Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Deborah’s Praise Song

Judges 5:1-31

“Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.  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. 

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.  The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.” (Judges 5:1-5) 

When Deborah and Barak had won the victory, they sang a praise song.  Hebrews 13:15 defines that as thanking God for what he has done.  “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”  The term Psalm refers specifically to a song of praise, and this is much like David’s psalms.  While the song loses much of it’s poetic and musical attributes in translation, the message of thanksgiving is very clear.  Unfortunately, in our day, the focus tends to be on the musical attributes rather than on the message.

“In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.  The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” (Judges 5:6-8)

They start by describing the results of the constant raids by Philistine forces in the south and Cananite forces in the North.   The population had been disarmed and roving gangs didn’t hesitate to attack travelers or unprotected villages.  Conditions continued to deteriorate until Deborah encouraged Barak to obey God.  They had reached that point because the people had chosen new gods, rather than the one who had given them the land.

“My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.  Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.  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.” (Judges 5:9-11)

It is critical that future generations understand the risks those fought took in taking action so that future generations could live in peace and enjoy what god has done.  If they understand there is a better chance they will be willing to follow God so he can continue to bless them.

“Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.  Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.  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.  And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley.” (Judges 5:12-14)

God directed Deborah to wake up and make some noise, but he directed Barak to lead Israel.  God had chosen a small force from just a few of the northern tribes to defeat a far superior force.  Those that came were not primarily military leaders, but writers administrators or governors.  They had no special weapons or forces like those of Sisera.

“For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.  Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.  Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.” (Judges 5:15- 17)

While Deborah and Barak and the few that were with them defeated the Canaanite forces, Reuben was involved in great discussions about what ought to be done, but they took no action, staying with their sheep along with Gad, while Dan continued to maintain their shipping business and Asher huddled along the Mediterranean shore.  Again the nature of their ancestors as described in Genesis 49 shows up.

“Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.  The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.  They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.  The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.   Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the prancings, the prancings of their mighty ones.” (Judges 5:18-22)

The main body of Barak’s forces were of Zebulon and Naphtali, and received no pay for their services for fighting such a powerful force.  Their victory was a result of God’s action, the rugged terrain around Meggido and along the Kishon river neutralized the iron chariots, and in some cases the river washed them and their occupants away.  The rocks wore away and broke the horses hooves leaving them lame and useless.  They were unable to even use the stars to determine which way to flee to escape.

"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.”(Judges 5:23)

The local people didn’t even come out to help when the battle was going on around them, and Israel was winning.  That refusal led to God’s angel pronouncing a curse on them.

“Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.  He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.  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.  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.” (Judges 5:24-27) 

Because Barak refused to go when god called him until Deborah agreed to support him, the credit for destroying Sisera’s power goes to Jael, the woman who killed Sisera.  It is presented with poetic descriptions, but makes it clear Sisera was completely taken in by her seeming submission.  By killing him she ensured that he would not be able to assemble another force.

“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?  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?” (Judges 5:28-30) 

Sisera’s defeat would have dramatic effect not only on Israel, but on he and his men's families and friends, destroying their expectations and planned celebrations.

“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.” (Judges 5:31)

As a result of the defeat and turning of Israel back to God, the land experienced another forty year period of peace.


  1. An excellent commentary on Judges; often a book that sees serious neglect. It's nice to close my evening by coming to read. God has blessed me on more than occasion through your ministry, so thank you.

  2. Thank you, Ian.

    It is a blessing to know you enjoy it. I've been blessed to have the opportunity to study and write these studies.