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Judges 4:1--5:31

Deborah Summons Barak

4:1 The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight 1  after Ehud’s death. 4:2 The Lord turned them over to 2  King Jabin of Canaan, who ruled in Hazor. 3  The general of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 4  4:3 The Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, because Sisera 5  had nine hundred chariots with iron-rimmed wheels, 6  and he cruelly 7  oppressed the Israelites for twenty years.

4:4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, 8  wife of Lappidoth, was 9  leading 10  Israel at that time. 4:5 She would sit 11  under the Date Palm Tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel 12  in the Ephraimite hill country. The Israelites would come up to her to have their disputes settled. 13 

4:6 She summoned 14  Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali. She said to him, “Is it not true that the Lord God of Israel is commanding you? Go, march to Mount Tabor! Take with you ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun! 4:7 I will bring Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to you at the Kishon River, along with his chariots and huge army. 15  I will hand him over to you.” 4:8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go. But if you do not go with me, I will not go.” 4:9 She said, “I will indeed go with you. But you will not gain fame 16  on the expedition you are undertaking, 17  for the Lord will turn Sisera over to a woman.” 18  Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 4:10 Barak summoned men from Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. Ten thousand men followed him; 19  Deborah went up with him as well. 4:11 Now Heber the Kenite had moved away 20  from the Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law. He lived 21  near the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

4:12 When Sisera heard 22  that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 4:13 he 23  ordered 24  all his chariotry – nine hundred chariots with iron-rimmed wheels – and all the troops he had with him to go from Harosheth-Haggoyim to the River Kishon. 4:14 Deborah said to Barak, “Spring into action, 25  for this is the day the Lord is handing Sisera over to you! 26  Has the Lord not taken the lead?” 27  Barak quickly went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 4:15 The Lord routed 28  Sisera, all his chariotry, and all his army with the edge of the sword. 29  Sisera jumped out of 30  his chariot and ran away on foot. 4:16 Now Barak chased the chariots and the army all the way to Harosheth Haggoyim. Sisera’s whole army died 31  by the edge of the sword; not even one survived! 32 

4:17 Now Sisera ran away on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, for King Jabin of Hazor 33  and the family of Heber the Kenite had made a peace treaty. 34  4:18 Jael came out to welcome Sisera. She said to him, “Stop and rest, 35  my lord. Stop and rest with me. Don’t be afraid.” So Sisera 36  stopped to rest in her tent, and she put a blanket over him. 4:19 He said to her, “Give me a little water to drink, because I’m thirsty.” She opened a goatskin container of milk and gave him some milk to drink. Then she covered him up again. 4:20 He said to her, “Stand watch at the entrance to the tent. If anyone comes along and asks you, ‘Is there a man here?’ say ‘No.’” 4:21 Then Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg in one hand and a hammer in the other. 37  She crept up on him, drove the tent peg through his temple into the ground 38  while he was asleep from exhaustion, 39  and he died. 4:22 Now Barak was chasing Sisera. Jael went out to welcome him. She said to him, “Come here and I will show you the man you are searching for.” He went with her into the tent, 40  and there he saw Sisera sprawled out dead 41  with the tent peg in his temple.

4:23 That day God humiliated King Jabin of Canaan before the Israelites. 4:24 Israel’s power continued to overwhelm 42  King Jabin of Canaan until they did away with 43  him. 44 

Celebrating the Victory in Song

5:1 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this victory song: 45 

5:2 “When the leaders took the lead 46  in Israel,

When the people answered the call to war –

Praise the Lord!

5:3 Hear, O kings!

Pay attention, O rulers!

I will sing to the Lord! 47 

I will sing 48  to the Lord God of Israel!

5:4 O Lord, when you departed 49  from Seir,

when you marched from Edom’s plains,

the earth shook, the heavens poured down,

the clouds poured down rain. 50 

5:5 The mountains trembled 51  before the Lord, the God of Sinai; 52 

before the Lord God of Israel.

5:6 In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,

in the days of Jael caravans 53  disappeared; 54 

travelers 55  had to go on winding side roads.

5:7 Warriors 56  were scarce, 57 

they were scarce in Israel,

until you 58  arose, Deborah,

until you arose as a motherly protector 59  in Israel.

5:8 God chose new leaders, 60 

then fighters appeared in the city gates; 61 

but, I swear, not a shield or spear could be found, 62 

among forty military units 63  in Israel.

