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The Song of Deborah

5 On the day that the people of Israel defeated Sisera, Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:* 2The men of Israel prepared for battle.* They volunteered to go to war! Bless the Lord! 3Listen, kings. Pay attention, rulers. I will sing. I myself will sing to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord, to the God of the people of Israel. 4Lord, in the past you came from Seir.* You marched from the land of Edom.* You marched and the earth shook. The skies rained. The clouds dropped water. 5The mountains shook before the Lord, the God of Mount Sinai, before the Lord, the God of Israel! 6In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,* and in the days of Jael, the main roads were empty. Caravans* and travelers traveled on the back roads. 7There were no soldiers. There were no soldiers in Israel until you came, Deborah, until you came to be a mother to Israel.* 8God chose new {leaders} to fight at the city gates.* No one could find a shield or a spear among the 40,000 soldiers of Israel. 9My heart is with the commanders of Israel who volunteered to go to war! Bless the Lord! 10Pay attention you people riding on white donkeys, sitting on saddle blankets,* and walking along the road! 11At the watering holes for the animals, we hear the music of cymbals.  People sing about the victories of the Lord, the victories of his soldiers in Israel when the Lord’s people fought at the city gates {and won}! 12Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, sing the song! Get up, Barak! Go capture your enemies, son of Abinoam! 13Now, survivors, go to the leaders. People of the Lord, come with me and the soldiers. 14The men of Ephraim came from the hill country of Amalek.* Benjamin, those men followed you and your people. And there were commanders from the family of Makir.* Leaders from the family group of Zebulun came with their bronze clubs. 15The leaders of Issachar were with Deborah. The family of Issachar was true to Barak. Those men marched to the valley on foot. Reuben, there are many brave soldiers in your army groups. 16So why did you sit there against the walls of your sheep pens?* The brave soldiers of Reuben thought hard about war. But they stayed home listening to the music they played for their sheep. 17The people of Gilead* stayed in their camps on the other side of the Jordan River. As for you, people of Dan, why did you stay by your ships? The people of Asher remained by the sea, camped near their safe harbors. 18But the men of Zebulun and Naphtali risked their lives fighting on those hills. 19The kings of Canaan came to fight, but they didn’t carry any treasures home! They fought at the city of Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo. 20The stars fought {them} from heaven. From their paths {across the sky}, they fought against Sisera. 21The Kishon River, that ancient river, swept Sisera’s men away. My soul, march on with strength!* 22The horses’ hooves hammered the ground. Sisera’s mighty horses ran and ran. 23The Angel of the Lord said, “Curse the city of Meroz. Curse its people! They did not come with soldiers to help the Lord.” 24Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. She will be blessed above all women. 25Sisera asked for water. Jael gave him milk. In a bowl fit for a ruler, she brought him cream. 26Then Jael reached out and took the tent peg. Her right hand reached for the hammer that a worker would use. Then she used the hammer on Sisera! She hit him on the head and made a hole through his temple! 27He sank between Jael’s feet. He fell. And there he lay. He sank between her feet. He fell. Where Sisera sank, there he fell. And there he lay, dead! 28Look, there is Sisera’s mother, looking out the window, looking through the curtains and crying. “Why is Sisera’s chariot so late? Why can’t I hear his wagons?” 29Her wisest servant girl answers her, Yes, the servant gives her an answer: 30“I’m sure they won the war and they are now taking things from the people they defeated! They are dividing those things among themselves! Each soldier is taking a girl or two. Maybe Sisera found a piece of dyed cloth. That’s it! Sisera found a piece of fancy cloth —or maybe two—for Sisera the Conqueror to wear.” 31May all your enemies die like this, Lord! And may all the people who love you be strong like the rising sun! So there was peace in the land for 40 years.

