Reading 69/341, Judges 5-7

The song at the beginning is called the "Song of Deborah". Because the text was passed on by writing, whereas the songs were sung for generations, when a song is included in the text, it is considered to be older than the surrounding text.


Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying, “Because the leaders took the lead in Israel, because the people offered themselves willingly, be blessed, O Lord! Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I will sing to the Lord. I will sing a melody to the Lord, the God of Israel. O Lord, when you went forth out of Seir, when you marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped. Yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord; even Sinai, at the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel. In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned. The travelers walked through byways. The villagers ceased in Israel. They ceased until I, Deborah, arose; until I arose as a mother in Israel. When they chose new gods, war was in the gates. Was there a shield or spear seen among the forty thousand in Israel? My heart goes out to the officers of Israel, who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the Lord! Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys, who sit on rich carpets, and who walk by the way. Far from the noise of musicians, at the watering places: there they will retell the righteous acts of the Lord, the righteous acts of his villagers in Israel.”

Then the people of the Lord went down to the gates. “Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, utter a song! Arise, Barak, and lead away your captives, you son of Abinoam.” Then a remnant of the nobles and the people came down. “The Lord came down for me against the mighty. Those whose root is in Epharaim marched down into the valley. After you, Benjamin, among your peoples. Officers come down out of Machir. Those who handle the marshal's staff came out of Zebulun. The princes of Issachar were with Deborah. As was Issachar, so was Barak. They rushed into the valley at his heels. Among the clans of Reuben, there were great resolves of heart. Why did you sit among the sheepfolds? To hear the whistling for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben, there were great searchings of heart. Gilead lived beyond the Jordan. Why did Dan remain in ships? Asher sat still at the haven of the sea, and lived by his creeks. Zebulun was a people who jeopardized their lives to the death. Naphtali too, on the high places of the field. The kings came and fought. Then the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo. They got no plunder of silver. From the heaven the stars fought. From their courses, they fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. My soul, march on with strength. Then the horse hooves stamped because of the prancings, the prancings of their strong ones.”

“Curse Meroz”, said the angel of the Lord. “Curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they did not come to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty. Jael shall be blessed above women, the wife of Heber the Kenite; blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked for water. She gave him milk. She brought him curds in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the tent peg, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer. With the hammer she struck Sisera. She struck through his head. Yes, she pierced and struck through his temples. At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell. Where he sank, there he fell down dead. Through the window she looked out, and cried, she, Sisera's mother, looked through the lattice. ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why do the wheels of his chariots wait?’ Her wise ladies answer her, (indeed, she answered herself), ‘Have they not found and divided the spoil? A womb or two for every man; to Sisera a pile of dyed garments, a pile of embroidered dyed garments, a pile of dyed garments embroidered on both sides, on the necks?’ So let all your enemies perish, O Lord, but let those who love him be like the sun when it rises forth in its strength.”

The land had rest forty years. The children of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years. The hand of Midian prevailed against Israel, and because of Midian the children of Israel made for themselves the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds. For it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east came up against them, and they encamped against them, and destroyed the produce of the earth, as far as Gaza, and left no sustenance in Israel: not sheep, nor ox, nor donkey. For they came up with their livestock and their tents. They came in number like locusts; both they and their camels were without number, and they ruined the land as they came. Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the children of Israel cried to the Lord. It happened, when the children of Israel cried to the Lord because of Midian, that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out from before you, and gave you their land, and I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not listened to my voice.”

The angel of the Lord came, and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.” Gideon said to him, “Oh, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ but now the Lord has cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord looked at him, and said, “Go in your might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” He said to him, “O, Lord, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” The Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” He said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, then show me a sign that it is you who talk with me. Please do not go away, until I come back to you, and bring out my offering, and lay it before you.” He said, “I will wait until you come again.” Gideon went in, and readied a kid goat, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of meal. The flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out to him under the oak, and presented it. The angel of God said to him, “Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” He did so. Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and fire went up out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, and Gideon said, “Alas, Lord God! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” The Lord said to him, “Peace be to you; do not be afraid, you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it ‘Lord is Peace’, to this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

It happened that same night, that the Lord said to him, “Take your father's bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is by it, and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of this stronghold, in the right way, and take the second bull, and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you cut down.” Then Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had spoken to him, and it happened, because he feared his father's household and the men of the city, such that he would be unable to do it by day, that he did it by night. When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah was cut down that was by it, and the second bull was offered on the altar that was built. They said one to another, “Who has done this thing?” When they inquired and asked, it was said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has broken down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the Asherah that was by it.” Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? He who will contend for him, let him be put to death while it is still morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has broken down his altar.” Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, saying, “Let Baal contend against him, because he has broken down his altar.” Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east assembled themselves together, and they passed over, and encamped in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, and Abiezer was gathered together after him. He sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they also were gathered together after him, and he sent messengers to Asher, and to Zebulun, and to Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have spoken.” It happened thus, for he rose up early on the next day, and pressed the fleece together, and wrung the dew out of the fleece: a bowl full of water. Gideon said to God, “Do not let your anger be kindled against me, and I will speak but this once, Please let me make a trial just this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.” God did so that night, for it was dry on the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and encamped beside the spring of Harod, and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’ There 22,000 of the people returned, and there remained 10,000. The Lord said to Gideon, “The people are yet too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and it shall be, that those whom I tell you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ that one shall go with you, and of whoever I tell you, ‘This shall not go with you’, that one shall not go.” So he brought down the people to the water, and the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, set him by himself; likewise everyone who bows down on his knees to drink.” The number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men, but all the rest of the people bowed down on their knees to drink water. The Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand, so let all the people go, every man to his place.” So the people took food in their hand, and their trumpets, and he sent back all the men of Israel, every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men, and the camp of Midian was beneath him in the valley. It happened that same night, that the Lord said to him, “Arise, get down into the camp; for I have delivered it into your hand. But if you fear to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down into the camp.”

Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outermost part of the armed men who were in the camp. The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley, as numerous as locusts, and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand which is on the seashore. When Gideon had come, behold, there was a man telling a dream to his fellow, and he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” His fellow answered, “This is nothing other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. Into his hand God has delivered Midian, and all the army.” It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation of it, that he worshiped, and he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, “Arise, for the Lord has delivered into your hand the army of Midian.” He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put into the hands of all of them trumpets, and empty pitchers, with torches inside the pitchers. He said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. Behold, when I come to the outermost part of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall you do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ So Gideon, and the hundred men who were with him, came to the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch, and they blew the trumpets, and broke in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers, and held the torches in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands with which to blow, and they cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” Each man stood in his place round about the camp, and all the army ran and shouted and was put to flight. They blew the three hundred trumpets, and the Lord set every man's sword against his fellow, and against all the army, and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. The men of Israel were gathered together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after Midian. Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian, and take before them the waters, as far as Beth-barah, the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were gathered together, and took the waters as far as Beth-barah, the Jordan. They took the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan.

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