Judges 5:1-3: Deborah's Song of Praise

Verse 1:[1] Then (see Ex. 18:1; Ps. 18 title) sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying…


[And Deborah and Barak sang, וַתָּ֣שַׁר דְּבוֹרָ֔ה וּבָרָ֖ק] It is the custom of the Hebrews, that the verb be referred to the nearest following noun, and so the verb is feminine and singular (Drusius). This song was composed by Deborah the prophetess (Tostatus, Montanus’ Commentary, Serarius, Bonfrerius). There is a great affinity between poetry and prophecy: Both are attributed to David, 2 Samuel 23:1. Among the Heathen both the Poets and those pouring out oracles are called prophets (Bonfrerius).


Deborah was the composer of this song as may be gathered from verse 7.


Verse 2:[2] Praise ye the LORD for the (Ps. 18:47) avenging of Israel, (2 Chron. 17:16; 1 Mac. 2:42[3]) when the people willingly offered themselves.


[Ye who willingly offered, etc., בִּפְרֹ֤עַ פְּרָעוֹת֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהִתְנַדֵּ֖ב עָ֑ם בָּרֲכ֖וּ יְהוָֽה׃] [They render it variously.] Verbatim: In avenging vengeances in Israel, in offering themselves a willing people, praise ye the Lord (Montanus). Because of the vengeances exacted in Israel, and because of the people rendered willing, etc. (Munster, similarly Castalio, Dutch). Since He exacts vengeances through Israel (or, on behalf of Israel [English]), with the people willingly offering themselves (Junius and Tremellius, similarly the English). Since He took vengeance for the injuries inflicted upon Israel, it is fitting that ye who are willing among the people give thanks to the Lord (Tigurinus). Moreover, the vengeance taken here most refer to God; but it could be referred to the people (Bonfrerius). While He exacts punishment from Israel because of sins, and while the people willingly take up arms so that they might defend themselves (for the Lord was adding to them strength and courage when He willed to liberate them); that is to say, In time of affliction and of liberation, in a time calamitious and happy, praise ye the Lord (Vatablus). Praise God, who had previously stripped you of strength and defense, for פָּרַע signifies this in Exodus 32[4] (or, who by oppressing you, and by delivering you to the Canaanites, avenged His own injury, with which ye afflicted Him by your impiety); then, who rendered you ready for war. She rightly urges that thanks are to be rendered to God both on account of matters prosperous, and on account of matters adverse. Both fell to them prosperously. Indeed, dejection recalled them to repentance; but liberation freed them from a heavy yoke. Adversities also fall to the pious for good. Now, most take it thus, that Thanks are to be paid to God, who has at length avenged the injuries of the Israelites, and by His Spirit has made them willing (Martyr). They are said to have offered themselves willingly, because the followed Barak, previously having no authority among them. But she does not understand the whole people, but those that are treated in verse 18, and Judges 4:10 (Malvenda out of Junius).


Praise ye the Lord; give him the praise who hath done the work. For the avenging of Israel; or, for taking vengeance, to wit, upon his and their enemies, by Israel, or for Israel, for Israel’s benefit, or for the injuries and violences offered by them to Israel. The people; chiefly Zebulun and Naphtali, below, verse 18; Judges 4:6, and others hereafter mentioned. Willingly offered themselves, when neither Deborah nor Barak had any power to compel them.


Verse 3:[5] (Deut. 32:1, 3; Ps. 2:10) 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.


[Hear, O ye kings] She desires it to be made known to all, even foreigners, that she ascribes this entire victory to God (Bonfrerius). Not only for her own time does she sing these things, but also for posterity. She addresses foreign Kings, who were contemplating among themselves to waste Israel (Martyr).


O ye kings: You especially that live near to Israel, and have evil minds and designs against Israel, know this for your instruction, and caution, and terror too, if you shall presume to molest them. To the Lord God of Israel, who, as you see by this plain instance, is both able and resolved to defend them from all their enemies.

[1] Hebrew: וַתָּ֣שַׁר דְּבוֹרָ֔ה וּבָרָ֖ק בֶּן־אֲבִינֹ֑עַם בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹֽר׃


[2] Hebrew: בִּפְרֹ֤עַ פְּרָעוֹת֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהִתְנַדֵּ֖ב עָ֑ם בָּרֲכ֖וּ יְהוָֽה׃


[3] 1 Maccabees 2:42: “Then came there unto him a company of Assideans who were mighty men of Israel, even all such as were voluntarily devoted unto the law.”


[4] Exodus 32:25: “And when Moses saw that the people were naked (פָרֻעַ); (for Aaron had made them naked [פְרָעֹה] unto their shame among their enemies)…”


[5] Hebrew: שִׁמְע֣וּ מְלָכִ֔ים הַאֲזִ֖ינוּ רֹֽזְנִ֑ים אָֽנֹכִ֗י לַֽיהוָה֙ אָנֹכִ֣י אָשִׁ֔ירָה אֲזַמֵּ֕ר לַֽיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

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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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