Aod. Samgar is passed over, either because he was only a private man, who performed a feat of valour like Jahel, (chap. v. 6.; Salien) or because his government was so short and limited. Hence we need not wonder that he could not put a stop to the ravages of the Chanaanites, nor to the disorders of the people.
Jdg_4:1. And Ehud was dead: i.e. For Ehud was no more. That the eighty years of rest were also the years of Ehud’s government is not indeed expressly stated, but seems nevertheless to be indicated in this verse. For “rest” is always coincident with “obedience towards God;” and obedience is maintained in Israel through the personal influence of the Judge. When he dies, the weakness of the people manifests itself anew. Hence, when we read that the people “continued to do evil, and Ehud was dead,” this language must be understood to connect the cessation of rest with the death of Ehud. Shamgar—no mention being made of him here—must have performed his exploit some time during the eighty years. The standing expression וַיֹּסִיפוּ, “and they continued,” is to be regarded as noting the continuance of that fickleness which obtains among the people when not led by a person of divine enthusiasm. They always enter afresh on courses whose inevitable issues they might long since have learned to know. The new generation learns nothing from the history of the past. “They continued,” is, therefore, really equivalent to “they began anew.”
Sold them. See Jdg_2:14, note. Jabin king of Hazor. The exact site of Hazor has not been identified with certainty, but it is conjectured by Robinson, with great probability, to have stood on the Tell now called Khuraibeh, overlooking the waters of Merom (now called Lake Huleh), where are remains of a sepulchre, Cyclopean walls, and other buildings. In Jos_11:1-14 we read of the total destruction by fire of Hazor, and of the slaughter of Jabin, the king thereof, with all the inhabitants of the city, and of the slaughter of all the confederate kings, and the capture of their cities; Hazor, however, “the head of all those kingdoms,” being the only one which was “burnt with fire.” It is a little surprising, therefore, to read here of another Jabin reigning in Hazor, with confederate kings under him (Jdg_5:19), having, like his predecessor, a vast number of chariots (cf. Jdg_4:3, Jdg_4:13 with Jos_11:4, Jos_11:9), and attacking Israel at the head of a great force (cf. Jdg_4:7, Jdg_4:13, Jdg_4:16 with Jos_11:4). It is impossible not to suspect that these are two accounts of the same event. If, however, the two events are distinct, we must suppose that the Canaanite kingdoms had been revived under a descendant of the former king, that Hazor had been rebuilt, and that Jabin was the hereditary name of its king. Gentiles, or nations, or Goim, as Jos_12:23, and Gen_14:1. Whether Goim was the proper name of a particular people, or denoted a collection of different tribes, their seat was in Galilee, called in Isa_9:1; Mat_4:15, Galilee, of the nations, or Gentiles, in Hebrew Goim.
Jdg_4:2-3. And Jehovah gave them up into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, etc. Joshua already had been obliged to sustain a violent contest with a Jabin, king of Hazor. He commanded a confederation of tribes, whose frontier reached as far south as Dor (Tantûra) on the coast, and the plains below the Sea of Tiberias. The battle of Jabin with Joshua took place at the waters of Merom (Lake Huleh); and from that fact alone Josephus inferred that “Hazor lay above (ὑπεροεῖται) this sea.” But its position was by no means so close to the lake as Robinson (Bibl. Res., iii. 365) wishes to locate it, which is altogether impossible The course of Joshua makes it clear that it lay on the road from Lake Merom to Zidon. For in order to capture Hazor, Joshua turned back (וַיָּשָׁב, Jos_11:10) from the pursuit. It appears from our passage, and also from Jos_19:37 that it must have been situated not very far from Kedesh, but in such a direction that from it the movements of Israel toward Tabor, on the line of Naphtali and Zebulon, could not be readily observed or hindered: that is to say, to the west of Kedesh. That its position cannot be determined by the similarity of modern names alone, is shown by the experience of Robinson, who successively rejected a Hazîreh, a Tell Hazûr, and el-Hazûry (for which Ritter had decided). For a capital of such importance as Hazor here and elsewhere appears to be, an elevated situation, commanding the lowlands (מֶלֶךְ־כְּנַעַן), must be assumed. It must have been a fortress supported by rich and fertile fields. These conditions are met by Tibnîn, as is evident from Robinson’s extended description of it (ii. 451 ff.; iii. 57 ff.). The similarity of name is not wanting; for the Crusaders must have had some reason for calling it Toronum. William of Tyre (Hist. lib. xi. 5; in Gesta Dei Francorum, p. 798) described the place as adorned with vineyards and trees, the land fertile and adapted for cultivation. It lies midway between Tyre and Paneas, and is of immense importance for the control of the country. Robinson has justly remarked, that a fortress must have been on this spot long before the time of the Crusaders; nor does it raise any great difficulty that William of Tyre reckoned it to the tribe of Asher, on whose borders, at all events, it lay.