Chapter 5 This is a very old song and many of the lines are hard to understand in the original language. prepared … battle This might also mean “When leaders led in Israel,” or “When men wore long hair in Israel.” Soldiers often dedicated their hair as a special gift to God. Seir Another name for the land of Edom. Edom This land was south and east of Israel. Shamgar son of Anath A judge of Israel. See Judges 3:31. Caravans Groups of traders. Usually many traders traveled together with their things packed on donkeys or camels. until you came … to Israel Or, “until I came, Deborah, until I came, mother of Israel.” Or, “until I established you, Deborah, until I established you, mother of Israel.” God chose … gates Or, “They chose to follow new gods. So they had to fight at their city gates.” The Hebrew here is hard to understand. saddle blankets We are not sure of the meaning of this Hebrew word. hill country of Amalek The area settled by the family group of Ephraim. See Judges 12:15. Makir This family was part of the family group of Manasseh that settled in the area east of the Jordan River. walls of your sheep pens Or, “campfires” or “saddlebags.” Gilead These people lived in the area east of the Jordan River. My soul, march on with strength Or, with some changes it could be, “His mighty charging horses marched forward.”

The Midianites Fight Israel

6 Again the people of Israel did things the Lord said were evil. So for seven years the Lord allowed the people of Midian to defeat the people of Israel. 2The people of Midian were very powerful and were cruel to the people of Israel. So the people of Israel made many hiding places in the mountains. They hid their food in caves and places that were hard to find. 3They did that because the Midianite and Amalekite people from the east always came and destroyed their crops. 4Those people camped in the land and destroyed the crops that the people of Israel had planted. Those people ruined the crops of the people of Israel as far as the land near the city of Gaza. Those people did not leave anything for the people of Israel to eat. They did not even leave them any sheep, or cattle, or donkeys. 5The people of Midian came up and camped in the land. They brought their families and their animals with them. They were as many as swarms of locusts! There were so many of those people and their camels that it was not possible to count them. All of these people came into the land and ruined it. 6The people of Israel became very poor because of the people of Midian. So the people of Israel cried to the Lord for help. 7The people* of Midian did all those bad things. So the people of Israel cried to the Lord for help. 8So the Lord sent a prophet to them. The prophet said to the people of Israel, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘You were slaves in the land of Egypt. I made you free and brought you out of that land. 9I saved you from the powerful people of Egypt. Then the people of the land of Canaan hurt you. So I again saved you. I made those people leave their land. And I gave their land to you.’ 10Then I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You will live in the land of the Amorite people, but you must not worship their false gods.’ But you did not obey me.”

The Angel of the Lord Visits Gideon

11At that time, the Angel of the Lord came to a man named Gideon. The Angel of the Lord came and sat down under an oak tree at a place called Ophrah. This oak tree belonged to a man named Joash. Joash was from the Abiezer family. Joash was the father of Gideon. Gideon was beating some wheat* in a winepress.* The Angel of the Lord sat down near Gideon. Gideon was hiding so the Midianites could not see the wheat. 12The Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said to him, “The Lord be with you, great soldier!” 13Then Gideon said, “I promise sir, if the Lord is with us, then why are we having so many troubles? We heard that he did wonderful things for our ancestors.* Our ancestors told us that the Lord took them out of Egypt. But the Lord left us. The Lord has allowed the people of Midian to defeat us.” 14The Lord turned toward Gideon and said, “Use your power. Go save the people of Israel from the people of Midian. I am sending you to save them!” 15But Gideon answered and said, “Pardon me, sir. How can I save Israel? My family is the weakest in the family group of Manasseh. And I am the youngest one in my family.” 16The Lord answered Gideon and said, “I am with you! So you can defeat the people of Midian! It will seem like you are fighting against only one man.” 17Then Gideon said to the Lord, “If you are pleased with me, give me proof that you really are the Lord. 18Please wait here. Don’t go away until I come back to you. Let me bring my offering and set it down in front of you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you come back.” 19So Gideon went in and cooked a young goat in boiling water. Gideon also took about 20 pounds* of flour and made bread without yeast. Then Gideon put the meat into a basket and the water from the boiled meat into a pot. Gideon brought out the meat, the water from the boiled meat, and the bread without yeast. Gideon gave that food to the Lord under the oak tree. 20The Angel of God said to Gideon, “Put the meat and the bread on that rock over there. Then pour out the broth.” Gideon did as he was told. 21The Angel of the Lord had a walking stick in his hand. The Angel of the Lord touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick. Then fire jumped up from the rock! The meat and the bread were completely burned up! Then the Angel of the Lord disappeared. 22Then Gideon realized that he had been talking to the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon shouted, “Oh my Lord and Master! I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face!” 23But the Lord said to Gideon, “Calm down!* Don’t be afraid! You will not die!”* 24So Gideon built an altar* in that place to worship the Lord. Gideon named that altar, “The Lord is Peace.” That altar still stands in the city of Ophrah. Ophrah is where the Abiezer family lives.

Gideon Tears Down the Altar of Baal

25That same night the Lord spoke to Gideon. The Lord said, “Take the full-grown bull that belongs to your father, the one that is seven years old. Your father has an altar* to the false god Baal.* There is also a wooden pole beside the altar. That pole was made to honor the false goddess Asherah.* Use the bull to pull down the Baal altar, and cut down the Asherah pole. 26Then build the right kind of altar for the Lord your God. Build that altar on this high ground. Then kill and burn the full-grown bull on this altar. Use the wood from the Asherah pole to burn your offering.” 27So Gideon got ten of his servants and did what the Lord had told him to do. But Gideon was afraid that his family and the men of the city might see what he was doing. Gideon did what the Lord told him to do. But he did it at night, and not in the daytime. 28The men of the city got up the next morning. And they saw that the altar for Baal* had been destroyed! They also saw that the Asherah* pole had been cut down. The Asherah pole had been sitting next to the altar for Baal. Those men also saw the altar that Gideon had built. And they saw the bull that had been sacrificed on that altar. 29The men of the city looked at each other and asked, “Who pulled down our altar? Who cut down our Asherah* pole? Who sacrificed this bull on this new altar?” They asked many questions and tried to learn who did those things. Someone told them, “Gideon son of Joash did this.” 30So the men of the city came to Joash. They said to Joash, “You must bring your son out. He pulled down the altar* for Baal.* And he cut down the Asherah* pole that was by that altar. So your son must die.” 31Then Joash spoke to the crowd that was standing around him. Joash said, “Are you going to take Baal’s side? Are you going to rescue Baal? If anyone takes Baal’s side, let him be put to death by morning. If Baal really is a god, let him defend himself when someone pulls down his altar.” 32Joash said, “If Gideon pulled Baal’s altar down, then let Baal argue with him.” So on that day Joash gave Gideon a new name. He called him Jerub Baal.*

Gideon Defeats the People of Midian

33The people of Midian, Amalek, and other people from the east joined together {to fight against the people of Israel}. Those people went across the Jordan River and camped in Jezreel Valley. 34The Spirit of the Lord came to Gideon {and gave him great power}. Gideon blew a trumpet to call the Abiezer family to follow him. 35Gideon sent messengers to all the people of the family group of Manasseh. Those messengers told the people of Manasseh to get their weapons and prepare for battle. Gideon also sent messengers to the family groups of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. The messengers took the same message. So those family groups also went up to meet Gideon and his men. 36Then Gideon said to God, “You said that you would help me save the people of Israel. Give me proof! 37I will put a sheepskin on the threshing floor.* If there is dew only on the sheepskin, while all of the ground is dry, then I will know that you will use me to save Israel, like you said.” 38And that is exactly what happened. Gideon got up early the next morning and squeezed the sheepskin. He was able to drain a bowl full of water from the sheepskin. 39Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me. Let me ask just one more thing. Let me test you one more time with the sheepskin. This time let the sheepskin be dry, while the ground around it gets wet with dew.” 40That night God did that very thing. Just the sheepskin was dry, but the ground around it was wet with dew.

The people Verses 7–10 do not appear in the oldest Hebrew copy of the book of Judges, the Dead Sea Scroll fragment, 4QJudgesA. beating some wheat This was the way people separated the grains of wheat from the other parts of the plants. winepress A place for squeezing juice from grapes, often it was only a shallow hole in a large rock in the ground. ancestors Literally, “fathers,” meaning a person’s parents, grandparents, and all the people they are descended from.  20 pounds Literally, “1 ephah.” Calm down Literally, “Peace.” You will not die Gideon thought he would die because he had seen the Lord face to face. altar(s) A stone table used for burning sacrifices that were offered as gifts to God. Baal The Canaanite people believed that this false god brought the rain and storms. They also thought that he made the land produce good crops. Asherah An important Canaanite goddess. The people thought she was the wife of El or the lover of Baal.  threshing floor The place where people beat wheat to separate the grain from the other parts of the plants.

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