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Judges 5:29, 30: The Empty Expectation of Sisera's Mother

Verse 29:[1] Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer (Heb. her words[2]) to herself…

[One that was wiser than the rest of his wives, etc.] If this was a wife, it is not strange if she was more hopeful than the mother. Terence[3] in The Brothers writes, It is much better for us that those things that wives suspect concerning their absent husbands should happen, than those that their parents fear, etc. (Martyr). But in the Hebrew there is no mention of a wife or mother-in-law (Bonfrerius). Hebrew: the wise of her noble ladies were answering,[4] etc. (Junius and Tremellius). There is a twofold Hebraism here: 1. the wise of her nobles, as, the wise of her ladies: 2. the wise, in the place of, one of the wise; for it follows, she answers her words לָהּ, to her, not לָהֵן, to them (Drusius). The prudent women that were attending her answered, that is, were consoling her with words. תַּעֲנֶינָּה, they answered, which in Hebrew is future/imperfect, is in the place of the past (Vatablus).

[She answered these words to her mother-in-law, אַף־הִ֕יא תָּשִׁ֥יב אֲמָרֶ֖יהָ לָֽהּ׃] She was also turning her words to herself (Montanus); she was returning her words to herself (Junius and Tremellius). Verbatim: she will return her words to herself. It is a Hebraism; which some thus translate, indeed, she also was returning words to her very self; or, as others, she was answering herself; that is, she was comforting herself. The future/imperfect in the place of the past (Vatablus).

Verse 30:[5] (Ex. 15:9) Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man (Heb. to the head of a man[6]) a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?

[Perhaps he is now dividing the spoils, הֲלֹ֙א יִמְצְא֜וּ יְחַלְּק֣וּ שָׁלָ֗ל] Shall he not come upon, shall he not divide the spoil? (Montanus). Have they not found and divided the spoils (Junius and Tremellius). The future/imperfect in the place of the past. They have been occupied in the dividing of the spoils (Vatablus). Should they not find, that is, obtain, and divide the prey? which is to say, Hitherto I have expected him unfairly, since he is obliged first to find, and then to divide, the prey (Dutch).

Have they not divided the prey? that is, it is certain they have got the prey, only they tarry to view it and distribute it, according to every man’s quality and merit.

[And the most beautiful of the women is chosen for him,רַ֤חַם רַחֲמָתַ֙יִם֙ לְרֹ֣אשׁ גֶּ֔בֶר] One girl (lover, or courtesan [Tigurinus, Montanus]), two girls unto each man (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Munster, Pagnine, Dutch, Montanus). Hebrew: to the had of a man, that is, to each man (Vatablus, Drusius). רַחַם is properly womb, or vulva; now, a young woman is thus called here by way of contempt (Munster, Drusius, Martyr) by this enemy of the Jews (Martyr). It is a Synecdoche of member, without shame (Piscator), and extraordinarily ill-natured. For she indicated that they were unchaste, and to be put to little honest use (Martyr). Moreover, רֺאשׁ/head is taken for the person that come to be reckoned in the number and sum (Munster).

[Garments of diverse colors, שְׁלַ֤ל צְבָעִים֙] Spoils of colors (Montanus, Vatablus, Munster), or, of dyeings (Septuagint), that is, colored, dyed, tinged with precious color (Vatablus). Spoils, or prey, of garments of diverse colors (Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus, Castalio, Osiander, Dutch, English, similarly the Syriac), gold-work (Arabic).

[Diverse furniture, שְׁלַ֥ל צְבָעִ֖ים רִקְמָ֑ה צֶ֥בַע רִקְמָתַ֖יִם] Spoil of colors woven; color, two woven things (Montanus). Spoils, I say, of diverse colors embroidered; diverse color of embroidery on both sides (Pagnine, similarly Tigurinus, Dutch, English, Munster, Vatablus). Prey multi-colored, interwoven, etc. (Castalio). Prey of diverse colors, embroidered work; diverse color of embroidered work (Junius and Tremellius), that is, of foreign work and decorated on both sides: which form of the work the ancients called two-faced. See on Exodus 26:1 (Junius). For a prey, I say, of garments of diverse colors of embroidery; diverse colors, I say, two embroidered garments shall be given to him (Osiander).

