ἐσθής and vestis. The word, mats (Latin, matta), in the translation above, is used merely for the sake of assonance; a philological connection between it and the Hebrew word is not discoverable.—הֹלְכֵי עַל־דֶּדִּ, foot-travellers, on the proper public roads. They too are no longer driven to seek winding paths. All, whether they ride, sit, or walk, have become free. Therefore, sing praise to God! שִׂיחוּ, to celebrate in Song of Solomon, as the Psalmist uses it ( Psalm 145:5): “Words of thy wonders will I sing” (אָשִׂיחָה).

Judges 5:11. The prophetess continues to depict the wonderful change from servitude to freedom While the enemy had the upper hand, there was security only within the gates; up to the threshold of these, the inhabitants were hunted and pursued. A lively conception of such a condition of society, may be obtained from the history of Germany from the 13 th to the 16 th century, when it often happened that large cities were at war with their neighbors. In Palestine, cities being built on hilltops, water must be procured outside of the gates. It was at a well, at the time of water-drawing ( Genesis 24:11), that Eliezer met Rebecca, coming out of the city. In time of war, this water-drawing was a dangerous occupation. The crowd was great, and every one wished to be the first to get away. Consequently, there was no lack of contention and vociferation. How all that is changed! Now the maidens draw leisurely and merrily, praising God the while, who has restored quiet and security. The philological explanation agrees perfectly with this exposition, verse 11 does not depend on Judges 5:10; it introduces a new thought. מְחַצְצִים is to be taken or read as מְהַצְצִים, i.e. as participle of the piel הִצָּה, to strive, quarrel, rixari (cf. Numbers 26:9; Psalm 60:2; etc.), connected with the niphal נִצָּה, often used of persons who strive and contend with each other ( Deuteronomy 25:11; Exodus 2:13; etc.).[FN26] The “voice” of those who thus contend is wont to attract attention; and a voice is now also heard: שָׁם יְתַנּוּ, there they sing aloud, there resounds the song of those who praise the mercy of God. (יְחַנּוּ from תָּנָה, piel, imperfect, 3d person, plural, to sound, to sing; Sanskrit, tâna, τόνος, German tönen.) The harsh voice of contention is replaced by the sounds of praise. The burden of this praise? The benefits of God—the benefits which his all-disposing arm has bestowed on Israel, in that, after their self-surrender and return to Him, He has made them free again from the enemy. The consequence of his interposition is פְּרָזוֹן, freedom: Israel is free again, and no longer depends on walls for safety. פְּרָזוֹן is derived from פָּרַז, just as חִפָּזוֹן from חָפַז. It contains the notion of that which is free, of freedom, as it is expressed by the prophet Zechariah, quite in the spirit of our Song of Solomon, when he says (chapter Judges 2:8-9 (4, 5)): “Jerusalem shall dwell open (פְּרָזוֹת, i.e. without walls); and I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about.” When Israel devotes itself to God, it is at rest; accordingly, after the deeds of the several Judges are related, it is constantly added, “and the land had rest.” Then enemies are powerless; exposed hamlets are secure; God is their protection. There, at the cisterns, they praise the goodness of God which manifests itself in this newly recovered freedom.

When the people of God hastened down to the gates. Here also the beauty of the internal arrangement of the Song comes prominently to view. Verse8 says, they chose themselves new gods, אָז לָחֶם שְׁעָרִים; verse9—interrupted by the praise of God, but resumed in the last line of Judges 5:11,—when they devoted themselves to God, לַשְּׁעָרִים אָזיָרְדוּ. When the people apostatized, they were pressed up to their very gates, and fled; when, by self-surrender, they became a people of God, they rushed boldly down to the gates and through them. The consequence of the first was flight; that of the second, impetuous attack.[FN27] In the former case, among forty thousand there was not a man capable of making resistance; in the latter—and herewith the Song enters on the delineation of the conflict,—it was a small band who threw themselves upon the mighty. In Judges 5:9-11 the prophetess, by praising God for freedom, interrupted the progress of her Song’s narrative, just as she does in Judges 5:3-5 and in Judges 5:12, to which and the following verses we now pass on.

Footnotes:

FN#23 - In this sentence our author seems to combine two different explanations of לִבִּי, etc, namely: 1. I imparted my spirit to the “Orderers” of Israel, by virtue of which they became such; and, 2. My heart loves those who proved themselves “Orderers,” etc. The latter explanation, merely hinted at by Dr. Cassel, is that commonly adopted by expositors. Bachmann remarks that if the first idea had been intended, it would have been more clearly expressed Tr.]

FN#24 - For further philological comparisons, see Benfey, i433, and Dieffenbach, Celtica, i85.

FN#25 - The same may be said of the use of the articles themselves. The popular custom of spreading out garments, like carpets or cloths, for persons to ride or walk over, is sufficiently familiar from the history of our Lord and the usages of both Greeks and Romans.

FN#26 - It does not appear how a piel הִצָּה can possibly be obtained from a niphal נִצָּה. The form מְחַצְצִים, in the text, can only be derived from חָצַע, either directly or indirectly. In the latter case if would be a denominative from הֵץ, an arrow, and would mean “archers;” so Bertheau, Keil, and many other interpreters, both ancient and modern. Many, perhaps most expositors, however, prefer the direct derivation from הָצַץ, to divide, but with various modifications of the radical idea. For a full discussion of the word and the interpretations it has received, see Bachmann, 1. pp351–359; it must suffice here to say that he translates it, Beutetheilenden, “those who divide the spoil” They (he explains) who frequent the places of drawing water are to praise the righteous acts of Jehovah, with the joyful voice of those who divide the spoil, cf. Isaiah 9:2 (3).—Tr.]

FN#27 - Keil and others connect the last clause of Judges 5:11, not with Judges 5:9; but with the immediately preceding praise for victory. “After this victory,” says Keil, “the people descended again to its gates, from the mountains and hiding-places whither it had betaken itself for safety from the enemy ( Judges 5:6 f.)—entered again into the plains of the land, into the cities now relieved of enemies.” Similarly, Bachmann. Dr. Cassel’s translation of אָז by “when” is against the usage of the word.—Tr.]


Verses 12-23

Delineation Of The Victors And The Victory

Judges 5:12-23

12Awake, awake Deborah!

Awake, awake, compose the song!

Barak, arise!—conquer thy conquest,

Thou son of Abinoam!

13Then down against the robust rushed a remnant,

The People of God rushed with me against the powerful.[FN28]

14From Ephraim’s stock, the victors of Amalek;

After thee (marched) Benjamin against thy foes,[FN29]

Masters came from Machir,

Men skillful with the accountant’s pencil[FN30] distinguished Zebulun.

15But the first[FN31] in Issachar were with Deborah,

Yea, Issachar was the basis of Barak,

When into the valley his men threw themselves on foot,[FN32]

While by the brooks abode Reuben’s great investigators.[FN33]

16Why sitt’st thou by the folds, listening to the shepherd’s flute?

By the brooks Reuben has great scrutinizers.

17Gilead stays beyond the Jordan;

But, Daniel, how didst thou sail in ships![FN34]

Asher sits on the sea-shore, sheltered in his bays,

18But Zebulon hazarded his soul unto death,

With Naphtali, upon the high plain of the field.

19Kings came to fight—Kings of Canaan fought,

At Taanach and by Megiddo’s waters,—

Satisfaction-money[FN35] gained they none.

20From heaven strove the stars,[FN36]

They strove from their stations with Sisera.

21Kishon’s stream swept them away—

A stream of succours was Kishon’s stream,—

Tread strongly on, my soul![FN37]

22When struck the sounding hoof of the rushing steed,

Of the flying strong ones![FN38]

23The ban on Meroz, commands the messenger of God, the ban!—

The ban on its inhabitants;

Because they came not to the help of the people of God,

Of the People of God against the powerful.[FN39]

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 5:13.—This rendering of Judges 5:13 supposes the Hebrew text to be pointed and divided thus:

אָז יָרַד שָׂרִיד לְאַדִּרִ‍‍֑ים

עַם יְחוָֹה יָרַד לִי בַּגִּבּוֹרִ‍ֽים׃

So also the LXX. (in Cod. Vat.) and many expositors. The most serious objection to it Isaiah, that as it is the easier reading, the Masorites must have had strong traditional grounds for preferring one more difficult. The verse has been translated and interpreted in a great variety of ways; but the view of Dr. Cassel commends itself strongly, especially when compared with Judges 4:14. Our English version seems to take יְרַד as imperf. apoc. Piel from רָדָה, after the example of several Jewish grammarians and interpreters.—Tr.]

2 Judges 5:14.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering of the first line of Judges 5:14—מִנִּי אֶפְרַיִם שָׁרְשָׁם בַּעֲמָלֵק—, Isaiah, Aus Efraim’s Art, die Amaleksieger. It does not clearly appear how he would translate the passage literally, but the following would probably express his view: “Out of Ephraim (came) their root (who were) against Amalek.” The “root,” then, according to our author’s exposition (see below), would be Joshua, in his relation to those whom he led to victory against “Amalek.” So far as שֹׁרֶשׁ is concerned, this interpretation has full as much in its favor as that which makes it mean “dwelling-place.” On the rendering of עֲמָמֶיךָ, see the commentary. The majority of expositors, would probably accept the rendering of the two lines given by Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Repos. 1831):—

“Out of Ephraim (came those) whose dwelling is by Amalek;

After thee (was) Benjamin among thy hosts.”

