Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,Jdg 5:1. Then sang Deborah — The composer of this song, one of whose special gifts, as a prophetess, it was to sing God’s praises, 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. And Barak — Who was now probably become a judge, in consequence of this great deliverance which God had wrought by him. On that day — In which they had completed their victory, by the destruction of Jabin’s kingdom. Whether they two only sang this song, or the elders of the people, called together into one assembly, sang it with them, is not certain. The text, however, only speaks of its being sung by them two; and Dr. Kennicott has expressed his opinion strongly, that they sang it in alternate verses, answering each other, and that the not observing this has rendered many parts of it obscure, and of difficult interpretation, and destroyed the force and beauty of the whole. “It is certain,” says he, “though very little attended to, that it is said to have been sung by Deborah and by Barak. It is also certain, there are in it parts which Deborah could not sing; as well as parts which Barak could not sing. And therefore it seems necessary, in order to form a better judgment of this song, that some probable distribution should be made of it; while those words which seem most likely to have been sung by either party, should be assigned to their proper name; either to that of Deborah the prophetess, or that of Barak the captain-general. For example: Deborah could not call upon Deborah, exhorting herself to awake, &c., as in Jdg 5:12. Neither could Barak exhort himself to arise, &c., in the same verse. Again: Barak could not sing, Till I Deborah arose, a mother in Israel, in Jdg 5:7. Nor could Deborah sing about a damsel or two for every soldier, in Jdg 5:30 : though indeed, as to this last article, the words are probably misunderstood.” The doctor, therefore, to do more justice, as he judges, to “this celebrated song,” which, he says, is deservedly admired, furnishes us with a new translation of it, assigning therein to Deborah and Barak the parts which he supposes each to have sung, and representing them, through the whole, as answering each other. See Kennicott’s Remarks on Select Passages of the Old Testament, p. 94. We must leave the reader to judge for himself what weight there is in what the doctor advances, and shall only observe as to this hymn in general, that, like the songs of Moses, (Exodus 15.; and Deuteronomy 32,) it is distinguished in the Hebrew, as being poetry, and in our present translation would appear to more advantage if printed in hemistics. See on Deuteronomy 32:1. It must be evident to every reader, that it is expressed in another kind of style than that of the historical part of this book; and in language so majestic, in such a variety of elegant figures, and such natural expressions of those affections which the occasion requires, that none of the ancient Greek or Latin poets have equalled the noble flow of these divine strains.
Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.Jdg 5:2. Praise ye the Lord, &c. — This verse seems to be no more than the exordium, or preface to the song, expressing the subject or occasion of it, namely, the avenging of Israel, or the deliverance of them from Canaanitish slavery, and the people’s willingly offering themselves to battle. Houbigant renders the verse thus —
“Because the leaders of Israel undertook the war,
Because the people willingly offered themselves,
Praise ye the Lord.”
And Dr. Kennicott supposes that the first line was sung by Deborah: that Barak answered her in the second, and that they both joined in the last, which, according to the Hebrew, he more properly translates, Bless ye Jehovah.
Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.Jdg 5:3. Hear, O ye kings, &c. — The prophetess begins her song with summoning the attention of the neighbouring kings and princes, that they might understand and lay to heart what God had done for Israel, and learn from thence not to oppress them, lest the same vengeance which had fallen upon Jabin and his people should be inflicted on them. I, even I, will sing unto the Lord — She declares that Jehovah should be the object of her praise, who, she would have the world to know, was superior to all in power, and would defend his people while they depended on him alone.
LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.Jdg 5:4. Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir — Thus the prophetess, by a sudden apostrophe, addresses him, not as their present deliverer, but as the God who had formerly exerted his miraculous power to bring them into the promised land; leaving her hearers to recollect, that it was the same power which had now subdued the Canaanites, that at first expelled them; the same power which had now restored to the Israelites the free enjoyment of their country, that at first put them in possession of it. In other words, being to praise God for the present mercies, she takes her rise higher, and begins her song with the commemoration of the ancient deliverances afforded by God to his people; and the rather, because of the great resemblance this had to them, in the miraculous manner of them. Seir and Edom are the same place, and these two expressions mean the same thing, even God’s marching at the head of his people, from Seir or Edom, toward the land of Canaan. The earth trembled — God prepared the way for his people, and struck a dread into their enemies, by earthquakes, as well as by other terrible signs. The heavens dropped — That is, thou didst send storms and tempests, thunder and lightning, and other tokens of thy displeasure upon thine enemies. The books of Moses, indeed, do not mention any earthquake as happening during their march from Seir in Edom, to war against Sihon and Og, and take possession of their land; but it is highly probable, from what is repeatedly spoken of the terror occasioned by their march, and the universal fear that was spread round because of them, that it was attended with such commotions of nature. See Psalm 68:7-8; Isaiah 64:3; Habakkuk 3:6; Deuteronomy 1:19-20.
The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.Jdg 5:5. The mountains melted — Or flowed with floods of water, poured out of the clouds upon them, and from them flowing down in mighty streams upon the lower grounds, and carrying down part of the mountains with them. Even that Sinai — Or rather, As did Sinai itself. The whole verse might be better translated, The mountains flowed down at the presence of Jehovah; as did Sinai itself at the presence of Jehovah, the God of Israel. And Dr. Kennicott supposes that, when the ode was sung, the first clause was uttered by Deborah, the second by Barak, and that they both joined in the third. The prophetess here slides into the mention of a more ancient appearance of God for his people at Sinai, it being usual with the inspired writers, in repeating former actions, to put divers together in a narrow compass. The sense is, No wonder that the mountains of the Amorites and Canaanites melted and trembled, when thou didst lead thy people toward them; for even Sinai itself could not bear thy presence, but melted in like manner before thee.
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. In the days of Shamgar, &c. — In this and the two following verses Deborah, to give the Israelites a just sense of their deliverance, and excite them to greater thankfulness, represents the miseries to which the Canaanites had reduced them by twenty years’ oppression; their public roads or high-ways were deserted for fear of robbers or violence; their villages depopulated; their cities blocked up, and their country overrun with the enemy’s soldiers; while themselves were disarmed, dispirited, and helpless; till it pleased God to look down upon them with compassion, and raise up deliverance for them. In the days of Jael, &c. — Jael, though an illustrious woman, effected nothing for the deliverance of God’s people. The travellers walked through by-ways — Because of the Philistines and Canaanites, who, besides the public burdens which they laid upon the Israelites, waited for all opportunities to do them mischief secretly; watching for travellers in common roads, as is usual with enemies in times of war; and because of the wicked even of their own people, who, having cast off the fear of God, and there being no king in Israel to punish them, broke forth into acts of injustice and violence, even against their own brethren. The Jael mentioned in this verse is generally taken to be the wife of Heber, who slew Sisera. But “the phrase, in the days of Jael, implies times past, and supposes that Jael was dead as well as Shamgar. Besides, what honour could redound to the prophetess from such a comparison? Is it worthy of a boast, that she, who was judge in Israel, had done more in delivering them from the enemy than Heber’s wife, who was only a sojourner in Israel, and whose husband was at peace with the enemy? The Jael, therefore, here mentioned, seems to have been a prophetess raised up before Deborah to judge Israel, but who died without delivering them. It is true indeed the name of this prophetess is not mentioned before; but neither are any of the transactions of the time in which she is supposed to have lived recorded; nor is Shamgar’s name mentioned more than once, Jdg 3:31, and then principally on account of that single exploit, of slaying six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad.” — Dodd.
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. The inhabitants of the villages ceased — The people forsook all their unfortified towns, not being able to protect them from military insolence. A mother — That is, to be to them as a mother, to instruct, and rule, and protect them, which duties a mother owes to her children.
