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Judges 5:17

ESV Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he stay with the ships? Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, staying by his landings.
NIV Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves.
NASB Gilead remained across the Jordan; And why did Dan stay on ships? Asher sat at the seashore, And remained by its landings.
CSB Gilead remained beyond the Jordan. Dan, why did you linger at the ships? Asher remained at the seashore and stayed in his harbors.
NLT Gilead remained east of the Jordan. And why did Dan stay home? Asher sat unmoved at the seashore, remaining in his harbors.
KJV Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.

What does Judges 5:17 mean?

After a glorious defeat of Canaanite oppressors (Judges 4:14–16), the prophetess Deborah sings a song of praise to God (Judges 5:1). As part of the celebration, she praised tribes that participated in the battle (Judges 5:13–15), then moved to chastise those who failed to send any fighters, at all (Judges 5:16). The tribe of Reuben—predicted to be wavering as water (Genesis 49:3–4)—was scolded for sitting idly by like men among the sheep ignoring a call to action.

Now Deborah asks why the men of Gilead, a group including parts of the tribes of Gad and Manasseh, did not cross over the Jordan River from the east to come and help. Why did the people of Dan remain on the west coast with their ships and, presumably, their shipping business? Why did the people of Asher sit still by the Mediterranean coast near their landings?

To be clear, these tribes were far away from the battlefield. They were not nearly so close to the trouble as the other tribes. Yet Deborah's song offers no excuse. The people of the Lord were fighting at the Lord's command against the Lord's oppressors, but these tribes remained engaged in their businesses and other occupations. Hundreds of generations later, Deborah's song is still chastising them for their decision not to participate in God's promised victory.
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