Judges 5:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 5:16, NIV: Why did you stay among the sheep pens to hear the whistling for the flocks? In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart.

Judges 5:16, ESV: Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds, to hear the whistling for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.

Judges 5:16, KJV: Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.

Judges 5:16, NASB: Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, To hear the piping for the flocks? Among the divisions of Reuben There were great searchings of heart.

Judges 5:16, NLT: 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.

Judges 5:16, CSB: Why did you sit among the sheep pens listening to the playing of pipes for the flocks? There was great searching of heart among the clans of Reuben.

What does Judges 5:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Deborah's song (Judges 5:1) has turned from praising tribes for their willing volunteers to questioning those who refused to join the cause against the Canaanites (Judges 5:13–15). She described the tribe of Reuben as wrestling with the decision, spending much time and energy thinking about what to do.

Her question to them, delivered in song, makes it clear they reached the wrong conclusion. Her question depicts Reuben's tribe sitting in the middle of sheep pens, listening to the shepherd playing music on a pipe or flute. The implication can be taken one of two ways. One is that of men so comfortable where they are that they refuse to help others. The other suggestion is of men committed to protecting their own, with no concern for the flocks of other shepherds.

The repeated reference to Reuben's pondering, dithering attitude likely means they deeply considered the issue before refusing to go. That would correspond to Jacob's deathbed prediction about the tribe (Genesis 49:3–4). Alternatively, the Hebrew could be read to mean Reuben was completely resolved not to send anyone to this battle for any reason. Either way, Deborah's song holds them accountable for making the wrong choice.