The Jabin, king of Hazor, of our passage, evidently cherished the design of regaining, in some favorable hour of Israelitish supineness, the territory taken from his ancestors by Joshua. With this object in view, his general-in-chief, Sisera, kept the languishing nation under discipline at another point. The name of Sisera’s residence was Harosheth Hagojim. It may perhaps be possible to fix this hitherto wholly unknown place also. The power of the present Jabin must have extended as far as that of the earlier one (i.e. to Tantûra and the region south of the Sea of Tiberias); since otherwise the battle with Barak would not have been fought at the Kishon. Moreover, Naphtali, Zebulun, and Issachar were all interested in the war against him (Jdg_5:15). This being the case, it is certainly probable that Sisera’s residence was in this southern part of Jabin’s dominions. Sisera was commander of an army dreaded chiefly for its nine hundred iron chariots. But these were of consequence only on level ground. That is the reason why, Jos_17:16 such prominence is given to the fact that just those Canaanites who lived in the plains of Beth-shean (Beisân) and Jezreel, through which latter the Kishon flowed, had iron chariots. The name itself of Harosheth Hagojim suffices to suggest its connection with iron chariots. Harosheth (Heb. Charosheth) is the place where iron was worked (charash, the smith). It is only natural to look for it in the plains just named. But the residence of Sisera is called Harosheth Hagojim, the Harosheth of the Gojim. By Gojim we must understand a race different not only from Israel, but also from the Canaanite, Aram, Edom, Moab, etc. The Targum translates Harosheth Hagojim by fortress or city of the Gojim (כְּרַכֵּי עַמְמַיָא), and thus refers us to Gelil Hagojim (Isa. 8:23 [E. V. Isa_9:1]), which is translated in the same way (כְּרַכֵּי stands often for עִיר, city). The prophet in the passage referred to, locates this Gelil of the Gojim on this side of the Jordan, in the neighborhood of the Lake of Tiberias. It is clearly erroneous to make this Galilœa Gentium cover the whole district of Galilee; for that included Zebulun, Naphtali, and the shore of Lake Tiberias, which the prophet mentions separately. If it be proper to interpret the passage geographically, Gelil Hagojim must lie south of Lake Tiberias, where subsequently Galilee began. Joshua himself also conquered a king of the Gojim in “גִּלְגָּל” (Jos_12:23). From the position given to this king in the catalogue, no geographical inference can be drawn, since the enumeration is made without any regard to the situation of localities. The passage becomes clear only when גִּלְגָּל is taken as גָּלִיל, making Joshua victorious over the king of the Gojim in Gelil. Now, it cannot escape notice that among the kings conquered by Joshua, no king of Beth-shean is found, although in Jos_17:16 this place appears so important, and its territory must have been conquered, and although the cities in the plain of Jezreel are named. The conjecture, therefore, is plausible that Beth-shean is represented by the king of the Gojim. Beth-shean was the starting-point of the later Galilee (cf. Lightfoot, Opera, i. 216, etc.); it was the city of iron chariots; its population was always of a mixed character (Canaanites, Gojim, Jews, Jdg_1:27; Chulin, 6 b). From the date of the first Greek notices of it (in the Septuagint, Josephus, etc.; cf. Ritter, xv. 432 [Gage’s Transl. ii. 335]), it appears under the name Scythopolis, city of the Scythians. On the question how this name originated, we are not to enter here. Thus much is certain, that it is not unsuitable to take the term Scythians as equivalent to Gojim; especially when we compare Gen_14:1, where Tidal, king of the Gojim, is named in connection with Elam, Shinar, and Ellasar. Although our historical data are not sufficient to raise these probabilities to certainties, several considerations suggested by the narrative are of some weight. If Harosheth Hagojim is to be looked for in the vicinity of Beth-shean, the whole geography of the war becomes quite plain. Jabin and Sisera then occupy the decisive points at the extremities of the kingdom. The southern army of Sisera is the most oppressive to Israel, and its dislodgement is the main object. Barak is not to attack Hazor, for that is surrounded and supported by hostile populations, which it is impracticable as yet to drive out. Deborah’s plan is to annihilate the tyrannical power, where it has established itself in the heart of Israel. Tabor is the central point, where Naphtali and Zebulun can conveniently assemble. A straight line from Kedesh to that mount, runs through the territories of both. Sisera must fight or allow himself to be cut off. His overthrow is Israel’s freedom. His army is Jabin’s only hold on those regions. Hence, Sisera’s flight from the Kishon is northward, in order to reach Hazor. On the way, not far from either Hazor or Kedesh, his fate overtakes him.
Jdg_4:4. And Deborah a prophetic woman,אִשָּׁה נְביאָה. According to Num_11:25, the prophetic gift has its source in the “Spirit of Jehovah.” Its office answers to its origin: it preaches God and speaks his praises. Cause and effect testify of each other. Every one, whether man or woman, may prophecy, on whom the “Spirit of Jehovah” comes. The prophetic state is a divine ecstasy, a high poetic enthusiasm (ἐνθουσιάζειν, from θεός), under the influence of which the praises of God are spoken. On this account, the prophet resembled at times the Greek μάντις (from μαίνομαι); compare especially Jer_29:26 (קםֵם ;משֻׁבָּע וּמִחְנַכֵּא, connected with nabi, in the same chapter, Jdg_4:8, is actually rendered μάντις by the LXX.). In itself, however, both as to derivation and meaning, naba, niba, is to be compared with ἔπειν. The prophet utters the ἔπος, in which the Spirit of Jehovah manifests itself; he declares the greatness and glory of God. He is a spokesman of God and for Him. Hence Aaron could be called the nabi of Moses (Exo_7:1). He was the ready organ of the spirit which resided in Moses. Doubtless, in the highest sense, Moses was himself the nabi With him, God spake mouth to mouth, not in visions and dreams and enigmas (Num_12:6-8); not, that is, as He announced himself to Aaron and Miriam. Miriam was the first prophetess who praised God in ecstatic strains of poetry, with timbrels and dances, before all the people (Exo_15:20). It has been asked (cf. my treatise Ueber Prophetinnen und Zauberinnen im Weimar, Jahrbuch für Deutsche Sprache, vol. iv.), how it comes about that prophetic women constitute a “significant feature” of the old German heathenism only, whereas Jewish and Christian views assigned the gift of prophecy to men. The contrast certainly exists; it rests in the main upon the general difference between the heathen and the Scriptural view of the universe. The subjective nature of woman is more akin to the subjective character of heathenism. So much the higher must Deborah be placed. She was not, like Miriam, the sister of such men as Moses and Aaron. The objective spirit of her God alone elevates her above her people, above heroes before and after her. Not only the ecstasy of enthusiasm, but the calm wisdom of that Spirit which informs the law, dwells in her. Of no Judge until Samuel is it expressly said that he was a “prophet.” Of none until him can it be said, that he was possessed of the popular authority needful for the office of Judge, even before the decisive deed of his life. The position of Deborah in Israel is therefore a twofold testimony. The less commonly women were called to the office she exercised, the more manifest is the weakness of those who should have been the organs of divine impulses. That she, a woman, became the centre of the people, proves the relaxation of spiritual and manly energy. But on the other hand, the undying might of divine truth, as delivered by Moses, comes brilliantly to view. History shows many instances, where in times of distress, when men despaired, women aroused and saved their nation; but in all such cases there must be an unextinguished spark of the old fire in the people themselves. Israel, formerly encouraged by the great exploit of a left-handed man, is now quickened by the glowing word of a noble woman.