They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?Jdg 5:8. They chose, &c. — That is, the Israelites, after the death of Ehud, forsook the Lord, and served other gods. And they did not only submit to idolatry when they were forced to it by tyrants, but they freely chose it. New gods — New to them, and unknown to their fathers, and new in comparison of the true and everlasting God of Israel, being but of yesterday. There was war in the gates — That is, in their walled cities, which have gates and bars; gates are often put for cities; then their strong holds fell into the hands of their enemies. Was there a shield? &c. — There was not. The meaning is not, that all the Israelites were without arms; but, either they had but few arms among them, being many thousands of them disarmed by the Canaanites and Philistines, or that they generally neglected the use of arms, as being without all hope of recovering their liberty.
My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.Jdg 5:9. My heart is toward the governors — I honour and love those, who, being the chief of the people in wealth and dignity, did not withdraw themselves from the work, as such usually do; but exposed themselves to the same hazards, and joined with their brethren in this noble but dangerous attempt. It seems by this that there were some of the greatest men in the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, who, of their own accord, hazarded their lives among the common people in this service. And toward these Deborah expresses singular affection; and with the praises of God intermixes the commendation of those who were his instruments in this deliverance. Bless ye the Lord — Who inclined their hearts to this undertaking, and gave them success in it. This she adds like a prophetess of the Lord, who, when she commends the most deserving of men, would not fail to raise their thoughts to God, the original source of all that is excellent and praiseworthy.
Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.Jdg 5:10. Speak ye — Celebrate the praise of our mighty God, and give him thanks. The word שׂיחו, sichu, however, here rendered, Speak ye, more properly signifies to consider, meditate, or reflect deeply, namely, on the miserable condition they were in before, and on the great deliverance God had wrought out for them. Ye that ride on white asses — That is, magistrates and nobles, who used to do so, Jdg 10:4; Jdg 12:14. These could not appear in any splendour during the servitude and oppression under Jabin, but now were restored to their dignity, which she calls upon them to consider, and for which to praise the Lord. There were few horses in Judea but what were brought out of other countries, so that the greatest persons rode on asses, as appears by the sacred history; but in this country they were commonly of a red colour, (whence, as Bochart observes, an ass hath the name of כמור, chamor,) and therefore white, or, as he translates the word, whitish asses, or those streaked with white, were highly esteemed for their rarity. Ye that sit in judgment — Those that sat as judges in the gates, which were no longer possessed by the enemies, she here exhorts to join with the nobles before mentioned. And walk by the way — The merchants, traffickers, and others, who could now travel safely about their business, which they durst not do before this deliverance, Jdg 5:6; for which, therefore, they were bound to praise God.
They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.Jdg 5:11. From the noise of archers — From the triumphant noise and shouts of archers, rejoicing when they met with their prey. Together with the princes, judges, and merchants, she would have the shepherds praise the Lord every time they came to water their flocks; remembering how they were formerly disturbed by the archers lurking in the woods or thickets, who shot whole quivers of arrows at them and their cattle, whereby they were put to great difficulty and danger in watering their cattle, which now they brought safely to the pits or springs. There shall they rehearse, &c. — When they come to those places with freedom and safety, which before they could not approach but with extreme danger, they shall rehearse the righteous and gracious acts of the Lord, who had taken a just vengeance on their oppressors, and most graciously delivered them from their tyranny. Toward the inhabitants of his villages — She would have the meanest peasants bear them company in the praises of God; for now they lived as quietly in their open villages as if they had been in the strongest cities. Then shall the people go down to the gates — The great prophetess sums up all in these words, that the whole country was bound to praise the Lord, every man having liberty to go down safely to the gates of his own city, from whence, undoubtedly, many had been driven by the Canaanites, and forced to wander abroad. The gates of their cities, it must be observed, were the chief places to which both city and country resorted for public business and matters of justice, from both of which they had been debarred by their oppressors, but which would now resume their wonted course, and the people have free access and passage, either in or out of their gates, as their affairs required. And they who had been compelled to leave their cities would now return in peace and triumph.
Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.Jdg 5:12. Awake, awake, Deborah — Stir up thyself, with all that is within thee, to admire and praise Jehovah. This work needs, and well deserves, the utmost liveliness and vigour of soul. Thus, having called upon all others, she now excites herself, with the most earnest and zealous affection, (expressed by the repetition of the same thing four times,) to celebrate the wonderful works of God. One cannot help observing the decorum which the prophetess observes in speaking of herself. Though she went along with Barak to levy his forces, accompanied him to the field of battle, and gave him the word of command when to charge the enemy, (Jdg 4:9-14,) yet, suitably to her sex and office, she only speaks of uttering a song of praise on the occasion, while she assigns to him, under God, the glory of the victory, and the honour of the triumph. Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive — She calls on Barak to show his captives and spoils, that the Israelites might see how great reason they had for giving thanks to God. Some ask what captives he could have to lead when the whole army of Sisera was cut off? Jdg 4:16. To which the answer is easy, that when Barak, after he had routed their army, pursued his victory as far as Harosheth, he doubtless took many prisoners, and probably not a few of the best quality, and brought them captive with him out of the country.
Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.Jdg 5:13. Then he made him that remaineth have dominion, &c. — This verse is very obscure, nor is it easy to fix the sense of the original, the principal verb in the sentence, ירד, jerad, which occurs in both clauses of it, meaning both to have, or to cause to have dominion, and also to descend, or come down. According to our translation, which seems as accurate as any proposed, the sense is, that God had not only preserved a remnant of his people from the fury of the oppressor, and from the destruction which Sisera designed, but also now gave them the victory, and thereby the dominion over the nobles of Canaan, who had been combined against them. The Lord made me have dominion — Though but a weak woman. But Dr. Kennicott’s translation of the verse, which is countenanced by the Seventy, is,
“Then, when the remainder descended after their chiefs,
Jehovah’s people descended after me against the mighty:”
which interpretation agrees in substance with that of the ingenious Mr. Green and some others.
Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.Jdg 5:14. Out of Ephraim, &c. — The prophetess, having directed their praises to the Author of their deliverance, proceeds to speak with commendation of the instruments of it, and gives us the muster of those tribes which freely offered themselves to battle. She assigns the first place to the tribe of Benjamin; the second to those of her own tribe who were settled in Amalek; the third to the Manassites beyond Jordan; the fourth to the tribe of Zebulun; and the last to the tribe of Issachar. There was a root of them against Amalek — This translation is very obscure, and therefore it might be better rendered, and more agreeably to the Hebrew, Out of Ephraim came down those who were planted, or whose rest was in Amalek; meaning some of the tribe of Ephraim, who were settled in or about the mount of Amalek. See Jdg 12:15. And out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer — Mr. Green has observed, and with great reason, that there is a manifest impropriety in penmen coming down to a battle; and that the word שׁבשׂ, shebet, which is here translated a pen, never signifies so throughout the Scriptures, but always a sceptre, or staff of command; and therefore he thinks our translation has mistaken the meaning here, and that it ought to be translated, And out of Zebulun those that rule or lead with the sceptre. The word ספר, soper, rendered writer, he thinks belongs to the next verse, and should be translated numbered. This certainly would make that verse more plain and significant. It would then be, And the princes of Issachar were numbered with Deborah; that is, these princes, together with Barak the general, were mustered along with Deborah herself.
And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.Jdg 5:15. He was sent on foot — Or, when he was sent, with his foot, into the valley. This is not an immaterial remark of the prophetess. It expresses that the tribe or people of Issachar, following the counsel and example of their princes, were as hearty and valiant in the cause as Barak their general; and as he marched on foot to attack Sisera with his horses and nine hundred armed chariots, and that into the valley or plain, where horses and chariots are chiefly useful, so did they, with no less courage and resolution. This she said to show that the battle was Jehovah’s, and that he saveth not by horses, nor by chariots. For the divisions of Reuben — Or, separations, not so much of one from another, (for they seem to have been all well agreed in abiding at home with their sheep,) as of all from their brethren, from whom they were divided no less in their designs and affections than in their situation by the river Jordan: and they would not join their interests and forces with them in this common cause. Great thoughts — Or, great searchings, great and sad thoughts, and debates, and perplexities of mind among the Israelites, to see themselves deserted by so great and potent a tribe as Reuben was.
Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.Jdg 5:16. Why, &c. — Having mentioned with honour the tribes that willingly offered themselves, the prophetess proceeds to expostulate with those who, when summoned to the assistance of their brethren, shamefully refused to arm in the common cause. The first two that she upbraids are Reuben and Gad, who were more solicitous about their cattle than their brethren. The next two are Dan and Asher, who were as meanly intent upon their commerce. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds? — Why wast thou so unworthy and cowardly that thou wouldst not engage thyself in so just, so necessary and so noble a cause, but didst prefer the care of thy sheep, and thy own ease and safety, before this generous undertaking? Reuben thought neutrality their wisest course; being very rich in cattle, Numbers 32:1. They were loath to run the hazard of so great a loss, by taking up arms against so potent an enemy as Jabin: and the bleatings of their sheep were so loud in their ears that they could not hear the call of Deborah and Barak.
Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.Jdg 5:17. Gilead abode, &c. — Or, why did Gilead abide? Gilead was divided between the children of Machir and the tribe of Gad, Joshua 13:24-31. The children of Machir came down to the battle, and therefore the tribe of Gad can only be meant here, the land of Gilead being put for the inhabitants of it. Beyond Jordan — In their own portions, and did not come over Jordan to the help of the Lord, and of his people, as they ought to have done. Why did Dan remain in ships? — Their coast being near the sea, they were wholly intent on their merchandise, and therefore did not join in this land expedition. Asher continued on the sea-shore — Where their lot lay. Abode in his breaches — Either in his creeks and small havens, where vessels lay to go out to sea, or in their broken and craggy rocks and caves.
Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.Jdg 5:18. Zebulun and Naphtali, &c. — These were the two tribes out of which Barak, by the order of God, (Jdg 4:6,) drew ten thousand men, who charged the enemy from mount Tabor; and Deborah here celebrates their gallant behaviour. That jeoparded their lives — Hebrew, חרŠ, cherep, despised their lives, or exposed them to the danger of death, as making no account of them, in comparison of joining with their brethren to shake off the yoke of the Canaanites, and recover their liberty. They chose rather to venture upon a generous and honourable death than to enjoy a shameful and servile life. In the high places of the field — That is, upon that large and eminent plain in the top of mount Tabor, where they put themselves in battle array, and expected the enemy; though, when they saw that the Canaanites did not come up to them, they marched down to meet them.
The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.Jdg 5:19. The kings came and fought — There were divers petty kings in those parts who were subject to Jabin. Taanach and Megiddo were two eminent cities not far from mount Tabor, nor from the river Kishon. They took no gain of money — Some interpret this as meaning they fought without pay, whether from mere hatred of the Israelites, and a desire to be revenged on them, or from a full hope and confidence of paying themselves abundantly out of Israel’s spoils. But it may be intended as a sarcasm upon the kings of Canaan for their lucrative views in fighting against Israel. They came to the help of Jabin for lucre’s sake; namely, to enrich themselves with the spoils; but the Israelites fought for liberty.
