Verses 1-6 (Judges 6:1-6)
We have here, I. Israel?s sin renewed: They did evil in the sight of the Lord, Jdg. 5:1. The burnt child dreads the fire; yet this perverse unthinking people, that had so often smarted sorely for their idolatry, upon a little respite of God?s judgments return to it again. This people hath a revolting rebellious heart, not kept in awe by the terror of God?s judgments, nor engaged in honour and gratitude by the great things he had done for them to keep themselves in his love. The providence of God will not change the hearts and lives of sinners.
II. Israel?s troubles repeated. This would follow of course; let all that sin expect to suffer; let all that return to folly expect to return to misery. With the froward God will show himself froward (Ps. 18:26), and will walk contrary to those that walk contrary to him, Lev. 26:21, 24. Now as to this trouble, 1. It arose from a very despicable enemy. God delivered them into the hand of Midian (Jdg. 5:1), not Midian in the south where Jethro lived, but Midian in the east that joined to Moab (Num. 22:4), a people that all men despised as uncultivated and unintelligent; hence we read not here of any king, lord, or general, that they had, but the force with which they destroyed Israel was an undisciplined mob; and, which made it the more grievous, they were a people that Israel had formerly subdued, and in a manner destroyed (see Num. 31:7), and yet by this time (nearly 200 years after) the poor remains of them were so multiplied, and so magnified, that they were capable of being made a very severe scourge to Israel. Thus God moved them to jealousy with those who were not a people, even a foolish nation, Deut. 32:21. The meanest creature will serve to chastise those that have made the great Creator their enemy. And, when those we are authorized to rule prove rebellious and disobedient to us, it concerns us to enquire whether we have not been so to our sovereign Ruler. 2. It arose to a very formidable height (Jdg. 5:2): The hand of Midian prevailed, purely by their multitude. God had promised to increase Israel as the sand on the sea shore; but their sin stopped their growth and diminished them, and then their enemies, though otherwise every way inferior to them, overpowered them with numbers. They came upon them as grasshoppers for multitude (Jdg. 5:5), not in a regular army to engage them in the field, but in a confused swarm to plunder the country, quarter themselves upon it, and enrich themselves with its spoils?bands of robbers, and no better. And sinful Israel, being separated by sin from God, had not spirit to make head against them. Observe the wretched havoc that these Midianites made with their bands of plunderers in Israel. Here we have, (1.) The Israelites imprisoned, or rather imprisoning themselves, in dens and caves, Jdg. 5:2. This was owing purely to their own timorousness and faint-heartedness, that they would rather fly than fight; it was the effect of a guilty conscience, which made them tremble at the shaking of a leaf, and the just punishment of their apostasy from God, who thus fought against them with those very terrors with which he would otherwise have fought for them. Had it not been for this, we cannot but think Israel a match for the Midianites, and able enough to make head against them; but the heart that departs from God is lost, not only to that which is good, but to that which is great. Sin dispirits men, and makes them sneak into dens and caves. The day will come when chief captains and mighty men will call in vain to rocks and mountains to hide them. (2.) The Israelites impoverished, greatly impoverished, Jdg. 5:6. The Midianites and the other children of the east that joined with them to live by spoil and rapine (as long before the Sabeans and Chaldeans did that plundered Job, free-booters) made frequent incursions into the land of Canaan. This fruitful land was a great temptation to them; and the sloth and luxury into which the Israelites had sunk by forty years? rest made them and their substance an easy prey to them. They came up against them (Jdg. 5:3), pitched their camps among them (Jdg. 5:4), and brought their cattle with them, particularly camels innumerable (Jdg. 5:5), not a flying party to make a sally upon them and be gone presently, but they resolved to force their way, and penetrated through the heart of the country as far as Gaza on the western side, Jdg. 5:4. They let the Israelites alone to sow their ground, but towards harvest they came and seized all, and ate up and destroyed it, both grass and corn, and when they went away took with them the sheep and oxen, so that in short they left no sustenance for Israel, except what was privately taken by the rightful owners into the dens and caves. Now here we may see, [1.] The justice of God in the punishment of their sin. They had neglected to honour God with their substance in tithes and offerings, and had prepared that for Baal with which God should have been served, and now God justly sends an enemy to take it away in the season thereof, Hos. 2:8, 9. [2.] The consequence of God?s departure from a people; when he goes all good goes and all mischiefs break in. When Israel kept in with God, they reaped what others sowed (Josh. 24:13; Ps. 105:44); but now that God had forsaken them others reaped what they sowed. Let us take occasion from this to bless God for our national peace and tranquillity, that we eat the labour of our hands.
III. Israel?s sense of God?s hand revived at last. Seven years, year after year, did the Midianites make these inroads upon them, each we may suppose worse than the other (Jdg. 5:1), until at last, all other succours failing, Israel cried unto the Lord (Jdg. 5:6), for crying to Baal ruined them, and would not help them. When God judges he will overcome; and sinners shall be made either to bend or break before him.