The name Deborah does not occur here for the first time. It was also borne by the nurse of Rebecca, who was buried near Bethel (Gen_35:8). Many find the name peculiarly appropriate for the prophetess. Its proper meaning is, “bee”; and in Hellenic oracles also bees play an important part (cf. Paus. ix. 40, etc.). This honor they enjoyed, however, only in consequence of the erroneous derivation of the name melitta from melos, a song. In like manner, Deborah (דְּבֹרָה), the bee, is not connected with dabar (דָּבַר), to speak; nor does it properly mean the “march of the bees” (Gesenius); neither is it “buzzing” (Fürst); but, as melitta from meli, honey, so Deborah is to be derived from debash (ךְּבַשׁ), which also means honey, the interchange of r and s being very common (honor, honos, etc.). Deborah is a female name akin in meaning to the German Emma,9—and does not necessarily imply any reference to the prophetic office in the case of our Deborah any more than in that of Rebecca’s nurse.
A woman of a fiery spirit,אֵשֶׁת לַפִּידוֹת. The majority of expositors, ancient as well as modern, regard Lapidoth as the name of Deborah’s husband. Yet it was felt by many that there was something peculiar in the words. If the ordinary interpretation were the true one, it would be natural to look also for a statement of the tribe to which the husband belonged. In accordance with the style of the ancients, the designation would have been at least once repeated (at Jdg_5:1). To make it seem quite natural for Deborah always to appear without her husband, it had to be assumed that he was already dead. To avoid this, some old Jewish expositors assert that Barak was her husband,—Barak and Lappid being of kindred signification, namely, “lightning” and “flame.” But in all this no attention is paid to the uncommonness of the phenomenon presented in the person of a woman such as Deborah. What a burning spirit must hers have been, to have attained to such distinction in Israel! It was in perfect keeping with the poetical cast of the language of the age, that the people should seek to indicate the characteristic which gave her her power over them, by calling her אֵשֶׁת לַפִּירוֹת. If a capable woman was called אֵשֶׁת הַיִל, from הַיִל, strength (Pro_31:10),—and a contentious woman, אֵשֶׁתמִדְוָנִים (Pro_21:19); and if in אֵשֶׁת כְּםִילנּת (foolish woman, Pro_9:13), we are not to regard kesiluth as a proper name, it must also be allowed that אֵשֶׁת לַפִּידוֹת may be rendered “woman of the torch-glow,” especially when we consider what a fire-bearing, life-kindling personage she was. It is a fact, moreover, that lappid (torch) occurs almost as often in figurative as in literal language. The salvation of Jerusalem shines “like a torch” (Isa_62:1). “Out of his mouth torches go forth” (Job_41:11 (19)). The appearance of the heroes of Israel is “like torches” (Nah_2:5 (4)). The angel who appeared to Daniel had “eyes like torches of fire” (Dan_10:6). “The word of Elias,” says Sirach (Sir_48:1), “burned like a torch.” Concerning Phinehas, the priest, the Midrash says, that “when the Holy Ghost filled him, his countenance glowed like torches” (Jalkut, Judges, § 40).
The spirit of Deborah was like a torch for Israel, kindling their languid hearts. It was the power of her prophetic breath which fell on the people. This is the secret of her influence and victory. The moral energy which was at work is traced to its source even in the grammatical form of the word which describes it—לַכִּידוֹת, not לַפִיךִים,10 albeit that the former, like כּםילוּת occurs but once.
She judged Israel. Inasmuch as in the gift of prophecy she had the Spirit of God, she was able to judge. Notwithstanding her rapt and flaming spirit, she was no fanatic. She judged the thronging people according to the principles of the law. The wisdom of this “wise woman” was the wisdom revealed by God in his law. She deals in no mysterious and awful terrors. The מִשְׁפָּם (judgment), for which Israel came to Deborah, was clear—did not consist in dark sayings, like the verses of the Pythia, though these also were called θέμιστες, θέμιτες (statutes, מִשְׁפָּטים; cf. Nägelsbach, Nachhom. Theologie, p. 183). The comparison with the Sphinx, instituted by Bochart (Phaleg, p. 471), was not fortunate; not even according to the notions of the grammarian Socrates, who represented the Sphinx as a native soothsayer, who occasioned much harm because the Thebans did not understand her statutes (cf. Jaep, Die griechische Sphinx, p. 15).