5:9 My heart went out 64  to Israel’s leaders,

to the people who answered the call to war.

Praise the Lord!

5:10 You who ride on light-colored female donkeys,

who sit on saddle blankets, 65 

you who walk on the road, pay attention!

5:11 Hear 66  the sound of those who divide the sheep 67  among the watering places;

there they tell of 68  the Lord’s victorious deeds,

the victorious deeds of his warriors 69  in Israel.

Then the Lord’s people went down to the city gates –

5:12 Wake up, wake up, Deborah!

Wake up, wake up, sing a song!

Get up, Barak!

Capture your prisoners of war, 70  son of Abinoam!

5:13 Then the survivors 71  came down 72  to the mighty ones; 73 

the Lord’s people came down to me 74  as 75  warriors.

5:14 They came from Ephraim, who uprooted Amalek, 76 

they follow 77  after you, Benjamin, with your soldiers.

From Makir leaders came down,

from Zebulun came 78  the ones who march carrying 79  an officer’s staff.

5:15 Issachar’s leaders were with Deborah,

the men of Issachar 80  supported 81  Barak;

into the valley they were sent under Barak’s command. 82 

Among the clans of Reuben there was intense 83  heart searching. 84 

5:16 Why do you remain among the sheepfolds, 85 

listening to the shepherds playing their pipes 86  for their flocks? 87 

As for the clans of Reuben – there was intense searching of heart.

5:17 Gilead stayed put 88  beyond the Jordan River.

As for Dan – why did he seek temporary employment in the shipyards? 89 

Asher remained 90  on the seacoast,

he stayed 91  by his harbors. 92 

5:18 The men of Zebulun were not concerned about their lives; 93 

Naphtali charged on to the battlefields. 94 

5:19 Kings came, they fought;

the kings of Canaan fought,

at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo, 95 

but 96  they took no silver as plunder.

5:20 From the sky 97  the stars 98  fought,

from their paths in the heavens 99  they fought against Sisera.

5:21 The Kishon River carried them off;

the river confronted them 100  – the Kishon River.

Step on the necks of the strong! 101 

5:22 The horses’ 102  hooves pounded the ground; 103 

the stallions galloped madly. 104 

5:23 ‘Call judgment down on 105  Meroz,’ says the Lord’s angelic 106  messenger;

‘Be sure 107  to call judgment down on 108  those who live there,

because they did not come to help in the Lord’s battle, 109 

to help in the Lord’s battle against the warriors.’ 110 

5:24 The most rewarded 111  of women should be Jael,

the wife of Heber the Kenite!

She should be the most rewarded of women who live in tents.

5:25 He asked for water,

and she gave him milk;

in a bowl fit for a king, 112 

she served him curds.

5:26 Her left 113  hand reached for the tent peg,

her right hand for the workmen’s hammer.

She “hammered” 114  Sisera,

she shattered his skull, 115 

she smashed his head, 116 

she drove the tent peg through his temple. 117 

5:27 Between her feet he collapsed,

he fell limp 118  and was lifeless; 119 

between her feet he collapsed and fell limp,

in the spot where he collapsed,

there he fell limp – violently murdered! 120 

5:28 Through the window she looked;

Sisera’s mother cried out through the lattice:

‘Why is his chariot so slow to return?

Why are the hoofbeats of his chariot-horses 121  delayed?’

5:29 The wisest of her ladies 122  answer;

indeed she even thinks to herself,

5:30 ‘No doubt they are gathering and dividing the plunder 123 

a girl or two for each man to rape! 124 

Sisera is grabbing up colorful cloth, 125 

he is grabbing up colorful embroidered cloth, 126 

two pieces of colorful embroidered cloth,

for the neck of the plunderer!’ 127 

5:31 May all your enemies perish like this, O Lord!

But may those who love you shine

like the rising sun at its brightest!” 128 

And the land had rest for forty years.

1 tn Heb “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

2 tn Heb “the Lord sold them into the hands of.”

3 tn Or “King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite ruler.”

map For location see Map1 D2; Map2 D3; Map3 A2; Map4 C1.

4 tn Or “Harosheth of the Pagan Nations”; cf. KJV “Harosheth of the Gentiles.”

5 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Sisera) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Regarding the translation “chariots with iron-rimmed wheels,” see Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, 255, and the article by R. Drews, “The ‘Chariots of Iron’ of Joshua and Judges,” JSOT 45 (1989): 15-23.