But in a document the language of which is so obscure as that of the Song of Deborah, much necessarily depends on the conception formed of the connection in which one passage stands with another. Now, while the majority of interpreters assume that Judges 5:14 speaks of such as took part in the war against Jabin and Sisera, our author maintains that it dwells on the fame of those who did not take part in this war, in order by this comparison to exalt that of those who did. On the decision of this question the interpretation in detail of the whole verse depends. Which of the two conflicting views is true, is not a matter to be discussed here, but it is certain that Judges 4. is very favorable to our author’s side, cf. the com. belew.—Tr.]

3 Judges 5:14.—The rendering of this line turns on שֵׁבֶט סֹפֵר. The Targum, Peshito, and most ancient expositors, explain it of the “stylus of the writer;” while most moderns translate it “the staff of the leader.” Compare the remarks in the preceding note.—Tr.]

4 Judges 5:15.—Dr. Cassel probably reads שָׂרֵי, with Bertheau, Keil, and most expositors. The preposition בְּ after the construct state is not unusual in poetry, cf. 2 Samuel 1:21; Job 18:2; etc. Some regard שָׂרַי as an unusual plural (cf. Ges. Gram. 87, 1, c), or as an archaic form of the construct (so Ewald, Gram. 211, c).—Tr.]

5 Judges 5:15.—On בְּרַגְלָיו, compare “Grammatical” note on Judges 4:10; also Judges 8:5; 2 Samuel 15:17; etc.—Tr.]

6 Judges 5:15.—חִקְקֵי לֵב; Dr. Cassel, Ergründler. For הִקרֵי לֵב, in the next verse, he has Ergrübler, which admirably reproduces both the paranomasia and the irony of the original. חִקְקֵי and הִקְרֵי are, of course, abstract nouns, followed by the genitive of the subject to which they pertain.—Tr.]

7 Judges 5:17.—“Aber Daniel, was zogst du auf schiffen aus!” Our author probably takes גּוּר in its most usual sense, “to sojourn:” to sojourn in or on ships, readily suggesting the idea of sailing in ships. Most expositors translate: “And Daniel, why abides he at the ships?” The prepositionless accusative is as easy or as difficult in one case as in the other.—Tr.]

8 Judges 5:19.—בֶּצַע כֶּסֶף: Dr. Cassel, Geld zur Busse, “penance money,” cf. the Commentary below. Bertheau, Keil, and others, taking בֶּצַע in its Arabic sense of frustum (cf. the root בצע), translate: “not a piece of silver did they take;” but against the Hebrew use of the word.—Tr.]

9 Judges 5:20—Dr. Cassel, following many previous expositors, alters the Masoretic text division by transferring “the stars” from the second to the first clause. But it is justly objected to this change that it reduces the second clause to a mere repetition by which nothing is added to the idea already expressed in the first. In the next line, the word מְסִלָּה signifies, “a causeway,” “highway.” Dr. Cassel’s rendering, Statten, places, is manifestly chosen for the sake of alliteration: Sie stritten von ihren Statten mit Sisera; compare the English imitation above.—Tr.]

10 Judges 5:21—תִּדְרְכִי נַפְשִׁי עֹז. This line has been very variously interpreted. It is now generally agreed, however, that it is an address of the Singer to herself. תִּדְרְכִי is the jussive of the second person, cf. Ges. Gram. 48, 4. עֹז may either be taken as an adverbial accusative (=בּעֹז), or as the direct object after the verb. Dr. Cassel decides for the former, after Herder, Justi, Bertheau, Ewald, Keil; Dr. Bachmann, with Schnurrer, Köhler, Holmann, etc, prefers the latter, and takes עֹז as the abstract for the concrete: “Tread down, my soul, the strong ones!” cf. Robbins, in Bibl. Sacra. In either case, the incitement of the line may be directed to the continuation of the Song of Solomon, or to the prosecution of the pursuit of the enemy. Bachmann prefers the latter; but the former seems to us more striking and appropriate.—Tr.]

11 Judges 5:22.—Dr. Cassel :—

Da der Jagenden Rosshuf hallend aufschlug,

Der entjagenden Starken.

On the translation of אָז by “when,” cf. note1, on p97. In the second line of the above rendering, the מִן does not come to its rights, and the suffix in אַבִּרָיו is neglected. The מִן is causal, and the suffix יו—goes back to the collective סוּס of the first line, so that it seems necessary to explain אַבִּירִים of men, not, as our author (see below) of horses. The best rendering of the verse is probably that adopted, for substance, by Keil, Bachmann, and many others:—

“Then the hoofs of the horses smote the ground,

Because of the galloping of their valiant riders.”

The last expression may very well be taken ironically: “runaway heroes.” On the repetition of דַּהֲרוֹת, to indicate continuance, see Ewald, Gram., 313 a; cf. also Ges. Gram. 108, 4.—Tr.].

12 Judges 5:23—On the above translation of Judges 5:23 it is to be remarked, 1. That the word rendered “ban,” is אַָרַר, and does not, like חָרַם, imply the actual destruction of the object against which it is aimed2. That with the LXX. (Cod. Vat.) our author transfers אֹרוּ from the second line to the first. On the construction of אָרוֹר (which below, but not here, he changes (with the LXX.) into אָרוּר), cf Ges. Gram. 131, 4 b3. That the expression “People of God” is our author’s interpretation of what is meant by “coming to the help of Jehovah,” cf. below4. That בַּגִּבּוֹרִים is by most recent expositors rendered, “among (or, with) heroes,” namely, the warriors of Israel. Compare the Septuagint and Vulgate; the Targum takes בְּ in the hostile sense.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Judges 5:12. With the words of Judges 5:11, “when the People of God hastened down to the gates,” i.e. out to battle, the prophetess transfers herself into the midst of the conflict. Verse 12 presents a reminiscence of the battle song. It recalls the rallying cry. Wake up! wake up! (עוּרִי from עוּר, cf. Isaiah 51:9.) “Awake, awake!” is addressed to Deborah, urging her to fire the soldiery through her song; “arise!” refers to Barak. For she sang, and Barak fought. שֲׁבֵה שֶׁבְיְךָ, “lead forth thy captives.” To be able to carry away captives, was evidence of a complete victory. When Jerusalem and Samaria fell, the people were carried away prisoners. The captivity of the enemy ends the conflict. The reason why a perpetual ban of destruction was pronounced against the enemies who attacked the host of Israel, in the wilderness, near Arad, was not merely that they fought against Israel, but that they also “took some of them prisoners” ( Numbers 21:1). The completeness of God’s victory, as the 68 th Psalm celebrates it, is indicated by the expression, Judges 5:19 (18): שָׁבִיתָ שֶׁבִי, “thou hast carried away the captives.”[FN40]

Judges 5:13. The prophetess now continues to depict the surprising contrasts that have arisen from Israel’s return to God. A שָׂרִיד, a remaining few, by no means all Israel, but a small band—like the remnant (שְׁרִידִים) whom, according to the prophet Joel ( Joel 2:32 ( Joel 3:5)), God calls,—takes up the conflict with אַדִּירִים, mighty ones. (Cf. my discussion on Psalm 8:2, in the Lutherischen Zeitschr., 1860. “Mighty kings,” מְלָכִים אַדִּירִים, are slain by God, Psalm 136:18). The next line runs parallel with this: “the people of God (עַם יְהוָֹה) charges against[FN41]gibborim.” Gibborim are warlike men of gigantic strength. It is applied here to enemies, as elsewhere to Nimrod, who also was an enemy. In the view of Scripture, God alone is the true Gibbor ( Deuteronomy 10:17, etc.). Usually, the gibborim conquer; but here the result is that of which Isaiah speaks ( Isaiah 49:25), “the captives of the gibbor are taken away from him.” There is a peculiar beauty in Deborah’s mode of stating her own share in the war: “the People of God rushed for me (לִי) against heroes.” For my sake, she sings, at my call, with me, did they hazard the conflict with men of superior strength.

