3 The Lord did not force all the other nations to leave Israel’s land. He wanted to test the Israelites. None of the Israelites living at this time had fought in the wars to take the land of Canaan. So he let those other nations stay in their country. (He did this to teach the Israelites who had not fought in those wars.) These are the nations the Lord left in the land: 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the people of Sidon, and the Hivites who lived in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 He left those nations in the land to test the Israelites. He wanted to see if the Israelites would obey the Lord’s commands that he had given to their ancestors through Moses.
5 The Israelites lived with the Canaanites, Hittites, the Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 6 The Israelites began to marry the daughters of those people. They allowed their own daughters to marry the sons of those people. The Israelites also began to worship their gods.
Othniel, the First Judge
7 The Lord saw that the Israelites did evil things. They forgot about the Lord their God and served the false gods Baal and Asherah. 8 The Lord was angry with the Israelites, so he allowed King Cushan Rishathaim of Aram Naharaim[a] to defeat the Israelites and to rule over them. The Israelites were under that king’s rule for eight years. 9 But the Israelites cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent a man named Othniel to save them. He was the son of Kenaz, who was Caleb’s younger brother. Othniel saved the Israelites. 10 The Spirit of the Lord filled Othniel, and he became a judge for the Israelites. He led the Israelites to war. The Lord helped Othniel defeat King Cushan Rishathaim of Aram. 11 So the land was at peace for 40 years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.
Ehud, the Judge
12 Again the Israelites did things the Lord considered evil, and the Lord saw them doing these things. So the Lord gave King Eglon of Moab power to defeat the Israelites. 13 Eglon got help from the Ammonites and the Amalekites. They joined him and attacked the Israelites. Eglon and his army defeated the Israelites and forced them to leave the City of Palm Trees.[b] 14 King Eglon of Moab ruled over the Israelites for 18 years.
15 The Israelites cried to the Lord for help, so he sent a man named Ehud son of Gera to save them. Ehud was from the tribe of Benjamin and was trained to fight with his left hand. The Israelites sent Ehud with a gift to King Eglon of Moab. 16 Ehud made himself a sword with two sharp edges that was about 12 inches[c] long. He tied the sword to his right thigh and hid it under his uniform.
17 So Ehud brought the gift to King Eglon of Moab. Eglon was a very fat man. 18 After offering the gift, Ehud left the palace with the men who had carried the gift. 19 When Ehud reached the statues[d] near Gilgal, he turned and went back to King Eglon and said, “King, I have a secret message for you.”
The king told him to be quiet and then sent all the servants out of the room. 20 Ehud went to King Eglon. The king was sitting all alone in the upper room of his palace.
Then Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” The king stood up from his throne. He was very close to Ehud. 21 As the king was getting up from his throne,[e] Ehud reached with his left hand and took out the sword that was tied to his right thigh. Then he pushed the sword into the king’s belly. 22 The sword went into Eglon’s belly so far that even the handle sank in and the fat closed around it. The point of the blade came out his back. Ehud left the sword inside Eglon.
23 Then Ehud went out of the private room, closed the doors to the upper room, and locked the king inside. 24 Ehud then left the main room, and the servants went back in. The servants found the doors to the upper room locked, so they said, “The king must be relieving himself in his private toilet.” 25 The servants waited for a long time, but the king never opened the doors to the upper room. Finally, the servants got worried. They got the key and unlocked the doors. When the servants entered, they saw their king lying dead on the floor.
26 While the servants were waiting for the king, Ehud had time to escape. He passed by the statues and went toward the place named Seirah. 27 When Ehud came to Seirah, he blew a trumpet there in the hill country of Ephraim. The Israelites heard the trumpet and went down from the hills with Ehud leading them. 28 He said to the Israelites, “Follow me! The Lord has helped us defeat our enemies, the Moabites.”
So the Israelites followed Ehud. They went down with him to take control of the places where people could easily cross the Jordan River into the land of Moab. The Israelites did not allow any one to go across the Jordan River. 29 They killed about 10,000 strong and brave men from Moab. Not one Moabite man escaped. 30 So on that day the Israelites began to rule over the Moabites, and there was peace in the land for 80 years.
Shamgar, the Judge
31 After Ehud saved the Israelites, another man saved Israel. That man’s name was Shamgar son of Anath.[f] Shamgar used an ox goad to kill 600 Philistine men.
