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The People's Plight & God's Salvation

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JUDGES 5:1-31

The song of Deborah and Barak after the death of Sisera: “then sang Deborah and Barak…” [5:1].

§         The tone and theme of the song is praise to the Lord:  “I will sing praise to the Lord…” [5:3].

§         “To sing” and “to make music” represents her definition of the verb “praise” [5:2], Wkr]B, ‘bless’.

Deborah is without doubt the most honourable human figure in the Book of Judges and one of the most remarkable characters in the entire Old Testament.


1.        The Oppressor  

The enemy was Sisera: “The Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera…” [4:2].

§         Length of oppression: “twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel” [4:3].

a.        military Strength

The military strength of Hazor: “all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with them…” [4:3; 4:13].

2.        People

Israel was oppressed: “lead your captivity captive…” [5:12].

§         ^y>b.v - “your captivity” [5:12], ‘to take captive’; 

a.        Inactivity

The people were characterised by inactivity: “the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through…” [5:6-7a].

§         tAxr'a - “highways” [5:6], ‘to wander’; ‘to journey’; ‘caravan’; ‘winding caravan routes’;

§         Wld>x' - “unoccupied” [5:6], ‘to cease’; ‘to stop’; a figure of speech for ‘deserted’; Israelite caravaneers have ceased to travel on their normal trade routes for fear of attack; roadways were deserted;

i.              Out of Sight

Any activity is done out of sight: “walked through byways” [5:6].

§         tALq;l.q;[ - “byways” [5:6], ‘to bend’; ‘be crooked or twisted’; taking to travelling on ‘evasive side routes’;

b.        Fear

The people were characterised by fear: “the villagers ceased…” [5:7].

§         Wld>x - “ceased” [5:7], to cease’; ‘to stop’; a figure of speech for ‘deserted’; Israelite villages in the hill country were unfortified; defence was based on their hill-top location; farmers refused to go out into the fields and trade among the tribes of Israel came to a standstill

§         Restricted to the hill country of Palestine, they reside in un-walled settlements without defensive weapons and are vulnerable to outside harassment; afraid of attack from the enemy, these folks stayed at home.

3.        The Conflict 

There was war and conflict: “there was war in the gates…” [5:8].

§         ~yrI['V - “gates” [5:11], serves figuratively for the fortified cities of the Canaanites;

a.        Military Strength

Military strength was limited: “was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel” [5:8].


The people were ‘paralysed’ into inactivity because of fear.

§         They were hemmed in: “oppressed them and vexed them” [2:18].

  1. Reversal

The first main theme in the song is the greatness of God in the victory he accomplished.

1.        Leadership

Israel’s response to the oppression: “Israel cried unto the Lord…” [4:3].

§         Wq[]c.Y - “cried” [4:3], ‘to cry help’; ‘to call out’;

a.        Deborah

The oppression continued until God raised up Deborah: “until that I Deborah arose…” [5:7].

§         yTim.Q;v - “arose” [5:7b], ‘to arise’; ‘to stand’;

§         ~a - “mother” [5:7b], ‘she brought loving guidance, concern and direction to the people of God; 

i.              Prophetess

Deborah: “prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth…” [4:4].

§         hr'Abd - “Deborah” [4:4], ‘a bee’;

§         tAdyPil - “Lapidoth” [4:4], ‘torches, flashes’; 

§         If any significance is to be attached to the name, it probably points to Deborah as a brilliant light in the dark days of the governors.

ii.            God’s Chosen

Deborah was chosen by God: “he chose new leaders…” [5:8].

§         rx;b.y - “they chose” [5:8], third person masculine singular; it seems more natural to treat “God”, ~yhil{a, as the subject of the verb, and

§         ~yvid'x - “new leaders” [5:8], as the object.

b.        Barak

God called Barak: “sent and called Barak…” [4:6].

§         qr'b - “Barak” [4:6], ‘lightening’;

i.              Hesitant

Barak was hesitant and feared the way: “Barak said to her, If you will go…” [4:8].

§         Promise: “I will surely go with thee…” [4:9].

2.        Action of Leadership

The leadership is called to lead: “Awake Deborah…arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive…” [5:12].

§         hbev - “take captive” [5:12], qal imperative, ‘to take captive’;

§         ryvi-yrIB.D - “utter a song” [5:12], literally ‘speak a song’; referring to the moment of her own call of Barak [4:4-10] or her summoning of the army to battle [4:14]. 

§         This was the turning point in the struggle with the oppressor.


The cycle of the lifestyle of this generation: “it repented the Lord because of their groanings…” [2:18].

§         The appointment of leadership, in response to, and suited to, the people’s need.

§         How do you recruit ten thousand men to march against hopeless odds, to a almost certain death?

§         The call of the leadership; response to the commission of our Lord Jesus;


The second main theme of the song is the response of God’s people to God’s challenge.

1.        Volunteers

There was the volunteer spirit: “when the people willingly offered themselves” [5:2].

§         tA[r'P. [;ropB - “avenging of Israel” [5:2], ‘to lead’; ‘to act as leader’; literally ‘when B, , leaders led’;

§         bDen:t.h - “willingly offered” [5:2; 5:9], ‘to make willing’; ‘free-will offering’; ‘to present oneself’; ‘to volunteer’; ‘to let go/abandon everything’ for the battle;

§         Indicates something done freely, voluntarily and eagerly;

a.        Risk Takers

The volunteers were clearly risk takers: “Zebulun and Naphtali were a people who jeopardised their lives…” [5:18].