Jameson, Fausset, and Brown
Jabin king of Canaan — “Jabin,” a royal title (see on Jos_11:1). The second Jabin built a new capital on the ruins of the old (Jos_11:10, Jos_11:11). The northern Canaanites had recovered from the effect of their disastrous overthrow in the time of Joshua, and now triumphed in their turn over Israel. This was the severest oppression to which Israel had been subjected. But it fell heaviest on the tribes in the north, and it was not till after a grinding servitude of twenty years that they were awakened to view it as the punishment of their sins and to seek deliverance from God.
Keil and Delitzsch
The Victory over Jabin and His General Sisera. – Jdg_4:1-3. As the Israelites fell away from the Lord again when Ehud was dead, the Lord gave them into the hand of the Canaanitish king Jabin, who oppressed them severely for twenty years with a powerful army under Sisera his general. The circumstantial clause, “when Ehud was dead,” places the falling away of the Israelites from God in direct causal connection with the death of Ehud on the one hand, and the deliverance of Israel into the power of Jabin on the other, and clearly indicates that as long as Ehud lived he kept the people from idolatry (cf. Jdg_2:18-19), and defended Israel from hostile oppressions. Joshua had already conquered one king, Jabin of Hazor, and taken his capital (Jos_11:1, Jos_11:10). The king referred to here, who lived more than a century later, bore the same name. The name Jabin, “the discerning,” may possibly have been a standing name or title of the Canaanitish kings of Hazor, as Abimelech was of the kings of the Philistines (see at Gen_26:8). He is called “king of Canaan,” in distinction from the kings of other nations and lands, such as Moab, Mesopotamia, etc. (Jdg_3:8, Jdg_3:12), into whose power the Lord had given up His sinful people. Hazor, once the capital of the kingdoms of northern Canaan, was situated over (above or to the north of) Lake Huleh, in the tribe of Naphtali, but has not yet been discovered (see at Jos_11:1). Sisera, the general of Jabin, dwelt in Harosheth of the Goyim, and oppressed the Israelites most tyrannically (Mightily: cf. Jdg_7:1; 1Sa_2:16) for twenty years with a force consisting of 900 chariots of iron (see at Jos_17:16). The situation of Harosheth, which only occurs here (Jdg_4:2, Jdg_4:13, Jdg_4:16), is unknown; but it is certainly to be sought for in one of the larger plains of Galilee, possibly the plain of Buttauf, where Sisera was able to develop his forces, whose strength consisted chiefly in war-chariots, and to tyrannize over the land of Israel.
Keil and Delitzsch
At that time the Israelites were judged by Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, who dwelt under the Deborah-palm between Ramah (er Râm: see at Jos_18:25) and Bethel (Beitin: see at Jos_7:2) in the tribe of Benjamin, upon the mountains of Ephraim. Deborah is called נְמִיאָה אִשָּׁה on account of her prophetic gift, like Miriam in Exo_15:20, and Hulda the wife of Shallum in 2Ki_22:14. This gift qualified her to judge the nation (the participle שֹׁפְטָה expresses the permanence of the act of judging), i.e., first of all to settle such disputes among the people themselves as the lower courts were unable to decide, and which ought therefore, according to Deu_17:8, to be referred to the supreme judge of the whole nation. The palm where she sat in judgment (cf. Psa_9:5) was called after her the Deborah-palm. The Israelites went up to her there to obtain justice. The expression “came up” is applied here, as in Deu_17:8, to the place of justice, as a spiritual height, independently of the fact that the place referred to here really stood upon an eminence.
Deborah, a prophetess – Her name, meaning a bee, is the same as that of Rebekah’s nurse (marginal reference). The reason of her preeminence is added. She was “a woman, a prophetess,” like Miriam Exo_15:20; Huldah 2Ki_22:14, etc. In Jdg_4:6, Jdg_4:9,Jdg_4:14, we have examples of her prophetic powers, and in Judg. 5 a noble specimen of prophetic song. Though the other Judges are not called prophets, yet they all seem to have had direct communications from God, either of knowledge or power, or both (compare Jdg_3:10 note).
Jdg_4:6-7. And she sent and called Barak out of Kedesh-naphtali. That which especially comes to view here, is the moral unity in which the tribes still continued to be bound together. Deborah, though resident in the south of Ephraim, had her eyes fixed on the tyranny which pressed especially on the tribes of the north. While of the priests at Shiloh none speak, she nevertheless cannot rest while Israel is in bondage. But she turns to the tribes most immediately concerned. Kedesh, to the northwest of Lake Huleh, has been identified in modern times, still bearing its old name. It is situated upon a rather high ridge, in a splendid region (Rob. iii. 366 ff.). There, in Naphtali, lived Barak (“lightning,” like Barcas), the man fixed on by Deborah to become the liberator of his people. The names of his father and native place are carefully given, here, and again at Jdg_5:1. The power of Deborah’s influence shows itself in the fact that Barak, though living so far north, readily answers her summons to the border of Benjamin. At the same time, Barak’s obedience to the call of the prophetess, is in itself good evidence, that he is the called deliverer of Israel. But she not only calls him, not only incites him to the conflict; she also gives him the plan of battle which he must follow.
