Jesus in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5)

Is it right to look for Jesus in unexpected places in the Old Testament? Such a question suggests that there are such locations, which may be true, but given that Jesus told his disciples they could read about him throughout the Old Testament his words might indicate that there are no unexpected places. Instead we have to look and see if he is in a passage or not.

I have been thinking this week about the song composed by Deborah, recorded in Judges 5, which she and Barak sang after God gave his people a great victory over the Canaanites. At first, and indeed for a while, I did not think that Jesus was in her song.

Then I came to verse 23 and its reference to the angel of the Lord, a heavenly being that appears throughout the Old Testament in all kinds of situations. It is generally recognised by scholars that he is a divine person who communicates aspects of the will of God to his people. And some references point to him as distinct from God and from the Holy Spirit, which leads to the conclusion that he is the second person in the Trinity appearing in a pre-incarnate form.

The message that the angel of the Lord spoke was that of a curse on the inhabitants of Meroz for not fighting on behalf of the Lord. Twenty-first century readers may find it hard to see Jesus speaking here. Commentators from previous generations were not so reticent. As Matthew Henry says, ‘This curse is pronounced by the angel of the Lord, our Lord Jesus, the captain of the Lord’s host (and those whom he curses are cursed indeed), and further than we have warrant and authority from him we may not curse. He that will richly reward all his good soldiers will certainly and severely punish all cowards and deserters. This city of Meroz seems to have been at this time a considerable place, since something great was expected from it; but probably, after the angel of the Lord had pronounced this curse upon it, it dwindled, and, like the fig-tree which Christ cursed, withered away, so that we never read of it after this in scripture.’

Of course, even if the angel is only an angel, he would still be expressing the mind of the Lord regarding those who do not get involved in fighting his battles. Meroz, wherever it was, has disappeared and its ruins cannot even be found.

An important lesson from this incident for Christians is that although God does not need our help he delights in enabling us to provide it. And is that not what Jesus does for and with his disciples?

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