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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Judges

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

4.1–5.31 : Major judge cycle: Deborah and Barak.

The prose narrative in ch 4 complements the older poetic account in ch 5 , as in Ex 14–15 . In both cases, the prose and poetic accounts seem not to tell the same story.

5.1–31 : The poem: Song of Deborah.

The poetic counterpart to the prose of 4.1–24 provides a more emotional celebration of the victory. Many scholars believe that this song is the oldest part of the Bible. It is also one of the most obscure and difficult. It celebrates the LORD's role in the victory over Sisera through a sudden downpour that disabled the chariots in the battle. Its primary attribution to a woman fits the role women have elsewhere in victory celebrations (Ex 15.20–21; Judg 11.34; 1 Sam 18.6–7 ).

5.2–8 : Initial call to praise and report of need.

3 :

The “lyrical I” is used throughout; the speaker is not meant to be a specific individual, but rather a representative of the group.

4–5 :

A cause for praise is the LORD's epiphany upon the earth described in terms of storm and quake.

4 :

From Seir … Edom. The LORD comes from the barren regions of the southeast with an overwhelming storm.

6–8 :

The state of affairs before the victory anticipates the LORD's actions.

6 :

Shamgar, see 3.31n .

8 :

Israel's choice of “new” gods was the cause of the military humiliation and servitude (see 2.11–15 ).

5.9–13 : Renewal of call to praise because of the volunteers.

9–10 :

Invocation to praise the LORD with an exhortation to pay attention.

11 :

A cause of praise is the LORD's righteous deeds.

12–13 :

Another cause of praise is the leadership of Deborah and Barak.

5.14–18 : Recognition of the tribes who did or did not participate.

14–15a :

Praise for the tribes who participated. Machir, a subdivision of Manasseh (Gen 50.23; Num 26.29; Josh 13.31 ) or perhaps a part standing for the whole.

15b–17 :

Reuben, Gilead (see Num 26.29 ), Dan, and Asher do not join the battle. The tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Levi receive no mention in the poem. Perhaps their southern geographical location explains why they were not part of this confederation.

18 :

Further praise for participants.

5.19–23 : The battle and the curse of Meroz.

Vivid, emotional imagery of the defeat of the Canaanite forces.

19 :

Tanaach … Megiddo were cities that guarded two of the passes through the Carmel range into the Valley of Jezreel.

21 :

Kishon, see 4.13n .

23 :

Meroz was a nearby Israelite town that did not join in the battle and was cursed (cf. Succoth and Penuel, 8.7,9,16–17 ).

5.24–31 : Jael's deed and Sisera's mother.

The climactic conclusion to the poem.

24–27 :

Jael, a non‐Israelite, delivered the mortal blow to Sisera. The contrast between Jael, who participated, and Meroz in v. 23 , which did not, is heightened. The Hebrew “between her legs” (not “at her feet”) suggests that Jael used her sexuality to entice Sisera.

28–31 :

The final scene is a poignant description of the conflicting emotions felt by the women who awaited the return of the Canaanite army. A girl or two for every man, highly suggestive sexual connotations.

31 :

An appeal for justice over evil and blessing on the righteous; many scholars consider it a later addition to the poem.

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