7 tn Heb “with strength.”

8 tn Heb “ a woman, a prophetess.” In Hebrew idiom the generic “woman” sometimes precedes the more specific designation. See GKC 437-38 §135.b.

9 tn Heb “she was.” The pronoun refers back to the nominative absolute “Deborah.” Hebrew style sometimes employs such resumptive pronouns when lengthy qualifiers separate the subject from the verb.

10 tn Or “judging.”

11 tn That is, “consider legal disputes.”

12 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

13 tn Heb “for judgment.”

14 tn Heb “sent and summoned.”

15 tn Heb “horde”; “multitude.”

16 tn Or “honor.”

17 tn Heb “on [account of (?)] the way which you are walking.” Another option is to translate, “due to the way you are going about this.” In this case direct reference is made to Barak’s hesitancy as the reason for his loss of glory.

18 tn Heb “for into the hands of a woman the Lord will sell Sisera.”

19 tn Heb “went up at his feet.”

20 tn Or “separated.”

21 tn Heb “pitched his tent.”

22 tn Heb “and they told Sisera.”

23 tn Heb “Sisera.” The proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

24 tn Or “summoned.”

25 tn Heb “Arise!”

26 tn The verb form (a Hebrew perfect, indicating completed action from the standpoint of the speaker) emphasizes the certainty of the event. Though it had not yet taken place, the Lord speaks of it as a “done deal.”

27 tn Heb “Has the Lord not gone out before you?”

28 tn Or “caused to panic.”

29 tn The Hebrew text also includes the phrase “before Barak.” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

30 tn Heb “got down from.”

31 tn Heb “fell.”

32 tn Heb “was left.”

33 map For location see Map1 D2; Map2 D3; Map3 A2; Map4 C1.

34 tn Heb “for there was peace between.”

35 tn Heb “Turn aside” (also a second time later in this verse).

36 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Sisera) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

37 tn Heb “took a tent peg and put a hammer in her hand.”

38 tn Heb “and it went into the ground.”

39 tn Heb “and exhausted.” Another option is to understand this as a reference to the result of the fatal blow. In this case, the phrase could be translated, “and he breathed his last.”

40 tn Heb “he went to her.”

41 tn Heb “fallen, dead.”

42 tn Heb “The hand of the Israelites became more and more severe against.”

43 tn Heb “cut off.”

44 tn Heb “Jabin king of Canaan.” The proper name and title have been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

45 tn The words “this victory song” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

46 tn The meaning of the Hebrew expression בִּפְרֹעַ פְּרָעוֹת (bifroapÿraot) is uncertain. Numerous proposals are offered by commentators. (For a survey of opinions, see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 223-27.) The next line refers to the people who responded to Barak’s summons to war, so a reference to the leaders who issued the summons would provide a natural poetic parallel. In v. 9 the leaders (חוֹקְקֵי, khoqÿqey) of the people and these same volunteers stand in poetic parallelism, so it is reasonable to assume that the difficult Hebrew term פְּרַעוֹת (pÿraot, v. 2a) is synonymous with חוֹקְקֵי (khoqÿqey) of v. 9 (see Lindars, 227).

47 tn Heb “I, to the Lord, I, I will sing!” The first singular personal pronoun is used twice, even though a first person finite verbal form is employed.

48 tn Or “make music.”

49 tn Or “went out.”

50 tn Heb “water.”

51 tn Or “quaked.” The translation assumes the form נָזֹלּוּ (nazollu) from the root זָלַל (zalal, “to quake”; see HALOT 272 s.v. II זלל). The LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Targum also understood the word this way. (See Isa 63:19 and 64:2 for other occurrences of this form.) Some understand here the verb נָזַל (nazul, “to flow [with torrents of rain water]”).

52 tn Heb “this one of Sinai.” The phrase is a divine title, perhaps indicating that the Lord rules from Sinai.

53 tc The translation assumes the form אֳרְחוֹת (’orÿkhot, “caravans”) rather than אֳרָחוֹת (’orakhot, “roadways”) because it makes a tighter parallel with “travelers” in the next line.

54 tn Or “ceased.”

55 tn Heb “Ones walking on paths.”