Go, and gradually draw toward Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun. (לֵךְ וּמַשַׁכְתָּ בְּהַר תָּבוֹר וְלָקַחְתָּ עמְּךָ) The word מָשַׁךְ always conveys the idea of drawing, whether that which is drawn be the bow, the furrow, or the prolonged sounds of a musical instrument; tropically, it is also used of the long line of an army, advancing along the plain. Its meaning here, where the object which Barak is to draw is put in another clause, “וְלָקַתְתָּ עִמְךָ עֲשֶׂרֶת,” is made plain by the analogous passage, Exo_12:21. There Moses says, מִשְׁכוּ וּקְתוּ לָכֶם צֹאן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶם; and the sense is evidently that the families are to sacrifice the passover one after another (משֶׁכוּ), each in its turn killing its own lamb. The same successive method is here enjoined by Deborah. Barak is to gather ten thousand men toward mount Tabor, one after another, in small squads. This interpretation of the word is strengthened by the obvious necessity of the case. The tyrant must hear nothing of the rising, until the hosts are assembled; but how can their movements be concealed, unless they move in small companies? For the same reason they are to assemble, not at Kedesh, but at a central point, readily accessible to the several tribes. Mount Tabor (Jebel Tor), southwest of the Sea of Tiberias, is the most isolated point of Galilee, rising in the form of a cone above the plain, and visible at a great distance, though its height is only 1755 (according to Schubert, 1748) Par. feet.13 Barak, however, is not to remain in his position on the mountain. If Sisera’s tyranny is to be broken, its forces must be defeated in the plain; for there the iron chariots of the enemy have their field of action. Hence, Deborah adds that Sisera will collect his army at the brook Kishon, in the plain of Jezreel. “And I”—she speaks in the “Spirit of Jehovah”—“will draw him unto thee, and deliver him into thine hand.”
The name Barak signifies lightning, an appropriate name for a warrior. It is found also as Barca or Barcas, among Punic proper names. Compare Mar_3:17. On Kedesh-Naphtali see the marginal reference.
Deborah speaks of God as Yahweh the God of Israel, because she speaks, as it were, in the presence of the pagan enemies of Israel, and to remind the Israelites, in the day of their distress, that He was ready to perform the mercy promised to their fathers, and to remember His holy covenant. This title, too, would recall to their memories in an instant all His past acts in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and in the conquest of Canaan.
The object of “drawing (toward Mount Tabor” rather, spreading out, compare Jdg_20:37) was to effect a junction of the northern tribes with the tribes of Ephraim and Benjamin, who were separated from them by the plain of Esdraelon, where Sisera’s chariots would naturally congregate and be most effective. Mount Tabor rises from the plain of Esdraelon, about 1,865 ft. above the sea, and its broad top of nearly a mile in circumference afforded a strong position, out of reach of Sisera’s chariots. If El Harathiyeh be Harosheth, Sisera must have marched from the west. Harathiyeh is a height in the range which separates Esdraelon from the plains of Acre, under which the Kishon breaks through in its course to the sea.
Keila and Delitzsch
But in order to secure the rights of her people against their outward foes also, she summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh, in the tribe of Naphtali, on the west of the Huleh lake (see at Jos_12:22), and made known to him the commands of the Lord: “Up and draw to Mount Tabor, and take with thee 10,000 men of the children of Naphtali and Zebulun; and I will draw to thee into the brook-valley of Kishon, Sisera the captain of Jabin’s army, and his chariots, and his multitude (his men of war), and give him into thy hand.” מָשַׁכְתָּ has been explained in different ways. Seb. Schmidt, Clericus, and others supply הַקֶּרֶן or הַשֹּׁופָר, draw with the trumpet (cf. Exo_19:13; Jos_6:5), i.e., blow the trumpet in long-drawn tones, upon Mount Tabor, and regard this as the signal for convening people; whilst Hengstenberg (Diss. ii. pp. 76, 77) refers to Num_10:9, and understands the blowing of the horn as the signal by which the congregation of the Lord made known its need to Him, and appealed to Him to come to its help. It cannot indeed be proved that the blowing of the trumpet was merely the means adopted for convening the people together; in fact, the use of the following מָשַׁכְתִּי, in the sense of draw, is to be explained on the supposition that מָשַׁכתָּ is used in a double sense. “The long-drawn notes were to draw the Lord to them, and then the Lord would draw to them Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army. Barak first calls the helper from heaven, and then the Lord calls the enemy upon earth.” Nevertheless we cannot subscribe to this explanation, first of all because the supposed ellipsis cannot be sustained in this connection, when nothing is said about the blowing of a trumpet either in what precedes or in what follows; and secondly, because Num_10:9 cannot be appealed to in explanation, for the simple reason that it treats of the blowing of the silver trumpets on the part of the priests, and they must not be confounded with the shopharoth. And the use made of the trumpets at Jericho cannot be transferred to the passage before us without some further ground. We are disposed therefore to take the word מָשַׁךְ in the sense of draw (intransitive), i.e., proceed one after another in a long-drawn train (as in Jdg_20:37 and Exo_12:21), referring to the captain and the warriors drawing after him; whilst in Jdg_4:7 it is to be translated in the same way, though with a transitive signification. Mount Tabor, called Ἰταβύριον by the Greeks (see lxx Hos_5:1), the mountain of Christ’s transfiguration according to an early tradition of the church, the present Jebel et Tur, is a large truncated cone of limestone, which is almost perfectly insulated, and rises to the height of about a thousand feet, on the north-eastern border of the plain of Jezreel. The sides of the mountain are covered with a forest of oaks and wild pistachios, and upon its flat summit, which is about half an hour in circumference, there are the remains of ancient fortifications (see Robinson, Pal. iii. pp. 211ff., and v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 37, 38). The words “and take with thee 10,000 men” are not to be understood as signifying that Barak was to summon the people together upon the top of Mount Tabor, but the assembling of the people is presupposed; and all that is commanded is, that he was to proceed to Mount Tabor with the assembled army, and make his attack upon the enemy, who were encamped in the valley of Kishon, from that point. According to Jdg_4:10, the army was collected at Kedesh in Naphtali. Nachal Kishon is not only the brook Kishon, which is formed by streams that take their rise from springs upon Tabor and the mountains of Gilboa, flows in a north-westerly direction through the plain of Jezreel to the Mediterranean, and empties itself into the bay of Acca, and which is called Mukatta by the natives (see Rob. iii. pp. 472ff., and v. Raumer, pp. 39, 50), but the valley on both sides of the brook, i.e., the plain of Jezreel (see at Jos_17:16), where the greatest battles have been fought for the possession of Palestine from time immemorial down to the most recent times (see v. Raumer, pp. 40ff.).