Judges 5:14-16. It was truly a “remnant” that fought at the Kishon against Sisera. It was only a part of all Israel that was entitled to the honor of being styled the “People of God.” A special renown must henceforth attach to those tribes who took part in the war, just as the Athenians never lost the glory of having alone gained the battle of Marathon. In Israel, as in Hellas, rivalries obtained between the different tribes. Considerations like these afford the proper introduction to Judges 5:14. Expositors have made its difficulties altogether insurmountable, by supposing that all the tribes here named assisted Barak.[FN42] But this supposition is utterly untenable: 1. The statement of Judges 4is positive and definite, that only Zebulun and Naphtali fought on the plains of Issachar. It is moreover corroborated by the fact that, from her residence on Mount Ephraim, Deborah sends to just those tribes, because the oppression under which Israel suffered bore heaviest on them2. The question whether Ephraim and Benjamin took part in the war, could not have been overlooked by the narrator; for the direction of the march which he had to trace was altogether different from what, had they been combatants, it would have been. And why, in that case, would it have been necessary for Deborah to go with Barak to Kedesh? 3. It is contradicted by Judges 5:14 itself. Machir means Gilead proper.[FN43] Manasseh as a whole cannot be Intended by it (cf. the word יָרְדוּ). It is for the very purpose of designating a part that the term “Machir” is employed. But Deborah herself says, Judges 5:17, that Gilead did not take part in the campaign. Nor would it be at all apparent why Zebulun should be described by two different attributes ( Judges 5:14; Judges 5:18), in relation to the same event4. If those tribes took part in the conflict, why does Judges 5:18 speak only of Zebulun and Naphtali? The Platæans, who alone stood by the Athenians in the day of battle, were not thus forgotten. The most ancient Jewish expositors, however, already perceived the more correct view to be taken of the verse: it is to be historically interpreted. The poet’s mind, like the action itself, moves over the northern territory of Israel. The tribes of Judah and Simeon lie altogether beyond her present field of vision. But with the ancient glory of those tribes, whose territories stretched onward from Mount Ephraim—from the spot where she herself resided, near the border of Benjamin,—she compares that of the conquerors whom she led on. Each tribe had its own glorious traditions. No doubt, exclaims the prophetess, Ephraim is renowned, for out of him sprang he who was against Amalek. The ancients rightly understood this of Joshua, the conqueror of Amalek,[FN44] the pride of Ephraim, who was buried among them, and on whom, unquestionably, the Ephraimites always founded their claim to the leadership among the tribes.—אַחֲרֶידָ בִנְיָמִין בַּעֲמָמֶיךָ, after thee, Benjamin against thine enemies. Since בַּעְמָמֶיךָ (Aram. plur. c. suffix) manifestly answers to בַּעֲמָלֵק, the בְּ, which with the latter means “against,” must be taken in the same sense with the former. This is confirmed by the fact that the plural of עַם is always[FN45] applied to the “heathen,” the “nations,” and carries with it the idea of hostility against Israel. עֲמָמֶיךָ means the hostile nations who stand arrayed against thee,—“thy heathen,” so to speak, “thine enemies.” “After thee,” says the prophetess to Ephraim, “Benjamin advanced against thine enemies”—Benjamin, who bears the name of Wolf ( Genesis 49:27). It is the fame of Ehud, that renders Benjamin illustrious. The old expositors understood these utterances of Deborah, concerning Benjamin and the other tribes, as prophetic. But such an explanation cannot be accepted. A prophetess who looked into the boundless and indefinite future, could not have compared tribe with tribe in a manner possible only when dealing with the facts of history.—By the side of the warlike fame of Ephraim and Benjamin, the prophetess places the peaceful renown of Machir and Zebulun. How far the sons of Machir distinguished themselves as mechokekim, orderers of the law, we have, it is true, no information. But it is to be noticed that what is told of Jair, Judges 10:4, connects itself with a Jair who lived as early as the time of Moses ( Numbers 32:41). The sons of Machir were born “upon the knees” of their grandfather Joseph ( Genesis 50:23). It is only by supposing that the renown of Zebulun also, is one which existed previous to the war, that what is here said can be brought into easy and proper connection with what is said in Judges 5:18. Zebulun, formerly known only for his מוֹשְׁכִים בְּשֵׁבֶט כֹפֵר, experts with the ciphering-pencil, had now become a people courageous unto death. Zebulun was a commercial tribe, like Zidon. The purple-trade especially occupied them. Consequently, the art of the Sopher, i.e. writing, reading, and ciphering, could not fail to be extensively practiced in this tribe. The Sopher appears also in Phœnician inscriptions; Gesenius compares him with the quæstors of Carthage, who held an office next in importance to that of the Suffetes (Monum. Phœnic., 173). A like important office was held by the Sopherim at the courts of the Jewish kings. They are always named in conjunction with the high-priest (cf. 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 4:3; 1 Chronicles 18:16; Isaiah 36:3; 2 Kings 19:2). The Sopher and the high-priest count the money found in the offering-box, 2 Kings 12:10 (11). King Josiah sends his Sopher Shaphan (שָׁפָן, cf. אֱלִיצָפָן. Elizaphan, a Zebulonite, Numbers 34:25) to the priest. It is he who reads the sacred book, which the priest has found, to the king ( 2 Kings 22:8). The commander-in-chief has a Sopher who enrolls the army ( 2 Kings 25:19; Jeremiah 52:25). The uncle of David is celebrated as a wise man and a Sopher ( 1 Chronicles 27:32). The Psalmist praises the stylus of a ready Sopher ( Psalm 45:1 (2)). The activity of a Sopher is everywhere pacific in its nature, demanding sagacity, and presupposing knowledge. The stylus, עֵט, of the Psalmist, is the same as Deborah’s שֵׁבֶט, staff. It was an honor to Zebulun, that in the tribe there were able Sopherim, who could make the art which commerce had caused to flourish among them, subserve the internal and higher life of Israel. The word משְׁכִים suggests a forcible picture; we see the writer artistically drawing the letters with his stylus. This constituted the ancient renown of the tribe. But the victory with Deborah at the Kishon, will not less highly exalt those who had a part in it. That thought forms the transition to Judges 5:15. Issachar, it is true, had not shared in the battle; but that did not diminish the significance of the tribe. Their territory was the theatre of the decision. Very much depended upon the attitude they assumed. Were the battle lost, Issachar must first bear the consequences. Nevertheless, their chiefs decided to hearken to Deborah. “The princes in Issachar were with Deborah.” They surrounded Deborah, while Barak plunged into the valley. As Moses did not himself take the field against Amalek, but intrusted Joshua with the conduct of the battle while he prayed on the mount, so Deborah stood behind the battle-ranks, surrounded by Issachar, uttering blessings, or in case discouragement showed itself,[FN46] urging, encouraging, inspiriting, in a manner similar perhaps to that which the German women were wont to adopt.[FN47] It has been well observed that in the expression וְיִשָׂשׂכָּר כֵּן כָּרָק the word כֵּן is not the particle, but the noun. (Schnurrer was the first to adduce this from among various opinions collected together in the commentary of R. Tanchum.) כֵּן signifies the base, the pedestal (cf. Exodus 30:18); and in truth Issachar was this for the whole battle. It was fought on his territory, an 1 his men formed the reserve of Barak, when that chieftain threw himself into the valley. כָּעֵמֶק שׁלַּת כְּרַגְלָיו expresses the storm-like rapidity of Barak’s movement. The Pual שֻׁלַּת is to be taken in the sense of the Greek middle voice.—Presently the thought occurs to the prophetess that still other neighboring tribes could have helped, Reuben, namely, and Gilead, beyond the Jordan, Dan at its sources, Asher on the coast; but their assistance did not come. Deborah does not blame the distant tribes, as Judah, Simeon, Ephraim, Benjamin, Gad, but only the near ones. Reuben at that time cannot have dwelt to the east of the Dead Sea, but according to Numbers 32:26, etc, must have had a more northerly location, reaching as far up as the banks of the Jabbok.[FN48] There he must have dwelt, pasturing his herds by his brooks. פְּלַגּוֹת, plural of פלַגּה, like פֶּלֶג, brook, stream (cf. my exposition of Psalm 1. Luther. Zeitschr., 1859, p537). Reuben, like the tribes beyond the Jordan generally, had been called on by Barak to take part in the war against Sisera. In like manner was Sparta summoned by Athens, before Marathon. And like Sparta, Reuben considered long. Hence the derisive description of the men of Reuben as לכתִקְקֵי and הִקְרֵי לֵכ, investigators and scrutinizers. They reflect upon the necessity and feasibility of acting, till the time for it is past. Reuben sits between the folds, and prefers to listen to the shepherd’s flute, שְׁרִיקָה שְׁרִקוִת עֲרָרִים, pipe, flute, from שָׁרַק, sibilare, to whistle, to hiss, according to the root and form of the name, is nothing else than the syrinx, pipe, whose invention Hellenic mythology ascribed to Pan. What is here said of Reuben, that he amuses himself with listening to the herdsmen’s flutes (עֵרֶר is properly the herd), is the same that Homer says, Iliad, xviii. Judges 525: “νομῆες τερπόμενοι σύριγξι.”

Judges 5:17. And Gilead tarries beyond Jordan. The fact that what is here said of Gilead might be equally applied to Reuben, since both dwelt beyond the Jordan, is suggestive of the excuse which Gilead may have urged in distinction from Reuben. Reuben reflected; but Gilead denied that the efforts of Barak concerned him: did he not live beyond the Jordan?

But Daniel, how didst thou sail in ships![FN49] Jewish tradition places the occurrence related in Judges 18 before the time of Deborah. And to all appearance this seems to be the right view. For in its southern possessions the tribe of Dan did no hold the sea-coast ( Judges 1:34). Moreover, how should Deborah complain of the want of assistance from southern Daniel, when she entered no such complaint against Judah? If, however, Dan had already removed to the vicinity of Naphtali, the complaint was very natural. The old expositors explain that “Dan had shipped his goods and chattels in order to cross the Jordan.” But this is less simple than the supposition that Daniel, like Zebulun, was engaged with the Phœnicians (Tyre) in maritime commerce, or at least pretended to be, as a reason for refusing Barak’s summons. What renders this interpretation the more probable, is the fact that Deborah speaks next of Asher, “who dwells on the sea-shore.” Jabin, king of Hazor, cannot have domineered over the coast, where the powerful maritime cities were in the ascendency. Therefore Asher also had nothing to suffer from him. He dwells securely in his harbors. It is noteworthy that what the singer here says of Asher, the blessing of Jacob says in the same words of Zebulun, לְתוֹף יַמִּים יִשְׁכֹּן, with an additional clause, however, concerning the pursuit of navigation.

Judges 5:18. This verse puts it beyond all doubt that only Zebulun and Naphtali engaged actively in the conflict; for only to them refers the declaration that they “hazarded their souls unto death.” (For the sake of the poetical parallelism Naphtali is put at the head of the second member, instead of making “Zebulun and Naphtali” the composite subject of the whole distich.) Their faith in Deborah’s word was so firm, that they dared risk the unequal conflict even in the valley (“the high-plain of the field”). Therein consisted the uncommon sacrifice of these tribes. Hitherto, Israel had always given up the valleys (cf. Judges 1:19; Judges 1:34), because it could not overcome disciplined armies and chariots. Even down to the time of the later kings, it was considered invincible on the mountains ( 1 Kings 20:23), which fact however implies that in the valleys it still continued to be otherwise. Hence, מְרוִמי שָׂרֶה is to be understood, not of the “heights,” but of the surface, of the field.[FN50] It was a fearful battle-crisis: a few against so many, a band of footmen against a host of iron chariots, a handful of mountaineers on the plain, a few tribal chieftains against the mighty.

