What does Judges 5:11 mean?
ESV: To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the LORD, the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel. “Then down to the gates marched the people of the LORD.
NIV: the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the victories of the LORD, the victories of his villagers in Israel. 'Then the people of the LORD went down to the city gates.
NASB: At the sound of those who distribute water among the watering places, There they will recount the righteous deeds of the Lord, The righteous deeds for His peasantry in Israel. Then the people of the Lord went down to the gates.
CSB: Let them tell the righteous acts of the Lord, the righteous deeds of his villagers in Israel, with the voices of the singers at the watering places. Then the Lord's people went down to the city gates.
NLT: Listen to the village musicians 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.
KJV: 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 toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.
NKJV: Far from the noise of the archers, among the watering places, There they shall recount the righteous acts of the Lord, The righteous acts for His villagers in Israel; Then the people of the Lord shall go down to the gates.
Verse Commentary:
Deborah has called out to the rich and the poor on the roadways to tell the story of her song (Judges 5:1), celebrating the Lord's salvation of Israel from the Canaanites (Judges 4:12–16). Now she adds that they should tell it to the sound of the musicians or singers at the watering places.

Scholars say the exact meaning of this phrase is difficult to translate. Even so, there is no doubt about the intent. Places with easily accessible water were key points along roadways. Travelers would stop and rest there, trading news and telling stories. Entire communities would gather at these spots.

Deborah is telling those who hear her song to sing it themselves to others, to keep passing on the story of God's victory everywhere they go. This is her distribution model for this amazing news in Israel. She tells her listeners to repeat the righteous triumphs of both the Lord and His villagers in Israel, meaning those who volunteered to follow Barak into battle against the Canaanites (Judges 4:10; 5:9).

This verse ends with a sentence introducing the next passage. Deborah celebrates those people of the Lord who willingly marched down from the hill country to do battle at the gates of their oppressors.
Verse Context:
Judges 5:1–11 begins a song composed by Deborah, the prophetess and judge of Israel (Judges 4:4–5). This segment introduces the troubles experienced by God's chosen people leading up to their battle against Canaan. Though Israel had been blessed by God and His miracles when they came out of Egypt, the nation had fallen under oppression. As explained in the prior chapter (Judges 4:1–10), the people responded to Deborah's call for action. What follows is a celebration of Israel's victory against Sisera, Jabin, and the Canaanite army (Judges 4:12–16).
Chapter Summary:
Deborah and Barak sing a victory song she has written. This celebrates all the Lord accomplished through Israel's victory in battle over Sisera and Canaan. She praises God for willing volunteers and calls for everyone to pass along the story. She tells of the torrent of water that flowed down the Kishon River and swept away the enemy. She describes in detail the death of Sisera at the hands of a woman and even shows his mother crying for his return. Her song emphasizes that credit for success goes to the Lord.
Chapter Context:
Judges 5 follows the narrative-style account of the battle between Sisera and Barak, as instigated by the prophetess Deborah in chapter 4. This chapter is a song, poetically depicting the same series of events. Deborah describes Sisera's defeat in battle, Jael's bold killing of the cruel general Sisera, and the tears of his mother as she waits for him at home. The following chapter shows that Israel—once again—responds to this hard-won peace with another cycle of idolatry, sin, and oppression (Judges 6:1).
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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