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2002 11 11
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Chapter 5


On that day Deborah (and Barak, son of Abinoam,) sang this song:


1 Of chiefs who took the lead in Israel, of noble deeds by the people who bless the LORD,


Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!
I to the LORD will sing my song,
my hymn to the LORD, the God of Israel.


O LORD, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
The earth quaked and the heavens were shaken,
while the clouds sent down showers.


Mountains trembled
in the presence of the LORD, the One of Sinai,
in the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel.


In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of slavery caravans ceased:
Those who traveled the roads
went by roundabout paths.


Gone was freedom beyond the walls,
gone indeed from Israel.
When I, Deborah, rose,
when I rose, a mother in Israel,


2 New gods were their choice; then the war was at their gates. Not a shield could be seen, nor a lance, among forty thousand in Israel!


My heart is with the leaders of Israel,
nobles of the people who bless the LORD;


They who ride on white asses,
seated on saddlecloths as they go their way;


Sing of them to the strains of the harpers at the wells,
where men recount the just deeds of the LORD,
his just deeds that brought freedom to Israel.


Awake, awake, Deborah!
awake, awake, strike up a song.
Strength! arise, Barak,
make despoilers your spoil, son of Abinoam.


Then down came the fugitives with the mighty,
the people of the LORD came down for me as warriors.


3 From Ephraim, princes were in the valley;
behind you was Benjamin, among your troops.
From Machir came down commanders,
from Zebulun wielders of the marshal's staff.


With Deborah were the princes of Issachar;
Barak, too, was in the valley, his course unchecked.
Among the clans of Reuben
great were the searchings of heart.


Why do you stay beside your hearths
listening to the lowing of the herds?
Among the clans of Reuben
great were the searchings of heart!


Gilead, beyond the Jordan, rests;
why does Dan spend his time in ships?
Asher, who dwells along the shore,
is resting in his coves.


Zebulun is the people defying death;
Naphtali, too, on the open heights!


The kings came and fought;
then they fought, those kings of Canaan,
At Taanach by the waters of Megiddo;
no silver booty did they take.


4 From the heavens the stars, too, fought;
from their courses they fought against Sisera.


The Wadi Kishon swept them away;
a wadi. . . , the Kishon.


Then the hoofs of the horses pounded,
with the dashing, dashing of his steeds.


5 "Curse Meroz," says the LORD,
"hurl a curse at its inhabitants!
For they came not to my help,
as warriors to the help of the LORD."


Blessed among women be Jael,
blessed among tent-dwelling women.


He asked for water, she gave him milk;
in a princely bowl she offered curds.


With her left hand she reached for the peg,
with her right, for the workman's mallet.
She hammered Sisera, crushed his head;
she smashed, stove in his temple.


At her feet he sank down, fell, lay still;
down at her feet he sank and fell;
where he sank down, there he fell, slain.


From the window peered down and wailed
the mother of Sisera, from the lattice:
"Why is his chariot so long in coming?
why are the hoofbeats of his chariots delayed?"


The wisest of her princesses answers her,
and she, too, keeps answering herself:


"They must be dividing the spoil they took:
there must be a damsel or two for each man,
Spoils of dyed cloth as Sisera's spoil,
an ornate shawl or two for me in the spoil."


May all your enemies perish thus, O LORD!
but your friends be as the sun rising in its might!
And the land was at rest for forty years.



1 [2-31] This canticle is an excellent example of early Hebrew poetry, even though some of its verses are now obscure.

2 [8] New gods: pagan deities; cf Deut 32:16-18. God punished the idolatry of the Israelites by leaving them relatively unarmed before the attacks of their enemies, who had better weapons, made of iron; cf 1 Sam 13:19-22.

3 [14-22] Praise for the tribes which formed the Israelite league against Sisera: Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh (represented by Machir), Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali (led by Barak). The tribes of Reuben, Gad (Gilead), Dan, and Asher are chided for their lack of co-operation. The more distant tribes of Judah and Simeon are not mentioned.

4 [20-21] It would seem that nature aided the Hebrews in some way. Perhaps the torrential rains swelled the waters of Kishon, which then overwhelmed the Canaanites.

5 [23] Meroz: an unknown locality in which Hebrews probably resided, since its inhabitants are cursed for their failure to proffer aid.

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