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Judges 5:15: Commendation of the Tribes that Appeared for the Lord's War, Part 2

Verse 15:[1] And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also (Judg. 4:14) Barak: he was sent on foot (Heb. his feet[2]) into the valley. For the divisions (or, in the divisions[3]) of Reuben there were great thoughts (Heb. impressions[4]) of heart.

[The leaders of Issachar, etc., וְשָׂרַ֤י בְּיִשָּׂשכָר֙ עִם־דְּבֹרָ֔ה וְיִשָּׂשכָר֙ כֵּ֣ן בָּרָ֔ק בָּעֵ֖מֶק שֻׁלַּ֣ח בְּרַגְלָ֑יו] And the princes (or, my princes [certain interpreters in the Dutch]) in Issachar with Deborah and Issachar: thus Barak was sent into the valley on foot (Pagnine, Montanus). Princes also in Issachar with Deborah, but also Issachar and Barak were sent in valley on foot (Munster) (or, but also Issachar, just as Barak was sent in the valley as foot [Tigurinus]). And the princes of Issachar with Deborah (Dutch, English, Junius and Tremellius) (supply, either, are going to be [Junius and Tremellius], or, were [Piscator, Dutch, English], or, went down, or came [Vatablus]), even Issachar and Barak (English) (or, and just as Issachar, so also was Barak [Dutch]; and Issachar was just like Barak, that is, the Issacharites were prompt in this war, just like Barak [Piscator]), he was sent into the valley on foot (Dutch, English). Just as Issachar Barak, even who was sent into the valley at his feet. Hebrew: at the feet of him (Junius), that is, of Barak (Piscator), that is, who, having been called, arrived with his own tribe of Naphtali, Judges 4:6, and took command, Judges 4:10 (Junius). This is periphrasis of the Nephthalim and Zebulunites. See Judges 4:14 (Piscator). And who…had been sent, etc., that is, the rest of the army that was following his lead (Malvenda). Princes in Issachar, that is, of the Tribe of Issachar (Vatablus), of the Issacharites; just as in verse 8, among the forty thousand in Israel,[5] that is, of the Israelites; and in verse 7, a mother in Israel,[6] that is, of Israelites. Thus, a master in Israel, that is, of Israel. And שָׂרַי/princes (like גּוֹבַי/locusts,[7] חַלּוֹנַי/windows[8]), in the place of שָׂרִים/princes[9] (Drusius). The Princes of Issachar and Issachar, that is, even the entire Tribe of Issachar was present. And even Barak cast himself in the valley on foot; which is to say, He came near to the battle with such eagerness to fight, that he came on foot (Vatablus). He went on foot into the valley, not being carried by horse or chariot (Drusius). And the Tribe of Issachar was just like Barak in the valley (that is, it went down with the same eagerness as Barak into the valley to the torrent Kishon) sent with his foot (that is, this Tribe also brought foot soldiers [Osiander]).

Were with Deborah, that is, ready to assist her. Even Issachar, Hebrew, and Issachar,[10] that is, the tribe or people of Issachar, following the counsel and example of their princes, and being now at their commandments, as they were afterwards upon another occasion, 1 Chronicles 12:32. And also Barak, or, even as Barak, that is, they were as hearty and valiant as Barak their general; and as he marched on foot here and Judges 4:10, against their enemies’ horses and chariots, and that into the valley, where the main use of horses and chariots lies; so did they with no less courage and resolution.