56 tn The meaning of the Hebrew noun פְרָזוֹן (fÿrazon) is uncertain. Some understand the meaning as “leaders” or “those living in rural areas.” The singular noun appears to be collective (note the accompanying plural verb). For various options see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 237-38.

57 tn Or “ceased.”

58 tn The translation assumes that the verb is an archaic second feminine singular form. Though Deborah is named as one of the composers of the song (v. 1), she is also addressed within it (v. 12). Many take the verb as first person singular, “I arose” (cf. NAB, NASB, NIV).

59 tn Heb “mother.” The translation assumes that the image portrays Deborah as a protector of the people. It is possible that the metaphor points to her prophetic role. Just as a male prophet could be called “father,” so Deborah, a prophetess, is called “mother” (B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 239).

60 tn Or “warriors.” The Hebrew text reads literally, “He chose God/gods new.” Some take “Israel” as the subject of the verb, “gods” as object, and “new” as an adjective modifying “gods.” This yields the translation, “(Israel) chose new gods.” In this case idolatry is the cause of the trouble alluded to in the context. The present translation takes “God” as subject of the verb and “new” as substantival, referring to the new leaders raised up by God (see v. 9a). For a survey of opinions and a defense of the present translation, see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 239-40.

61 tn The translation of this difficult line is speculative because the second word, לָחֶם (lakhem), appears only here. The line in the Hebrew text literally reads, “Then [?] gates.” Interpretations and emendations of the Hebrew text abound (see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 239-40). The translation assumes a repointing of the form as a Qal participle לֹחֵם (lokhem) from the verbal root לָחַם (lakham, “fight”) and understands a substantival use (“fighter”). “Fighter” is a collective reference to the military leaders or warriors mentioned in the preceding line and in v. 9. (For other occurrences of the Qal of לָחַם, see Pss 35:1; 56:2-3.)

62 tn Heb “A shield, it could not be seen, nor a spear.” The translation assumes that the Hebrew particle אִם (’im) introduces an oath of denial (see GKC 472 §149.e).

63 tn Traditionally “forty thousand,” but this may be an instance where Hebrew term אֶלֶף (’elef) refers to a military unit. This is the view assumed by the translation (“forty military units”).

64 tn The words “went out” are supplied in the translation for clarity.

65 tn The meaning of the Hebrew word מִדִּין (middin, “saddle blankets”) in this context is uncertain.

66 tn The word “Hear” is supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons.

67 tn The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain. Some translate “those who distribute the water” (HALOT 344 s.v. חצץ pi). For other options see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 246-47.

68 tn Or perhaps “repeat.”

69 tn See the note on the term “warriors” in v. 7.

70 tn Heb “take captive your captives.” (The Hebrew text uses a cognate accusative here.)

71 tn This probably refers to those who responded to the call for war. They were “survivors” of the Canaanite oppression (see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 250).

72 tn The translation assumes a repointing of the verb as a perfect or imperfect/preterite form of יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”). The form as pointed in the MT appears to be from רָדָה (radah, “to rule”). See GKC 188 §69.g. The same form, translated “came down,” occurs in the next line as well.

73 sn The expression mighty ones probably refers to the leaders of the army.

74 sn The speaker may be Deborah here.

75 tn The translation assumes the preposition ב (bet) prefixed to “warriors” has the force of “in the capacity of.” For this use of the preposition, see GKC 379 §119.i.

76 tn Heb “From Ephraim their root in Amalek” (the words “they came” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons). Because of the difficulty of the MT, many prefer to follow one of the ancient versions or emend the text. For various proposals see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 252-53. The present translation repoints שָׁרְשָׁם (shorsham, traditionally translated “their root”) as a Piel verb form with enclitic mem (ם). The preposition ב (bet) on עֲמָלֵק (’amaleq) introduces the object (see Job 31:12 for an example of the construction). Ephraim’s territory encompassed the hill country of the Amalekites (Judg 12:15).

77 tn The words “They follow” are supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons.

78 tn The word “came” is supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons.

79 tn Or possibly “who carry.”

80 tn Heb “Issachar.” The words “the men of” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

81 tn Or “was true to.”

82 tn Heb “at his feet.”

83 tn Heb “great was.”

84 tc The great majority of Hebrew mss have “resolves of heart,” but a few mss read “searchings of heart,” which is preferable in light of v. 16.

85 tn The meaning of the Hebrew word מִשְׁפְּתַיִם (mishpÿtayim) is uncertain. Some understand the word to mean “campfires.”