Jdg_4:8. And Barak said. Barak has no doubt as to the truth of her words, nor does he fear the enemy; but yet he will go only if Deborah go with him, not without her. Her presence legitimatizes the undertaking as divine. It shows the tribes he summons, that he seeks no interest of his own—that it is she who summons them. He wishes to stand forth as the executor merely of the command which comes through her. The attempt to draw a parallel between Deborah and Jeanne d’Arc, though it readily suggests itself, will only teach us to estimate the more clearly the peculiar character of the Jewish prophetess. The latter does not herself draw the sword, for then she would not have needed Barak. Joan, like Deborah, spoke pregnant words of truth, as when, on being told that “God could conquer without soldiers,” she simply replied, “the soldiers will fight, and then God will give victory;” but she fought only against the enemies of her country, not the enemies of her faith and spiritual life. It was a romantic faith in the right and truth of an earthly sceptre, for which the poor maiden fell: the voice which called Deborah to victory was the voice of the Universal Sovereign. No trace of sentimentalism, like that of Dunois, can be discovered in Barak; nevertheless, he voluntarily retires behind the authority of a woman, because God animates and inspires her.
Keil and Delitzsch
The historical introduction (“Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying”) takes the place of a heading, and does not mean that the song of Deborah and Barak which follows was composed by them jointly, but simply that it was sung by them together, in commemoration of the victory. The poetess or writer of the song, according to Jdg_5:3, Jdg_5:7, and Jdg_5:12, was Deborah. The song itself opens with a summons to praise the Lord for the willing and joyful rising up of His people.
Lord. Hebrew may have different senses: “bless the Lord for having avenged Israel, the people willingly exposing themselves, or shewing their concurrence.” Roman Septuagint, “What was hidden has been disclosed in Israel, when the people shewed their good will, bless the Lord.” Pora, which the Vulgate has not expressed, commonly means to disclose, liberate, &c.; ethondob signifies to give freely, to expose one’s self, &c. Septuagint and Theodotion together, (Calmet) and the Alexandrian copy have, “bless the Lord, for that leaders have risen up in Israel, and the people have shewn their good will.” These two things were to be greatly desired, as a general can do but little without an obedient army, and the latter is, in a manner, useless, without a head. Both had been wanting in Israel for some time, and even still, some of the tribes seem to be blamed for not co-operating with zeal, ver. 15, &c. This verse is repeated as a kind of chorus, ver. 9. The zeal and concord of the little troop, which had met the formidable army of Sisara, deserved the highest applause. (Haydock) — Men bless God when they give him thanks; superiors bless by imparting some spiritual benefit. (Worthington)
Keil and Delitzsch
2 That the strong in Israel showed themselves strong,
That the people willingly offered themselves,
Praise ye the Lord!
The meaning of פָּרַע and פְּרָעֹות is a subject of dispute. According to the Septuagint rendering, and that of Theodot., ἐν τῷ ἄρξασθαι ἀρχηγοὺς ἐν Ἰσραήλ, many give it the meaning to begin or to lead, and endeavour to establish this meaning from an Arabic word signifying to find one’s self at the head of an affair. But this meaning cannot be established in Hebrew. פָּרַע has no other meaning than to let loose from something, to let a person loose or free (see at Lev_10:6); and in the only other passage where פְּרָעֹות occurs (Deu_32:42), it does not refer to a leader, but to the luxuriant growth of the hair as the sign of great strength. Hence in this passage also פְּרָעֹות literally means comati, the hairy ones, i.e., those who possessed strength; and פָּרַע, to manifest or put forth strength. The persons referred to are the champions in the fight, who went before the nation with strength and bravery. The preposition בּ before פְּרֹעַ indicates the reason for praising God, or rather the object with which the praise of the Lord was connected. וגו בִּפְרֹעַ, literally “in the showing themselves strong.” The meaning is, “for the fact that the strong in Israel put forth strength.” הִתְנָדֵּב, to prove one’s self willing, here to go into the battle of their own free will, without any outward and authoritative command. This introduction transports us in the most striking manner into the time of the judges, when Israel had no king who could summon the nation to war, but everything depended upon the voluntary rising of the strong and the will of the nation at large. The manifestation of this strength and willingness Deborah praises as a gracious gift of the Lord. After this summons to praise the Lord, the first part of the song opens with an appeal to the kings and princes of the earth to hear what Deborah has to proclaim to the praise of God.
