An entire chapter of the Bible is devoted to Deborah’s song. At least another 25 verses are devoted to songs and prayers by women: Miriam’s song (Ex. 15:20-21), Hannah’s praise (1 Sa. 2:1-10), Elizabeth’s praise (Lu. 1:41-45), and Mary’s praise (Lu. 1:46-55).
Deborah’s song is magnificent even when considered from a literary standpoint only. The simplicity of the words, mostly one syllable, creates power. The repetition imparts passion and vehemence -- “Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel. ... Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, utter a song... At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.” The metaphors create powerful images in the mind. The heavens dropped, the earth trembled, the mountains melted, the stars fought. The direct addressing of various groups of people is forceful and thought provoking -- “Hear, O ye kings ... Speak, ye that ride on white asses ... Arise, Barak and lead ... Reuben ... why abodest thou among the sheepfolds.” The active verbs create energy: the bleating of the sheep, the great thoughts of the heart, the sweeping river, the pransing horses. The image of Sisera’s mother and wise ladies discussing his delay is pure genius. “The following divine hymn or song, penned by Deborah, under divine inspiration, as the sublimity of the style, the fine and noble thoughts and sentiments that are in it, the beautiful and elegant phrases in which they are expressed, abundantly show; no Sappho, or any Grecian poetess, nor indeed any poet whatever, uninspired, being equal to the writer of this poem” (John Gill).
Deborah addresses her song to kings and princes (Jg. 5:3). She addresses the kings of her day and the kings of every age and place.
All kings should hear of the glorious works of Jehovah God and should submit themselves to the King of kings and Lord of lords. They should know that there is a much higher Authority. They should be reminded that they are mere men.
One day the kings of the earth will bow their knees to Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord. In that day, the kings of the earth will finally hear the wise words of Deborah and of all of the Bible prophets and prophetesses.
Deborah’s song is a mighty peon of praise to Jehovah God (Jg. 5:2-3). She names Jehovah 14 times. This is the most personal name of God in the Old Testament. It is the name of God as Israel’s covenant Redeemer. Deborah loves Jehovah God. He is the merciful Saviour and the faithful promise keeper. Jehovah is the one who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy,” the one who “pitieth them that fear him,” the one whose mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him” (Ps. 103:8-17).
Deborah sees the hand of God everywhere in Israel’s history. She describes God’s power displayed at Mt. Sinai and against Israel’s enemies (Jg. 5:4-5).
Deborah calls herself a mother in Israel to deliver Israel from bondage (Jg. 5:6-8). She is not hesitant to say that she is the one who made the difference under God. Before her, Jabin had all but conquered Israel. The highways were unsafe and the people had to use byways. Villages were unsafe and the people relocated to the walled towns and cities. The men of Israel were disarmed.
Deborah exposes Israel’s idolatry (Jg. 5:6). Israel was oppressed because of her sin. It was not mere “bad luck” that Israel was under the thumb of a pagan ruler.
Deborah’s song is passionate. She calls on kings and princes to hear her (Jg. 5:3). She is moved by the governors of Israel who were willing to face the enemy (Jg. 5:9). She cries out for herself and for Barak to awake (Jg. 5:12)! There was nothing half-hearted or lukewarm about Deborah.
Deborah recounts God’s hand in the battle. Somehow the stars fought against Sisera, perhaps giving extra light to continue the fighting into the night (Jg. 5:20). The river Kishon flooded and swept Sisera’s army away (Jg. 5:21).
Deborah sharply condemns those who refused to join the battle on Israel’s side.
She condemns Reuben for abiding with their sheep (Jg. 5:15-16). She condemns Gilead and Dan and Asher. She curses Meroz in the name of the Lord “because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (Jg. 5:23).
This is strong and important teaching. God’s people today are tasked with many things, such as being ambassadors for Christ (1 Co. 5:20), preaching the gospel to every creature (Mr. 16:15), earnestly contending for the faith (Jude 3), reproving sin and error (Eph. 5:11), shining as lights in a dark world (Ph. 2:14-16), being skillful with and teaching God’s Word (Heb. 5:12-14). There is a battle raging between truth and error, God and the devil, and those who neglect God’s will and live selfish lives and try to avoid trouble and persecution for Christ’s sake, who do not serve Him enthusiastically, who do not bear His reproach, cannot avoid the judgment seat of Christ (if they are saved), where every man’s work will be revealed by fire (1 Co. 3:13-15).
Deborah praised Jael as “blessed above women in the tent” (Jg. 5:24-30). Deborah knew how to appreciate a fellow warrior for God. Such are greatly honored everywhere in Scripture. Consider Phinehas (Nu. 25:7-13), Samson (Jg. 13-16; Heb. 11:32), David (1 Sa. 17), and David’s mighty men (2 Sa. 23:8-39). The apostle Paul was one of God’s mighty men. He summarized his Christian life and ministry in fighting terms. He said, “I have fought a good fight” (2 Ti. 4:7). He taught Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Ti. 2:3). These are not soft-peddling New Evangelicals! These are not softees who refuse to plainly reprove, rebuke, exhort, who let the people draw the lines and set the standards, who tickle the ears of lukewarms and apostates, who encourage and comfort people in their sin instead of preaching them out of their sin (Jer. 23:17, 22). May the Lord give all of His people more backbone today to take a real stand for Him and His Word. We need Deborahs and Jaels in the churches. We especially need preachers and pastors who will be as courageous as Deborah and Jael of old.
Deborah ends her song with a passionate prayer that all of God’s enemies will perish and those who love Him will be “as the sun when he goeth forth in his might” (Jg. 5:31).
Note that it is those who love God who will shine as the sun. God made man to love Him; this is man’s chief purpose (De. 6:5). The first man failed to love God, but the second man loves God supremely, and He is the firstborn among many brethren of a new creation of men and women who love God.
This will be fulfilled in Christ’s kingdom. Then Christ’s enemies will be punished with everlasting destruction and the righteous will shine forth as the sun (2 Th. 1:7-9; Mt. 13:43). Deborah’s prayer should be the prayer of every child of God. It was echoed by John at the end of Revelation when he said, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Re. 22:20).
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