Deborah, the Judge
4 After Ehud died, the people again did what the Lord said was wrong. 2 So the Lord allowed King Jabin of Canaan to defeat the Israelites. Jabin ruled in a city named Hazor. A man named Sisera was the commander of King Jabin’s army. Sisera lived in a town called Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Sisera had 900 iron chariots, and he was very cruel to the Israelites for 20 years. So they cried to the Lord for help.
4 There was a woman prophet named Deborah. She was the wife of a man named Lappidoth. She was judge of Israel at that time. 5 One day Deborah was sitting under the Palm Tree of Deborah, and the Israelites came up to her to ask what to do about Sisera. (The Palm Tree of Deborah is between the cities of Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim.) 6 Deborah sent a message to a man named Barak and asked him to come meet with her. Barak was the son of a man named Abinoam. Barak lived in the city of Kedesh, which is in the area of Naphtali. Deborah said to Barak, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go and gather 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Lead them to Mount Tabor. 7 I will make Sisera, the commander of King Jabin’s army, come to you. I will make Sisera, his chariots, and his army come to the Kishon River.[g] I will help you defeat Sisera there.’”
8 Then Barak said to Deborah, “I will go and do this if you will go with me. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.”
9 “Of course I will go with you,” Deborah answered. “But because of your attitude, you will not be honored when Sisera is defeated. The Lord will allow a woman to defeat Sisera.”
So Deborah went with Barak to the city of Kedesh. 10 At the city of Kedesh, Barak called the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali together. He gathered 10,000 men to follow him from these tribes, and Deborah also went with him.
11 There was a man named Heber who was from the Kenites. The Kenites were descendants of Moses’ father-in-law,[h] Hobab. Heber had left the other Kenites and had made his home by the oak tree in Zaanannim, near the city of Kedesh.
12 Someone told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam was at Mount Tabor. 13 So Sisera gathered his 900 iron chariots and all the men with him, and they marched from the city of Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.
14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Today the Lord will help you defeat Sisera. Surely you know that the Lord has already cleared the way for you.” So Barak led the 10,000 men down from Mount Tabor. 15 Barak and his men attacked Sisera. During the battle, the Lord confused Sisera and his army and chariots. They did not know what to do. Barak and his men defeated Sisera’s army, but Sisera left his chariot and ran away on foot. 16 Barak continued fighting Sisera’s army. He and his men chased Sisera’s chariots and army all the way to Harosheth Haggoyim. They used their swords to kill all of Sisera’s men. Not one of Sisera’s men was left alive.
17 But Sisera ran away to the tent where a woman named Jael lived. Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. His family was at peace with King Jabin of Hazor. That is why Sisera ran to Jael’s tent. 18 Jael saw him coming, so she went out to meet him and said, “Sir, come into my tent. Come in. Don’t be afraid.” So Sisera went into Jael’s tent, and she covered him with a blanket.
19 But first, Sisera asked Jael for a drink of water. Jael had some milk in a bottle made from animal skin. So she gave him a drink of the milk and then covered him up.
20 Then Sisera said to Jael, “Go stand at the entrance to the tent. If anyone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say, ‘No.’”
21 But Jael found a tent peg and a hammer. She quietly went to Sisera. Sisera was very tired, so he was sleeping. She put the tent peg to the side of Sisera’s head and hit it with a hammer. The tent peg went through the side of his head and into the ground. Sisera died.
22 Just then Barak came by Jael’s tent, looking for Sisera. Jael went out to meet Barak and said, “Come in here, and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So Barak entered the tent with Jael. There Barak found Sisera lying dead on the ground, with the tent peg through the side of his head.
23 On that day God defeated King Jabin of Canaan for the Israelites. 24 So the Israelites became stronger and stronger until they defeated King Jabin of Canaan. The Israelites finally destroyed him.
The Song of Deborah
5 [i] On the day that the Israelites defeated Sisera, Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
2 “The men of Israel prepared for battle.[j]
They volunteered to go to war.
Praise the Lord!
3 “Listen, 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 Israelites.
4 “Lord, in the past you came from Seir.[k]
You marched from the land of Edom.
You marched and the earth shook.
The skies rained.
The clouds dropped water.
5 The mountains shook before the Lord, the God of Mount Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel!
6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,[l]
and in the days of Jael, the main roads were empty.
