What does Judges 5:19 mean?
ESV: “The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver.
NIV: Kings came, they fought, the kings of Canaan fought. At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo, they took no plunder of silver.
NASB: 'The kings came and fought; Then the kings of Canaan fought At Taanach near the waters of Megiddo; They took no plunder in silver.
CSB: Kings came and fought. Then the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the Waters of Megiddo, but they did not plunder the silver.
NLT: 'The kings of Canaan came and fought, at Taanach near Megiddo’s springs, but they carried off no silver treasures.
KJV: The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.
NKJV: “The kings came and fought, Then the kings of Canaan fought In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; They took no spoils of silver.
Verse Commentary:
Deborah's song (Judges 5:1) about God's victory over the oppressors of Israel (Judges 4:1–3) finally arrives at the battle itself (Judges 4:12–16). Only Sisera, the commander of Canaan's army, is mentioned in the previous chapter. Now, though, Deborah adds that the kings of Canaan fought alongside Sisera.

Jabin of the city of Hazor was the king over all the Canaanites. Lesser kings would have ruled over their own city-states under Jabin's authority. These would have participated in the battle against the Israelites with the fighters from their own towns. This passage describes them gathering for the fight at a fortified city called Taanach. This was just southeast of Megiddo. Many famous battles have taken place on or near the plain of Megiddo, which some commentators have described as an ideally suited field of battle. Pivotal conflicts are yet to occur there, as well: Revelation 16:16 refers to the spot using a term which has come into English as Armageddon, which means "Mount Megiddo."

The last line of this verse foreshadows Canaan's defeat. The kings received no spoils of silver from this battle. One of the motivations for ancient soldiers in war was the loot that could be taken from the enemy if you were successful. These rewards would have included material possessions, such as silver, as well as human slaves and women to molest (Judges 5:30). The kings received no spoils because Canaan was utterly defeated.
Verse Context:
Judges 5:19–23 recounts the battle briefly depicted in Judges 4:12–16. In poetic language, the passage indicates that Sisera's Canaanite army was thoroughly defeated. While partly symbolic, this segment also suggests an unexpected flood as part of God's plan for Israel's victory. Meroz, likely a town that failed to aid their fellow Israelites, is cursed.
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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