What does Judges 5:14 mean?
ESV: From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley, following you, Benjamin, with your kinsmen; from Machir marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant’s staff;
NIV: Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek; Benjamin was with the people who followed you. From Makir captains came down, from Zebulun those who bear a commander's staff.
NASB: From Ephraim those whose root is in Amalek came down, Following you, Benjamin, with your peoples; From Machir commanders came down, And from Zebulun those who wield the staff of office.
CSB: Those with their roots in Amalek came from Ephraim; Benjamin came with your people after you. The leaders came down from Machir, and those who carry a marshal's staff came from Zebulun.
NLT: They came down from Ephraim — a land that once belonged to the Amalekites; they followed you, Benjamin, with your troops. From Makir the commanders marched down; from Zebulun came those who carry a commander’s staff.
KJV: Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.
NKJV: From Ephraim were those whose roots were in Amalek. After you, Benjamin, with your peoples, From Machir rulers came down, And from Zebulun those who bear the recruiter’s staff.
Verse Commentary:
Deborah, in a song commemorating the Lord's victory over the Canaanites (Judges 5:1), now describes the volunteers from the various tribes of Israel who offered themselves to follow Barak into battle. These are the people of the Lord who answered the call to come and fight.

In the previous chapter, Scripture described these events in a straightforward way, using prose instead of poetry. No mention was made of any tribes except Naphtali and Zebulun. Now it becomes clear that several tribes contributed to Barak's sizable army (Judges 4:10).

Deborah first mentions the people of her own tribe, Ephraim. They marched down into the valley, either from the hill country where they lived or from Mount Tabor after the entire army had gathered there. Those of the tribe of Benjamin came next.

She also mentions a group of commanders from Machir. Machir was the name of Manasseh's oldest son (Genesis 50:23); this likely means those occupying the western part of the territory of Manasseh. The volunteers from Zebulun follow next. Deborah describes these as the ones who carry the lieutenant's staff. Apparently, both Machir and Zebulun contributed leaders or officers to the cause.
Verse Context:
Judges 5:12–18 describes Deborah's rise to power and her appeal for Israel to fight against their Canaanite oppressors (Judges 4:1–3). This passage includes praise for the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Issachar, Naphtali, and parts of Manasseh. These tribes answered the call and joined the battle. Reuben, Gad, Dan, Asher, and other portions of Manasseh are criticized for failing to respond.
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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