The Book of Judges, Chapter 5

Chapter 5 continues what we read in Chapter 4.  It is a celebration over the victory of Barak and Deborah over Jabin.

Having beaten the enemy, Deborah and Barak now sing a song of praise to God.  They praise Him for avenging His people.

 2 “Israel’s leaders took charge,
and the people gladly followed.
Praise the LORD!

~ Jdg 5:2 (NLT)

Notice this rare item in the Book of Judges.  The leaders led, and the followers followed (willingly offered themselves, KJV).  For once, the internal and external controls were not only working but aligned to God’s will.  Righteous leadership is a blessing, but so is a servant’s heart.

 4 “Lord, when you set out from Seir
and marched across the fields of Edom,
the earth trembled,
and the cloudy skies poured down rain.

~ v 4 (NLT)

Iron chariots would sink into the mud.

 In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.

~ Jdg 5:6

Shamgar seems to be the bridge between the times of Ehud and Deborah.  The mentioning of him here makes it seem as though he might be a contemporary with Deborah, or at least fairly recent prior to the battle between Barak and Sisera.

 The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.

Jdg 5:7

We see the severity of the oppression in vv 6 – 8.  “The inhabitants … ceased” means the villages were uninhabited (EW Bullinger says, “unoccupied”).  Was this a forced deportation or worse?

We see Deborah presented as a mother figure in Israel.  A mother would be caring for her children, upright in her ways and quick to defend.  We will see before the end of the song that her role is contrasted with another mother who does not represent these things.

In v 8, idolatry is identified as the cause for war.  “Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” is more evidence of weapons control.

9 My heart is with the commanders of Israel,
with those who volunteered for war.
Praise the Lord!

~ v 9 (NLT)

Deborah is singing in the first person.  It is her heart, as a mother figure, that goes out.

 10 Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.

~ Jdg 5:10

Donkeys would have been ridden by those who could afford it.  White donkeys would have had to been specially bred, and thus would indicate wealth.  Those who sit in judgment (“sit in judge’s attire”, NKJV) would have had rank and position.  In contrast, those who walked along the road would have been too poor to have these things.  Deborah is addressing both the rich & famous and the poor.

She tells them to “speak”, or perhaps more likely to join in on the song.

v 12 “captivity captive” also occurs in Ps 68:18; Ep 4:8.  Of Ps 68:18, the NCV says, “you led a parade of captives.”  The picture is of a train of prisoners following in between the victors after being taken captive.

We now see which tribes pitched in in the effort – and which did not.  We see Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh (Machir), Zebulun and Issachar.

Reuben, however, vacillates (cf Ge 49:3-4).  Likewise, Gilead (a family of Machir), Dan and Asher stayed put.

20 The stars fought from heaven.
The stars in their orbits fought against Sisera.

~ v 20 (NLT)

This is probably describing a meteor shower.  This is quite different than Jos 10:11, which was only hail.  “The stars in their orbits” is likely poking fun at the idea of astrology.

V 21 describes flooding sweeping the enemy away.  V 22 describes the thunderous sound of horses galloping off in retreat.

 23 Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.

Jdg 5:23

Who was Meroz?  We don’t know.  That means it was a pretty effective curse.

 24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.

~ Jdg 5:24

Jael was called “blessed above women” or “most blessed among women” (NLT).  Not quite the rank of mother of Israel, but pretty high up.

 27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.

~ Jdg 5:27

Again, we see already lower, lower yet, completely degraded, lower than lowest, etc., until finally he is dead.

 28 The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?

~ Jdg 5:28

The other mother figure, the mother of Sisera.  She is looking “through the lattice”, becoming more and more anxious as time goes on.  The lattice obscures the face and provides shade.  However, in providing shade, it obscures the light.  Evil hates the light.  Deborah is out in the open field pointing out the enemy and how God is dealing with them.  One woman stays behind in domestic surroundings, while the other is actively engaged with her children’s struggles.

However, the lattice also implies immorality.  She is partially obscured, peering out from her abode, much as a woman of ill-repute might.  Her approval of Sisera ravishing women points to her own depravity.

Her ladies console her, and she consoles herself.  “Aren’t they taking plunder?  Aren’t they ravishing the women?”  In her arrogance, she cannot imagine Sisera defeated.

 31 So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.

~ Jdg 5:31

Forty years of rest would lead up to the time of Gideon.

Forty is a number of testing.  Would Israel pass the test?

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