So perish all thine enemies, O Lord; but let all who love thee be like the sun rising in strength. Judges 5:31, NEB.
In one of those determined-to-read-the-Bible-through projects, we’re likely to get as far as Judges. By this time we can note the genius of the Bible writers to condense more than 2,000 years of history into some 200 pages. We reach Judges 4 and encounter a graphic account of an attack spearheaded by Deborah, prophetess and judge in Israel. Once the enemy troops are routed, the story ends like the 6:00 news: Sisera, the fleeing general, accepted the hospitality of Jael, who gave him milk to drink; then as he slept, she hammered a peg thorough his head. "His brains oozed out on the ground, his limbs twitched, and he died” (Judges 4:21, NEB).
Then we move on to Judges 5. What has happened to the pace of the book? Deborah has composed a song about the battle, and it’s inserted into the biblical record--the same story all over again. Why?
Judges 5 reads like a pitch for a documentary movie. Imagine a director creating the opening scene—people traveling fearfully because of enemy ambush on the road: “In the days of Jael, caravans plied no longer; men who had followed the high roads went round by devious paths”(Judges 5:6, NEB). For Israel, the recapitulation came in a song that climaxes with the enemy routed. But at the end we detect a new feature: Deborah is creating a scene she has not witnessed but, with the heart of a mother, can imagine.
At the home of Sisera, the enemy general, his mother must be waiting for her son’s return. Deborah sings: "The mother of Sisera peered through the lattice, through the window she peered and shrilly cried, 'Why are his chariots so long in coming?’” (verse 28, NEB).
The princesses answer: "They must be finding spoil; . . . booty of dyed stuffs for Sisera, . . . two lengths of striped stuff–to grace the victor’s neck” (verse 30, NEB).
This is no amateur production. Deborah knows her characters. We have been transported through her eyes. The retelling is worthy of a pause in the biblical record, as Deborah reminds us of the other side of violence.
As you hear the news today, pause and rerun in your mind the heartache of those who have lost loved ones because of violence--even though they might have been the "enemy”!