Judges 5:19. Kings came. This is to be understood figuratively, of eminent and powerful military leaders: Sisera was no king.[FN51]לָקָחוּ כֶּצַע כֶּסֶף לא, gain of money they obtained not. This is usually understood only of the booty, which the enemy hoped to obtain, but failed to get. But the troops of Zebulun and Naphtali can scarcely have appeared to promise a booty rich in money. It is therefore probable that the meaning of the prophetess includes something else. We know from instances of later times, that when the people did not feel themselves strong enough to cope with a threatening enemy, they sought to buy him off with money. Thus, in the reign of Rehoboam, Shishak, king of Egypt, took away all the treasures of the temple ( 1 Kings 14:26). Asa gave all the remaining gold and silver to Benhadad of Damascus ( 1 Kings 15:18). Ménahem collected a large amount of money in order to persuade the king of Assyria to turn back ( 2 Kings 15:20). Sisera was not so successful. He neither obtained composition-money before the campaign, nor did he secure any booty after it. The troops and their leaders who had accompanied him, gained no profit from this expedition. Profit is the prominent idea in כֶּצַע; hence the Chaldee Paraphrast usually puts “Mammon” for it.

Judges 5:20-22. From heaven fought the stars. Josephus has introduced into his narrative of this victory, the description of a thunder-storm, accompanied by wind and hail, by which the enemy were thrown into confusion. It is one of those pragmatical endeavors by which he seeks to facilitate belief for his Hellenic readers, and to make the miraculous more natural. The occasion for it was given by the expression, Judges 4:15, “and God confounded them.” The presence and effect of thunder and hail were inferred, by comparison, from two other passages, where a similar divinely-wrought confusion of the enemy is related. Thus in Joshua 10:10-11, when Joshua fights against the enemy, it is said: “And the Lord confounded them, and as they fled cast down great hailstones upon them, that they died.” So also 1 Samuel 7:10 : “And the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day, and confounded the Philistines.” But there appears to be no necessity whatever for transferring these occurrences into our passage. The narrator is rather thinking of Exodus 14:24, which speaks of Pharaoh’s confusion by God without thunder and hail. Nor is there any need of thunder and hail to confound an army. The confusion of Rosbach (Nov5, 1757) was not caused by the intervention of a storm. All that appears from the statements of Judges 4and the Song of Deborah alone, Isaiah, that Barak and his faithful followers made a violent and sudden attack, before the numerous chariots had been placed in battle-array. This was done as night was coming on. When Joshua fought, sun and moon assisted him ( Joshua 10:12): on Barak, the stars shone brightly,—which does not make a thunder-storm probable. Consistently with Israelitish conceptions, the help of the stars can only be understood of their shining.[FN52] Joshua also had come upon his enemies suddenly (פִּתְאֹם, Joshua 10:9). Gideon, too, threw himself upon the hostile camp in the night. But not the stars alone assisted Barak in his heroic course. As the enemy, either for attack or in flight, wished to cross the Kishon, in the direction from Taanach and Megiddo, the swollen stream swept many of them into the arms of death. “The brook Kishon snatched (נְּרָפָם) them away.” (גָּרַף, in its Semitic forms, corresponds to the Indo-Germanic forms rapere, Ger. raffen, Sanskrit, rup.) It thus came to the help of Israel, and became a נַחַל קְרוּמִים, brook of succors. In what sense the Kishon should be especially called a brook of “ancient days,” as many explain קְרוּמִים, cannot be made out, not at least from Scripture.[FN53] The rendering “brook of battles,” has little ground in philology. The repetition of “brook Kishon,” is doubtless intended to suggest a definition of what sort of a stream the Kishon was for Israel on that day. It was not merely the scene of battle, but an instrument of help against the foe. קִרֵּם has frequently this sense, especially in poetical language. In Psalm 79:8 the poet prays, “Let thy mercy come speedily to our help” (יְקַדְּמדּנוּ); cf. Psalm 59:11; Psalm 21:4. But in Deuteronomy, also, Deuteronomy 23:5, it is said of Ammon and Moab that they did not help Israel with bread and water (לֹא־קִרְּמוּ אֶתְכֶם). Kedumim is the plural of a form קָרוּם. The Kishon—thus exults the poet—showed itself a helpful stream. The statement that it snatched the enemies away, presupposes its swollen condition. It is only after the rainy season that the Kishon runs full; for which reason the LXX: call it χειμάῤῥους, winter-flowing. In summer it is for the most part dried up; but in the spring it sends down a rushing flood. Ritter (xvi704, Gage’s Transl. iv351) adduces the fact that on the 16 th of April, 1799, in a conflict between the French and Turks, many of the latter perished in its raging waters. Hence we may infer that the time of Barak’s battle is to be fixed in the latter part of April or the beginning of May. The Feast of Weeks fell in the same season.[FN54] Immediately after the narrative in Exodus, it is intimated that the manifestation on Sinai occurred in the beginning of the third month, and consequently coincided with the Feast of Weeks. The occurrence of the battle in a season devoted to such commemorations, explains with peculiar emphasis the opening lines of the Song of Solomon, concerning the omnipotence of God on Sinai, “when the earth trembled.” The ancients had a not ungrounded tradition,—to prove which this is not the place,—for regarding the 68 th Psalm as a song for the Feast of Weeks; and it is just that psalm which incorporated into itself the introductory parts of Deborah’s Song.

While singing, the prophetess sees herself transported into the tumult of the battle. The stream rushes violently onward,—the perishing foes contend with its whirling eddies. The roar of the conflict, its battle-cries, and shouts of victory, are around her. In the midst of her Song of Solomon, she addresses her own soul, as the Greeks addressed their muse, with words of animation and refreshment: Tread vigorously on, my soul! Her genius hovers over the valley of conflict; her ear feels the hoof-strokes of the flying foes, who, panic stricken before Israel, furiously dash off into flight. What a triumph! the “strong ones” (אַבִּירִים) run away! דָּהַר is to run fast, used of a horse’s trot, like the Sanskrit dru, Greek δρᾶναι (διδράσκω). אַבִּירִים, as Bochart already remarked (Hieroz. i99), is probably used here, as in Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 47:3, of the war-horses, who with their rattling chariots ran wildly off. In that case, the might of the steeds stands representatively for that of the warriors themselves.

Judges 5:23. The flying enemy had not succeeded even in escaping, if all places of the surrounding country had done their duty. The prophetess utters sentence of condemnation against the inhabitants of Meroz, because they rendered no assistance. Their aid had probably been important in the pursuit. Hence, their conduct is referred to here,—before the blessing upon Jael. The verse first introduces a messenger of God, crying, “Curse ye Meroz, curse it!” and then continues itself, “Cursed are its inhabitants.” The “messenger of God” is the singer herself, sent by the Spirit of God to consummate the victorious achievement. In obedience to the Spirit’s prompting, she with Barak pronounces the national ban against the faithless city. For it came not to the help of God (לְעֶזְרת יְהוָֹה), that Isaiah, to the help of the עַם יְהוָֹה, the People of God, as in Judges 5:11; Judges 5:13. It left the cause and the good gifts of God to their fate, when they were endangered in battle against heroes.[FN55] The greater the responsibility, the severer the punishment. The higher the cause to be served, the blacker the treason that abandons it. To ascertain, at this date, the site of Meroz, can hardly be possible. It has indeed been supposed to be identical with a place on Robinson’s map, southwest of Endor,[FN56] called Kefr Musr (cf. Ritter, xv399 [Gage’s Transl. ii316]); but neither the name of the place is certain, nor its situation entirely suitable; and, finally, considering the popular odium which the Song of Deborah affixed to the name, it is by no means probable that it remained unchanged, and actually perpetuated itself. Procopius confirms this surmise, when he observes (Reland, Palästina, p896), that concerning the name he had found nothing anywhere, not even in Hebrew expositions. The curse itself most probably implied, as in Joshua, 6, the utter destruction of the place, although nothing further is said of it. In later times, this verse became a locus classicus for the Talmudic exposition of the ban against persons and things (Mond Katan, 16, a; Shebnoth, 36, a; Selden, de Synedriis, p84, etc.).

Footnotes:

FN#28 - Judges 5:13.—This rendering of Judges 5:13 supposes the Hebrew text to be pointed and divided thus:

אָז יָרַד שָׂרִיד לְאַדִּרִ‍‍֑ים

עַם יְחוָֹה יָרַד לִי בַּגִּבּוֹרִ‍ֽים׃

So also the LXX. (in Cod. Vat.) and many expositors. The most serious objection to it Isaiah, that as it is the easier reading, the Masorites must have had strong traditional grounds for preferring one more difficult. The verse has been translated and interpreted in a great variety of ways; but the view of Dr. Cassel commends itself strongly, especially when compared with Judges 4:14. Our English version seems to take יְרַד as imperf. apoc. Piel from רָדָה, after the example of several Jewish grammarians and interpreters.—Tr.]

FN#29 - Judges 5:14.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering of the first line of Judges 5:14—מִנִּי אֶפְרַיִם שָׁרְשָׁם בַּעֲמָלֵק—, Isaiah, Aus Efraim’s Art, die Amaleksieger. It does not clearly appear how he would translate the passage literally, but the following would probably express his view: “Out of Ephraim (came) their root (who were) against Amalek.” The “root,” then, according to our author’s exposition (see below), would be Joshua, in his relation to those whom he led to victory against “Amalek.” So far as שֹׁרֶשׁ is concerned, this interpretation has full as much in its favor as that which makes it mean “dwelling-place.” On the rendering of עֲמָמֶיךָ, see the commentary. The majority of expositors, would probably accept the rendering of the two lines given by Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Repos. 1831):—

“Out of Ephraim (came those) whose dwelling is by Amalek;

After thee (was) Benjamin among thy hosts.”

