This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.
Chapter five records the anthem that Deborah and Barak sang after their victory over the Canaanites in chapter four. Judges 5:2 is a sort of summary verse of the song, repeated at the end of the first stanza: “When the people answered the call to war— Praise the Lord!” The first stanza is a generic praise of God for his past actions (Judges 5:3-9). They sang of God’s presence at Sinai, his defeat of Edom, and one of the previous judges, Shamgar. Then they turned to Jael, who would be the heroine of the second stanza.
The rest of the song/chapter recounts the story that just occurred in the previous chapter (Judges 5:10-31). The first half tells of the army that stood with Barak. Five tribes are named as having stood against the Canaanites – Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali – though Barak did not necessarily recruit from all of them (Judges 4:6, 10). Reuben, Dan, and Asher were called out as not joining the battle, although it seems Reuben strongly considered it, along with those who lived in Gilead (Transjordan) – Gad and half of Manasseh. Thus, only Judah and Simeon (Levi was not allowed to join battles) are not listed at all. The second half celebrates Jael’s courage and strength to kill Sisera when he was vulnerable. In poetic form Deborah and Barak envisioned Sisera’s mother thinking about her son’s great victories, while he lay dead in Jael’s tent. The chapter closes with a note that Israel had peace for forty years after this.