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Judges 5:23: The Cursing of Meroz

Verse 23:[1] Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; (Judg. 21:9, 10; Neh. 3:5) because they came not to the help (1 Sam. 17:47; 18:17; 25:28) of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.

[Curse ye the land of Meroz, א֣וֹרוּ מֵר֗וֹז] Curse ye Meroz (Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus). Some maintain that he was a man; but it is evident that it was a place from what follows, the inhabitants thereof (Drusius). The city of Meroz (Munster, Vatablus). Which place then is not known (Lapide, Malvenda). It is an effect of this malediction, that the memory of it has been thoroughly effaced. This place was at that time famous on account of the strength of its inhabitants, which Cajetan thinks to have be indicated in the very last word of this verse, as suited to this war (Serarius). Meroz Pagnine supposes with probability in his Hebrew Names[2] to be the lake Merom; and that those living near to it are understood. For there Joshua, in Joshua 11:7, smote that Jabin, the predecessor of this one (Lapide). Their nearness in place to where the battle was fought is the reason why cursing is directed at these more than at the others (Bonfrerius, thus Montanus’ Commentary, Serarius, Kimchi in Drusius). The others, on account of distance, or discord of sentiments, were worthy of some indulgence; but among these heart alone was lacking, not advantage (Bonfrerius). Curse ye, etc. Let them be infamous. The Athenians were guilty of the grievous crime ἀποστασίου, of apostasy, of military service refused; as we learn from Demosthenes,[3] his Scholiast Ulpian,[4] and Harpocration.[5] Those that had been absent from a war commanded from heaven are much more justly held to be infamous (Grotius).

Meroz; a place then, no doubt, eminent and considerable, though now there be no remembrance of it left, which possibly might be the effect of this bitter curse; as God curseth Amalek in this manner, that he would utterly blot out their remembrance, etc., Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:19. And this place above all others may be thus severely cursed, either because it was near the place of the fight, and therefore had the greatest opportunity and obligation to engage with and to assist their brethren; and their denying their help was a great discouragement to all their brethren, whose hearts, no doubt, were greatly afflicted, and might have utterly fainted at this great miscarriage, and scandalous example; or for some other great aggravation of their cowardice and treachery, which may easily be imagined, though it be not here expressed.

[Said the Angel of the Lord[6]] This is inserted, lest she should appear to indulge her own ill-will (Martyr). But who is this Angel? Response: Either, 1. Barack, who was sent by God to this war (the Chaldean in Lapide, Drusius). Perhaps Barak was setting out to draw out this city to the battle, who, when he saw the will of its citizens to be hardened in this way, cursed it by the impulse of the Divine Spirit (Martyr). Or, 2. Deborah the prophetess. Now, Prophets are called Angels of the Lord, because sent by the Lord[7] (Drusius). Or, 3. the High Priest, because Priests are called Angels[8] (Procopius in Serarius). Or, 4. all that are filled with the Spirit of God shall always pronounce with me that Meroz is cursed, and that Jael is blessed (Junius). Or, 5. some messanger, sent to Deborah by Jehovah, as it were, to announce to her the victory of the Israelites (Piscator). Or, 6. an Angel properly so called (Serarius, Lapide, Bonfrerius). The Angel, understanding, that speaks through me (Vatablus, Malvenda), and that is leading in this war (Malvenda). Although the entire Canticle was dictated by the prophetic spirit; nevertheless, if one should think that the arguments and thoughts themselves were set forth by God, but were also elaborated by the passions and words of the Prophet; the Prophet affirms that this part concerning Meroz, and the next, in their entirety were dictated and received from heaven both in the substance and in the very words: wherefore she teaches that they were to heeded in every respect with all diligence (Montanus’ Commentary).

Said the angel of the Lord: she signifies that this curse proceeded not from her spleen or ill will towards that place, nor from her own private opinion or affection, but from Divine inspiration; and that if all the rest of the song should be taken but for the breathings and expressions of a pious and devout soul, but liable to mistake, yet this branch of it was immediately dictated to her by the Lord, by the ministry of an angel; otherwise she neither would nor durst have uttered so bitter a curse against them.

