JUDGES CHAPTER 4
The Victory of Deborah and Barak.
THE PROPHETESS DEBORAH CALLS BARAK. — V. 1. And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, literally, "they added, or continued to do, wickedness," when Ehud was dead; for he had kept down the spirit of idolatry and maintained a successful defensive position against all enemies. V. 2. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor, evidently a very important city-state; for its king had stood at the head of a strong league of northern tribes in the time of Joshua, Josh. 11, 1. 10. 11, and the city had been rebuilt after its destruction by Israel; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles, undoubtedly located in one of the valleys of Galilee, as Northern Canaan was later called. Jabin's scheme of keeping Israel in subjection by exerting pressure from two different points was apparently very successful, and the outlook seemed to favor his plan of regaining possession of the entire territory taken from his ancestors by Joshua. V. 3. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel, making them feel the full weight and power of his might. V. 4. And Deborah, a prophetess, one possessing the prophetic gift from the Spirit of Jehovah, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time, exercising the functions of the supreme court in deciding difficult cases and thus being an acknowledged leader in the nation. V. 5. And she dwelt under the palm-tree of Deborah, which received its name from that fact, between Ramah and Bethel, in the territory of Benjamin, in Mount Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Deborah was a woman of fiery spirit, as the exact translation shows; she was like a torch for Israel, kindling their languid hearts, a capable and energetic woman, but no fanatic. V. 6. And she sent and called Barak, the son of Abinoam, out of Kedeshnaphtali, a city in the extreme north of the later Galilee, and not far from Razor, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward Mount Tabor, southwest of the Sea of Galilee and north of the Plain of Esdraelon, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? The plan of assembling, as suggested by the Lord through the mouth of the prophetess, was that of drawing the men from the two tribes down to Tabor gradually, in small squads, the movement thus escaping the notice of the oppressors. V. 7. And I, the Lord further says, will draw unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. It was a clear command, with a definite promise. V. 8. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. Although Barak had no doubt concerning the truth of Deborah's words, he did not yet feel the divine enthusiasm for the battle, being conscious of his own inability to carry out the command of the Lord alone. V. 9. And she said, I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest, the expedition upon which he was now entering, shall not be for thine honor, Barak would not be hailed as the conqueror of Jabin and Sisera; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman, namely, Jael, as the continuation of the story shows; for Deborah was speaking as a prophetess. And Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. It makes no difference to the Lord whether the men and the instruments at hand are strong or weak, He is able to carry out His will as He chooses.
THE DEFEAT OF SISERA. — V. 10. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, as Deborah had suggested; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet, on foot, infantry only, for they had neither chariots nor cavalry; and Deborah went up with him. With their number constantly growing, as new bands from the hills join them, they reach the designated place. V. 11. Now Heber, the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, or brother-in-law, for the Hebrew word means simply a male relative by marriage, had severed himself from the Kenites, who had settled in the extreme southern part of Canaan, chap. 1, 16, and pitched his tent, taken up a homestead, unto the Plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh, in the territory of Naphtali. V. 12. And they showed Sisera, some one brought him the tidings, that Barak, the son of Abinoam, was gone up to Mount Tabor, that the Israelites were preparing to throw off the yoke of Jabin. V. 13. And Sisera gathered together, assembled by sending out criers, all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon, for the Plain of Esdraelon, or Jezreel, at the headwaters of the Kishon was a ground on which his army could properly deploy. V. 14. And Deborah said unto Barak, Up! For this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand. Is not the Lord gone out before thee? This was a prophetic and most vivid assurance of victory. So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him, apparently in a sudden attack, before the terrible chariot-force had well arranged itself. V. 15. And the Lord discomfited Sisera, terrified him, threw him into confusion, and all his chariots and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak, for nothing could withstand the charge of the army of Israel, fired as it was with divine enthusiasm by Deborah, so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, in a panic of terror, and fled away on his feet, seeking only to save his life in the general destruction. V. 16. But Barak pursued after the chariots, as their drivers turned in headlong flight, and after the host, the infantry of the enemy's army, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles, to the very gates of their stronghold; and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword, in the terrible conflict in which the sword mowed them down on every hand; and there was not a man left. V. 17. Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite, seeking refuge at the first place that seemed to promise him security; for there was peace between Jabin, the king of Razor, and the house of Heber, the Kenite. Thus the mighty enemies were overthrown by the power of the Lord, for it is a small matter for Him to deliver His people with a handful of men from the hands of the mightiest tyrant.
SISERA'S DEATH. — V. 18. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, after the manner of Oriental hospitality, her object being to coax him into the house, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. She wanted to disarm all suspicions. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, probably feeling safer in the women's apartments, she covered him with a mantle, with a close, ruglike covering. V. 19. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty, for it was a rule of hospitality that whoever had eaten or drunk anything in the tent was received into the peace of the house. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him, having effectually allayed all his suspicions. V. 20. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. He felt altogether secure, and lay down to sleep after giving Jael these instructions. V. 21. And Jael, Heber's wife, mindful of the fact that the man lying in her tent was a tyrant, a ruthless enemy of a nation with which her family was joined in the bonds of the closest relationship, took a nail of the tent, one of the tent-pins, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary, from his long flight. So he died. V. 22. And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. Deborah's word that the Lord would sell Sisera into the hand of a woman had been literally fulfilled. V. 23. So God subdued on that day Jabin, the king of Canaan, before the children of Israel, by this complete defeat of his general and the entire army. V. 24. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, they gained in power, and prevailed against Jabin, the king of Canaan, resting ever more heavily upon him, until they had destroyed Jabin, king of Canaan. The rule of this one king at least was definitely at an end. Note: Faith shows its power also in weak instruments, for it is the strength of God and not of men. Faith, which always keeps God's Word and promise before the eyes, is able to enter into battle at all times and to gain the victory. That is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.