Keil and Delitzsch
3 Hear, ye kings; give ear, ye princes!
I, to the Lord will I sing,
Will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.
4 Lord, when Thou wentest out from Seir,
When Thou marchedst out of the fields of Edom,
The earth trembled, and the heavens also dropped;
The clouds also dropped water.
5 The mountains shook before the Lord,
Sinai there before the Lord, the God of Israel.
The “kings and princes” are not the rulers in Israel, for Israel had no kings at that time, but the kings and princes of the heathen nations, as in Psa_2:2. These were to discern the mighty acts of Jehovah in Israel, and learn to fear Jehovah as the almighty God. For the song to be sung applies to Him, the God of Israel. זִמֵּר, ψάλλειν, is the technical expression for singing with an instrumental accompaniment (see at Exo_15:2).
Compare Psa_68:7-9, and Hab_3:3-16. The three passages relate to the same events, and mutually explain each other. The subject of them is the triumphant march of Israel, with the Lord at their head, to take possession of Canaan, and the overthrow of Sihon, Og, and the Midianites. This march commenced from Kadesh, in the immediate neighborhood of Self, and the victories which followed were an exact parallel to the victory of Deborah and Barak, accompanied as it had been with the storm which made Kishon to overflow his banks.
Keil and Delitzsch
To give the Lord the glory for the victory which had been gained through His omnipotent help over the powerful army of Sisera, and to fill the heathen with fear of Jehovah, and the Israelites with love and confidence towards Him, the singer reverts to the terribly glorious manifestation of Jehovah in the olden time, when Israel was accepted as the nation of God (Ex 19). Just as Moses in his blessing (Deu_33:2) referred the tribes of Israel to this mighty act, as the source of all salvation and blessing for Israel, so the prophetess Deborah makes the praise of this glorious manifestation of God the starting-point of her praise of the great grace, which Jehovah as the faithful covenant God had displayed to His people in her own days. The tacit allusion to Moses’ blessing is very unmistakeable. But whereas Moses describes the descent of the Lord upon Sinai (Ex 19), according to its gracious significance in relation to the tribes of Israel, as an objective fact (Jehovah came from Sinai, Deu_33:2), Deborah clothes the remembrance of it in the form of an address to God, to bring out the thought that the help which Israel had just experienced was a renewal of the coming of the Lord to His people. Jehovah’s going out of Seir, and marching out of the fields of Edom, is to be interpreted in the same sense as His rising up from Seir (Deu_33:2). As the descent of the Lord upon Sinai is depicted there as a rising of the sun from the east, so the same descent in a black cloud amidst thunder, lightning, fire, and vapour of smoke (Exo_19:16, Exo_19:18), is represented here with direct allusion to these phenomena as a storm rising up from Seir in the east, in which the Lord advanced to meet His people as they came from the west to Sinai. Before the Lord, who came down upon Sinai in the storm and darkness of the cloud, the earth shook and the heaven dropped, or, as it is afterwards more definitely explained, the clouds dropped with water, emptied themselves of their abundance of water as they do in the case of a storm. The mountains shook (נָזְלוּ, Niphal of זָלַל, dropping the reduplication of the ל = נָזֹלּוּ, Isa_63:19; Isa_64:2), even the strong rocky mountain of Sinai, which stood out so distinctly before the eyes of the singer, that she speaks of it as “this Sinai,” pointing to it as though it were locally near. David’s description of the miraculous guidance of Israel through the desert in Psa_68:8-9, is evidently founded upon this passage, though it by no means follows from this that the passage before us also treats of the journey through the desert, as Clericus supposes, or even of the presence of the Lord in the battle with Sisera, and the victory which it secured. But greatly as Israel had been exalted at Sinai by the Lord its God, it had fallen just as deeply into bondage to its oppressors through its own sins, until Deborah arose to help it (Jdg_5:6-8).
Keil and Delitzsch
9 My heart inclines to the leaders of Israel;
To those who offered themselves willingly in the nation. Praise ye the Lord!
10 Ye that ride upon white asses;
Ye that sit upon covering,
And that walk in the way, reflect!
11 With the voice of the archers among drawers (of water),
There praise ye the righteous acts of the Lord,
The righteous acts of His villages in Israel.
Then the people of the Lord went down to the gates!
We must supply the subst. verb in connection with לְ לִבִּי, “My heart is (sc., inclined) towards the leaders of Israel,” i.e., feels itself drawn towards them. הֹוקֵק for מְהֹוקֵק (Jdg_5:14), the determining one, i.e., the commander or leader in war: as in Deu_33:21. The leaders and willing ones are first of all to praise the Lord for having crowned their willingness with victory.
Ye that ride on white asses – Perhaps אתנות צחרות athonoth tsechoroth should be rendered sleek or well-fed asses; rendered asinos nitentes, shining asses, by the Vulgate.
Ye that sit in judgment – ישבי על מדין yoshebey al middin; some have rendered this, ye who dwell in Middin. This was a place in the tribe of Judah, and is mentioned Jos_15:61.
And walk by the way – Persons who go from place to place for the purposes of traffic.
