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Deeper Commentary

Jdg 5:1 Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang this song-
It is clearly Deborah's song, and it is very critical of those in Israel who didn't respond to her prophetic call to arms. And Barak would have ben humbled by the fact that women like Deborah and Jael had gotten the glory rather than himself. So the way he sings along with it is a sign of his humility, which meshed with his faith [although incomplete] which Paul notes in Hebrews 11.

Jdg 5:2 Because the leaders took the lead in Israel, because the people offered themselves willingly, blessed be Yahweh!
But the song will go on to lament that the leaders of Israel didn't take the lead (:7 especially), and neither did Barak. But Deborah, a woman, took the lead and was the true leader. Elders can shut up, or open, the Kingdom to men. They watch “in behalf of” the souls of the ecclesia (Heb. 13:7 RV). Their very examples can influence the flock positively or negatively- for “like priest like people” is a Biblical idea. When the leaders “offered themselves willingly”, so did the people (Jud. 5:2,9). LXX "A revelation was made in Israel when the people were made willing" would refer to the specific prophetic word given to Deborah in Jud. 4:6,7 that victory was possible- if the people were willing. Which Barak wasn't, completely.

"The people offered themselves willingly" to Deborah perhaps forms the basis for the description of Christ's people in the last days, being "willing in the day of your power" (Ps. 110:2).

Jdg 5:3 Hear, you kings! Give ear, you princes! I, even I, will sing to Yahweh. I will sing praise to Yahweh the God of Israel-
LXX "I will sing, it is I who will sing to the Lord, it is I, I will sing a psalm" emphasizes "I"; perhaps the song was sung specifically by Deborah, as she glorifies that she, a woman and despised prophetess who had to teach under a palm tree as she had no premises to do so, had had her prophetic word justified. Barak would then show his humility by singing along with her. "Hear, O ye kings;  give ear, O ye princes" sounds like the appeal to the nations that goes out after Christ's victory (cp. Ps. 2:10). But the kings and princes could simply refer to the leaders of Israel, whom effectively Deborah is rebuking later in the song (:7).

Jdg 5:4 Yahweh, when You went forth out of Seir, when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured. Yes, the clouds poured down water-
LXX "the heaven dropped dews". There was apparently a downpour of water from Heaven which led to the Kishon swelling and carrying away some of the enemy (:21). This is the language of Hab. 3, Ps. 68 and other prophecies of the last days. Deborah is feeling she has become, by default, another Moses; for the victorious march of Israel is like theirs from Sinai (:5), which she calls "Seir", alluding to Dt. 33:2. She feels a similar theophany has occurred, along with the rainfall then experienced (Ps. 68:8,9).  

Jdg 5:5 The mountains melted at the presence of Yahweh, even Sinai at the presence of Yahweh the God of Israel-
Heb., as AV, "this Sinai", as if Deborah felt herself back there standing before Sinai witnessing the great theophany there, in that she has seen it before her eyes, as it were, in what God has now done in giving her victory against Sisera. This is the power of Biblical history. There is a living word which continues to speak to us; the historical victories of God are replicated, in essence, in our own experiences.

Jdg 5:6 In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, the travellers walked through byways-
The idea is that the situation in Jael's time is as it was in the days when Shamgar delivered Israel (Jud. 3:31). Whilst this describes the broken down infrastructure of the land, with people using byways because they feared being attacked on the main roads, there is the implication in LXX of spiritual weakness: "they deserted the ways... they went in crooked paths". And this may speak of the latter day Israel in a state of devastation and collapse, with highways unoccupied (cp. motorways wrecked by bombing).

Jdg 5:7 The rulers ceased to rule in Israel. They ceased until I, Deborah, arose; until I arose, a mother in Israel-
Rulers is LXX "the mighty men ceased". Deborah's song is really a lament at the failure of Israel's leadership, and Barak, who had also failed to provide this leadership when empowered to do so, was very humble to have sung this song with her (:1). She was a "mother in Israel", providing leadership in a family bereft of male headship- because none of the men provided it.