86 tn Or “whistling.”

87 tn Heb “listening to the pipe playing for the flocks.”

88 tn Heb “lived” or “settled down.”

sn Apparently the people of Gilead remained on the other side of the river and did not participate in the battle.

89 tn Heb “Dan, why did he live as a resident alien, ships.” The verb גּוּר (gur) usually refers to taking up residence outside one’s native land. Perhaps the Danites, rather than rallying to Barak, were content to move to the Mediterranean coast and work in the shipyards. For further discussion, see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 262.

90 tn Heb “lived.”

91 tn Heb “lived” or “settled down.”

92 tn The meaning of the Hebrew word מִפְרָץ (mifrats) is uncertain, but the parallelism (note “seacoast”) suggests “harbors.”

93 tn Heb “Zebulun was a people which despised its life even unto death.”

94 tn Heb “Naphtali was on the heights of the field.”

95 map For location see Map1 D4; Map2 C1; Map4 C2; Map5 F2; Map7 B1.

96 tn The contrastive conjunction “but” is interpretive.

97 tn Or “from heaven.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context.

98 tn The MT takes “the stars” with what follows rather than with the first colon of v. 20. But for metrical reasons it seems better to move the atnach and read the colon as indicated in the translation.

99 tn The words “in the heavens” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for clarity and for stylistic reasons.

100 tn Possibly “the ancient river,” but it seems preferable in light of the parallel line (which has a verb) to emend the word (attested only here) to a verb (קָדַם, qadam) with pronominal object suffix.

101 tn This line is traditionally taken as the poet-warrior’s self-exhortation, “March on, my soul, in strength!” The present translation (a) takes the verb (a second feminine singular form) as addressed to Deborah (cf. v. 12), (b) understands נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) in its well-attested sense of “throat; neck” (cf. Jonah 2:6), (c) takes the final yod (י) on נַפְשִׁי (nafshiy) as an archaic construct indicator (rather than a suffix), and (d) interprets עֹז (’oz, “strength”) as an attributive genitive (literally, “necks of strength,” i.e., “strong necks”). For fuller discussion and various proposals, see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 270-71.

102 tc The MT as it stands has a singular noun, but if one moves the prefixed mem (מ) from the beginning of the next word to the end of סוּס (sus), the expected plural form is achieved. Another possibility is to understand an error of scribal haplography here, in which case the letter mem should appear in both places.

103 tn The words “the ground” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarification.

104 tn Heb “galloped, galloped.” The repetition is for emphasis and is more appropriately indicated in English with an adverb.

105 tn Heb “Curse Meroz.”

106 tn The adjective “angelic” is interpretive.

107 tn Heb “Curse, cursing.” The Hebrew construction is emphatic.

108 tn Heb “[to] curse.”

109 tn Heb “to the help of the Lord” (the same Hebrew phrase occurs in the following line). Another option is to read “to aid the Lord’s cause.”

110 tn Or “along with the other warriors.”

111 tn Or “blessed.”

112 tn Or “for mighty ones.”

113 tn The adjective “left” is interpretive, based on the context. Note that the next line pictures Jael holding the hammer with her right hand.

114 tn The verb used here is from the same root as the noun “hammer” in the preceding line.

115 tn Or “head.”

116 tn The phrase “his head” (an implied direct object) is supplied in the translation for clarification.

117 tn Heb “she pierced his temple.”

118 tn Heb “he fell.” The same Hebrew expression occurs two more times in this verse.

119 tn Heb “and he lay.

120 tn Or “dead, murdered.”

121 tn Heb “chariots.”

122 tn Or “princesses.”

123 tn Heb “Are they not finding, dividing the plunder?”

124 tn Heb “a womb or two for each man.” The words “to rape” are interpretive. The Hebrew noun translated “girl” means literally “womb” (BDB 933 s.v. I. רַחַם), but in this context may refer by extension to the female genitalia. In this case the obscene language of Sisera’s mother alludes to the sexual brutality which typified the aftermath of battle.

125 tn Heb “the plunder of dyed cloth is for Sisera.”

126 tn Heb “the plunder of embroidered cloth.”

127 tn The translation assumes an emendation of the noun (“plunder”) to a participle, “plunderer.”

128 tn Heb “But may those who love him be like the going forth of the sun in its strength.”

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