What does Judges 5:3 mean?
ESV: "Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the Lord I will sing; I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.
NIV: "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.
NASB: Hear, you kings; listen, you dignitaries! I myself—to the Lord, I myself will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel!
CSB: Listen, kings! Pay attention, princes! I will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.
NLT: 'Listen, you kings! Pay attention, you mighty rulers! For I will sing to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel.
KJV: Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.
NKJV: “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.
Verse Commentary:
In this victory song (Judges 5:1), Deborah (Judges 4:4–5) and Barak (Judges 4:6) have blessed the Lord for the leadership of the leaders and the willing service of the people (Judges 5:2). Now they call to the kings and princes of the Canaanites, who have been defeated by the Lord. This could be seen as taunting a beaten enemy; to some extent, that's exactly what it is. At the same time, Deborah's song doesn't mock them so she can extol the strength or virility of a victorious king. That familiar pattern was followed by the victory songs and stories of other nations during this era.

Rather, Deborah's song declares she will sing to the Lord. She will make melody to the God of Israel. She wants the Canaanite kings to know that He is the one who ended their decades of oppressive rule over the people of Israel (Judges 4:1–3). Her bold declaration that the Lord, Yahweh, is the God of Israel stands out in the book of Judges. Even among the judges themselves, very few of God's people so explicitly declare that Yahweh is Lord.
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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