Jdg 5:8 They chose new gods, therefore war came to the gates-
Gentile nations didn't change their gods; but God's people did, ever seeking a little extra material benefit from some new religion; see on Jer. 2:8,11. Israel are therefore likened in Hosea to a sexually addicted woman, ever seeking new partners. In this sense Israel were worse than the other nations, who only changed their gods when forced to by the military dominance of neighbours.

Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?-
"Thousand" when used in a military context usually means some military subdivision rather than a literal 1,000. The idea may be that although they had shields and spears, none of the 40,000 in view got their weapons out in response to Deborah's prophetic call. 

Jdg 5:9 My heart is with the governors of Israel, who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless Yahweh!-
LXX "You that are willing among the people, bless the Lord". Deborah now praises the few leaders who did respond to her prophetic call to arms. The Hebrew for "governors" can mean a law-giver or teacher, literally "an engraver of laws"; she may have in mind the faithful scribes, who supported her prophetic call to arms. Perhaps in the latter day context this speaks of a minority of faithful amongst latter day Israel, with God's law engraved in their hearts as it was on stone previously (Jer. 31:33). Remember that Elijah will be calling for a revival of true interest in the Mosaic law during  his ministry, which may well coincide with Israel's period of downtreading (Mal. 4:4-6).


Jdg 5:10 Speak, you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets and you who walk by the way-
This seems a criticism of those in Israel who were not "willing" to assist in the battle. LXX "Ye that mount a she-ass at noon-day, ye that sit on the judgment-seat, and walk by the roads of them that sit in judgment by the way". It was Deborah who sat by the roadside giving judgment from God's word, and who was largely ignored (Jud. 4:5).

Jdg 5:11 Far from the noise of archers, in the watering places, there they will recite the righteous acts of Yahweh, the righteous acts of His rule in Israel. Then the people of Yahweh went down to the gates-
The idea may be that those who didn't respond to God's command to fight Sisera would in the future, far from the noise of war, recite at the wells the great acts which Yahweh had wrought through women. And those who recited things at the watering places were largely women. We recall how women were found at wells in the lives of Abraham's servant, Jacob and Moses. In the latter day context, Ez. 39:3 stresses how Gog will rely on his archery to terrorize Israel in the last days: "I will smite your bow out of your left hand, and will cause your arrows to fall out of your right hand". Assyrian bas-reliefs frequently show them posing with their bows. The importance of archery in warfare can easily be overlooked by us, who tend to lump bows, arrows, swords and shields etc. together as obsolete weaponry. Yet the ability to strike from a distance without personal combat was a vital innovation. The highlighting of the fact that the enemies of Jud. 4 and Gog of Ez. 38 both used archery suggests that this may have a latter day equivalent - which must surely be in the use of missile power? The vials of Revelation being poured out from the air onto the earth (land - of Israel) may also indicate that latter day judgments literally descend from the air.  

Jdg 5:12 ‘Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, sing a song! Arise, Barak, and lead away your captives, you son of Abinoam’-
Perhaps the first sentence in this verse was sung by Barak (see on :1), and the second by Deborah, in a kind of part singing. Ps. 68:18 quotes this verse with reference to the latter day work of the Lord Jesus. Taking captivity captive (Heb.) means 'take prisoner those who took you prisoner'. This is the language of the latter day victory over Babylon (Is. 14:2).

Jdg 5:13 Then a remnant of the nobles and the people came down. Yahweh came down to me against the mighty-
She laments that only a remnant had responded to her call to arms. LXX "Then went down the remnant to the strong". But this again is a theme of God's workings with men. The left handed, the women, the minorities, those whom man despises, are used by Him to work His great victories.

Jdg 5:14 Those whose root is in Amalek came out of Ephraim after you, Benjamin, among your peoples. Governors came down out of Machir-
LXX "Ephraim rooted them out in Amalek, behind thee was Benjamin among thy people: the inhabitants of Machir came down with me searching out the enemy". Machir may recall the daughters of Zelophehad, who joined Deborah in personally fighting the enemy.