But in a document the language of which is so obscure as that of the Song of Deborah, much necessarily depends on the conception formed of the connection in which one passage stands with another. Now, while the majority of interpreters assume that Judges 5:14 speaks of such as took part in the war against Jabin and Sisera, our author maintains that it dwells on the fame of those who did not take part in this war, in order by this comparison to exalt that of those who did. On the decision of this question the interpretation in detail of the whole verse depends. Which of the two conflicting views is true, is not a matter to be discussed here, but it is certain that Judges 4. is very favorable to our author’s side, cf. the com. belew.—Tr.]

FN#30 - Judges 5:14.—The rendering of this line turns on שֵׁבֶט סֹפֵר. The Targum, Peshito, and most ancient expositors, explain it of the “stylus of the writer;” while most moderns translate it “the staff of the leader.” Compare the remarks in the preceding note.—Tr.]

FN#31 - Judges 5:15.—Dr. Cassel probably reads שָׂרֵי, with Bertheau, Keil, and most expositors. The preposition בְּ after the construct state is not unusual in poetry, cf. 2 Samuel 1:21; Job 18:2; etc. Some regard שָׂרַי as an unusual plural (cf. Ges. Gram. 87, 1, c), or as an archaic form of the construct (so Ewald, Gram. 211, c).—Tr.]

FN#32 - Judges 5:15.—On בְּרַגְלָיו, compare “Grammatical” note on Judges 4:10; also Judges 8:5; 2 Samuel 15:17; etc.—Tr.]

FN#33 - Judges 5:15.—חִקְקֵי לֵב; Dr. Cassel, Ergründler. For הִקרֵי לֵב, in the next verse, he has Ergrübler, which admirably reproduces both the paranomasia and the irony of the original. חִקְקֵי and הִקְרֵי are, of course, abstract nouns, followed by the genitive of the subject to which they pertain.—Tr.]

FN#34 - Judges 5:17.—“Aber Daniel, was zogst du auf schiffen aus!” Our author probably takes גּוּר in its most usual sense, “to sojourn:” to sojourn in or on ships, readily suggesting the idea of sailing in ships. Most expositors translate: “And Daniel, why abides he at the ships?” The prepositionless accusative is as easy or as difficult in one case as in the other.—Tr.]

FN#35 - Judges 5:19.—בֶּצַע כֶּסֶף: Dr. Cassel, Geld zur Busse, “penance money,” cf. the Commentary below. Bertheau, Keil, and others, taking בֶּצַע in its Arabic sense of frustum (cf. the root בצע), translate: “not a piece of silver did they take;” but against the Hebrew use of the word.—Tr.]

FN#36 - Judges 5:20—Dr. Cassel, following many previous expositors, alters the Masoretic text division by transferring “the stars” from the second to the first clause. But it is justly objected to this change that it reduces the second clause to a mere repetition by which nothing is added to the idea already expressed in the first. In the next line, the word מְסִלָּה signifies, “a causeway,” “highway.” Dr. Cassel’s rendering, Statten, places, is manifestly chosen for the sake of alliteration: Sie stritten von ihren Statten mit Sisera; compare the English imitation above.—Tr.]

FN#37 - Judges 5:21—תִּדְרְכִי נַפְשִׁי עֹז. This line has been very variously interpreted. It is now generally agreed, however, that it is an address of the Singer to herself. תִּדְרְכִי is the jussive of the second person, cf. Ges. Gram. 48, 4. עֹז may either be taken as an adverbial accusative (=בּעֹז), or as the direct object after the verb. Dr. Cassel decides for the former, after Herder, Justi, Bertheau, Ewald, Keil; Dr. Bachmann, with Schnurrer, Köhler, Holmann, etc, prefers the latter, and takes עֹז as the abstract for the concrete: “Tread down, my soul, the strong ones!” cf. Robbins, in Bibl. Sacra. In either case, the incitement of the line may be directed to the continuation of the Song of Solomon, or to the prosecution of the pursuit of the enemy. Bachmann prefers the latter; but the former seems to us more striking and appropriate.—Tr.]

FN#38 - Judges 5:22.—Dr. Cassel :—

Da der Jagenden Rosshuf hallend aufschlug,

Der entjagenden Starken.

On the translation of אָז by “when,” cf. note1, on p97. In the second line of the above rendering, the מִן does not come to its rights, and the suffix in אַבִּרָיו is neglected. The מִן is causal, and the suffix יו—goes back to the collective סוּס of the first line, so that it seems necessary to explain אַבִּירִים of men, not, as our author (see below) of horses. The best rendering of the verse is probably that adopted, for substance, by Keil, Bachmann, and many others:—

“Then the hoofs of the horses smote the ground,

Because of the galloping of their valiant riders.”

The last expression may very well be taken ironically: “runaway heroes.” On the repetition of דַּהֲרוֹת, to indicate continuance, see Ewald, Gram., 313 a; cf. also Ges. Gram. 108, 4.—Tr.].

FN#39 - Judges 5:23—On the above translation of Judges 5:23 it is to be remarked, 1. That the word rendered “ban,” is אַָרַר, and does not, like חָרַם, imply the actual destruction of the object against which it is aimed2. That with the LXX. (Cod. Vat.) our author transfers אֹרוּ from the second line to the first. On the construction of אָרוֹר (which below, but not here, he changes (with the LXX.) into אָרוּר), cf Ges. Gram. 131, 4 b3. That the expression “People of God” is our author’s interpretation of what is meant by “coming to the help of Jehovah,” cf. below4. That בַּגִּבּוֹרִים is by most recent expositors rendered, “among (or, with) heroes,” namely, the warriors of Israel. Compare the Septuagint and Vulgate; the Targum takes בְּ in the hostile sense.—Tr.]

FN#40 - According to Bachmann the first half of Judges 5:12 contains the self-incitement of Deborah to begin the inscription of the battle, while the second half actually enters on the inscription with a reminiscence of Judges 4:14.—Tr.]

FN#41 - יְרַד בַּגִּבּוֹרִים. Cf. Judges 7:9, רֵד בַּמַּחֲבֶה; also Judges 7:13.

FN#42 - Keil also has adopted this view.

FN#43 - Numbers 32:39; cf. Joshua 17:3.

FN#44 - “In the land of Ephraim” there was a Mount of Amalek, cf. Judges 12:15.

FN#45 - “Always” is too strong; cf. Genesis 48:4; Leviticus 21 :; Ezekiel 18:18.—Tr.]

FN#46 - As in conflicts of the Bedouin tribes, the Arab women at the present time still stand in the rear, and encourage the combatants by their zâlágît (singing). Cf. Wetzstein, Haurân, 145.

FN#47 - This was still done by the women of the crusaders in the battle near Doryläum, as Petrus Trudebod informs us (Gesta Dei per Francos, p782): “Feminæ nostrœ in illa die fuerunt nobis in refugium .… confortantes not fortiter pugnantes et viros protegentes.” Cf. Wilken, Gesch. der Kreuzz., i155.

FN#48 - Only those tribes can have been censured who stood in close geographical connection with Naphtali and Zebulun, not those whose position inclined them to southern alliances. Ephraim, Benjamin, Judah, and Simeon, receive no censure; but Asher, Daniel, and Gilead, do. How could Reuben be blamed, while Judah was not, if his seat were below at the Dead Sea?

FN#49 - אְנִיּוִת, used only of sea-going vessels, cf. Proverbs 30:19.

FN#50 - But מָרוֹם assuredly means height, an elevation above the general level, not surface. In connection with the facts of the history, the expression, it seems to me, can only mean either Mount Tabor or the higher parts of the plain of Esdraelon, as the gathering-place of the warriors, where they in thought and intention “scorned their lives.” So Bachmann and many other expositors.—Tr.]

FN#51 - On Taanach and Megiddo see at Judges 1:27. The “waters of Megiddo” undoubtedly refers to the Kishon. The Kishon valley was in like manner called the Valley of Megiddo, 2 Chronicles 35:22; Zechariah 12:11. Cf. Rob. Bibl. Res., ii330.—Tr.]

FN#52 - Bertheau takes the words “the stars fought,” as figurative language, expressive of divine assistance. “From the decisive victory it is certain that God was with Israel and fought in the midst of them, Judges 5:13 [read according to the Masoretic text division]; that He himself threw the hostile host into confusion, Judges 4:15; and that the strong arm of a higher Power directed the course of the battle. All this is clearly and vividly present to the mind of the Singer. Filled with the thoughts of God’s wonderful aid, and venturing under the impulses of a bold enthusiasm to give definite representation of his distinctly recognized yet mysterious work on earth and in the midst of men, it is to her as if the heavens, the eternal dwelling-place of the holy God, had bowed themselves down to earth, or—to use the language of the text—as if the stars, forsaking their usual orbits, had fought against Sisera. Quite similar is the Imagery in Psalm 18.” The same view is adopted by Bachmann and many others.—Tr.]

FN#53 - Bachmann, who adopts this interpretation, explains it from the fact “that the ancient wonder of the Red Sea appears to repeat itself at the Kishon. As in the whole of the present wonderful deliverance Deborah beholds a renewal of the glorious occurrences at Sinai ( Judges 5:4), so she finds in the experience of Sisera’s army at the Kishon a renewal of that which befell the Egyptians at the Red Sea; and thus the Kishon in her view takes the place of the Red Sea which that ancient wonder had rendered famous.” Far fetched; although suggested by several earlier Rabbinical and ecclesiastical expositors.—Tr.]

