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The Song of Deborah

On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

“Israel’s leaders took charge,
    and the people gladly followed.
Praise the Lord!

“Listen, you kings!
    Pay attention, you mighty rulers!
For I will sing to the Lord.
    I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Lord, when you set out from Seir
    and marched across the fields of Edom,
the earth trembled,
    and the cloudy skies poured down rain.
The mountains quaked in the presence of the Lord,
    the God of Mount Sinai—
in the presence of the Lord,
    the God of Israel.

“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
    and in the days of Jael,
people avoided the main roads,
    and travelers stayed on winding pathways.
There were few people left in the villages of Israel[a]
    until Deborah arose as a mother for Israel.
When Israel chose new gods,
    war erupted at the city gates.
Yet not a shield or spear could be seen
    among forty thousand warriors in Israel!
My heart is with the commanders of Israel,
    with those who volunteered for war.
Praise the Lord!

10 “Consider this, you who ride on fine donkeys,
    you who sit on fancy saddle blankets,
    and you who walk along the road.
11 Listen to the village musicians[b]
    gathered at the watering holes.
They recount the righteous victories of the Lord
    and the victories of his villagers in Israel.
Then the people of the Lord
    marched down to the city gates.

12 “Wake up, Deborah, wake up!
    Wake up, wake up, and sing a song!
Arise, Barak!
    Lead your captives away, son of Abinoam!

13 “Down from Tabor marched the few against the nobles.
    The people of the Lord marched down against mighty warriors.
14 They came down from Ephraim—
    a land that once belonged to the Amalekites;
    they followed you, Benjamin, with your troops.
From Makir the commanders marched down;
    from Zebulun came those who carry a commander’s staff.
15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah and Barak.
    They followed Barak, rushing into the valley.
But in the tribe of Reuben
    there was great indecision.[c]
16 Why did you sit at home among the sheepfolds—
    to hear the shepherds whistle for their flocks?
Yes, in the tribe of Reuben
    there was great indecision.
17 Gilead remained east of the Jordan.
    And why did Dan stay home?
Asher sat unmoved at the seashore,
    remaining in his harbors.
18 But Zebulun risked his life,
    as did Naphtali, on the heights of the battlefield.

19 “The kings of Canaan came and fought,
    at Taanach near Megiddo’s springs,
    but they carried off no silver treasures.
20 The stars fought from heaven.
    The stars in their orbits fought against Sisera.
21 The Kishon River swept them away—
    that ancient torrent, the Kishon.
March on with courage, my soul!
22 Then the horses’ hooves hammered the ground,
    the galloping, galloping of Sisera’s mighty steeds.
23 ‘Let the people of Meroz be cursed,’ said the angel of the Lord.
    ‘Let them be utterly cursed,
because they did not come to help the Lord
    to help the Lord against the mighty warriors.’

24 “Most blessed among women is Jael,
    the wife of Heber the Kenite.
    May she be blessed above all women who live in tents.
25 Sisera asked for water,
    and she gave him milk.
In a bowl fit for nobles,
    she brought him yogurt.
26 Then with her left hand she reached for a tent peg,
    and with her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera with the hammer, crushing his head.
    With a shattering blow, she pierced his temples.
27 He sank, he fell,
    he lay still at her feet.
And where he sank,
    there he died.

28 “From the window Sisera’s mother looked out.
    Through the window she watched for his return, saying,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
    Why don’t we hear the sound of chariot wheels?’

29 “Her wise women answer,
    and she repeats these words to herself:
30 ‘They must be dividing the captured plunder—
    with a woman or two for every man.
There will be colorful robes for Sisera,
    and colorful, embroidered robes for me.
Yes, the plunder will include
    colorful robes embroidered on both sides.’

31 Lord, may all your enemies die like Sisera!
    But may those who love you rise like the sun in all its power!”

Then there was peace in the land for forty years.

Gideon Becomes Israel’s Judge

The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.

When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites. He said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt. I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you. I drove out your enemies and gave you their land. 10 I told you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

13 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

16 The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

17 Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. 18 Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”

He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”

19 Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with a basket[d] of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the Lord disappeared.

22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

23 “It is all right,” the Lord replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24 And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.

25 That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. 26 Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded. But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town.

28 Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. In their place a new altar had been built, and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed. 29 The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash.

30 “Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash. “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.”

31 But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted him, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” 32 From then on Gideon was called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.

Gideon Asks for a Sign

33 Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. 35 He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, 37 prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” 38 And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.

39 Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” 40 So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.

Footnotes

  1. 5:7 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  2. 5:11 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  3. 5:15 As in some Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac version, which read searchings of heart; Masoretic Text reads resolve of heart.
  4. 6:19 Hebrew an ephah [20 quarts or 22 liters].