§         @rex - “jeopardised” [5:18], piel perfect, ‘to defy, to taunt’; ‘to be sharp’; hence ‘to treat badly with sharpness’;

§         tWml - “unto death” [5:18],

§         hd,f' ymeArm - “high places of the field” [5:18], where the battle occurred: “

b.        Motive

What was it that moved these men to service in such impossible circumstances?

i.              Attitude Towards God

The people who volunteered: “them that love him…” [5:31].

§         wyb'h]a - “love” [5:31], qal participle, the love that corresponds to God’s covenant love for his people: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee” [Jer.31:3].

§         Our relationship with the Lord: “Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God” [Jos.23:11].

ii.            Attitude Towards Service

They had the correct attitude to service. We notice that there was one tribe: “curse ye Meroz…because they came not to help of the Lord…” [5:23].

§         tr;z>[ - “help” [5:23], ‘to support’; ‘to come to one’s aid to provide what is lacking’: “I will make a help meet for him…” [Gen.2:18].

§         It is the attitude of giving to the Lord: “for me to live is Christ…” [Php.1:21]; “nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me…” [Gal.2:20].

§         It was not a matter of helping Deborah or Barak! The volunteered in order to assist: “the help of the Lord…” [5:23].


Words and promises that lead to action; not like the slothful: “as the door turns upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed” [Pro.26:14].

2.        Resistors - The Reluctant Spirit

a.        Refusal To Act

Reuben was the tribe that would not act: “for the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart…” [5:15b-17]

§         tAGl;p.B - “division” [5:15], ‘split, divide’; here a reference to the tribes ‘separation from action’.

§         ble-yqeq.x - “thoughts of the heart” [5:15], ‘to engrave, to decree, to inscribe’ plus ‘heart’;

i.              Home

Despite all this, their ‘feet never went’; they stayed at home: “why abodest thou among the sheepfolds…” [5:16].

§         T'b.v;y - “abode” [5:16], ‘to sit, to remain, to dwell’;

§         ~yIt;P.v.Mih - “sheepfolds” [5:16], ‘fireplace or ash-heap’; derives from P.v.M, ‘to set the pot on fire’; around their ‘camp-fires or open hearths’;

ii.            Entertainment

They were entertained at home: “to hear the bleatings of the flocks…” [5:16].

§         tAqrIv - “bleatings” [5:16], ‘whistling’; ‘piping’; used of derisive hissing: “To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passes thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head” [Jer.18:16].

§         They sat around their campfires while musicians entertained them with shepherd’s pipes; an image of men who cannot be bothered; they are indifferent to the wars of their sedentary countrymen on the other side of the Jordan.  

iii.          Serious Reflection

They did not do this without serious reflection: “great searchings of heart” [5:16].

§         ble-yreq.x - “searchings” [5:16], ‘to investigate’; ‘to examine’;

§         They were emotionally stirred; their hearts were moved;


It is easy to be moved emotionally; to have great searchings of the heart; yet never to translate that into action and leave the ‘campfire’ and go into the ‘battle’.

b.        Lack of Growth

The tribe of Dan: “remained in ships…” [5:17].

§         rWgy - “remained” [5:17], ‘to abide, to gather, to sojourn’; NIV ‘to linger’;

i.              History

In the history of the tribe in this book we learn: “the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains…” [1:33-34].

§         Because they would not obey God they had become so utterly weak that they had to leave the territory God had given to them [Jos.19:40].

§         This indicates that they had not yet established themselves firmly in their new territory in the Hulah Valley north of the Sea of Galilee.

ii.            Pre-occupation

The tribe of Dan was preoccupied with other duties: “remain in ships…” [5:17].

§         tAYnIa - “ships” [5:17], ‘fleet’; ‘shipping industry’;

c.        Lack of Vision

The tribe of Asher were focussed entirely on their work: “continued on the seashore, and abode in the breaches…” [5:17].

§         bv;y" - “continued” [5:17], ‘to sit, to remain, to dwell’;

§         !AKv - “abode” [5:17], ‘to dwell, to tabernacle’;

§         ~yMiy: @Axl - “seashore” [5:17], ‘shores of the sea’;

§         wyc'r'p.m - “breaches” [5:17], ‘landing place’; ‘harbours’;


The whole statement contains a strong element of rebuke!

§         If I do not have an eager, giving heart for God my reluctant spirit will leave me inactive: “continued on the seashore…” [5:17].

§         If I do not have an eager, giving heart for God my reluctant spirit will affect my fellow-believers: “the officers shall speak to the people, and they shall say, Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him return and depart to his house, so that he might not make his brother’s heart melt with fear like his own heart” [Deu.20:8].


1.        The Victory

The glory belongs to the Lord: “praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel…” [5:2].

a.        Divine Intervention

Divine intervention: “they fought from heaven…” [5:20-21].

§         The stars left their courses: “they fought from heaventhe stars in their courses…” [5:20]; they left their normal orbits’;

§         Sudden flooding of the Kishon: “the river of Kishon swept them away…” [5:21].

§         ~ymiWdq. lx;n - “ancient stream” [5:21], is often emended to read ‘stream overwhelmed them’;

§         The crippling of the chariotry: “then were the horse-hoofs broken by the means…” [5:22].

§         All three of these elements also appear in the prose account of Yahweh’s victory at the Red Sea [Exo.14:19-28]. Similarity: “who had seen all the great works of the Lord…” [2:7].


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