FN#54 - A Jewish hymn of the Middle Ages, by R. Mair, still sung in the synagogues, at the Passover (Lel Shemurim), transports the battle into the Passover night; for which, however, it has no chronological grounds, but only the theological principle that all achievements of freedom were accomplished in that night.

FN#55 - It is altogether erroneous to take כַּגּכּוֹרִים here of the heroes of Israel. For just therein consisted the faithlessness of the inhabitants of Meroz, that though Israel was threatened by heroes and mighty men, they offered no assistance.

FN#56 - The battle took place south of Endor. That Barak in his swift descent from the heights met the enemy there first, appears from the remarkable statement of Psalm 83:10, which speaks of Endor as a point of the battle-field.


Verses 24-31

The Fate Of The Enemy

Judges 5:24-31

24Blessed among women be Jael,

The wife of Heber, the Kenite,

Blessed among women of the tents!

25He asks for water, she gives him milk,

In a beautiful bowl she carries him cream.

26With her left she takes the nail,[FN57]

With her right the heavy hammer,

Swings it over Sisera, smites his head,

Crashes through, and transpierces his temples.[FN58]

27At her feet he curls himself and falls,

At her feet he lies, curls himself again, and falls,

And as he curls himself again, falls—dead![FN59]

Through the window she looks, at the lattice laments 28 the mother of Sisera:

Why lingers his car so long,

Why stay the steps of his chariots?

29Wise ladies answer her,[FN60]

Herself also refutes her own words:

30Will they not find booty and divide it?

Two maidens for each man;

Booty of purple robes for Sisera,

Yea, booty of purple robes!

Color-embroidered vestments, two for each neck of the captured![FN61]

31So may all thy foes fall, O God,

But those who love thee rise as the sun in his strength!

And the land rested forty years.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 5:26.—The rendering of יָרָהּ by “her left hand,”—if admissible at all,—must be justified by the assumption of an intended contrast with יְמִינָהּ in the next line. The form תִּשְׁלַחְנָה, according to Gesenius, Gram. 47, 3, 3is an improper use of the 3 d plural for the 3 d singular; according to Green, 88, p119, it stands for תִּשְׁלָחֶנָּה—“her hand, she puts it forth;” according to Ewald, 191 c, it is simply the 3 d fem. sg. תִּשְׁלַח, with an additional feminine characteristic (נָה) in order to distinguish it from the 3 d masc. singular. Ewald’s view is also adopted by Bertheau, Keil, and (in the main, by) Bachmann, and is probably the true one.—Tr.]

2 Judges 5:26.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering of the last two lines of this verse is as follows:—

Schwingt ihn auf Sisra, schlägt ihn an’s Haupt,

Schmettert nach und durchbohrt ihm die Schlafe.

We have endeavored to reproduce his alliteration as nearly as possible, but have nevertheless lost the paranomasia of הָלְמָה with חַלְמוּת, hammer, in the preceding line, for which our author has Schlägel, mallet, beetle. The awful energy of the lines, and their onomatopoetic character, may be distantly and somewhat inelegantly imitated in English, thus—

“She hammers Sisera, mashes his head,

Smashes (him), and crashes through his temples.”—Tr.]

3 Judges 5:27.—The above translation of this verse disregards the Masoretic text-division (according to which שָׁכַכ, “he lies,” belongs to the first line), and takes כַּאֲשֶׁר in a temporal instead of local sense. The radical meaning of כָּרַע is probably “to bend or contract one’s self” (cf. Ges. Lex., Keil, Bachmann), the usual sense “to kneel” being derivative. The mortally wounded Sisera, pinned to the ground ( Judges 4:21), involuntarily curls himself together, as Dr. Cassel says—i. e. brings his knees forward and upward. But Dr. Cassel’s idea that this involuntary muscular contraction was repeated three times is inconsistent with the proper local sense of בַּאֲשֶׁר, and with the repeated נָפַל. Dr. Cassel, it is true, seeks to avoid the latter difficulty by supposing (see the com. below) that Sisera “seeks to rise, and falls back;” but how could he rise so as to fall back when his head was pinned to the ground? It is altogether more likely that in this song of victory, נָפַל is used as in military language (and perhaps not without a touch of contemptuous irony), for “to die,” “to be slain,” in this sense, נָפַל, like πίπτειν, cadere, and our “fall,” is frequently used, cf. the Lexica. The repetition of the idea of the first line in the second and third springs from the great interest of the singer in the destruction of the much-dreaded chieftain, and serves to intensify the impression to be produced on those who hear her. Accordingly, we would render:—

At her feet he curls himself, he falls, he lies.

At her feet he curls himself, he falls!

Where he curls himself, there he falls—destroyed.

So also Bertheau, Keil, Bachmann. For בֵּין, in the sense of “at” cf. remarks of Hengstenberg on Zechariah 13:6, in Christol. iv106, Edinb. edition.—Tr.]

4 Judges 5:29.—The above translation neglects both the suffix in שָׂרוִתֶיהָ, and the construct state of חַכְמוֹת (fem. of חָכָם). In תַּעֲנֶנָּה Dr. Cassel apparently finds the 3 d fem. sing. imperf. with the suffix of the 3 d fem. sing. But as the subject is plural, it is better to take תַּעֲנֶנָּה as standing for תַּעֲנֶינָה. The accented é in the latter form seeks to strengthen itself by doubling the following consonant, in which case the י naturally falls away, although it may also remain, as in Micah 7:10. Cf. Ewald, Gram. 17 c. The true rendering of the second line of this verse is much disputed. According to Keil the sense of the line is: “Sisera’s mother, however, does not allow herself to be quieted by the speeches of her wise ladies, but repeats the anxious question, Why does Sisera delay to come?” He and Bachmann translate the verse thus:—

“The wise ones of her princesses answer:

—But she repeats to herself her words—”.—Tr.]

5 Judges 5:30.—On our author’s text-division in this verse, see the Commentary below. Bachmann, who adheres to the Masoretic punctuation, translates as follows:—

“Will they not find, divide booty?

A maiden, two maidens for the head of a Prayer of Manasseh,

Booty of colored garments for Sisera,

Booty of colored garments, (of) variegated work,

A colored garment, two variegated for the neck of the booty.”—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

The closing part of Deborah’s Song has justly been regarded as a specimen of poetical representation that cannot be surpassed. In it the singer shows that she is a woman. The triumph with which Jael’s deed is praised and Sisera’s mother mocked, evinces an almost passionate mental exaltation. The picture of Sisera’s death is drawn with startling vividness. On the back ground of a divine enthusiasm, there rises an ecstatic delight in the deed of one woman, and in the misery of another, such as springs up in none but a woman’s heart. That which in heathen female characters becomes demoniac in its nature, is in Deborah purified by the divine thoughts which animate her. No subjective interest, no private feeling, no personal passion, influences her; the highest interests of her God and people fill her soul. It is not her triumph, but that of her ever-living Maker, that she celebrates; and yet at the height of its exultation her Song breaks out in a mood by which the woman might be recognized, even if neither name nor other information on the authorship had been handed down to us. That which especially gives to the conclusion of the Song its great value and attractiveness, is the fact that from it the genuineness of the whole becomes even more psychologically than grammatically evident—that the mantic power of a prophetic woman, unweakened and in the full glow of its burning ecstasy, is nowhere else filled and controlled as it is here, by rational enthusiasm born of an objective, divinely-given truth. How well it was said of her, that she was a “woman of a fiery spirit” ( Judges 4:4), becomes here most manifest. The more terrible the tyranny, the more common-place the enemy, the more intensely burns her soul in her song of victory. The glowing heat of her prophetic enthusiasm shines through the irony, with which she places the vain pride of unbelieving enemies over against the almighty power of God. It is not an irony of hatred, disfiguring the face with scornful smiles, but such as springs from the consciousness that God’s wisdom and power are superior to all heroes and heathen. Verse23, pronouncing the ban against Meroz, says, “thus proclaims the messenger of God.” The name of God is the source of all power and authority. Apostasy from God incurs the ban; whoever helps to advance his works, is blessed.

Judges 5:24-25. Blessed among women be Jael. Meroz did not come to the help of the people of God. Jael came, though a woman; and not of Israel, but a dweller in tents. The name of her husband is mentioned to distinguish her from others of the same name, and also to give him an interest in the fame of his wife. Accordingly, for her sake, he also has obtained a place in the records of history. The blessing which she enjoys before all women “in the tent,” i.e. before all who like herself and the Kenites wandered about in tents, after the manner of nomads, she did not win by accident. She made an energetic use of her opportunity. She deceives the flying Sisera by the signs of homage which she presents to him. He asks only for water; she offers him milk, and, as was befitting with such a guest, כְּסֵפֶל אַרּירִים, in a bowl such as princes use. She takes the handsome show-bowl, not used on ordinary occasions, and hands him תֶמְאָה. This word, which also signifies butter, expresses in general the more solid forms of milk. Here, where it stands parallel with תָלָכ, it signifies, in harmony with the “show-bowl,” the best milk, the cream. There is absolutely nothing to suggest the opinion of older expositors (Schnurrer, p83, received by Herder also) that she wished to intoxicate him with the milk. Moreover, we need not assume that the milk was camel-milk; and, at all events, the intoxicating property of that milk[FN62] must have been known to Sisera. Before Bochart (cf. Serarius, p145), Junius and Tremellius had already expressed the opinion, approved by Scaliger, that in סֵפֶל the Latin simpulum reappears. But saph, sephel, are Hebrew forms of a widely-diffused term for round, scooped-out vessels, whether of larger or smaller size, and may be recognized in the Greek σκάφη, bowl, trough, tub, Latin scaphium, and in the German Schaff (tub, pail), Scheffel (modius), a round measure).[FN63] It is true, however, that sephel continued to be used among the Jews (in the Talmud) and Syrians, and that the shape of the vessel may be most nearly expressed by simpulum, which, as Cicero’s proverb, “fluctus in simpulo”—a tempest in a nutshell—proves, was a smaller drinking-vessel.

