Judges 5:10, 11: Deborah's Call to Thanksgiving

Verse 10:[1] Speak (or, meditate;[2] Ps. 105:2;[3] 145:5[4]), ye (Judg. 10:4; 12:14) that ride on white asses, (Ps. 107:32) ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.


[Ye that mount upon sleek asses, רֹכְבֵי֩ אֲתֹנ֙וֹת צְחֹר֜וֹת] Riding upon white asses (Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Hebrews in Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals). Thus צֶ֥מֶר צָֽחַר׃, in Ezekiel 27:18, they maintain to be white wool (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:12:182). Others: sleek asses (Vatablus), and they translate it shiny wool in Ezekiel 27, as if צַחַר were the same as צוֹחַר. But from the Arabs we learn that צַחַר is a color whitish, or different from white and red, even in an ass (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:12:182). Or it is to be translated reddish asses (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:1:2:7). Others translate it, sleek mules (Tigurinus, Munster). Now, here are understood, either, 1. Princes, a mark of which was to ride upon horses (or mules), as in Judges 10:4; 12:14 (Junius, Piscator, similarly Lapide, Bonfrerius). This was done on account of the scarcity of horses in those lands. See Deuteronomy 17:16 (Grotius). God had prohibited horses; but the asses there were strong, excellent, and sleek (Lapide). Or, 2. Merchants (Vatablus, Martyr, a great many in Martyr). Judges and Merchants (Munster).


[And that sit in judgment, יֹשְׁבֵ֧י עַל־מִדִּ֛ין] It often happens that a substantive with a preposition in the place of the genitive case follows another substantive or participle, as here the noun מִדִּין/middin with the preposition עַל follows יֹשְׁבֵי (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 113). They translate it, those sitting in judgment, or judgments (Junius, Piscator, Munster, Tigurinus, Dutch, English). That is, who remain in your juridical assembly, and are not wont to go abroad, or to depart from your field and territory (Junius). Others: that dwell near Middin (Pagnine, Vatablus, Drusius, Cajetan in Bonfrerius). Middin is the name, either, 1. of a city, as in Joshua 15:61 (Vatablus). But that city was in the tribe of Judah (Malvenda). Or, 2. of a road, as in this passage (Vatablus), a certain public road well-known at that time, which was (especially) vexed with an abundance of enemies (Malvenda out of Vatablus).


[And that walk in the way] Hebrew: walking in the way.[5] Either, 1. traveling merchants (Junius, Malvenda): or, 2. common people, who are wont to journey on foot (Martyr, Malvenda, Vatablus).


[Speak, שִׂיחוּ] Meditate (Montanus, similarly the Syriac); relate (Septuagint). Give thanks to God, because ye are allowed to go about freely (Vatablus).


Speak; celebrate the praises of our mighty God, whose hand hath done this. Ye that ride on white asses, that is, magistrates and nobles, who used to do so, Judges 10:4; 12:14; horses being in a manner forbidden there, Deuteronomy 17:16. Ye that walk by the way, that is, you that now can safely travel about your business in those highways, which before you durst neither ride nor walk in. So great and mean persons are jointly excited to praise God.


Verse 11:[6] They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the (1 Sam. 12:7; Ps. 145:7) righteous acts of the LORD (Heb. righteousnesses of the LORD[7]), even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.


[Where the chariots were dashed together, and the army of the enemies was choked, מִקּ֣וֹל מְחַֽצְצִ֗ים בֵּ֚ין מַשְׁאַבִּ֔ים] [They render it variously.] From the sound of archers, or spearmen, among those drawing water, or, waters (Munster, Montanus, Tigurinus, Lapide). But they explain it variously. Either in this way; The archers of Sisera, having been cast headlong into the waters of Kishon, swallowed them, and were exhausted and choked by them (Lapide). At the torrent of Kishon, where water is drunk, the cries and groans of the dying were heard, whom the Israelites slaughtered (Osiander). Or in this way; Ye had been kept back by the spears of the enemy from drawing water (Munster, similarly Drusius, Martyr, Junius). מַשְׁאַבִּים are place in which water is drawn,[8] not the buckets themselves. Therefore, since they were there, they were afraid for themselves from the archers (Drusius). Because of the voice, or sound, or noise, of archers, etc. (Pagnine, Vatablus, Piscator). Because of the noise that is now settled, and no longer heard, in those places where water is wont to be drawn (Vatablus). Because of the noise, that is, because of liberation from that noise: so that it might be a metonymy of subject (Piscator). They were delivered from the noise of archers, etc. (Junius and Tremellius, English). (But this supplement appears a little too bold [Piscator].) [Castalio conjoins these things with the last word of the preceding verse in this way, Speak ye (שִׂיחוּ) of the noise of archers among the watering places, etc.] She rightly said, from the sound, or noise; for it is a poetic Epithet of the bow and arrow: Virgil’s Æneid 5, …with the arrow whistling from the string; and again, …and the bow sounding (Malvenda). While she had already commended God that He had made the public ways free to the Hebrews, she subjoins another benefit now added, namely, that they have ready access to the drawing of water; which in Syria, where a tremendous amount of toil and care are expended in dealing with the lack of water, ought to be held as a great gift. Wells, or fountains, that were outside of the cities along streets and roads, were not able to be used by them, because of horsemen, armed with the bow, hiding themselves there, who were making an attempt upon them, taking many captives, and likewise with their noise and clamore (which horsemen are wont to emit, making an impression upon their enemies, Jeremiah 4) scaring almost all away from drawing (Martyr).


