by Pastor Mark Hudson
Verses 2-11c The explosive God and humiliated people
Bless Yahweh for willing people 2
Telling the story 3
The liveliness of God 4-5
The extremity of Israel 6-8
Bless Yahweh for willing people 9
Telling the story 10-11c
Verses 11d-23 Daring warriors and cautious brothers
The people and its leadership:
the people ‘go down’ 11d-13
The valiant ones 14-15a
The hesitant and secure 15b-17
The valiant ones 18
The kings and their battle: the kings ‘fight’ 19-23
Verses 24-30 Gusty woman and poor mommy
Blessing for the wife of Heber 24-27
Scorn for the mother of Sisera 28-30
Verse 31 Theological application (outline p 82 of Dale Ralph Davis’ commentary on Judges)
Chapter 5 is the song about the events of chapter 4. The narrative section is chapter 4; the poetic is 5. The song praises God and the willing leaders and people who followed Deborah and Barak. Then in verse 4-5, is the song about Sinai (Exodus 20) or the battle of chapter 4? If this is about Mt. Sinai, as Davis writes, “Yahweh is not set in historical concrete . . . rather the One of Sinai is mobile, marching forth again and again to rescue His flock” (p. 83). God brought about this deliverance, so they sing and “make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 3).
One of the things we learn in chapter 5 is why Sisera and his people left their chariots. A chariot with war horses, a driver and an archer would be an advantage over foot soldiers. So why does Sisera leave his chariot (4:15-17)? Look at 5:5 and 21. Could pouring rain have canceled the positive contribution of the chariots? Why else would they leave them unless the terrain was no longer flat, or the chariots were damaged? Whatever the reason Sisera and his army ditched their chariots so Sisera could end up on foot and in Jael’s tent.
In v. 6, does “the highways were abandoned and the travelers kept to the byways” suggest that robbers ruled the main roads. The land needed a judge and Deborah brought stability. Verse 8 may suggest that their defenses were down; no soldier among 40,000. Yet, there is a willingness among the people (v. 9) which causes Deborah and Barak to bless the Lord.
The next section, Davis labels, “daring warriors and cautious brothers” we see the valiant ones in verses 14-15a yet, in verses 15b-17, there are some tribes, for whatever reasons, do not follow Deborah and Barak in war. This section ends with vs. 19-23. For whatever reason, Meroz is cursed because they did not help. It may be due to the fact the Meroz was so close to the battle. No one can say for certain where Meroz was located.
This last section intrigues me the most. Jael is a hero but one that we are unlikely to warm up to quickly. After all, she welcomed an exhausted, parched, fugitive into her home (tent) and told him, “do not be afraid” (4:18). She was instructed to tell anyone looking that no one was in her tent (4:19). And yet look what she did!
This may seem hard to understand. Yet, reflect on our (my) situation. I am usually reading these stories in a country where there is economic stability, a government that is as good as any government in the world and I read these stories in a very comfortable home. However, I also realize, millions of believers in the world do not share my ease. I really know nothing of oppression. I am a long way away from the Jews in the period of the judges. So, I may not be the best person to evaluate Jael’s actions.
If I was oppressed by a cruel man for 20 years, and saw the men of my community going to war, I would look at the end of 20 long years of hunger, deprivation, and economic bondage and praise God for whoever ended this injustice. I too would sing praise to God that the earth was rid of this evil man. Plus if Sisera, Jabin’s commander, was humiliated in his death, so much the better. Now I can farm and reap the crops I planted and feed my family.
Nor do I feel pity for the mother of Sisera. Verses 28-30 is a hypothetical scene that could have taken place. Remember this is poetry. But this points to the communal benefit of oppression. Sisera’s mother is not out on the battle field but she gains something. She is waiting for a portion of the spoils and has to wait for her share in the materials that she will soon proudly wear (v. 30). Jabin’s community are all not on the battle field but they gain something in his oppression of Israel and deserve God’s righteous judgment.
Soon, all the enemies of Christ will perish so our cry is also, “So may all your enemies perish, O Lord” v. 31. God had and He still has enemies. God is a mighty warrior. Never again will His enemies lay a finger on this powerful, mighty, eternal, victorious Savior. He must reign ( I Cor. 15:25). What a glorious day that will be when he takes vengeance on His enemies and “puts them under his feet” ( Cor. 15:25). “The One who conquers will have this heritage, and I will come, be his God and he will be my son” (Rev. 21:7). God can be a lion to His enemies and a comfort to His chosen.
Dear heavenly Father, we praise You for your justice, wrath, and anger at sin as well as Your eagerness to help us when we cry to You. Your mercy astounds us especially when we consider that sin is an affront to You and harm to us. Everyone who receives Your wrath deserves it. All who receive grace do not deserve Your extraordinary kindness. Why were we even included in Your banquet and adopted into Your family? We will always thank You for the righteousness You clothe us when we put our faith in Christ. Come soon to redeem Your people and judge those who rise up against You. In Christ’s victorious name. Amen