Judges 5:26-27. The first of these verses shows that the narrator in Judges 4was in possession of traditional information beside that furnished by this Song. The prophetess passes over intermediate, self-evident matters. Sisera, of course, must lie down and sleep, before a woman can approach his head with hammer and nail. The verse depicts the dreadful work and vigor of Jael, as she approaches and drives the nail into Sisera’s head. The terms employed (הָלַם,מָתַק,מָתַץ) are such as cause us to hear the blows of the hammer, sounding repeatedly, till she finishes her work. What a terrible picture! Before the warrior stands the kindled woman—the heavy hammer (as Herder finely translated הַלְמוּת עֲמֵלִים, for עַמֵל is one who works hard or heavily, a toiler) in her right hand. The smitten chieftain draws himself together, he seeks to rise, and falls back. Twice more he writhes convulsively, and dies. There he lies, the haughty warrior, who thought to destroy the People of God—slain by a woman in disgraceful flight, far from his kindred, alone and unlamented, an example to conquerors of human weakness and divine power. (שָׁדוּד is the condition of utter lifelessness, when every sound and motion has ceased; hence it stands in contrast with כָּרַע, which describes the wounded man instinctively bending and drawing himself together, as if about to rise.)

Judges 5:28-31. But the fall of Sisera in the tent of a woman does not complete the picture of the extraordinary triumph. The prophetess shows yet another view. She carries her hearers to a distant scene. While Sisera lies here in ignominious death, what takes place in the palace of his capital? The return of the chieftain, accustomed to victory, has already been long expected. His mother stands at the window above,[FN64] in the airy upper room. Her view commands the road to a great distance. She peers and listens; but still the rolling of the victorious chariots is not heard. No triumphal procession, with Sisera at its head, gorgeously attired and proud of victory, lights up the horizon. A sad presentiment steals over her heart: Why does his chariot delay? she cries, wailingly;[FN65] why does he tarry so long? Is there no car[FN66] coming, to bring tidings at least?—Who should first suffer anxiety, if not a mother? Of a wife, nothing is said; such love thrives not in the harem of a prince. He is his mother’s pride, the great hero, who had hitherto been invincible. What she has in him, and what she loses, concerns no other woman. With this pride, her women, noble ladies, whom her high rank as mother of the all-powerful commander draws around her, comfort her. Victory, they say, has also its occupations. If he has not come yet, it is because these detain him. No other explanation of his non-arrival is possible. Anxiety, therefore, is improper. For it is precisely victory that delays him. This is what her women say to her; the flattered mother admits the justness of their observations, and with them confutes her own foreboding questions.[FN67] The prophetess, with delicate irony, calls the women who thus counsel, “wise ones.” It is the wisdom of a pride that deems it inconceivable that Sisera should not have been victorious; how could he prove unfortunate against this insignificant people! What to them is the God of Israel! It is the booty that hinders his coming. Booty, of course, delays the victor; for he must cause it to be divided. The mother and her women naturally think first of the booty; to them, that is the pith of all victories. Their fancy then proceeds to picture at pleasure the conquered treasures. How much time must it take, before every soldier has the two maidens whom he obtains as booty, assigned to him![FN68] And then the heap of costly clothing. The purple garments fall naturally to Sisera, for they are suitable only for princes. But each of the others also obtains embroidered garments, always two for each maiden that fell to his share. In this strain they talk with each other, and already imagine themselves to be looking over the goods which Sisera is bringing with him. But all at once the message comes: No booty, no victory—the hero is dead, the army is shattered! All is lost—the castle falls…. So perish they who set themselves against God. Fearful sorrow breaks their pride. But they who love God conquer. Their type is the sun, who like a fame-crowned victor, every morning, every spring, triumphs gloriously, with hero-like power, over clouds and darkness.

Account must here be given for departures from the ordinary division and translation in Judges 5:30. That verse, like several others in Deborah’s Song of Solomon, has undergone an incredible amount of conjecture and emendation. It reads as follows:—

הֲלֹא יִמְצְאוּ יְתַלְּקוּ שָׁלָל 1.

רַחַם רַחֲמָיִם לְרֹאשׁ גֶּכֶר 2.

שְׁלַל צְבָצִים לְסִיסְרָא 3.

שְׁלַל צְבָעִים 4.

רִקְמָה צֶבַע רִקְמָתַיִם לְצַוְּארֵי שָׁלָל. 5.

Victors found their greatest satisfaction and joy in the booty. Hence, Moses also makes Pharaoh say ( Exodus 15:9): “I will pursue, I will divide the spoil.” The women took for granted that Sisera will find (יִמְצְאוּ) much booty, and that consequently a division will commence. Lines2–5 point out the method of the division. First (line2) each man gets two maidens, or women. Then the garments are divided. But how this was done, depends upon the explanation of line5, particularly of the words לְצַוּארֵי שָׁלָל. The difficulty[FN69] under which expositors labored, originated in their failing to perceive that שָׁלָל means the booty of maidens mentioned in line2. It cannot be denied that שָׁלָל is booty of persons as well as of things, cf. Numbers 31:11. Zechariah 2:13 (9) says, “They become a spoil to those who have served them.” In Isaiah 10:2, widows are called שָׁלָל, cf. Jeremiah 21:9, as also Jeremiah 1:10, where the Chaldeans are spoken of as booty. An entirely analogous error used to be made in interpreting the celebrated chorus in the Antigone of Sophocles:—

̓́Ερως ἀνίκατε μάχαν,

̓́Ερως, ὅς ἐν κτήμασι πίπτεις·

the word κτήμασι being understood, not of “the unfree,” but always of things (cf. Weimar. Jahrbuch fur Deutsche Lit., ii359). The “unfree” booty consists of men, animals, and things. So here, צַוְּארֵי שָׁלָל are the necks of the women taken as booty. For each neck two cloths are allowed. Thus the רִקְמָה רִקְמָתַיִם of line5 corresponds to the רָחַם רַחֲמָתָיִם of line2. The division was thus systematized. As many women as each had, so many times did he receive two cloths (for doubtless the dual form here really signifies the dual number). Now, it must not be overlooked that רִקְמָה is used only in connection with the division of the cloths according to the number of maidens. Elsewhere also ( Ezekiel 26:16, excepted) רִקְמָה appears as an article of female adornment, cf. Psalm 45:15, for instance; also in Ezekiel 16:13, the figure is that of a woman. This confirms the above division, and explains the expression of line Judges 3 : שְׁלַל צְרָעִים לְסִיסְרָא. The רּקְמָתַים, which the chieftain is to receive, are distinguished from the רּקְמָתַיִם, which fall to the maidens. The latter are beautifully-colored female dress-cloths;[FN70] the former belong to Sisera, and are therefore to be taken as purple garments. It is true, צָבַע, in itself, means only to dip, i.e. to dye; but the spirit of the passage invites us to think not of merely colored, but of purple-colored garments, κατ̓ ἐξιχήν. Such garments were worn by princes in battle (cf. Judges 8:26), and distinguished kings and rulers; by reason of which it was an honor for Mordecai to wear them ( Esther 8:15; cf. Rosenmüller, Morgenland, iii37). It is a proud thought for Sisera’s mother, that the princely garments belong to her son. The repetition of the words שְׁלַל צְבָעִים (line4) is to be taken as expressive of this her joy. The women do not speak, as has perhaps been supposed, of what they themselves shall receive, but simply represent to themselves how much time must be consumed in dividing so much booty among so many persons, in order to explain that which so greatly needed explanation—the delay of Sisera.

We omit recounting the various different expositions of this section. Nor is room allowed us to notice the manifold endeavors that have been made to analyze the arrangement of the whole Song. Neither Köster’s, nor Ewald’s, nor Bertheau’s division holds good. Le Clerc attempted to arrange the Song according to endings of similar sound,—an attempt that must necessarily fail. On the other hand, alliteration is of such frequent occurrence, as to betray more than anything else the presence of conscious art. Since the Song of Solomon, however, is not built up of regular strophes, it of course cannot be subject to the same regular laws which govern the Scandinavian poems. But the alliterative form, in its perfect freedom, enhances the power of the Song to an extraordinary degree. It resembles in its effects the pebble-stones of the brook, over which the current flows with augmented force. It would transcend the limits of our present task to institute a comparison between the various productions of the Hebrew muse with reference to this alliterative form. Let it suffice, that in the rendering of the original we have endeavored to give prominence to the delicacy of the alliteration as it appears in this Song of Deborah.

And the land rested forty years. These words do not belong to the Song; but connect themselves with the prose narrative, at Judges 4:24, into which the poem was inserted.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Deborah, the prophetic Singer. After the victory, Deborah sings a noble Song of Solomon, and thereby enables us to recognize that the spirit which animates her is the spirit of prophecy. The other Judges conquer like herself, but they have left us no songs of victory. But, indeed, they are not said to have been prophets. Only prophetic tongues can sing. True poetry is a sacred art. For that reason, all prophecy is a sublime hymn on judgment and divine redemption. Whatever the prophet sees, he proclaims and sings to the harp of faith. What they believed, that they spake. The wonderful works of God are always spoken of and preached with other tongues and in ecstatic song. Thus, from David’s time till now, the church of God has sung. Hallelujah is the keynote of all church-hymns.