Keil and Delitzsch
And all classes of the people, both high and low, have reason to join in the praise. Those who ride upon white, i.e., white-spotted asses, are the upper classes generally, and not merely the leaders (cf. Jdg_10:4; Jdg_12:14). צָהֹר, lit. dazzling white; but since there are no asses that are perfectly white, and white was a colour that was highly valued both by Hebrews and Arabs, they applied the term white to those that were only spotted with white. Those who sit upon coverings (מִדִּין from מַד, a covering or carpet, with the plural termination ין, which is to be regarded as a poetical Chaldaism) are the rich and prosperous; and those who walk on the way, i.e., travellers on foot, represent the middle and lower classes, who have to go about and attend to their affairs. Considered logically, this triple division of the nation is not a very exact one, as the first two do not form a true antithesis. But the want of exactness does not warrant our fusing together the middle term and the first, and understanding by middin either saddles or saddle-cloths, as Ewald and Bertheau have done; for saddle-cloths are still further from forming an antithesis to asses, so that those who ride upon white asses could be distinguished, as the upper classes and leaders, from those who sit upon saddles, or are “somewhat richer.” Moreover, there is no reason for regarding these three classes as referring simply to the long line of warriors hastening from the victory to the triumphal fête. On the contrary, all classes of the people are addressed, as enjoying the fruits of the victory that had been obtained: the upper classes, who ride upon their costly animals; the rich resting at home upon their splendid carpets; and the poor travellers, who can now go quietly along the high-road again without fear of interruption from the foe (Jdg_5:6). שִׂיחוּ is rendered “sing” by many; but this rendering cannot be sustained from Psa_105:2 and Psa_145:5, and it is not necessary on the verse before us, since the well-established meaning of the word “ponder,” reflect, sc., upon the acts of the Lord, is a perfectly suitable one.
Keil and Delitzsch
The whole nation had good reason to make this reflection, as the warriors, having returned home, were now relating the mighty acts of the Lord among the women who were watering their flocks, and the people had returned to their towns once more. This is in all probability the idea of the obscure verse before us, which has been interpreted in such very different ways. The first clause, which has no verb, and cannot constitute a sentence by itself, must be connected with the following clause, and taken as an anakolouthon, as יְתַנּוּ שָׁם does not form a direct continuation of the clause commencing with מִקֹּול. After the words “from the voice of the archers,” we should expect the continuation “there is heard,” or “there sounds forth the praise of the acts of the Lord.” Instead of that, the construction that was commenced is relinquished at יְתַנּוּ שָׁם, and a different turn is given to the thought. This not only seems to offer the simplest explanation, but the only possible solution of the difficulty. For the explanation that מִן is to be taken as signifying “away from,” as in Num_15:24, etc., in the sense of “far from the voice of the archers, among the watering women,” does not suit the following word שָׁם, “there,” at all. It would be necessary to attribute to מִן the meaning “no more disquieted by,” a meaning which the preposition could not possibly have in this clause. מְחַצְצִים are not sharers in the booty, for חָצַץ simply means to cut, to cut in pieces, to divide, and is never applied to the sharing of booty, for which חִלֵּק is the word used (vid., Jdg_5:30; Psa_68:13; Isa_9:2). מְחַצֵּץ is to be regarded, as the Rabbins maintain, as a denom. from חֵץ, to hold an arrow, signifying therefore the shooter of an arrow. It was probably a natural thing for Deborah, who dwelt in Benjamin, to mention the archers as representatives of warriors generally, since this was the principal weapon employed by the Benjaminites (see 1Ch_8:40; 1Ch_12:2; 2Ch_14:7; 2Ch_17:17). The tarrying of the warriors among the drawers of water, where the flocks and herds were being watered, points to the time of peace, when the warriors were again occupied with their civil and domestic affairs. יְתַנּוּ is a simple aorist. תִּנָּה, lit. to repeat, then to relate, or praise. “The righteousness of Jehovah,” i.e., the marvellous acts of the Lord in and upon Israel for the accomplishing of His purposes of salvation, in which the righteousness of His work upon earth was manifested (cf. 1Sa_12:7; Mic_6:5). פִּרְזֹונֹו צִדְקֹות has been rendered by modern expositors, either “the righteous acts of His guidance or of His decision” (Ewald and Bertheau), or “the righteous acts of His commanders,” or “the benefits towards His princes (leaders) in Israel” (Ros. and others). But neither of these can be sustained. We must take פְּרָזֹון here in just the same sense as in Jdg_5:7; the country covered with open towns and villages, together with their inhabitants, whom Jehovah had delivered from the hostile oppression that had rested upon them, by means of the victory obtained over Sisera. After that victory the people of the Lord went down again to their gates, from the mountains and hiding-places in which they had taken refuge from their foes (Jdg_5:6, Jdg_5:7), returning again to the plains of the land, and the towns that were now delivered from the foe.
A very difficult verse, and very variously rendered. For archers some give the interpretation dividers, i.e. MEN SHARING THE BOOTY THEY HAVE TAKEN; or, SINGING IN ALTERNATE VERSES. For They that are delivered from, some render far away from. Others again take the preposition from in the not uncommon sense of more than, meaning here louder than. The chief different senses which emerge are—
(1) that of the A.V.: “Those that can now draw water from the wells without being molested by the hostile archers shall sing praises to God in the very spots where they were wont to be attacked.”
(2) “Far from the noise and tumult of those that divide the spoil among the water-troughs, there shall they sing,—etc.
(3) “With a louder voice than that of the shepherds who sing among the water-troughs (while they are watering their flocks), there shall they rehearse,” etc. Or,
(4) combining (2) and (3), “With a voice louder (and more exultant) than that of those who divide the spoil, there shall they rehearse,” etc. The inhabitants of his villages. Render his leaders, as in Jdg_5:7. Then shall the people … go down to the gates of the cities for judgment, or to the bazaars, as in old times, without fear of their enemies.