They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.Jdg 5:20. They fought from heaven — The prophetess, having in the foregoing verse mentioned who were the allies and helpers of Jabin, does here, in a very magnificent manner, represent who were the allies and helpers of Israel. They fought from heaven on this side; namely, the very angels of God themselves, the hosts of heaven, the armies of the Almighty. The very stars in their courses fought for Israel against Sisera — The elements, by the order of God, came to their assistance. The air and waters ranged themselves on their side; the rivers, even the small streams, lift up themselves and swept away their enemies. This is the magnificent and tremendous idea which the prophetess gives us of this victory over Sisera: see on Jdg 4:15. In the poetical scriptures, thunder and lightning are represented as the artillery of heaven. The Prophet Habakkuk, speaking of the defeat of the confederate kings of Canaan by Joshua, where there is no mention of thunder and lightning in the history, thus addresses Jehovah, Habakkuk 3:11 —
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation;
By their light thine arrows went abroad;
And by their shining thy glittering spear.
The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.Jdg 5:21. The river of Kishon — Which, though not great in itself, was now much swelled by the foregoing storm and rain, and therefore drowned those who, being pursued by the hand of God and by the Israelites, were forced into it, and thought to pass over it, as they did before. Ancient river — So called, either, first, in opposition to those rivers which are of a later date, being made by the hand and art of man; or, secondly, because it was a river anciently famous for remarkable exploits, for which it was celebrated by the ancient poets or writers, though not here mentioned. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength — Thou, O Deborah, though but a weak woman, hast, by God’s assistance, subdued a potent enemy; a beautiful apostrophe this of the prophetess; turning her speech to herself, as it were, to congratulate herself on the success of the commission which she had received from God to stir up Barak, and on the great efficacy of her prayers to God; for it cannot be doubted but that she implored help from Heaven, while Barak fought with Sisera.
Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.Jdg 5:22. Then were the horse-hoofs broken — This verse finely expresses, and gives us the strongest image of, the confusion and rapidity of the flight of Sisera’s captains and great men, as well as of the multitude, from God and Israel; which was such that the very hoofs of their horses were broken by their swift and violent running over the stony ground. Prancings — Or, because of their fierce or swift courses. The word דהר, dahar, here rendered prancings, is used also Nahum 3:2, where, from the word it is joined with, says Dr. Dodd, it must mean the clattering of the horse on full speed. The marginal reading, tramplings, or plungings, he thinks preferable to the text, and observes, that the meaning of it cannot perhaps be better expressed than by the well-known line of Virgil:
Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.
“‘They shake with horny hoofs the solid ground.”
Dr. Waterland proposes that אביריו, abiraiv, here rendered their mighty ones, should be translated their mighty horses, an interpretation which the word will easily bear, and which increases the force and beauty of the passage, as they were doubtless “not common horses, but their best and strongest, whose hoofs were broken on this occasion.” The reader will observe that it was not the custom to shoe their horses in these ancient times, and indeed, according to Tavernier, Montfaucon, and others, they have at present excellent horses in Arabia and Tartary which are never shod. See Dodd.
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. Curse ye Meroz — A place then, no doubt, eminent and considerable, though now there be no remembrance of it left, which possibly might be the effect of this bitter curse; as God cursed Amalek in this manner, that he might utterly blot out their remembrance. And this place, above all others, may be thus severely cursed, because it was near the place of the fight, and therefore had the greatest opportunity and obligation to assist their brethren. The angel, &c. — She signifies that this curse proceeded not from her ill-will toward that place, but from divine inspiration; and that if all the rest of the song should be taken but for the mere aspirations and effusions of a pious soul, but liable to mistake, yet this branch of it was immediately directed to her by the Lord, the angel of the covenant. To the help of the Lord — Of the Lord’s people; for God takes what is done for or against his people as if it were done to himself. The cause between God and the mighty, the principalities and powers of the kingdom of darkness, will not admit of a neutrality.
Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.Jdg 5:24. Blessed, &c. — This is a beautiful and striking transition, whereby the prophetess passes from the curse pronounced by the command of the angel on the Merozites to the blessing of Jael, on whom she passes the finest encomium, because, though only a sojourner in Israel, she had done them most signal service in taking off Sisera, their most inveterate enemy. Blessed above women — Celebrated and endowed with all sorts of blessings more than they. In the tent — In her tent and habitation; in her house and family, and all her affairs. The Kenites lived not in houses, but in tents. But the tent is here mentioned as an allusion to the place where the fact was done.