Caravans and travelers traveled on the back roads.
7 “There were no soldiers in Israel
until you came, Deborah,
until you came to be a mother to Israel.[m]
8 “God chose new leaders
to fight at the city gates.[n]
No one could find a shield or a spear
among the 40,000 soldiers of Israel.
9 “My heart is with the commanders of Israel.
They volunteered to go to war.
Praise the Lord!
10 “Pay attention you people riding on white donkeys,
sitting on saddle blankets,[o]
and walking along the road.
11 At 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!
12 “Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, sing the song!
Get up, Barak!
Go capture your enemies, son of Abinoam!
13 “Now, survivors, go to the leaders.
People of the Lord, come with me and the soldiers.
14 “The men of Ephraim came from the hill country of Amalek.[p]
Benjamin, those men followed you and your people.
And there were commanders from the family of Makir.[q]
Leaders from the tribe of Zebulun came with their bronze clubs.
15 The 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.
16 So why did you sit there against the walls of your sheep pens?[r]
The brave soldiers of Reuben thought hard about war.
But they stayed home listening to the music they played for their sheep.
17 The people of Gilead[s] 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.
18 “But the men of Zebulun and Naphtali risked their lives
fighting on those hills.
19 The 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.
20 The stars fought them from heaven.
From their paths across the sky, they fought against Sisera.
21 The Kishon River, that ancient river,
swept Sisera’s men away.
My soul, march on with strength![t]
22 The horses’ hooves hammered the ground.
Sisera’s mighty horses ran and ran.
23 “The angel of the Lord said, ‘Curse the city of Meroz.
Curse its people!
They did not come to help the Lord fight.’
They did not help the Lord against his powerful enemies.
24 Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite.
She will be blessed above all women.
25 Sisera asked for water.
Jael gave him milk.
In a bowl fit for a ruler,
she brought him cream.
26 Then Jael reached out and took a tent peg.
Her right hand reached for a workman’s hammer.
She put the peg against the side of Sisera’s head
and hit it with the hammer.
27 He sank down between Jael’s feet.
He fell, and there he lay.
He sank down between her feet.
He fell there.
Where Sisera sank, he fell,
and there he lay, dead!
28 “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?’
29 “Her 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, to wear around his neck in victory.’
31 “May all your enemies die like this, Lord!
But may all those who love you be as strong as the rising sun!”
And there was peace in the land for 40 years.
- Judges 3:8 Aram Naharaim The area in northern Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
- Judges 3:13 City of Palm Trees Another name for Jericho.
- Judges 3:16 12 inches Or 30 cm. Literally, “1 gomed,” probably equivalent to 2/3 of a cubit.
- Judges 3:19 statues These were probably statues of gods or animals that “protected” the entrance to the city. Also in verse 26.
- Judges 3:21 He was very close … throne This section of the text is found in the ancient Greek version but not in the standard Hebrew text.
- Judges 3:31 Anath The Canaanite goddess of war. Here, this might be Shamgar’s father or mother, or it might mean “Shamgar the great soldier” or “Shamgar from the town of Anath.”
- Judges 4:7 Kishon River A river about ten miles from Mount Tabor.
- Judges 4:11 father-in-law Or possibly, “son-in-law.”
- Judges 5:1 Chapter 5 This is a very old song, and many of the lines are hard to understand in the Hebrew text.
- Judges 5:2 The men … 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.
- Judges 5:4 Seir Another name for the land of Edom.
- Judges 5:6 Shamgar son of Anath A judge of Israel. See Judges 3:31.
- Judges 5:7 until you … 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.”
- Judges 5:8 God chose … gates Or “They chose to follow new gods. So they had to fight at their city gates.” The Hebrew text here is hard to understand.
- Judges 5:10 saddle blankets The meaning of this Hebrew word is uncertain.
- Judges 5:14 hill country of Amalek The area settled by the tribe of Ephraim. See Judges 12:15.
- Judges 5:14 Makir This family was part of the tribe of Manasseh that settled in the area east of the Jordan River.
- Judges 5:16 walls of your sheep pens Or “campfires” or “saddlebags.”
- Judges 5:17 Gilead This area was east of the Jordan River.
- Judges 5:21 My soul … strength Or with some changes it could be, “His mighty charging horses marched forward.”