The Song of Deborah

The song of Deborah (Judges 5) is a victory song, that would appear to be a poetic version of the events we find in chapter 4, albeit that there are a few differences. These might be due to a number of factors, of which two that spring to mind immediately are different authors and/or artistic/poetic licence.

The army that Deborah and Barak assembled was, mainly, volunteers from many but not all of the regions, or tribes that answered her call and sent troops. We can reasonably assume that not all of the men of the assembled force were volunteers, some would have been professional soldiers (verses 14 and 15) because captains, bearers of the commanders staff and princes are stated as serving with the Israelite army.

The regions/tribes that heeded the call to arms appear to be Ephraim, Benjamin, Makir (a.k.a. Manasseh) Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali. The song implies that Zebulun and Naphtali were almost eager for the fight to come; they “scorned death”. All these regions share borders with at least two of the other regions that sent men to Deborah and Barak. Makir shares a border with all of the other regions except Naphtali. It is not clear to me if Reuben’s divisions did not go at all or perhaps went Israelites but stayed in their camp when battle was joined as it seems that they “couldn’t make up their minds.” (V16, the Message).

Dan and Asher apparently sent no men, preferring to stay in what at the time they thought their relatively safe havens and in the case of Dan, it is even suggested that some of their boats may have put to sea, keeping even further away from any trouble. However it seems to me that for Dan at least, on the levant or land bridge, that might have been a wiser decision not to leave their land unprotected. Gliead too failed to send Deborah and Barak any assistance, they “stayed beyond the Jordan” (V17, NIV).

With the exception of Asher on the coast, it was the northern tribes that formed Deborah’s coalition, under the tactical command of Barak against Jabin, the king of Hazor, and his military commander, Sisera.

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One thought on “The Song of Deborah

  1. Pingback: The Song of Deborah | Christians Anonymous

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