they were scarce in Israel,
until you 3 arose, Deborah,
until you arose as a motherly protector 4 in Israel.
then fighters appeared in the city gates; 6
but, I swear, not a shield or spear could be found, 7
among forty military units 8 in Israel.
to the people who answered the call to war.
Praise the Lord!
1 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.
2 tn Or “ceased.”
3 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).
4 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).
5 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.
6 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.)
7 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).
8 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”).
9 tn The words “went out” are supplied in the translation for clarity.