The other day I was reading about the victors dividing the spoils that they were blessed with and in Judges 5:30 it tells about giving 2 woman for every man. How can that be a moral blessing?
Multiple sex partners are a common occurrence in our world today. Some men have more than one wife. The question we are concerned with is does Judges 5:30 mean that men are blessed if they have two wives?
A maiden, two maidens for every warrior . . . Judges 5:30 (NASB)
Song of Deborah and Barak
Judges 5:30 occurs at the end of the “Song of Deborah and Barak,” and the song occurs after Israel defeats the Canaanites. The battle between Israel and the Canaanites is described in Judges 4. Judges 4 describes the defeat of the Canaanites and Judges 5 describes the song of victory. We will begin with a brief summary of the conflict and the victory.
Judges 4:1-2 tells us because Israel sinned, God gave them into the hands of the Canaanites. The commander of the Canaanite army was a man named Sisera. The Canaanites controlled the land of Israel (Judges 4:3). Judges 4:4 states that Deborah, a prophetess, was a judge over Israel at that time. Verse 6 says that she summoned Barak and they strategized together as how to defeat Sisera. Verse 7-9 describes their plan. The rest of Judges 4:10-15 describes the execution of their plan and the defeat of the Canaanites. Judges 4:16 states that the Canaanite army was completely defeated. We are told that not one soldier remained alive, except for Sisera. Verse 17 tells us that Sisera fled to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber. He asked her for a drink of water and she gave it to him (Judges 4:18-20). But Jael did not like Sisera for verse 18 states that she took a tent peg and hammer and pounded it into his temple, killing him (Judges 4:21-22).
Then Judges 5 gives us the Song of Deborah and Barak. The song has four sections. In Judges 5:1-5 Deborah praises God. In verses 6-11 she reviews the victory of Israel over the Canaanites. The third section, verses 12-18, is a celebration of the victory by some of the northern tribes of Israel. In the last section, verses 19-31, Deborah describes the battle, defeat and sufferings of the Canaanites.
Sisera’s Mother Wish
In the fourth section of Deborah and Barak’s song, Jael, the wife of Heber, is praised for killing Sisera when we reach verses 24-27. It is important to notice that verse 26 describes exactly what she did to Sisera (Judges 4:21-22). Then in verses 28-31, Deborah imagines the mother of Sisera worried that her son would not return home. In verse 28, she wonders why she has not heard his chariot return home. In verse 29 we are told that Sisera’s mother is talking to herself. Verse 30 tells us that she is thinking her son is delayed because he is dividing the spoils of war. She even imagines that he is choosing two women for himself and two women for other warriors as a spoil of war, as well as cloth or material that has been dyed. Maybe she imagines the material is for her to make clothes.
Are they not finding, are they not dividing the spoil?
A maiden, two maidens for every warrior;
To Sisera a spoil of dyed work,
A spoil of dyed work embroidered,
Dyed work of double embroidery on the neck of the spoiler?’
Judges 5:30 (NASB)
But the actual Hebrew words that are translated as “maiden, two maidens” is crude and vulgar. The New American Standard Bible and other Bibles avoid the literal meaning of the Hebrew phrase raham rahamatayim. If translated literally, the phrase actually means “a womb, a pair of wombs” or “wombs, two.” Since the Hebrew language has different words for women, this reveals that Deborah did not have to use the word “womb.” She intentionally imagined this Canaanite mother of Sisera using this vulgar concept about women. To imagine one’s son choosing two “wombs” implies that her son was not interested in the women as wives, but only as wombs. The idea is that the wombs were play-things to satisfy her son’s sexual lusts and maybe produce children, forgetting the women as individuals. Barry Webb makes the following helpful comment,
So these women are doubly dehumanized; they are not only property to be divided up by men like bits of cloth, but they are also “wombs,” valued only for their erotic and reproductive potential. The fact that it is other women who see this as normal, and something they hope is happening, is as telling a comment on Canaanite culture as the vignette about Adoni-bezek in 1:4-7. Finally, this last episode of the song is in effect a dramatic enactment of the statement back in verse 19: “plunder … they did not take”; and because the men took no plunder, the women have no hope. All is lost; Israel’s enemies are utterly undone.
This means that Judges 5:30 is not approving of men being blessed with two wives. This is not a moral blessing for men. Deborah used the words to reveal the evil heart of the Canaanite mother of Sisera.
Increasingly our world is becoming like the Canaanites who were known for their degrading sexual behavior. Today our culture worships at the altar of sexual enjoyment and gratification. The trend today is towards acceptance and approval of greater sexual experimentation and exploitation. The slogan “if it feels good, do it” describes our world.
We recognize that God allowed men to have multiple wives in Old Testament times. In 2 Samuel 12.8 God told King David that He gave his wives to him. Were the multiple wives allowed to increase the population of the world? We do not know, but when we come to the New Testament, it becomes clear that each man is to have one wife. For more information about the Bible teaching about multiple wives read, “Does 2 Samuel 12:8 mean God approved of David’s polygamy?”
1. Daniel I Block. Judges, Ruth. The American Commentary. B&H Publishing. 1999. p. 243.
2. Barry G Webb. The Book of Judges. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans Publishing. 2012. p. 217.
Suggested Links:What biblical evidence is there for God allowing polygamy?
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Does 2 Samuel 12:8 mean God approved of David’s polygamy?
Does Judges 5:30 say men are blessed if they have two wives?
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