Judges 5:22: The Overthrow of Sisera's Horses

Verse 22:[1] Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings (or, tramplings, or, plungings[2]), the pransings of their mighty ones.


[The hoofs of the horses struck (thus the Arabic), אָ֥ז הָלְמ֖וּ עִקְּבֵי־ס֑וּס[3]] Then were struck (beaten upon [Castalio], battered [Pagnine], crushed, or, broken [Vatablus, English, Dutch]) the hoofs (heels/hoofs [Pagnine]) of the horses (Munster, Tigurinus). Then struck the heels…their strong ones (Junius and Tremellius). This was done, either, 1. from the greatness of the hail, lightning, etc.; or, 2. from the roughness of the ground (Lyra), from the collision with stones (Lapide); or, 3. from excessive haste and the precipitous course of those fleeing (Bonfrerius). Indeed, by nature horses’ hoofs are solid and strong, and are not easily split; which nevertheless happened here on account the violence of the motion, etc. (Martyr). To this point were commemorated the helps unto victory, but now she shows the protections of flight itself were withdrawn from them (Bonfrerius). The singular סוּס/horse is here put in the place of the plural (Vatablus, Martyr).


[With them fleeing furiously, etc., מִֽדַּהֲר֖וֹת דַּהֲר֥וֹת אַבִּירָֽיו׃] They translate it, from the kicking, kicking (from the pransings, pransings [Junius, English], because of the violent charge [Tigurinus, Munster], from the feet [Pagnine], from the tramplings (Vatablus), from the rushings [Jonathan]) of their might ones (Montanus). Either, 1. of their horsemen; because of the repeated and frequent clashes of Sisera’s horsemen, or horses (Vatablus); because of the leapings excited by their magnificent ones sitting upon the horses (Munster). Such was the excitement of the riders of them, that is, of those fleeing (Castalio). Or, 2. of their horses; from the clappings, supply, of the horses, which by running clap the earth (Junius). Because of the hurried gallopings, or clappings, namely, that horses, put to flight by their riders, emit (Piscator). That אַבִּירִים, the mighty, is taken as horses, is taught, not only in this passage, but in Jeremiah 8:16, from Dan was heard the snorting סוּסָיו, of his horses; the whole land trembled מִקּוֹל֙ מִצְהֲל֣וֹת אַבִּירָ֔יו, at the sound of the neighing of his mighty ones: and in Jeremiah 47:3,מִקּ֗וֹל שַֽׁעֲטַת֙ פַּרְס֣וֹת אַבִּירָ֔יו, because of the sound of the hoofs of his mighty, that is, his horses: and in Jeremiah 50:11, ye neighed כָּאֲבִּרִים, like the mighty. That horses are understood is evident, 1. because סוּס/horse and אַבִּיר, mighty one, are put as synonyms: 2. because to them are attributed neighing, hoofs, and דַּהֲרוֹת, the rushing, or leaping, or assault peculiar to horses (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:6:97). אַבִּירִים, the mighty, I here understand as a proper and poetic epithet of horses; which is to say, alatos/winged, pennatos/winged, volucres/flying, from the velocity of their course: for those names were set upon the swiftest horses. The Emperor Caligula had Incitatus;[4] Lucius Verus had Volucer;[5] Aquilo[6] is celebrated on ancient stones (Malvenda). Then the the horses’ hoofs were worn away in their courses, the courses, I say, of his mighty, that is, horses. In Latin you would rather say, equorum ungulæ cursibus illorum attritæ sunt, the horses’ hoofs in their courses were worn out: But in Hebrew phrase the noun itself is often put in the place of a pronoun (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:6:97). Because of the clapping, the clapping: The Repetition indicates the multitude and continuation of clappings, the swiftest possible clapping and rushing (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 19).


The horsehoofs broken: Their horses, in which they put most confidence, had their hoofs, which is their support and strength, broken, either by dreadful hailstones, or rather, by their swift and violent running over the stony grounds, when they fled away with all possible speed from God and from Israel. By the means of the pransings; or, because of their fierce or swift courses. Of their mighty ones; either, first, Of their strong and valiant riders, who forced their horses to run away as fast as they could. Or, secondly, Of their horses, as this word signifies, Jeremiah 8:16; 47:3; 50:42, that is, of themselves; the antecedent for the relative.

[1] Hebrew: אָ֥ז הָלְמ֖וּ עִקְּבֵי־ס֑וּס מִֽדַּהֲר֖וֹת דַּהֲר֥וֹת אַבִּירָֽיו׃


[2] Hebrew: מִדַּהֲרוֹת.


[3] הָלַם signifies to strike or hammer.


[4] Caligula was Emperor from 37 to 41 AD. His favorite horse’s name was Incitatus, which means swift.


[5] Lucius Verus was co-Emperor of Rome from 161 to 169. Volucer means bird, or flying.


[6] Aquilo, whose name means North-wind, was an ancient race-horse.

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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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