[Reuben being divided against himself, etc., בִּפְלַגּ֣וֹת רְאוּבֵ֔ן גְּדֹלִ֖ים חִקְקֵי־לֵֽב׃] In the divisions of Reuben, great appointed (supply, men [Tigurinus]) of heart (Montanus, Tigurinus). In the divisions, or, concerning the divisions, or, because of the divisions (or separations [English]) of Reuben are great contentions, or meditations, of heart (Pagnine, English, certain interpreters in the Dutch). Concerning the divisions of Reuben, etc., that is, Concerning the Reubenites, separated from the others by Jordan, I greatly marvel that they did not come to the help of their brethren (Vatablus). The Reubenites were divided into parties and diverse opinions, while some think that there is to be an abstaining from the war, others that there is to be a going forth unto the common expedition of Israel against her enemies (Menochius, similarly Lapide, Bonfrerius). Thus they were turned to disputes and quarrels, and in this manner they ceased to help the Israelites. But, because in the Hebrew and Septuagint no vestige of quarrels of this sort is found, I would prefer that this contention be, not of the Reubenites, but of the soldiers of Barak; not the contention of enemies, but the debate of friends, for which these divisions of the Reubenites furnished occasion, concerning which men had diverse judgments, with diverse men conjecturing diverse things, and scrutinizing the reasons for such a division (Bonfrerius). Others: in the rivulets of Reuben. The territories of Reuben she not unjustly calls rivers; for near Jordan they obtained by lot fertile pasture-land. Indeed, she attributed to them greatness and prudence; but she proved them guilty, that they refusted to fight, and only took care of their own (Martyr). While in the separation of Reuben there were great men, and wise of heart (Munster). They are rebuked, because they, being otherwise strong in ability and industry, did not help their brethren (Malvenda). Others thus: But in the parties of Reuben there are men great in resolutions of heart: that is, the Reubenites were proud, and for this reason they did not appear in this war; that is, lest they should appear to obey a woman (Piscator). In the parties of Reuben there were great constitutions (that is, imaginations) of heart, or, men great in constitutions of heart (Malvenda). [Castalio joins these things with what follows, in this way, By the rivers, O great Reubenites of imperious mind, why did ye sit, etc.? But some take these things as praise.] Reuben appears to be praised, because, with the care of flocks laid aside, he took part in the war, as formerly in Joshua 1 and 22 (Serarius). Men great in the intentions of the soul (Hebrew: heart[11] [Junius]), that is, magnates, industrious (a periphrasis of the governors among the Transjordanian tribes) in the parts (Hebrew: divisions,[12] that is, in the Transjordanian region, as in the following verse) of Reuben (Junius and Tremellius). Their eminent faithfulness appears periphrastically to be commended, whereby they went ready-armed before their brethren in occupying their inheritance on this side of Jordan according to the commandment of God, Numbers 32 (Junius).

The divisions, or separations; whereby they were divided or separated, not so much one from another in their thoughts, counsels, and carriage in this war, (for they seem to be all too well agreed in abiding at home with their sheep, as it follows,) as all from their brethren, from whom they were divided no less in their designs and affections, than in their situation by the river Jordan; and they would not join their interests and forces with them in this common cause. Great thoughts, or, great searchings, as it is Judges 5:16; great and sad thoughts, and debates, and perplexities of mind among the Israelites, to see themselves deserted by so great and potent a tribe as Reuben was.

[1] Hebrew: וְשָׂרַ֤י בְּיִשָּׂשכָר֙ עִם־דְּבֹרָ֔ה וְיִשָּׂשכָר֙ כֵּ֣ן בָּרָ֔ק בָּעֵ֖מֶק שֻׁלַּ֣ח בְּרַגְלָ֑יו בִּפְלַגּ֣וֹת רְאוּבֵ֔ן גְּדֹלִ֖ים חִקְקֵי־לֵֽב׃

[2] Hebrew: בְּרַגְלָיו.

[3] Hebrew: בִּפְלַגּוֹת.

[4] Hebrew: חִקְקֵי.

[5] Judges 5:8b: “…was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel (בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל)?”

[6] Judges 5:7: “The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel (בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל).”

[7] Nahum 3:17: “Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers (כְּג֣וֹב גֹּבָ֑י), which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.”

[8] Jeremiah 22:14: “That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows (חַלּוֹנָי); and it is cieled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.”

[9] The assertion is that this ending (ַי-), although it may appear to be a first person singular pronominal suffix, is just an unusual form of the simple plural ending (ִים-).

[10] Hebrew: וְיִשָּׂשכָר.

[11] Hebrew: לֵב.

[12] Hebrew: בִּפְלַגּוֹת.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Jonathan Edwards' "Thoughts on Revival": 'And as rulers, by neglecting their duty at such a time, will especially expose themselves to God's great displeasure; so by fully acknowledging God in such a work, and by cheerfully and vigorously exerting themselves to promote it, they will especially be in the way of receiving peculiar honours and rewards at God's hands. It is noted of the princes of Israel, that they especially appeared to honour God with their princely offering, on occasion of setting up the tabernacle of God in the congregation of Israel. I have observed already that this was done at the time of the feast of tabernacles, and was a type of the tabernacle of God being with me…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'Issachar did good service too; though he saw that rest was good, and therefore bowed his shoulder to bear, which is the character of that tribe (Genesis 49:15), yet they disdained to bear the yoke of Jabin's tribute, and now preferred the generous toils of war to a servile rest. Though it should seem there were not many common soldiers enlisted out of that tribe, yet the princes of Issachar were with Deborah and Barak (Judges 5:15), probably, as a great council of war to advise upon emergencies. And, it should seem, these princes of Issachar did in person accompany Barak into the field of battle. Did he go on foot? They footed it with him, not consultin…

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