Deborah the Judge (JUDGES 4)

Ehud had protected Israel both physically and spiritually, but after his death the nation drifted once more. “When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera” (Jud. 4:1,2). The Israelites had previously suffered oppression under the Mesopotamians, the Moabites, and the Philistines. Now, because of their sins, they are oppressed a fourth time–this time by the Canaanites. To say that God “sold them” simply means that God arranged for them to be punished after they chose to disobey Him. Jabin, king of Canaan, was a strong force. He had 900 chariots of iron (intimidating technology for that age) and oppressed Israel 20 years! Repentance will bring relief to the hurting nation, however.

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” (4:4,5). Some of the judges traveled a circuit, but Deborah stayed in the same place and the people came to her for counsel. Although she was a prophetess, there is no proof that she preached publicly (cf. Acts 21:9). As a judge she was a military leader and helped guide the people back to the Lord’s way. She called upon Barak to lead the assault against the Canaanites that God had commanded. Barak, a timid leader, will only comply if Deborah comes along with him. Deborah agreed to go with Barak, but she said – “Nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Jud. 4:9). The army is subsequently gathered as God instructed. Sisera learns of Barak’s intent and gathers his army. Sisera, with his superior weaponry, likely expected an easy victory. If so, he was mistaken!

“Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the LORD gone out before you?’ So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot” (4:14,15). Sisera, exhausted from battle, flees to the only place nearby that he believes is safe–the tent of Heber. Sisera was at peace with Heber (or so he thought!), and Heber had notified Sisera of Israel’s gathering army. However, Heber’s wife was not a true friend to the Canaanite commander.

Sisera is met by Jael, Heber’s wife, and she deceptively invites him in, telling him not to fear. She hides him under a blanket and gives him milk to drink (instead of the water he requested). He instructed her to lie for him if anyone came looking for him. But, after he fell soundly asleep (thanks to fatigue and perhaps the milk), she had other plans for him. “Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died” (4:21). As predicted, Sisera was sold “into the hand of a woman.” The LORD knew all along how Sisera would perish. Although the Canaanite commander believed he was safe, he clearly was not. God works in ways we cannot imagine or understand (cf. Isa. 55;8,9). May we always follow His word and not fight against Him or His people!

“And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan” (4:24). The Canaanites are not completely destroyed but subdued.

#judges