He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.Jdg 5:25. He asked water, &c. — The original here is very poetical and elegant, and not badly imitated in our translation of it, if it were placed in hemistics thus:
He asked water, and she gave milk;
She brought forth butter in a lordly dish.
The last clause, however, perhaps had better be rendered, cream in a princely bowl; that is, she brought forth the choicest of her milk in the best dish or bowl she had; not indeed such a one as the luxury of after ages introduced, but such as was agreeable to the simplicity of those times and of this family, and such as the better sort of people then used. Jael, we have observed, on Jdg 4:19, probably at that time intended him no other than kindness, till God, to fulfil Deborah’s prophecy, by an immediate impulse on her mind, directed her to do otherwise.
She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.Jdg 5:26. She smote off his head — Or rather, smote through his head, for there is not the least hint given in the story that she cut off his head. The latter part of the verse, When she pierced, &c., may be rendered, She wounded and pierced through his temples.
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. At her feet he bowed, &c. — This verse is considered by many as a description of the struggles of Sisera after he was wounded; but perhaps it may only be a relation of his lying down to sleep quite spent with fatigue, from which he never rose again. For it is expressly said, (Jdg 4:21,) that Jael smote the nail quite through his temples, so as to fasten him to the ground; from whence there is great reason to conclude that the blow was instantaneously fatal, and that he never struggled nor stirred. This verse is thus translated by Dr. Kennicott:
At her feet he bowed, he fell! At her feet he bowed, he fell!
Where he bowed, there he fell dead.
And he supposes, naturally enough, the first line to be sung by Deborah, the second by Barak, and that they both joined in singing the third. The whole verse is greatly expressive of the joy of Deborah on this occasion, and shows, in a strong light, her love for her country and people. She dwells on every circumstance with seeming pleasure; she repeats them, as it were, to enjoy the idea and contemplation of them the longer. And one would think all the enemies of Israel had perished in this one man.
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 5:28-30. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window — Expecting to see him returning; for she concluded that he went forth not so much to fight as to take the spoil. Have they not divided the spoil? — That is, it is certain they have got the prey, only they tarry to distribute it, according to every man’s quality and merit. It is scarcely possible to conceive any thing more beautiful or expressive than these verses. No writer, either poet or orator, ever formed a finer image upon any subject. It seems even beyond all that painting could express. No picture could have represented to us so much of the action as these words do. We perfectly see the mother of Sisera waiting for the victorious return of her son, and looking out at a window to behold his triumphant chariot at some distance. We see her rejoicing over the Israelitish captives. We see her, as it were, examining and delighting her eyes with the rich and gorgeous spoils which they had brought home. How does all this heighten, in our imagination, the fall of Sisera, who lies at the same time dead in the tent of Jael, without pomp or attendant, without mother, or sister, or brother, to weep over him, slain by the hand of a woman! This fine conclusion of the relation of Sisera’s fall may be said to have all the beautiful colouring of a Titian, and all the force of a Raphael or Rubens; for no one pencil ever expressed any thing so perfectly.
Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
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. So let thine enemies perish, O Lord — That is, so suddenly, so surely, so effectually and irrecoverably; an elegant apostrophe of the prophetess this, in turning and addressing her speech to God; that as her speech began with him, so it might likewise conclude with him. And with what gracefulness, and, at the same time, with what grandeur and sublimity does she change the subject! How was it possible for her to conclude her song in a finer manner than by this sudden, but, at the same time, earnest wish that all the enemies of Jehovah might perish as Sisera had done. And that all that love him might, like the rising sun, proceed from strength to strength, till they should arrive at the highest pitch of glory. Deborah was a prophetess, and this prayer may be considered as a two-fold prediction, importing both that, in due time, all God’s enemies shall perish; and that those who love him in sincerity, and persevere in so doing, shall shine for ever as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.