Those who handle the writer’s quill came out of Zebulun-
The idea is that instead of drawing their quills from their pouches, they drew swords. 

God asked goldsmiths to do the manual work of building the wall of Jerusalem, bruising their sensitive fingers against lumps of rock (Neh. 3:8,31); and Barak’s victorious warriors were civil servants and writers (Jud. 5:14), not military men. Paul was sent to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews, when we’d have thought that naturally speaking, they would have been far more comfortable in the reverse roles. Judas was put in charge of the money amongst the twelve; when Matthew the tax collector would presumably have been the obvious man for the job. Naaman wanted to do some great act, but was asked to do the hardest thing for him- to dip in Jordan.

Jdg 5:15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah. As was Issachar, so was Barak. They rushed into the valley at his feet-
LXX "And princes in Issachar were with Deborah and Barak, thus she sent Barak on his feet in the valleys into the portions of Reuben". Deborah comes over as in command in the field, sending Barak on foot to find Sisera (Jud. 4:22).

By the watercourses of Reuben there were great divisions of heart-
She rightly mocks how the men of Reuben claimed to struggle in their hearts as to whether or not to support her call to arms. So often we hear the phrase "It's difficult to decide" or talk about struggles of heart- when the call to rise up in obedience is obvious and clear. But God's unambiguous calls are often made difficult by our struggles of the heart against them.

Jdg 5:16 Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, to hear the whistling for the flocks? At the watercourses of Reuben there was much searching of heart-
As noted on :15, they were claiming that the decision to follow God's calling was 'so difficult' and required much internal agony of heart searching. In reality, it involved them sitting amongst their sheep, listening to the bleating of the flocks (LXX). She asks "Why...?". And the answer was, because they didn't have faith and devotion to God's clear prophetic word which had called them to arms. Or we can read as GNB "Yes, the tribe of Reuben was divided; they could not decide to come". They operated on the false basis that there had to be unanimity before they could agree; and because they were divided over the matter, even those willing to fight actually didn't. Because they put their own desire for unanimity or "unity" with their brethren above the need to be loyal to God's word personally. 

Jdg 5:17 Gilead remained beyond the Jordan. Why did Dan remain in ships? Asher remained still at the haven of the sea, and lived by his creeks-
Asher "lived" or [LXX] 'remained in his tabernacles', perhaps implying devotion to false gods; see on :18.

Jdg 5:18 Zebulun was a people that jeopardized their lives to the death; Naphtali also, on the high places of the field-
The reference to the paganic high places could be in contrast to the hint in :17 that Asher remained serving idols, whilst Naphtali won victories for Yahweh on the paganic high places.

Jdg 5:19 The kings came and fought, then the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo-
Taanach was in either Issachar or Asher (Josh. 17:11,12,25; Jud. 5:19). But this town was also given to Ephraim (1 Chron. 7:29). As each Israelite was promised some personal inheritance in the land, rather than some blanket reward which the whole nation received, so we too have a personal reward prepared. But the precise nature of that reward is as it were negotiable by us now, according to our spiritual ambition. Just as Caleb chose Hebron and secured it for himself.

The battle was fought "at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo".  'Taanach' meaning 'place of fasting' is another hint at repentant Israel taking part in the final defeat of their latter day enemies. Joel describes a call to fasting during the period when the land lies totally devastated during the initial period of enemy domination (Joel 2:15).

"Megiddo" and the descriptions of Sisera gathering his chariots and God drawing them into battle must link with the nations being gathered to Armageddon, the valley of Megiddo (Rev. 16:16). If this connection is valid, then " the kings of the earth (land - of Israel?) and of the whole world" which are  gathered (Rev. 16:14) would primarily refer to the kings of the eretz promised to Abraham, those within the 'land' at its maximum promised extent between the Nile and Euphrates.

