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Judges 5:20-31

Context

5:20 From the sky 1  the stars 2  fought,

from their paths in the heavens 3  they fought against Sisera.

5:21 The Kishon River carried them off;

the river confronted them 4  – the Kishon River.

Step on the necks of the strong! 5 

5:22 The horses’ 6  hooves pounded the ground; 7 

the stallions galloped madly. 8 

5:23 ‘Call judgment down on 9  Meroz,’ says the Lord’s angelic 10  messenger;

‘Be sure 11  to call judgment down on 12  those who live there,

because they did not come to help in the Lord’s battle, 13 

to help in the Lord’s battle against the warriors.’ 14 

5:24 The most rewarded 15  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, 16 

she served him curds.

5:26 Her left 17  hand reached for the tent peg,

her right hand for the workmen’s hammer.

She “hammered” 18  Sisera,

she shattered his skull, 19 

she smashed his head, 20 

she drove the tent peg through his temple. 21 

5:27 Between her feet he collapsed,

he fell limp 22  and was lifeless; 23 

between her feet he collapsed and fell limp,

in the spot where he collapsed,

there he fell limp – violently murdered! 24 

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 25  delayed?’

5:29 The wisest of her ladies 26  answer;

indeed she even thinks to herself,

5:30 ‘No doubt they are gathering and dividing the plunder 27 

a girl or two for each man to rape! 28 

Sisera is grabbing up colorful cloth, 29 

he is grabbing up colorful embroidered cloth, 30 

two pieces of colorful embroidered cloth,

for the neck of the plunderer!’ 31 

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!” 32 

And the land had rest for forty years.

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

2 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.

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

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

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

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

9 tn Heb “Curse Meroz.”

10 tn The adjective “angelic” is interpretive.

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

12 tn Heb “[to] curse.”

13 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.”

14 tn Or “along with the other warriors.”

15 tn Or “blessed.”

16 tn Or “for mighty ones.”

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

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

19 tn Or “head.”

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

21 tn Heb “she pierced his temple.”

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

23 tn Heb “and he lay.

24 tn Or “dead, murdered.”

25 tn Heb “chariots.”

26 tn Or “princesses.”

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

28 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.

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

30 tn Heb “the plunder of embroidered cloth.”

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

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



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