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is, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”
We must carry these ideas with us as a corrective to the vehemence of poetical enthusiasm, and learn still to distinguish between the rapturous praise and censure of a female patriot, and the calm, equitable, unbiassed applause or condemnation of unerring wisdom and eternal justice. In the picture of human nature here suspended before our eyes, we behold it, as it is, not what it ought, in all respects, to be.
Deborah having proposed her subject, in plain and simple terms, in the second verse, and summoned the princes and potentates of the earth to listen to her song, as if the whole world were interested in the event she was about to celebrate, she presents to them an object supremely worthy of their attention and reverence, namely, the great JEHOVAH marching in awful state before the armies of his people, and delivering to them his dreadful law from Sinai, while universal nature bears witness to the presence of the Creator and Lord of all. "The earth trembling, the mountains melting, the powers of heaven shaken."
From thence she turns a weeping eye to the recent miseries of her yet bleeding country, and summons her compatriots to gratitude and joy, for the deliverancc of that day, from the recollection of the cruel restraints under which they so lately lived, and the calamities which they endured and she rises into holy rapture at the thought, that a gracious Providence had not only wrought salvation for his people, but made her the blessed instrument of effecting it. But in recalling the memory of former evils, in order to awaken holy joy, she fails not to trace those evils up to their proper source, in order to excite holy sorrow and contrition; They chose new gods; then was war in the gates : was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Verse 8.
The great object of the prophetess is, to impress
this everlasting and unchangeable truth, that sin is the ruin of any nation, and that salvation is of the Lord. The moment a new god is set up, behold a new enemy is in the gate. That instant the idol is pulled down, the hope of Israel revives. The poetic question of Deborah," was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" expresses the highest degree of political dejection and distress; and represents the insulting foe, as not only filling all their borders with present consternation, but also undermining all their hope for the time to come: stripping them of every kind of armor both for defence and attack; to such a degree, that not one man out of forty thousand, was furnished for the field.
A Jewish Rabbin has given a turn somewhat different to the words of the text, and not an absurd one. "Has Israel chosen new gods? then was war in the gates. Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand?" that is to say, "From the time that Israel made choice of strange gods, they were under a necessity of maintaining war in their gates; or, of supporting a standing army for defence against the inroads of their enemies. But now that you offer yourselves willingly to the Lord, and put away the strange gods which are among you, see whether you have any need of shield or spear against the most formidable and numerous hosts of foes, against the thousands and forty thousands of Canaan? No, JEHOVAH himself is your shield and buckler, he fights your battles. Heaven and earth combine to destroy the adversary, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera, the river Kishon swallows them up.
"My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord. Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way. They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the
places of drawing water; there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel; then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates," Verse 9...11. That we may enter into the true spirit of the patriotic bard, let us suppose, what it is apparent she has in view, namely, severally to address the various orders and descriptions of men, whereof the Israelitish state was composed, and who had each a peculiar, as well as a common interest, in the salvation which they celebrated. She begins with her companions in the warfare, who, roused by her exhortations, and a sense of their country's wrongs, had cheerfully offered themselves to this laborious and hazardous service. My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord," Verse 9. They best know how little was due to human skill and valor, how much to the gracious and powerful interposition of heaven; let them, therefore, lead the band, and ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name. She next turns to the civil governors and judges of the land, and invites them to continue the song. Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way," Verse 10. Such was the simple state in which the rulers of Israel travelled from place to place, administering justice. The ideas, in her address to them, are tender and pathetic, and may be thus extended, "Alas! my associates in government, it was but yesterday, that we were rulers without subjects, judges without a tribunal, and without authority: the lives and property of Israel were not secured and protected by law, but were at the disposal of a foreign lawless despot; and your progress through the land in the exercise of your high office, was checked and overawed by a licensed banditti. Let us rejoice together, that government has reverted to its channel; the highways are no longer blocked up, and therefore no longer
unoccupied. Place your thrones of judgment where you will, in the gate, in the highway, the communication is open, there is none to make you afraid, the enemies whom you have seen, you shall see them no more again forever."
Her next address seems to be made to the shepherds of the lately oppressed country. "They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water; there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel; then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates," Verse 11. They are represented as trembling at the sound of their own feet among the peebles of the brook, lest thereby they should awaken the attention of their rapacious masters; they are afraid to drive their flocks to the watering place, lest they should expose themselves and their harmless fleecy charge, to the cruel shafts of the archer, ever on the watch to gall and annoy them. But now, there, even there, in the very scene of their sor row and misery, where the rustling of a leaf durst not be heard, they shall break out together into singing; there, free from sorrow, free from fear," shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts to the inhabitants of the villages in Israel." Finally, she calls upon the inhabitants of the villages, the husbandmen, and vine-dressers, to add their voices to the swelling band, on recovering their tranquillity, on being restored to the felicity of laboring for themselves, and saved from the mortification of seeing lazy, insolent strangers devouring the fruit of their painful toil, and repairing, as before, in happier days, to their own gates, to their own judges for justice and judgment. Thus we hear, as it were, the tuneful choir gradually increasing in number, the peasant taking up the song which the shepherd had put into his mouth, the shepherd following the magistrate, the magistrate
the soldier, till all Israel becomes one voice, one heart, one soul, to celebrate the high praises of God. Faint représentation of that more glorious consummation, that purer triumph, that more auspicious day, that inexpressibly more important salvation, to which the believer in Christ Jesus looks in hope.
The voice of this universal chorus having ceased, a solemn pause of some moments seems to ensue; when the divinely inspired poetess awakes to new rapture; and the harmony of myriads of joyful voices subsides into the melody of one simple strain. "Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam," Verse 12. What genuine touches of nature have we here, what simplicity, what pathos, what su blimity! She seems to regret her exhausted powers; her spirit is still willing; she cannot bear to cease so soon from so divine an employ; she starts into fresh enthusiasm. Having put words of praise into the mouths of a whole saved people, she takes up her own peculiar strain; "Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song:" And then, turning to the companion of her victory, excites him to make a public display of the wonderful trophies of that wondrous day; "Arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." Exhibit them in chains, who had forged chains for the hands and feet of Israel; lead them captive, who led in captivity the free-born sons of God; shew triumphantly the spoils of them that spoiled thee; "the prey taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered;" them that "oppressed thee fed with their own flesh, and drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine;" a righteous "God contending with them, who contended with thee." "Thou son of Abinoam." She rouses her noble colleague to excel in praise, as he had excelled in counsel and courage, by one of the most powerful motives of human conduct; the honor of his father's name and family.