They took no plunder of silver-
If the "they" is the victorious Israelites, the idea may be that unlike Achan, they devoted the spoil to Yahweh. Or LXX "they took no gift of money" might imply they refused to be bought off by the Canaanites, but rather slew them. If the "they" is the Canaanites, then Deborah may be rejoicing that the faithful Israelites refused to pay tribute to them.

Jdg 5:20 From Heaven the stars fought. From their courses they fought against Sisera-
Israel’s fighting is paralleled with the Heavens and stars [=Angels] fighting for them. The Lord of Hosts of Angels was working in tandem with the hosts of Israel. And it’s the same for the new Israel. Heb. 12:22 speaks of how we, the hosts of the church, are paralleled with hosts of Angels: “…to innumerable hosts, the general assembly of angels, and the church of the firstborn” (RVmg.). See on :22.

Deborah in Jud. 4:14 quotes the words of Dt. 9:3 concerning the Angel going before Israel to drive out the nations to Barak, to inspire him with courage in fighting them. She recognized that the work the Angels did when they went out many years ago to do all the groundwork necessary for Israel to destroy all the tribes of Canaan was done for all time. It was not too late to make use of that work by making a human endeavour in faith. So with us, the smaller objectives in our lives as well as our main goal of reaching the Kingdom have all been made possible through the work of Christ and the Angels in the past. Deborah's recognition of this is shown in her song- Jud. 5:20: "They (the Angels) fought from Heaven; the stars (Biblical imagery for Angels) in their courses fought against Sisera". In passing, note that the Hebrew for 'courses' is almost identical with that for 'ladder' in the account of Jacob's vision of a ladder of Angels. Strong specifically defines it as meaning 'staircase'. See on Ex. 14:24.

Jdg 5:21 The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. My soul, march on with strength-
The "ancient river" recalls the historical associations of Kishon with the repentance of Israel at Elijah's time. It seems some of the enemy were swept away trying to ford it. LXX "my mighty soul will trample him down" presents Deborah as a glorious warrior on horseback; although we wonder if she is not being a tad lifted up in pride in speaking like this (see on :28). There was apparently a downpour of water from Heaven which led to the Kishon swelling and carrying away some of the enemy (:4).

Jdg 5:22 Then the horse hoofs stamped because of the prancing, the prancing of their strong ones-
LXX "When the hoofs of the horse were entangled", recalling the horses of the Egyptians entangled in the mud of the Red Sea. The idea is that the horses and chariots of Sisera, like those of Pharaoh, were in conflict with those of the Angel cherubim.

The chariots of Egypt and Sisera will finally be seen as a poor match for the Angel-cherubim "chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof". "Then were the horsehoofs (of Sisera's chariots) broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones", i.e. the Angel-cherubim.   If there was a manifestation of the Cherubim on that occasion, this would accord well with the gentle hint that there will be a Cherubim appearance associated with the second coming (Mt. 24:30), and this would also be the means of putting the latter day Arab 'chariots' out of business.

Jdg 5:23 ‘Curse Meroz’, said the angel of Yahweh. ‘Curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they didn’t come to help Yahweh, to help Yahweh against the mighty’-
Deborah was a prophetess and may have been given her prophetic words directly by an Angel. In one sense God 'requires not help from man'. But in another sense, 'God is in need of man', as Avraham Heschel put it. He never forces His ways upon us, and always acts with respect to human freewill. In this sense He 'needs' our "help"; even if it is the "help" which a father asks from his young son in doing a job. Meroz may have been a village through which Sisera or his men had fled, and they feared to join in the fight. The same situation was to recur when Succoth and Penuel refused to help Gideon (Jud. 8:5-9). The history of Meroz and the Israelites who refused to help Deborah was a lesson not learnt by Succoth and Penuel.

Jdg 5:24 Jael shall be blessed above women, the wife of Heber the Kenite; blessed shall she be above women in the tent-
Deborah's words reflect some bitterness at the way that women were secluded "in the tent" with apparently no role in public life. But Jael had risen above that. When unexpectedly Sisera came stumbling into her tent, she paid no respect to the league her husband had made with him and his king Jabin. She deceived him and slew him. She rose above all the apparent constraints upon serving Yahweh which were upon her. 

