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).