[There let the righteousnesses of the Lord, and mercy toward the mighty of Israel, be rehearsed, שָׁ֤ם יְתַנּוּ֙ צִדְק֣וֹת יְהוָ֔ה צִדְקֹ֥ת פִּרְזֹנ֖וֹ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל] There let them rehearse (this is a Chaldean word, from תִּנָּה, to narrage [Grotius]) the righteousnesses of the Lord (Pagnine), that is, His vengeances, or retributions, which He has exacted from the enemies on behalf of His people (Piscator). Talk of the righteous works of Jehovah (Junius and Tremellius). And the righteousnesses of His villages (Pagnine, Vatablus), that is, the righteousness of the Lord, who brings it to pass that the children of God afterwards dwelt without fear in their villages, which previously they were not inhabiting because of fear of the enemy (Vatablus, similarly Martyr, Junius, Munster). The righteousnesses of the men of His village (Piscator), that is, toward His country folk (Junius, Dutch, Glassius). Righteousnesses that were declared in the villages (Dutch). A noun direct, or of the genitive case, often denotes the occupying subject, which they call the object; as in this place. Concerning the righteous works of Jehovah precedes, where the genitive denotes the efficient (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 108). Others: the righteousnesses of the overseers in Israel, that is, the righteousness of God, of which the Israelites were the executors (Osiander). [To others פִּרְזֹנוֹ is nominative. Thus Tigurinus; who thus translates the passage, They shall talk…of the righteousnesses of the Lord, of the righteousnesses of the Lord, I say, His rustic men in Israel shall talk.] תָּנָה I explain by an Arabism, in which from the Hebrew שָׁנָה, to repeat, with the ש changed into a ת as is customarily done, the verb תני is made, which in the second conjugation, that is, the same that occurs here, namely, the Piel, signifies to celebrate, to praise, to give thanks; for the one that first gave a blessing obliged the one receiving unto secondary duties, which are of the expression of gratitude. Thus I translate it here, there let them praise (Dieu).


From the noise of archers; either, 1. From the noise or sound, and consequently the force of those arrows which are shot at them; but she names the noise, because this epithet is frequently given to bows and arrows in poetical writings. Or, 2. From the triumphant noise and shout of archers rejoicing when they meet with their prey. In the places of drawing water; at those pits or springs of water, which were scarce and precious in those hot countries, to which the people’s necessities forced them oft to resort, and nigh unto which the archers did usually lurk in woods, or thickets, or hedges, that from thence they might shoot at them, and kill and spoil them. When they come to those places with freedom and safety, which before they could not, they shall with thankfulness rehearse this righteous, and faithful, and gracious work of God, in rescuing his people, and punishing his enemies. He mentions the inhabitants of his villages, because as their danger was greater, Judges 5:7, so was their deliverance, and their obligation to praise God.


[Then the people of the Lord went down to the gates (thus Munster, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Vatablus, Piscator, similarly Junius and Tremellius)] With the war with Sisera won, the people went down to the gates, so that they might go forth; and they went forth from the cities without fear or danger, who previously were shut up within them (Vatablus). The assemble at the meeting place and forum, or from the towns they go forth for business, necessity, pleasure, of whatever other reasons (Junius). In the gate court was held (but I believe that they chose those places, because unto them not only citizens, but also the country folk, could easily approach): But because of wars and oppressions legal proceedings appear to have been intermitted (Martyr). By the tyrant those seeking the sentence of the judges and the composition of their lawsuits were hindered from coming to the gates: But now they were able to come there freely (Bonfrerius, similarly Menochius). Others thus: the people went down to the gates, namely, of the enemy; that is, they occupied their gates and cities (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Menochius).


To the gates, to wit, of their cities, which were the chief places to which both city and country resorted for public business and matters of justice, from which they had been debarred by their oppressors; but now they had free access and passage, either in or out of the gates, as their occasions required; and they who had been driven from their cities, now returned to them in peace and triumph; so the citizens’ deliverance is celebrated here, as the countrymen’s is in the foregoing words.

[1] Hebrew: רֹכְבֵי֩ אֲתֹנ֙וֹת צְחֹר֜וֹת יֹשְׁבֵ֧י עַל־מִדִּ֛ין וְהֹלְכֵ֥י עַל־דֶּ֖רֶךְ שִֽׂיחוּ׃


[2] Hebrew: שִׂיחוּ.


[3] Psalm 105:2: “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye (שִׂיחוּ) of all his wondrous works.”


[4] Psalm 145:5: “I will speak (אָשִׂיחָה) of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.”


[5] Hebrew: וְהֹלְכֵ֥י עַל־דֶּ֖רֶךְ.


[6] Hebrew: מִקּ֣וֹל מְחַֽצְצִ֗ים בֵּ֚ין מַשְׁאַבִּ֔ים שָׁ֤ם יְתַנּוּ֙ צִדְק֣וֹת יְהוָ֔ה צִדְקֹ֥ת פִּרְזֹנ֖וֹ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אָ֛ז יָרְד֥וּ לַשְּׁעָרִ֖ים עַם־יְהוָֽה׃


[7] Hebrew: צִדְק֣וֹת יְהוָ֔ה.


[8] מַשְׁאַבִּים is related to the verb שָׁאַב, to draw.

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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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