Notes on Judges 5:1-5

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 5:1, KJV: Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

This is one of the songs recorded in the Old Testament, not including the Book of Psalms. Others would include the Songs of Moses, Exodus 15 after Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and Deut.32, just before he died; Miriam’s brief song in Exodus 15:20-21; and Hannah’s prayer-song of praise, later, in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Deborah and Barak (and possibly others?) sang this song of praise on “that day”, most likely meaning the day when God sent victory over Jabin, Sisera, and the Canaanite army.

2 Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.

They are probably speaking of the 10,000 soldiers of Naphtali and Zebulun who volunteered to fight against Sisera and his army in northern Israel. There is no indication in the text that any of these Israelite soldiers showed any fear in any way (compare this with Gideon’s “force reduction” strategy in Judges 7).

3 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.

Why they sang to kings and princes is not certain. They may be speaking or singing to the kings and princes of cities, city-states, or other non-Israelite nations that the God of Israel, the LORD, was stronger than chariots of iron. Israel at this period had no such king and news surely would have spread to Jabin’s territory or people over a defeat such as this. They also sang that the God of Israel was stronger than any other god in the land.

4 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.

Edom, the territory given to the children of Esau (Deut. 2:4-5), was the land to the south of Judah (see Joshua 15:21). Mt. Seir was located there (Gen. 36:8).

It is not clear why Barak and Deborah used this figure of speech in this song. One thought is that they are demonstrating that the God of Israel was not confined to one place or location, coming from many miles to the south to near the northern border of Israel. They continue by giving a graphic description of a severe thunderstorm: the earth “trembled”, the heavens “dropped” and the clouds “also dropped water”. This may give us a clue as to when the battle took place: there were usually only a couple periods of rain per year (called the “early” and “latter” rains, Deut. 11:14, e.g.). Of course the LORD, being the God of nature, could have sent a thunderstorm to demonstrate His power and authority.

5 The mountains melted from before the LORD, (even) that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.

This is also figurative language. Sinai shook and trembled when the LORD came down; smoke “like the smoke of a furnace” ascended according to Exodus 19:18, but at no time did the mountain actually “melt”.

Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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