[Unto the help of His most mighty, לְעֶזְרַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה בַּגִּבּוֹרִֽים׃] Unto the help of the Lord with the mighty (Munster, Tigurinus), among the mighty (Junius and Tremellius, Castalio), that is, Barak’s soldiers (Piscator); who fought as most mighty soldiers for the Lord (Bonfrerius). Or, against the mighty (Pagnine, Vatablus, English), that is, against the Canaanites, who were bravely fighting against Israel (Vatablus). Because in the battle they did not help the Lord with His men (Arabic, similarly the Syriac). They did not come to the aid of the people of the Lord, when when He entered into the battle with the mighty men (Jonathan). The Lord here is in the place of the people of the Lord, as the mountain of the Lord is put in the place of the mountain of the house of the Lord[9] (Drusius). To help Jehovah fighting against the Canaanites with Barak and his army: ἀνθρωποπάθεια/ anthropopathy (Piscator).

Of the Lord; either, first, Of the Lord’s people; for God takes what is done for or against his people as if it was done to himself: see Isaiah 63:9; Zechariah 2:8; Matthew 25:45. Or, secondly, Of the Lord himself, who though he did not need, yet did require and expect their help and concurrence; and he expresseth it thus, to show the sinfulness and unreasonableness of their cowardly desertion of this cause, because it was the cause of God, and they had the call of God to it, whom they knew to be able easily to crush that enemy whom they dreaded, and who had promised to do it.

[1] Hebrew: א֣וֹרוּ מֵר֗וֹז אָמַר֙ מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהוָ֔ה אֹ֥רוּ אָר֖וֹר יֹשְׁבֶ֑יהָ כִּ֤י לֹֽא־בָ֙אוּ֙ לְעֶזְרַ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה לְעֶזְרַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה בַּגִּבּוֹרִֽים׃

[2] Pagnini Hebraicarum Institutionum Libri Quattor: Hebraea & Chaldea Nomina.

[3] Ad Lacritus 48. Demosthenes (384-322 BC) was an Athenian statesman and orator.

[4] The identity of this Ulpian is unknown.

[5] Harpocration (probably of the second century AD, although perhaps later) was a Greek grammarian of Alexandria. The ancient material preserved in his Lexicon of the Ten Orators and Collection of Florid Expressions is immensely valuable.

[6] מַלְאָךְ is one sent with a message.

[7] For example, 2 Chronicles 36:16: “But they mocked the messengers of God (בְּמַלְאֲכֵ֣י הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים), and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”

[8] For example, Malachi 2:7: “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hostsמַלְאַ֥ךְ) יְהוָֽה־צְבָא֖וֹת הֽוּא׃).” See also Ecclesiastes 5:5.

[9] See Isaiah 2:3; 30:29; Micah 4:2; Zechariah 8:3.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 14, 2018

Jonathan Edwards' "Types": 'But what a dreadful curse from Christ did some of God's professing people Israel bring upon themselves, by lying still at that time, and not putting to a helping hand! Judges 5:23, "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof: because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." The angel of the Lord was the captain of the host; he that had led Israel, and fought for them in that battle, who is very often called the angel of the Lord, in Scripture; the same that appeared to Joshua with a sword drawn in his hand, and told hi…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 14, 2018

Matthew Henry: 'But above all Meroz is condemned, and a curse pronounced upon the inhabitants of it, Because they came not to the help of the Lord, Judges 5:23. Probably this was some city that lay near the scene of action, and therefore the inhabitants had a fair opportunity of showing their obedience to God and their concern for Israel, and of doing a good service to the common cause; but they basely declined it, for fear of Jabin's iron chariots, being willing to sleep in a whole skin. The Lord needed not their help; he made it to appear he could do his work without them; but no thanks to them: for aught they knew the attempt might hav…

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