[For adorning the necks, לְצַוְּארֵ֥י שָׁלָֽל׃] To the necks, or, upon the neck, of the spoil (Montanus, Pagnine); which is for the neck of the things spoiled (Castalio). They will be upon the neck, that is, the head, of the spoil; that is, they will be st apart so that they might be given to the General, namely, Sisera: or, as others, they will be given to the neck of the spoil, that is, to the general of the army (Vatablus, similarly Munster out of Kimchi). Which is suitable to the former in the distribution of the spoils (Munster). To his head spoils (Septuagint). [Tigurinus casts that שָׁלָל/spoil back to the preceding words, and thus translates it, but also the prey of a garment of diverse colors and embroidered on both sides on the necks.] To the necks of the prey, that is, of those to whom the best prey pertains, that is, either to the leaders, and to those fighting vigorously (Dutch). Upon the neck (so that it might bear them) for prey (Osiander). Upon, or on, the necks, of those spoiling (Syriac, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius), of men of prey (Junius, Piscator, Glassius), meet for the necks of them that take the spoil (English). There is an Ellipsis here of the prior substantive, namely, of אִישׁ/man. Thus in Ruth 3:2, Is not Boaz מֹדַעְתָּנוּ, our kindred? in the place of אִישׁ, a man, of our kindred? Thus in 2 Samuel 23:6, בְלִיַּעַל/Belial,[7] in the place of which in 2 Samuel 16:7 is man of Belial: in Job 32:7, days shall speak, that is, men of days: in Proverbs 13:6, wickedness overthrows חַטָּאת/sin, in the place of a man of sin (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 153).

Of them that take the spoil, Hebrew, of the prey; the prey put for the men of prey, those, or who take the prey; as kindred is put for a man of kindred, or a kinsman, Ruth 3:2; and Belial, for a man of Belial, 2 Samuel 16:7; and days, for a man of days, or an old man, Job 32:7.

[1] Hebrew: חַכְמ֥וֹת שָׂרוֹתֶ֖יהָ תַּעֲנֶ֑ינָּה אַף־הִ֕יא תָּשִׁ֥יב אֲמָרֶ֖יהָ לָֽהּ׃

[2] Hebrew: אֲמָרֶיהָ.

[3] Publius Terentius Afer (died 159 BC) was a Roman playwright.

[4] Hebrew: חַכְמ֥וֹת שָׂרוֹתֶ֖יהָ תַּעֲנֶ֑ינָּה.

[5] Hebrew: הֲלֹ֙א יִמְצְא֜וּ יְחַלְּק֣וּ שָׁלָ֗ל רַ֤חַם רַחֲמָתַ֙יִם֙ לְרֹ֣אשׁ גֶּ֔בֶר שְׁלַ֤ל צְבָעִים֙ לְסִ֣יסְרָ֔א שְׁלַ֥ל צְבָעִ֖ים רִקְמָ֑ה צֶ֥בַע רִקְמָתַ֖יִם לְצַוְּארֵ֥י שָׁלָֽל׃

[6] Hebrew: לְרֹ֣אשׁ גֶּ֔בֶר.

[7] 2 Samuel 23:6: “But Belial (וּבְלִיַּעַל) shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands…”

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 22, 2018

Matthew Henry: '[Sisera's mother's] foolish hope and confidence that he would come at last in so much the greater pomp. Her wise ladies answered her, and thought they gave a very good account of the delay; yea, she (in her wisdom, says the Chaldee) tauntingly made answer to herself, "Have they not sped? No doubt they have, and that which delays them is that they are dividing the prey, which is so much that it is a work of time to make a distribution of it." In the spoil they pleased themselves with the thought of, observe, [1.] How impudently, and to the reproach and scandal of their sex, these ladies boast of the multitude of damsels which the soldier…

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