‘They could not decide’: Judges 5.1–31 (21 July 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.



Lord, open my ears to hear what you have to say to me; open my heart to love your word, and open my mind to understand your truth.


Daily reflection: Judges 5

The 'Song of Deborah' is a celebration in verse of the great victory won by Deborah, Barak and Jael over Israel's enemies. Most scholars think it's the earliest Hebrew poetry in existence, dating perhaps from the twelfth century BC.

There are some fascinating historical clues in it. Deborah's predecessor as judge, Shamgar, is described as a failure (5.6–7). The tribes of Reuben, Dan, Gad and Asher are criticised for cowardice. Meroz, a town in Naphtali's territory, is cursed because its people 'did not come to help the Lord' (verse 23). And the psalm luxuriates in the gory details of Sisera's assassination by Jael, and even in the coming grief of his mother: she's still expecting him to return with loot and captives, while he's lying dead with a tent peg through his skull.

We're a bit more squeamish today about military victories, and rightly so – Christians serve the Prince of Peace, after all. But the book of Psalms itself is full of images of God as a great ruler, a mighty conqueror, a protector of the weak. Whatever we think of war, or particular wars, the idea that there are evils to be fought and vanquished shouldn't be strange to us. Sooner or later we have to pick our side. In the Song of Deborah the tribe of Reuben is condemned for being 'divided': 'they could not decide whether to come' (verses 15–16). Often the choice between right and wrong is simpler than we'd like to think.



God, in a confusing world where right and wrong are contested, help me to see clearly and choose bravely. Let me be on your side, even when it's hard or I risk rejection or defeat.

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