Jdg 5:25 He asked for water and she gave him milk. She brought him butter in a lordly dish-
She did this in sarcasm, recognizing him for who he was, and treating him as a lord- until she slew him.

Jdg 5:26 She put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer. With the hammer she struck Sisera. She struck through his head. Yes, she pierced and struck through his temples-
LXX "She stretched forth her left hand to the nail" would be another example of left handed people, or ambidextrous, being used by God; or at best, the victory is ascribed to the use of the left hand. Left handed people were considered strange and often relegated to the periphery of society in primitive societies; we see again how almost all the judges had something which made them despised and rejected. And yet it was exactly that group which God delighted to use to save His people (Jud. 3:15). We notice how God used left handed people to give David victory (1 Chron. 12:2), and to punish their hypocritical brethren (Jud. 20:16). He seems to rejoice in using those whom man despises.

We note again how Jael uses the man's hammer. She does the work a man was supposed to do. This is clearly intended to be understood as the seed of the woman smiting the seed of the serpent in the head.

Jdg 5:27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay. At her feet he bowed, he fell. Where he bowed, there he fell down dead-
The idea of Jud. 4:21 seems to be that he swooned, and then died. She didn't kill him outright, he rose up and then fell down dead at her feet. This makes Jael's bravery all the more commendable, especially in that her husband was in league with Jabin. 

Jdg 5:28 Through the window she looked out and cried; Sisera’s mother looked through the lattice. ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why do the wheels of his chariots delay?’-
Whilst Deborah was full of faith and God's word, there is a discernible element of bitterness and arrogance in her, now she has won the victory; see on :21. And we must beware of this kind of thing. From a distance, she mocks Sisera's mother and rejoices in that woman's pain and bitter disappointment.

Jdg 5:29 Her wise ladies answered her, yes she answered herself-
This again is a mocking at the supposed wisdom of the enemy. Their wise women were sure Sisera delayed because he was busy gathering the spoil. And their wisdom is derided as foolishness.

Jdg 5:30 ‘Have they not found, have they not divided the spoil? A girl, two girls for every man; to Sisera a spoil of dyed garments, a spoil of dyed garments embroidered, of dyed garments embroidered on both sides, on the necks of the spoil?’-
Deborah mocks this woman and her female friends, as  women who would glorify the way Sisera was delaying because he was busy raping pretty girls and dragging them back with him. In the latter day context, "Prey... spoil" is Ez. 38 language: "To take a spoil and to take a prey... Are you come to take a spoil... a prey?" (Ez. 38:12,13). Thus the motivation for the average invader is quite clear- although this will most likely be wrapped up behind some pseudo-religious reasoning provided by a latter day 'Jabin' (see on Jud. 4:2).  Such total confidence in victory is yet to be seen in a Middle East scarred with the memories of Israel's victories over the last decades.

Jdg 5:31 So let all Your enemies perish, Yahweh, but let those who love Him be as the sun when it rises forth in its strength-
This takes on an ultimate fullness of meaning when this battle is read as typical of Armageddon, when all God's enemies will perish once and for all.  "But let them that love him be as the sun when he goes forth in his might" is using the common figure of the dawn as being representative of Messiah's second coming (Mal. 4:2; 2 Sam. 23:4; Ps. 19:4,5). Those who truly love the appearing of that sunrise will themselves be a light to this dark world of flesh; they shall personally go forth as the rays of sunlight, in whatever way, just as the light of  knowledge of the person of Jesus will do.

Then the land had rest forty years-
The forty years rest of Jud. 3:11; 5:31; 8:28 may not be a literal period. I have elsewhere noted that the forty year reigns of Saul, David and Solomon create chronological problems if read literally. The idea may be that forty years was a time of testing, as it was for Israel in the wilderness. We think of the Lord's 40 days of testing too. In this case, they were tested by peace. And they consistently failed, as God's people often do.