Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures – Judges (Vol. 1)》

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But Daniel, how didst thou sail in ships![FN49] Jewish tradition places the occurrence related in Judges 18 before the time of Deborah. And to all appearance this seems to be the right view. For in its southern possessions the tribe of Dan did no hold the sea-coast ( Judges 1:34). Moreover, how should Deborah complain of the want of assistance from southern Daniel, when she entered no such complaint against Judah? If, however, Dan had already removed to the vicinity of Naphtali, the complaint was very natural. The old expositors explain that “Dan had shipped his goods and chattels in order to cross the Jordan.” But this is less simple than the supposition that Daniel, like Zebulun, was engaged with the Phœnicians (Tyre) in maritime commerce, or at least pretended to be, as a reason for refusing Barak’s summons. What renders this interpretation the more probable, is the fact that Deborah speaks next of Asher, “who dwells on the sea-shore.” Jabin, king of Hazor, cannot have domineered over the coast, where the powerful maritime cities were in the ascendency. Therefore Asher also had nothing to suffer from him. He dwells securely in his harbors. It is noteworthy that what the singer here says of Asher, the blessing of Jacob says in the same words of Zebulun, לְתוֹף יַמִּים יִשְׁכֹּן, with an additional clause, however, concerning the pursuit of navigation.

Judges 5:18. This verse puts it beyond all doubt that only Zebulun and Naphtali engaged actively in the conflict; for only to them refers the declaration that they “hazarded their souls unto death.” (For the sake of the poetical parallelism Naphtali is put at the head of the second member, instead of making “Zebulun and Naphtali” the composite subject of the whole distich.) Their faith in Deborah’s word was so firm, that they dared risk the unequal conflict even in the valley (“the high-plain of the field”). Therein consisted the uncommon sacrifice of these tribes. Hitherto, Israel had always given up the valleys (cf. Judges 1:19; Judges 1:34), because it could not overcome disciplined armies and chariots. Even down to the time of the later kings, it was considered invincible on the mountains ( 1 Kings 20:23), which fact however implies that in the valleys it still continued to be otherwise. Hence, מְרוִמי שָׂרֶה is to be understood, not of the “heights,” but of the surface, of the field.[FN50] It was a fearful battle-crisis: a few against so many, a band of footmen against a host of iron chariots, a handful of mountaineers on the plain, a few tribal chieftains against the mighty.

Judges 5:19. Kings came. This is to be understood figuratively, of eminent and powerful military leaders: Sisera was no king.[FN51]לָקָחוּ כֶּצַע כֶּסֶף לא, gain of money they obtained not. This is usually understood only of the booty, which the enemy hoped to obtain, but failed to get. But the troops of Zebulun and Naphtali can scarcely have appeared to promise a booty rich in money. It is therefore probable that the meaning of the prophetess includes something else. We know from instances of later times, that when the people did not feel themselves strong enough to cope with a threatening enemy, they sought to buy him off with money. Thus, in the reign of Rehoboam, Shishak, king of Egypt, took away all the treasures of the temple ( 1 Kings 14:26). Asa gave all the remaining gold and silver to Benhadad of Damascus ( 1 Kings 15:18). Ménahem collected a large amount of money in order to persuade the king of Assyria to turn back ( 2 Kings 15:20). Sisera was not so successful. He neither obtained composition-money before the campaign, nor did he secure any booty after it. The troops and their leaders who had accompanied him, gained no profit from this expedition. Profit is the prominent idea in כֶּצַע; hence the Chaldee Paraphrast usually puts “Mammon” for it.

Judges 5:20-22. From heaven fought the stars. Josephus has introduced into his narrative of this victory, the description of a thunder-storm, accompanied by wind and hail, by which the enemy were thrown into confusion. It is one of those pragmatical endeavors by which he seeks to facilitate belief for his Hellenic readers, and to make the miraculous more natural. The occasion for it was given by the expression, Judges 4:15, “and God confounded them.” The presence and effect of thunder and hail were inferred, by comparison, from two other passages, where a similar divinely-wrought confusion of the enemy is related. Thus in Joshua 10:10-11, when Joshua fights against the enemy, it is said: “And the Lord confounded them, and as they fled cast down great hailstones upon them, that they died.” So also 1 Samuel 7:10 : “And the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day, and confounded the Philistines.” But there appears to be no necessity whatever for transferring these occurrences into our passage. The narrator is rather thinking of Exodus 14:24, which speaks of Pharaoh’s confusion by God without thunder and hail. Nor is there any need of thunder and hail to confound an army. The confusion of Rosbach (Nov5, 1757) was not caused by the intervention of a storm. All that appears from the statements of Judges 4and the Song of Deborah alone, Isaiah, that Barak and his faithful followers made a violent and sudden attack, before the numerous chariots had been placed in battle-array. This was done as night was coming on. When Joshua fought, sun and moon assisted him ( Joshua 10:12): on Barak, the stars shone brightly,—which does not make a thunder-storm probable. Consistently with Israelitish conceptions, the help of the stars can only be understood of their shining.[FN52] Joshua also had come upon his enemies suddenly (פִּתְאֹם, Joshua 10:9). Gideon, too, threw himself upon the hostile camp in the night. But not the stars alone assisted Barak in his heroic course. As the enemy, either for attack or in flight, wished to cross the Kishon, in the direction from Taanach and Megiddo, the swollen stream swept many of them into the arms of death. “The brook Kishon snatched (נְּרָפָם) them away.” (גָּרַף, in its Semitic forms, corresponds to the Indo-Germanic forms rapere, Ger. raffen, Sanskrit, rup.) It thus came to the help of Israel, and became a נַחַל קְרוּמִים, brook of succors. In what sense the Kishon should be especially called a brook of “ancient days,” as many explain קְרוּמִים, cannot be made out, not at least from Scripture.[FN53] The rendering “brook of battles,” has little ground in philology. The repetition of “brook Kishon,” is doubtless intended to suggest a definition of what sort of a stream the Kishon was for Israel on that day. It was not merely the scene of battle, but an instrument of help against the foe. קִרֵּם has frequently this sense, especially in poetical language. In Psalm 79:8 the poet prays, “Let thy mercy come speedily to our help” (יְקַדְּמדּנוּ); cf. Psalm 59:11; Psalm 21:4. But in Deuteronomy, also, Deuteronomy 23:5, it is said of Ammon and Moab that they did not help Israel with bread and water (לֹא־קִרְּמוּ אֶתְכֶם). Kedumim is the plural of a form קָרוּם. The Kishon—thus exults the poet—showed itself a helpful stream. The statement that it snatched the enemies away, presupposes its swollen condition. It is only after the rainy season that the Kishon runs full; for which reason the LXX: call it χειμάῤῥους, winter-flowing. In summer it is for the most part dried up; but in the spring it sends down a rushing flood. Ritter (xvi704, Gage’s Transl. iv351) adduces the fact that on the 16 th of April, 1799, in a conflict between the French and Turks, many of the latter perished in its raging waters. Hence we may infer that the time of Barak’s battle is to be fixed in the latter part of April or the beginning of May. The Feast of Weeks fell in the same season.[FN54] Immediately after the narrative in Exodus, it is intimated that the manifestation on Sinai occurred in the beginning of the third month, and consequently coincided with the Feast of Weeks. The occurrence of the battle in a season devoted to such commemorations, explains with peculiar emphasis the opening lines of the Song of Solomon, concerning the omnipotence of God on Sinai, “when the earth trembled.” The ancients had a not ungrounded tradition,—to prove which this is not the place,—for regarding the 68 th Psalm as a song for the Feast of Weeks; and it is just that psalm which incorporated into itself the introductory parts of Deborah’s Song.

While singing, the prophetess sees herself transported into the tumult of the battle. The stream rushes violently onward,—the perishing foes contend with its whirling eddies. The roar of the conflict, its battle-cries, and shouts of victory, are around her. In the midst of her Song of Solomon, she addresses her own soul, as the Greeks addressed their muse, with words of animation and refreshment: Tread vigorously on, my soul! Her genius hovers over the valley of conflict; her ear feels the hoof-strokes of the flying foes, who, panic stricken before Israel, furiously dash off into flight. What a triumph! the “strong ones” (אַבִּירִים) run away! דָּהַר is to run fast, used of a horse’s trot, like the Sanskrit dru, Greek δρᾶναι (διδράσκω). אַבִּירִים, as Bochart already remarked (Hieroz. i99), is probably used here, as in Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 47:3, of the war-horses, who with their rattling chariots ran wildly off. In that case, the might of the steeds stands representatively for that of the warriors themselves.

Judges 5:23. The flying enemy had not succeeded even in escaping, if all places of the surrounding country had done their duty. The prophetess utters sentence of condemnation against the inhabitants of Meroz, because they rendered no assistance. Their aid had probably been important in the pursuit. Hence, their conduct is referred to here,—before the blessing upon Jael. The verse first introduces a messenger of God, crying, “Curse ye Meroz, curse it!” and then continues itself, “Cursed are its inhabitants.” The “messenger of God” is the singer herself, sent by the Spirit of God to consummate the victorious achievement. In obedience to the Spirit’s prompting, she with Barak pronounces the national ban against the faithless city. For it came not to the help of God (לְעֶזְרת יְהוָֹה), that Isaiah, to the help of the עַם יְהוָֹה, the People of God, as in Judges 5:11; Judges 5:13. It left the cause and the good gifts of God to their fate, when they were endangered in battle against heroes.[FN55] The greater the responsibility, the severer the punishment. The higher the cause to be served, the blacker the treason that abandons it. To ascertain, at this date, the site of Meroz, can hardly be possible. It has indeed been supposed to be identical with a place on Robinson’s map, southwest of Endor,[FN56] called Kefr Musr (cf. Ritter, xv399 [Gage’s Transl. ii316]); but neither the name of the place is certain, nor its situation entirely suitable; and, finally, considering the popular odium which the Song of Deborah affixed to the name, it is by no means probable that it remained unchanged, and actually perpetuated itself. Procopius confirms this surmise, when he observes (Reland, Palästina, p896), that concerning the name he had found nothing anywhere, not even in Hebrew expositions. The curse itself most probably implied, as in Joshua, 6, the utter destruction of the place, although nothing further is said of it. In later times, this verse became a locus classicus for the Talmudic exposition of the ban against persons and things (Mond Katan, 16, a; Shebnoth, 36, a; Selden, de Synedriis, p84, etc.).


FN#28 - Judges 5:13.—This rendering of Judges 5:13 supposes the Hebrew text to be pointed and divided thus:

אָז יָרַד שָׂרִיד לְאַדִּרִ‍‍֑ים

עַם יְחוָֹה יָרַד לִי בַּגִּבּוֹרִ‍ֽים׃

So also the LXX. (in Cod. Vat.) and many expositors. The most serious objection to it Isaiah, that as it is the easier reading, the Masorites must have had strong traditional grounds for preferring one more difficult. The verse has been translated and interpreted in a great variety of ways; but the view of Dr. Cassel commends itself strongly, especially when compared with Judges 4:14. Our English version seems to take יְרַד as imperf. apoc. Piel from רָדָה, after the example of several Jewish grammarians and interpreters.—Tr.]

FN#29 - Judges 5:14.—Dr. Cassel’s rendering of the first line of Judges 5:14—מִנִּי אֶפְרַיִם שָׁרְשָׁם בַּעֲמָלֵק—, Isaiah, Aus Efraim’s Art, die Amaleksieger. It does not clearly appear how he would translate the passage literally, but the following would probably express his view: “Out of Ephraim (came) their root (who were) against Amalek.” The “root,” then, according to our author’s exposition (see below), would be Joshua, in his relation to those whom he led to victory against “Amalek.” So far as שֹׁרֶשׁ is concerned, this interpretation has full as much in its favor as that which makes it mean “dwelling-place.” On the rendering of עֲמָמֶיךָ, see the commentary. The majority of expositors, would probably accept the rendering of the two lines given by Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Repos. 1831):—

“Out of Ephraim (came those) whose dwelling is by Amalek;

After thee (was) Benjamin among thy hosts.”

But in a document the language of which is so obscure as that of the Song of Deborah, much necessarily depends on the conception formed of the connection in which one passage stands with another. Now, while the majority of interpreters assume that Judges 5:14 speaks of such as took part in the war against Jabin and Sisera, our author maintains that it dwells on the fame of those who did not take part in this war, in order by this comparison to exalt that of those who did. On the decision of this question the interpretation in detail of the whole verse depends. Which of the two conflicting views is true, is not a matter to be discussed here, but it is certain that Judges 4. is very favorable to our author’s side, cf. the com. belew.—Tr.]

FN#30 - Judges 5:14.—The rendering of this line turns on שֵׁבֶט סֹפֵר. The Targum, Peshito, and most ancient expositors, explain it of the “stylus of the writer;” while most moderns translate it “the staff of the leader.” Compare the remarks in the preceding note.—Tr.]

FN#31 - Judges 5:15.—Dr. Cassel probably reads שָׂרֵי, with Bertheau, Keil, and most expositors. The preposition בְּ after the construct state is not unusual in poetry, cf. 2 Samuel 1:21; Job 18:2; etc. Some regard שָׂרַי as an unusual plural (cf. Ges. Gram. 87, 1, c), or as an archaic form of the construct (so Ewald, Gram. 211, c).—Tr.]

FN#32 - Judges 5:15.—On בְּרַגְלָיו, compare “Grammatical” note on Judges 4:10; also Judges 8:5; 2 Samuel 15:17; etc.—Tr.]

FN#33 - Judges 5:15.—חִקְקֵי לֵב; Dr. Cassel, Ergründler. For הִקרֵי לֵב, in the next verse, he has Ergrübler, which admirably reproduces both the paranomasia and the irony of the original. חִקְקֵי and הִקְרֵי are, of course, abstract nouns, followed by the genitive of the subject to which they pertain.—Tr.]

FN#34 - Judges 5:17.—“Aber Daniel, was zogst du auf schiffen aus!” Our author probably takes גּוּר in its most usual sense, “to sojourn:” to sojourn in or on ships, readily suggesting the idea of sailing in ships. Most expositors translate: “And Daniel, why abides he at the ships?” The prepositionless accusative is as easy or as difficult in one case as in the other.—Tr.]

FN#35 - Judges 5:19.—בֶּצַע כֶּסֶף: Dr. Cassel, Geld zur Busse, “penance money,” cf. the Commentary below. Bertheau, Keil, and others, taking בֶּצַע in its Arabic sense of frustum (cf. the root בצע), translate: “not a piece of silver did they take;” but against the Hebrew use of the word.—Tr.]

FN#36 - Judges 5:20—Dr. Cassel, following many previous expositors, alters the Masoretic text division by transferring “the stars” from the second to the first clause. But it is justly objected to this change that it reduces the second clause to a mere repetition by which nothing is added to the idea already expressed in the first. In the next line, the word מְסִלָּה signifies, “a causeway,” “highway.” Dr. Cassel’s rendering, Statten, places, is manifestly chosen for the sake of alliteration: Sie stritten von ihren Statten mit Sisera; compare the English imitation above.—Tr.]

FN#37 - Judges 5:21—תִּדְרְכִי נַפְשִׁי עֹז. This line has been very variously interpreted. It is now generally agreed, however, that it is an address of the Singer to herself. תִּדְרְכִי is the jussive of the second person, cf. Ges. Gram. 48, 4. עֹז may either be taken as an adverbial accusative (=בּעֹז), or as the direct object after the verb. Dr. Cassel decides for the former, after Herder, Justi, Bertheau, Ewald, Keil; Dr. Bachmann, with Schnurrer, Köhler, Holmann, etc, prefers the latter, and takes עֹז as the abstract for the concrete: “Tread down, my soul, the strong ones!” cf. Robbins, in Bibl. Sacra. In either case, the incitement of the line may be directed to the continuation of the Song of Solomon, or to the prosecution of the pursuit of the enemy. Bachmann prefers the latter; but the former seems to us more striking and appropriate.—Tr.]

FN#38 - Judges 5:22.—Dr. Cassel :—

Da der Jagenden Rosshuf hallend aufschlug,

Der entjagenden Starken.

On the translation of אָז by “when,” cf. note1, on p97. In the second line of the above rendering, the מִן does not come to its rights, and the suffix in אַבִּרָיו is neglected. The מִן is causal, and the suffix יו—goes back to the collective סוּס of the first line, so that it seems necessary to explain אַבִּירִים of men, not, as our author (see below) of horses. The best rendering of the verse is probably that adopted, for substance, by Keil, Bachmann, and many others:—

“Then the hoofs of the horses smote the ground,

Because of the galloping of their valiant riders.”

The last expression may very well be taken ironically: “runaway heroes.” On the repetition of דַּהֲרוֹת, to indicate continuance, see Ewald, Gram., 313 a; cf. also Ges. Gram. 108, 4.—Tr.].

FN#39 - Judges 5:23—On the above translation of Judges 5:23 it is to be remarked, 1. That the word rendered “ban,” is אַָרַר, and does not, like חָרַם, imply the actual destruction of the object against which it is aimed2. That with the LXX. (Cod. Vat.) our author transfers אֹרוּ from the second line to the first. On the construction of אָרוֹר (which below, but not here, he changes (with the LXX.) into אָרוּר), cf Ges. Gram. 131, 4 b3. That the expression “People of God” is our author’s interpretation of what is meant by “coming to the help of Jehovah,” cf. below4. That בַּגִּבּוֹרִים is by most recent expositors rendered, “among (or, with) heroes,” namely, the warriors of Israel. Compare the Septuagint and Vulgate; the Targum takes בְּ in the hostile sense.—Tr.]

FN#40 - According to Bachmann the first half of Judges 5:12 contains the self-incitement of Deborah to begin the inscription of the battle, while the second half actually enters on the inscription with a reminiscence of Judges 4:14.—Tr.]

FN#41 - יְרַד בַּגִּבּוֹרִים. Cf. Judges 7:9, רֵד בַּמַּחֲבֶה; also Judges 7:13.

FN#42 - Keil also has adopted this view.

FN#43 - Numbers 32:39; cf. Joshua 17:3.

FN#44 - “In the land of Ephraim” there was a Mount of Amalek, cf. Judges 12:15.

FN#45 - “Always” is too strong; cf. Genesis 48:4; Leviticus 21 :; Ezekiel 18:18.—Tr.]

FN#46 - As in conflicts of the Bedouin tribes, the Arab women at the present time still stand in the rear, and encourage the combatants by their zâlágît (singing). Cf. Wetzstein, Haurân, 145.

FN#47 - This was still done by the women of the crusaders in the battle near Doryläum, as Petrus Trudebod informs us (Gesta Dei per Francos, p782): “Feminæ nostrœ in illa die fuerunt nobis in refugium .… confortantes not fortiter pugnantes et viros protegentes.” Cf. Wilken, Gesch. der Kreuzz., i155.

FN#48 - Only those tribes can have been censured who stood in close geographical connection with Naphtali and Zebulun, not those whose position inclined them to southern alliances. Ephraim, Benjamin, Judah, and Simeon, receive no censure; but Asher, Daniel, and Gilead, do. How could Reuben be blamed, while Judah was not, if his seat were below at the Dead Sea?

FN#49 - אְנִיּוִת, used only of sea-going vessels, cf. Proverbs 30:19.

FN#50 - But מָרוֹם assuredly means height, an elevation above the general level, not surface. In connection with the facts of the history, the expression, it seems to me, can only mean either Mount Tabor or the higher parts of the plain of Esdraelon, as the gathering-place of the warriors, where they in thought and intention “scorned their lives.” So Bachmann and many other expositors.—Tr.]

FN#51 - On Taanach and Megiddo see at Judges 1:27. The “waters of Megiddo” undoubtedly refers to the Kishon. The Kishon valley was in like manner called the Valley of Megiddo, 2 Chronicles 35:22; Zechariah 12:11. Cf. Rob. Bibl. Res., ii330.—Tr.]

FN#52 - Bertheau takes the words “the stars fought,” as figurative language, expressive of divine assistance. “From the decisive victory it is certain that God was with Israel and fought in the midst of them, Judges 5:13 [read according to the Masoretic text division]; that He himself threw the hostile host into confusion, Judges 4:15; and that the strong arm of a higher Power directed the course of the battle. All this is clearly and vividly present to the mind of the Singer. Filled with the thoughts of God’s wonderful aid, and venturing under the impulses of a bold enthusiasm to give definite representation of his distinctly recognized yet mysterious work on earth and in the midst of men, it is to her as if the heavens, the eternal dwelling-place of the holy God, had bowed themselves down to earth, or—to use the language of the text—as if the stars, forsaking their usual orbits, had fought against Sisera. Quite similar is the Imagery in Psalm 18.” The same view is adopted by Bachmann and many others.—Tr.]

FN#53 - Bachmann, who adopts this interpretation, explains it from the fact “that the ancient wonder of the Red Sea appears to repeat itself at the Kishon. As in the whole of the present wonderful deliverance Deborah beholds a renewal of the glorious occurrences at Sinai ( Judges 5:4), so she finds in the experience of Sisera’s army at the Kishon a renewal of that which befell the Egyptians at the Red Sea; and thus the Kishon in her view takes the place of the Red Sea which that ancient wonder had rendered famous.” Far fetched; although suggested by several earlier Rabbinical and ecclesiastical expositors.—Tr.]

FN#54 - A Jewish hymn of the Middle Ages, by R. Mair, still sung in the synagogues, at the Passover (Lel Shemurim), transports the battle into the Passover night; for which, however, it has no chronological grounds, but only the theological principle that all achievements of freedom were accomplished in that night.

FN#55 - It is altogether erroneous to take כַּגּכּוֹרִים here of the heroes of Israel. For just therein consisted the faithlessness of the inhabitants of Meroz, that though Israel was threatened by heroes and mighty men, they offered no assistance.

FN#56 - The battle took place south of Endor. That Barak in his swift descent from the heights met the enemy there first, appears from the remarkable statement of Psalm 83:10, which speaks of Endor as a point of the battle-field.

Verses 24-31

The Fate Of The Enemy

Judges 5:24-31

24Blessed among women be Jael,

The wife of Heber, the Kenite,

Blessed among women of the tents!

25He asks for water, she gives him milk,

In a beautiful bowl she carries him cream.

26With her left she takes the nail,[FN57]

With her right the heavy hammer,

Swings it over Sisera, smites his head,

Crashes through, and transpierces his temples.[FN58]

27At her feet he curls himself and falls,

At her feet he lies, curls himself again, and falls,

And as he curls himself again, falls—dead![FN59]

Through the window she looks, at the lattice laments 28 the mother of Sisera:

Why lingers his car so long,

Why stay the steps of his chariots?

29Wise ladies answer her,[FN60]

Herself also refutes her own words:

30Will they not find booty and divide it?

Two maidens for each man;

Booty of purple robes for Sisera,

Yea, booty of purple robes!

Color-embroidered vestments, two for each neck of the captured![FN61]

31So may all thy foes fall, O God,

But those who love thee rise as the sun in his strength!

And the land rested forty years.

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