Judges 5:17: Condemnation of the Tribes Refusing to Appear for the Lord's War, Part 2

Verse 17:[1] (see Josh. 13:25, 31) Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? (Josh. 19:29, 31) Asher continued on the sea shore (or, port[2]), and abode in his breaches (or, creeks[3]).

[Gilead was at rest beyond Jordan] Gilead is the region on the other side of Jordan adjoining mount Gilead. She here metonymically signifies the Gileadites. Now, this word is taken, 1. sometimes, but rarely, for all the Transjordanian tribes: it does not signify this in this place, since these are distinguished from the Reubenites: 2. for the land of the half Tribe of Manasseh alone: 3. for the Manassites and Gadites, as in this place, and elsewhere frequently (Bonfrerius). But earlier it was said that Machir came [to this battle];[4] but he possessed mount Gilead. Then if Gilead came to the battle, why is he here reprehended? I think, therefore, that these things have regard to magnifying of the guilt of the Reubenites: that is to say, Thou indeed, Reuben, dwellest on the rivers of Jordan; but Gilead hast dwelt in that very place, who nevertheless brought himself to the battle. Therefore, all excuse both of habitation and of place is disallowed to the Reubenites. And I read it interrogatively, Gilead, has not he also dwelt on the fords of Jordan? Cease therefore to excuse it (Martyr). Did Gilead rest near Jordan? (Tigurinus), or, did he remain? which is to say, No (certain interpreters in Vatablus). Gilead, that is, the Manassites; he dwelt, which is to say, he stayed continually in his habitation, and hence did not appear in this battle (Piscator).

Gilead is sometimes taken more largely, for all the land of the Israelites beyond Jordan, as Numbers 32:1, 26, 29. So it is not here taken, because Gilead is here distinguished from Reuben and his land. Sometimes it is taken more strictly for that part of the land beyond Jordan which fell to the half tribe of Manasseh, as Numbers 32:39, 40; Deuteronomy 3:15; Joshua 17:1. And sometimes both for that part of Manasseh’s, and for Gad’s portion, as Joshua 13:24, 25, 29-31. And so it seems to be understood here; and the land Gilead is here put for the people or inhabitants of it, Gad and Manasseh. Beyond Jordan, in their own portions, and did not come over Jordan to the help of the Lord, and of his people, as they ought to have done.

[And Dan was applying himself to ships, וְדָ֕ן לָ֥מָּה יָג֖וּר אֳנִיּ֑וֹת] But also Dan, why is he dwelling in ships? (Munster, similarly Tigurinus, Pagnine). Why would he bide his time (I translate it, was he biding his time, or, rather, lingering [Piscator]) among the ships? (Junius and Tremellius). For he had in great part a maritime possession, Joshua 19:40, just like Asher, Joshua 19:24 (Junius, Piscator). Dan was intent on voyages, with the common good neglected. This Tribe was on the Mediterranean Sea: in it was the celebrated port called Joppa[5] (Bonfrerius). But Dan, why does he bide his time in ships? If, says she, he that was dwelling beyond Jordan came to help, why has Dan for fear transported his resources beyond Jordan? (Vatablus).

Dan, whose coast was near the sea, was wholly intent upon his merchandise and shipping, as the great instrument both of his riches and safety; and therefore would not join in this land expedition. Asher continued on the sea-shore, where their lot lay.

[And in the ports was he staying, וְעַ֥ל מִפְרָצָ֖יו יִשְׁכּֽוֹן׃] And in his ruptures (fractures [Pagnine, Montanus]) he remains (Tigurinus), or, was remaining (Vatablus), or, was dwelling (Pagnine, Munster). That is, He kept himself in rest, while this war was continuing (Piscator). Why…in his steeps (that is, cliffs [Junius]) would he dwell? (Junius and Tremellius). Half-ruined cities she calls ruptures; for the Asherites did not have cities sufficiently fortified, and were not dwelling far off; on account of this they did not come. Others: near their ports (Vatablus). Asher is deservedly blamed, who was near to Naphtali and Zebulun, by whom, and in whose lands, this was was conducted. It is ambiguous whether these fractures are to be referred to the sea, or to the Asherites (Bonfrerius).

In his breaches; either, first, In the creeks of the sea, whether in design to save themselves by ships in case of danger, as Dan also intended; or upon pretence of repairing the breaches made by the sea into their country. Or, secondly, In their broken and craggy rocks and caves therein, in which they thought to secure themselves.

[1] Hebrew: גִּלְעָ֗ד בְּעֵ֤בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן֙ שָׁכֵ֔ן וְדָ֕ן לָ֥מָּה יָג֖וּר אֳנִיּ֑וֹת אָשֵׁ֗ר יָשַׁב֙ לְח֣וֹף יַמִּ֔ים וְעַ֥ל מִפְרָצָ֖יו יִשְׁכּֽוֹן׃

[2] Hebrew: לְחוֹף.

[3] Hebrew: מִפְרָצָיו.

[4] See verse 14.

[5] See Joshua 19:46; Acts 9:36-43; 10:9-18.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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