Deborah and Barak's Song of
1. Then sang Deborah and Barak … on that
day—This noble triumphal ode was evidently the composition of
2, 3. The meaning is obscurely seen in our
version; it has been better rendered thus, "Praise ye Jehovah; for the
free are freed in Israel—the people have willingly offered
4, 5. Allusion is here made, in general terms,
to God's interposition on behalf of His people.
Seir … the field of
Edom—represent the mountain range and plain extending along
the south from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf.
thou wentest out—indicates the storm
to have proceeded from the south or southeast.
6-8. The song proceeds in these verses to
describe the sad condition of the country, the oppression of the
people, and the origin of all the national distress in the people's
apostasy from God. Idolatry was the cause of foreign invasion and
internal inability to resist it.
9. expresses gratitude to the respective
leaders of the tribes which participated in the contest; but, above
all, to God, who inspired both the patriotic disposition and the
10. Speak—that is, join in this song of
white asses—Those which are purely
white are highly prized, and being costly, are possessed only by the
wealthy and great.
Ye that sit in judgment—has been
rendered, "ye that repose on tapestries."
11-14. The wells which are at a little
distance from towns in the East, are, in unsettled times, places of
danger. But in peace they are scenes of pleasant and joyous resort. The
poetess anticipates that this song may be sung, and the righteous acts
of the Lord rehearsed at these now tranquil "places of drawing water."
Deborah now rouses herself to describe, in terms suitable to the
occasion, the preparation and the contest, and calls in a flight of
poetic enthusiasm on Barak to parade his prisoners in triumphal
procession. Then follows a eulogistic enumeration of the tribes which
raised the commanded levy, or volunteered their services—the
soldiers of Ephraim who dwelt near the mount of the Amalekites, the
small quota of Benjamin; "the governors," valiant leaders "out of
Machir," the western Manasseh; out of Zebulun.
15. Then comes a reproachful notice of the
tribes which did not obey the summons to take the field against the
common enemy of Israel. By the
divisions—that is, the watercourses
which descend from the eastern hills unto the Jordan and Dead Sea.
For the divisions of Reuben there were great
thoughts of heart—They felt the patriotic impulse and
determined, at first, to join the ranks of their western brethren, but
resiled from the purpose, preferring their peaceful shepherd songs to
the trumpet sound of war.
17, 18. Gilead abode beyond Jordan—that
is, Both Gad and the eastern half to Manasseh chose to dwell at ease in
their Havoth-jair, or "villages of tents," while Dan and Asher, both
maritime tribes, continued with their ships and in their "breaches"
("havens"). The mention of these craven tribes (Jud 5:18) is concluded with a fresh burst of
commendation on Zebulun and Naphtali.
19-22. describes the scene of battle and the
issue. It would seem (Jud 5:19)
that Jabin was reinforced by the troops of other Canaanite princes. The
battlefield was near Taanach (now Ta'annuk), on a tell or mound in the
level plain of Megiddo (now Leijun), on its southwestern extremity, by
the left bank of the Kishon.
they took no gain of money—They
obtained no plunder.
20. the stars in their courses fought—A
fearful tempest burst upon them and threw them into disorder.
21. the river of Kishon swept them
away—The enemy was defeated near "the waters of
Megiddo"—the sources and side streams of the Kishon: they that
fled had to cross the deep and marshy bed of the torrent, but the Lord
had sent a heavy rain—the waters suddenly rose—the warriors
fell into the quicksands, and sinking deep into them, were drowned or
washed into the sea [Van De Velde].
22. Then were the horse hoofs broken by the means
of the prancings—Anciently, as in many parts of the East
still, horses were not shod. The breaking of the hoofs denotes the hot
haste and heavy irregular tramp of the routed foe.
23. Curse ye Meroz—a village on the
confines of Issachar and Naphtali, which lay in the course of the
fugitives, but the inhabitants declined to aid in their
24-27. is a most graphic picture of the
treatment of Sisera in the tent of Jael.
25. butter—curdled milk; a favorite
beverage in the East.
28-30. In these verses a sudden transition is
made to the mother of the Canaanite general, and a striking picture is
drawn of a mind agitated between hope and fear—impatient of
delay, yet anticipating the news of victory and the rewards of rich
the lattice—a lattice window, common
to the houses in warm countries for the circulation of air.
29. her wise ladies—maids of honor.
30. to every man a damsel or two—Young
maidens formed always a valued part of Oriental conquerors' war-spoils.
But Sisera's mother wished other booty for him; namely, the
gold-threaded, richly embroidered, and scarlet-colored cloaks which
were held in such high esteem. The ode concludes with a wish in keeping
with the pious and patriotic character of the prophetess.