But, just as Deborah, like Moses and Miriam, sang among the people, so the prophecy of song is not confined within the limits of the church. All popular poetry is the product of popular faith. The decay of literature is bound up in the decay of prophetic inspiration. Rhymes and verbal decorations do not rouse the masses. But when the jubilant heart, redeemed, strikes up its Easter- Song of Solomon, then every pulse will beat responses.

Starke: Although God has not committed the regular office of preaching to women, he has nevertheless many times imparted his prophetic Spirit to them, and through them has spoken great things.—The same: All who share in the benefits of God, should also join in bringing Him praise and thanksgiving.—Gerlach: An age in which this sublime, high-wrought, and spirited song could be composed, though full of restless and wildly antagonistic movements, was certainly not without deep and living consciousness of the high and glorious calling of the covenant-people.

[Wordsworth: We have a song of victory in Exodus; we have a song of victory in Numbers; we have a song of victory in Deuteronomy; we have this song of victory in Judges; we have a song of victory in the first of Samuel; we have a song of victory in the second of Samuel; we have the song of Zacharias, and the Magnificat, or Song of the Blessed Virgin, and the song of Simeon, in the Gospel; and all these songs are preludes to the new Song of Solomon, the song of Moses and of the Lamb, which the Saints of the Church glorified, from all nations, will sing, at the crystal sea, with the harps of God, when all the enemies of Christ and his Church will have been subdued, and their victory will be consummated forever ( Revelation 14:1-3; Revelation 15:2-4).—The same (on Judges 5:17): Here, in Dan and Asher, is the second hindrance to zeal for God’s cause; the other was that in the case of Reuben—comparative distance from the scene of danger, and rural occupation (see Judges 5:15-16). They who live in commercial and maritime cities, engaged in worldly business, are tempted to prefer their own worldly interest to the cause of God and his Church. They who thus Acts, imitate Daniel, and forfeit the blessing of Deborah. They also who live in country villages, removed from the din of controversy, and engaged in farming and other rural occupations, have strong temptations to live merely to themselves, and to stand aloof from their brethren, and not to listen to Deborah’s voice, and not to flock to Barak’s standard, and fight God’s battle together with them against the heresy and infidelity which assail his Church.—The same (on Judges 5:18): Zebulun and Naphtali, in “Galilee of the Gentiles,” sent forth champions to the Lord’s battle against the enemies of the Hebrew Church; and their land was afterwards honored as the scene of Christ’s preaching (see Matthew 4:13), and gave birth to many of the Apostles, the first champions of the Christian Church against the spiritual Siseras of this world.—The same (on Judges 5:31): After the stirring emotions of the tempest of the elements, and the rush of the combatants, and the din of arms, and shock of battle, described with wonderful energy in this divine poem, the land had rest; a beautiful contrast, and an emblem of the peaceful calm which will prevail when the storms of this world will be lulled in the Sabbath of Eternity.—Henry: And well had it been if, when the churches and the tribes had rest, they had been edified, and had walked in the fear of the Lord.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#57 - Judges 5:26.—The rendering of יָרָהּ by “her left hand,”—if admissible at all,—must be justified by the assumption of an intended contrast with יְמִינָהּ in the next line. The form תִּשְׁלַחְנָה, according to Gesenius, Gram. 47, 3, 3is an improper use of the 3 d plural for the 3 d singular; according to Green, 88, p119, it stands for תִּשְׁלָחֶנָּה—“her hand, she puts it forth;” according to Ewald, 191 c, it is simply the 3 d fem. sg. תִּשְׁלַח, with an additional feminine characteristic (נָה) in order to distinguish it from the 3 d masc. singular. Ewald’s view is also adopted by Bertheau, Keil, and (in the main, by) Bachmann, and is probably the true one.—Tr.]

FN#58 - Judges 5:26.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering of the last two lines of this verse is as follows:—

Schwingt ihn auf Sisra, schlägt ihn an’s Haupt,

Schmettert nach und durchbohrt ihm die Schlafe.

We have endeavored to reproduce his alliteration as nearly as possible, but have nevertheless lost the paranomasia of הָלְמָה with חַלְמוּת, hammer, in the preceding line, for which our author has Schlägel, mallet, beetle. The awful energy of the lines, and their onomatopoetic character, may be distantly and somewhat inelegantly imitated in English, thus—

“She hammers Sisera, mashes his head,

Smashes (him), and crashes through his temples.”—Tr.]

FN#59 - Judges 5:27.—The above translation of this verse disregards the Masoretic text-division (according to which שָׁכַכ, “he lies,” belongs to the first line), and takes כַּאֲשֶׁר in a temporal instead of local sense. The radical meaning of כָּרַע is probably “to bend or contract one’s self” (cf. Ges. Lex., Keil, Bachmann), the usual sense “to kneel” being derivative. The mortally wounded Sisera, pinned to the ground ( Judges 4:21), involuntarily curls himself together, as Dr. Cassel says—i. e. brings his knees forward and upward. But Dr. Cassel’s idea that this involuntary muscular contraction was repeated three times is inconsistent with the proper local sense of בַּאֲשֶׁר, and with the repeated נָפַל. Dr. Cassel, it is true, seeks to avoid the latter difficulty by supposing (see the com. below) that Sisera “seeks to rise, and falls back;” but how could he rise so as to fall back when his head was pinned to the ground? It is altogether more likely that in this song of victory, נָפַל is used as in military language (and perhaps not without a touch of contemptuous irony), for “to die,” “to be slain,” in this sense, נָפַל, like πίπτειν, cadere, and our “fall,” is frequently used, cf. the Lexica. The repetition of the idea of the first line in the second and third springs from the great interest of the singer in the destruction of the much-dreaded chieftain, and serves to intensify the impression to be produced on those who hear her. Accordingly, we would render:—

At her feet he curls himself, he falls, he lies.

At her feet he curls himself, he falls!

Where he curls himself, there he falls—destroyed.

So also Bertheau, Keil, Bachmann. For בֵּין, in the sense of “at” cf. remarks of Hengstenberg on Zechariah 13:6, in Christol. iv106, Edinb. edition.—Tr.]

FN#60 - Judges 5:29.—The above translation neglects both the suffix in שָׂרוִתֶיהָ, and the construct state of חַכְמוֹת (fem. of חָכָם). In תַּעֲנֶנָּה Dr. Cassel apparently finds the 3 d fem. sing. imperf. with the suffix of the 3 d fem. sing. But as the subject is plural, it is better to take תַּעֲנֶנָּה as standing for תַּעֲנֶינָה. The accented é in the latter form seeks to strengthen itself by doubling the following consonant, in which case the י naturally falls away, although it may also remain, as in Micah 7:10. Cf. Ewald, Gram. 17 c. The true rendering of the second line of this verse is much disputed. According to Keil the sense of the line is: “Sisera’s mother, however, does not allow herself to be quieted by the speeches of her wise ladies, but repeats the anxious question, Why does Sisera delay to come?” He and Bachmann translate the verse thus:—

“The wise ones of her princesses answer:

—But she repeats to herself her words—”.—Tr.]

FN#61 - Judges 5:30.—On our author’s text-division in this verse, see the Commentary below. Bachmann, who adheres to the Masoretic punctuation, translates as follows:—

“Will they not find, divide booty?

A maiden, two maidens for the head of a Prayer of Manasseh,

Booty of colored garments for Sisera,

Booty of colored garments, (of) variegated work,

A colored garment, two variegated for the neck of the booty.”—Tr.]

FN#62 - When soured. See Winer’s Realwörterbuch, i648.—Tr.]

FN#63 - Of two hollow measures, still in use in Damascus, the one is called mudd, the other sumbul.

FN#64 - שָׁקִף .בְּעַד חַחַלּוֹן נִשְׁקְפָח invariably expresses the act of looking out from a height, from a mountain, for instance, or from heaven; also from the upper chambers ( Genesis 26:8), to which persons of quality (Eglon, for example) retired to cool themselves.

FN#65 - יָבַב,וַתְּיַבֵּב occurs only in this passage. It is an onomatopoetic word, like the German “jammern,” [cf. the English “wailing.”] In Chaldee, however, it chiefly has the sense of “crying,” “sounding,” in a favorable as well as unfavorable sense.

FN#66 - “Why delay פַּעַם .פַּעְמֵי מַרְבוֹתָיו may be used of any kind of repeated motion, like that of treading; and therefore also of the rolling of wheels.

FN#67 - חָּשִׁיב אֲמָרֶיהָ. The mother replies herself to her own words, corrects herself. She does not answer the others,—an interpretation neither philologically congruous, nor in harmony with the fact that they have not said anything which the mother would wish to refute. Cf. Job 35:4, and Proverbs 22:21.

FN#68 - The following passage from a letter written by the Emperor Claudius II, after his great victory over the Goths, may serve to confirm our explanation of Judges 5:30 : “Tantum mulierum cepimus, ut binas et ternas mulieres victor sibi miles possit adjungere.” Trebellius Pollio, cap8.

FN#69 - Observable also in Keil’s exposition.

FN#70 - This general explanation of רִקְמָה, as cloth or garments “worked in colors,” is probably to be preferred to the more definite “embroidered in colors,” adopted by Dr. Cassel in his translation of the passage. Keil (on Exodus 26:36) remarks that in the only passage where the verb רָקַם occurs, Psalm 139:15, it signifies “to weave.” Robinson (Bibl. Repos., i610) says: “The verb רָקַם, both in Hebrew and Arabic, signifies to diversify, make variegated, sc. in color; and is not necessarily applied to needlework.” Cf. also Bachmann, in loc.—Tr.]

 


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Judges 5:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/judges-5.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology