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Idolatry Leads to Servitude

Now these are the nations which the Lord left [in order] to test Israel by them (that is, all [the people of Israel] who had not [previously] experienced any of the wars in Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, at least those who had not experienced it previously). The remaining nations are: the five lords (governors) of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon to the entrance of Hamath. They were [allowed to remain] for the testing of Israel, to determine whether Israel would listen to and obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers (ancestors) through Moses. And the Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites; and they took their daughters for themselves as wives and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their [pagan] gods.(A)

And the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the [a]Asheroth.(B) So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of [b]Mesopotamia; and the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.

The First Judge Rescues Israel

But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord [for help], the Lord raised up a [c]man to rescue the people of Israel, [d]Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, and he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 And the land was at rest [from oppression for] forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

12 Now the Israelites again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord strengthened Eglon king of Moab against Israel, since they had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 13 And Eglon gathered to him the sons of Ammon and Amalek, and went and struck down Israel [in defeat], and they took possession of the City of Palm Trees (Jericho). 14 And the Israelites served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years.

Ehud Rescues Israel from Moab

15 But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord [for help], the Lord raised up a [e]man to rescue them, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, [f]a left-handed man. And the Israelites sent a gift of tribute by him to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud made for himself a sword a [g]cubit long, which had two edges, and he bound it on his [h]right thigh under his robe. 17 And he brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the [i]tribute, he sent away the people who had carried it. 19 But Ehud himself turned back from the [j]sculptured stones at Gilgal, [and he returned to Eglon] and said [to him], “I have a secret message for you, O king.” Eglon said “Keep silence.” And all who attended him left him. 20 Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his [private] cool upper chamber, and Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And the king got up from his seat. 21 Then Ehud reached out with his left hand and took the sword from his right thigh, and plunged it into Eglon’s belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, because Ehud did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the vestibule and shut the doors of the upper chamber behind him, and locked them.

24 When Ehud departed, Eglon’s servants came. And when they saw that the doors of the upper room were locked, they said, “He is only [k]relieving himself in the cool room.” 25 They waited [a very long time] until they became embarrassed and uneasy, but he still did not open the doors of the upper room. So [finally] they took the key and opened them, and behold, their master had fallen to the floor, dead.

26 Now Ehud escaped while they lingered, and he passed beyond the sculptured stones and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he had arrived, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was in front of them. 28 And he said to them, “Pursue them, for the Lord has handed over your enemies the Moabites to you.” So they went down after him and seized the [l]fords of the Jordan opposite Moab and did not allow anyone to cross. 29 They struck down at that time about ten thousand Moabite men, all strong, courageous men; not a man escaped. 30 So Moab was subdued and humbled that day under the hand of Israel, and the land was at rest for eighty years.

Shamgar Rescues from Philistines

31 After Ehud came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistine men with an [m]oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

Deborah and Barak Rescue from Canaanites

But the Israelites again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in [n]Harosheth-hagoyim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord [for help], for Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed and tormented the sons of Israel severely for twenty years.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit [to hear and decide disputes] under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. Now she sent word and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, “Behold, the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men [of war] from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his infantry to meet you at the river Kishon, and I will hand him over to you.’” Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” She said, “I will certainly go with you; nevertheless, [o]the journey that you are about to take will not be for your honor and glory, because the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak summoned [the fighting men of the tribes of] Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up [p]under his command; Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab the [q]father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the [r]terebinth tree in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

12 When someone told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. 14 Deborah said to Barak, “Arise! For this is the day when the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Has the Lord not gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and [confused] all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera dismounted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and the entire army of Sisera fell by the sword; not even one man was left.

17 But Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me! Have no fear.” So he turned aside to her [and went] into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19 And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink because I am thirsty.” And she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him. 20 And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is there anyone here?’ tell him, ‘No.’” 21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and a hammer in her hand, and came up quietly to him and drove the peg through his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died. 22 And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” And he entered [her tent] with her, and behold Sisera lay dead with the tent peg in his temple.

23 So on that day God subdued and humbled Jabin king of Canaan before the sons of Israel. 24 And the hand of the sons of Israel pressed down heavier and heavier on Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed him.

The Song of Deborah and Barak

Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying,

“For the leaders who took the lead in Israel,
For the people who volunteered [for battle],
Bless the Lord!

“Hear, O kings; listen, O rulers!
I will sing to the Lord,
I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Lord, when You went out from Seir,
When You marched from the field of Edom,
The earth quaked, the heavens also dripped,
Yes, the clouds dripped water.

“The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,
Yes, this 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 deserted,
And travelers went by roundabout ways.

“The villagers ceased to be; they ceased in Israel
Until I, Deborah, arose,
Until I arose, a mother in Israel.

“They chose new gods;
Then war was in the gates.
Was there a shield or spear seen
Among forty thousand in Israel?

“My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel,
The volunteers among the people;
Bless the Lord!
“Sing of it, you who ride on white donkeys,
You who sit on rich carpets,
And you who walk by the way.
“At the sound of those who divide flocks among the watering places,
There they shall recount the righteous acts of the Lord,
The righteous acts toward His villagers in Israel.
Then the people of the Lord went down to the gates.

“Awake, awake, Deborah;
Awake, awake, sing a song!
Arise, Barak, and lead away your captives, you son of Abinoam.
“Then down marched the survivors to the nobles;
The people of the Lord marched down for Me against the mighty.
“From Ephraim those whose root is in Amalek came down,
After you, Benjamin, with your relatives;
From Machir came down commanders and rulers,
And from Zebulun those who [s]handle the scepter of the [office of] scribe.
“And the heads of Issachar came with Deborah;
As Issachar, so was Barak;
Into the valley they rushed at his heels;
Among the divisions of Reuben
There were great searchings of heart.
“Why [Reuben] did you linger among the [t]sheepfolds,
To hear the piping for the flocks?
Among the divisions of Reuben
There were great searchings of heart.
“Gilead remained beyond the Jordan;
And why did Dan live as an alien on ships?
Asher sat [still] on the seacoast,
And remained by its landings.
[These did not come to battle for God’s people.]
“But Zebulun was a people who risked their lives to the [point of] death;
Naphtali also, on the heights of the field.

“The kings came and fought;
Then the kings of Canaan fought
At Taanach by the waters of Megiddo.
Spoils of silver they did not obtain.
“From the heavens the stars fought,
From their courses they fought against Sisera.
“The torrent Kishon swept the enemy away,
The ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon.
O my soul, march on with strength.
“Then the horses’ hoofs beat [loudly]
Because of the galloping—the galloping of his valiant and powerful steeds.
‘Curse [u]Meroz,’ said the messenger of the Lord,
‘Utterly curse its inhabitants;
Because they did not come to the help of the Lord,
To the help of the Lord against the mighty.’

“Most blessed of women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Most blessed is she of women in the tent.
“Sisera asked for water and she gave him milk;
She brought him curds in a magnificent bowl.
“She reached out her [left] hand for the tent peg,
And her right hand for the workmen’s hammer.
Then she struck Sisera, she smashed his head;
And she shattered and pierced his temple.
“He bowed, he fell, he lay [still] at her feet;
At her feet he bowed, he fell;
Where he bowed, there he fell dead.

“Out of the window she looked down and lamented (cried out in a shrill voice),
The mother of Sisera through the lattice,
‘Why is his chariot delayed in coming?
Why have the hoofbeats of his chariots delayed?’
“Her wise ladies answered her,
Indeed, she repeated her words to herself,
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil?
A maiden (concubine) or two for every man;
A spoil of dyed garments for Sisera,
A spoil of dyed garments embroidered,
Two pieces of dyed garments embroidered for the neck of the plunderer?’
“So let all Your enemies perish, O Lord;
But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.”

And the land was at rest for forty years.


  1. Judges 3:7 Various Canaanite goddesses of fertility and warfare.
  2. Judges 3:8 Heb Aram-naharaim; Aram of Two Rivers.
  3. Judges 3:9 Lit deliverer.
  4. Judges 3:9 Othniel was the first of the twelve people God appointed to rescue and lead Israel. In addition to specific judicial duties, the judges served as both civil and military leaders.
  5. Judges 3:15 Lit deliverer.
  6. Judges 3:15 Lit bound in his right hand.
  7. Judges 3:16 I.e. about eighteen inches.
  8. Judges 3:16 If a bodyguard searched Ehud he would have focused on his left side, where a right-handed man would hide a sword.
  9. Judges 3:18 The tribute apparently required a company of people to transport and may have consisted of such things as valuable commodities, precious metals, and domestic animals.
  10. Judges 3:19 These stones may have been either boundary markers or idols.
  11. Judges 3:24 Lit covering his feet (with his garment)—a euphemism for defecating, probably because of the squatting position taken.
  12. Judges 3:28 I.e. narrow or shallow places where a river may be crossed by wading.
  13. Judges 3:31 I.e. a rod with a pointed end or fitted with a spike.
  14. Judges 4:2 I.e. a fortress or city of the Gentiles.
  15. Judges 4:9 Lit the road along which you are going.
  16. Judges 4:10 Or after him; Lit at his feet.
  17. Judges 4:11 Hobab is identified as the son of Moses’ father-in-law in Num 10:29.
  18. Judges 4:11 Or oak.
  19. Judges 5:14 Writing developed in Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium b.c. It began as a system of accounting to record financial matters and trading transactions.
  20. Judges 5:16 Or saddlebags
  21. Judges 5:23 A place in the territory of Naphtali.

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