After Israel’s great victory over Jabin and Sisera, the nation rejoiced. “Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying: ‘When leaders lead Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the LORD! Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel” (Jud. 5:1-3). Deborah is the author of this song (cf. 5:7), but both she and Barak sing it. There was no physical king over Israel at this time in their history, so Deborah and Barak must be praising the soldiers of Israel who were like valiant kings who obeyed the LORD.
The song then alludes to some events that were glorious and some that were pitiful. In former times, when they followed God’s ways, they were blessed, but recently “village life ceased” due to their disobedience (they had chosen “new gods”) and oppression was the result from their enemies. The Israelites had stopped traveling public roads due to the strength of the Canaanites. They hid and cowered in fear. No one stood up to lead the people until Deborah, a mother, arose (illustrating that God can do great things with anyone who is willing)! The people were not ready for battle, however. They lacked weapons and were unable to defend themselves. What a sorry description of God’s people! How many “Christians” today are in a similar plight? Their swords are dull and they are unable to differentiate between truth and error.
Barak, with Deborah’s encouragement, led the Israelites to battle at God’s command. Things are beginning to change and they will now fight. However, not all of the tribes committed themselves to the effort. Some “jeopardized their lives to the point of death…on the battlefield” while others stayed home and tended selfishly to their own business (the song rebukes them for this behavior). With God on their side, the Israelite army was able to defeat a superior force. Such is still true today, friends! If we are on the Lord’s side, victory is ours–no matter what the odds and no matter who rallies against us! Even if our own brethren will not join with us, may we seek to do the Lord’s will to the best of our ability and may we seek it above all else (cf. Matt. 6:33)!
The enemy fought but took no spoils since they were not victorious. It appears that God sent a great storm to mire the chariots, etc. (cf. 5:20,21). A curse is pronounced upon Meroz by the Angel of the LORD in Judges 5:23. They did not help out in the battle and they had the most to gain since they were in the area affected the most by Jabin’s rule. But Jael is blessed because she dared to be different!
“Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; blessed is she among women in tents. He asked for water, she gave milk; she brought out cream in a lordly bowl. She stretched her hand to the tent peg, her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; she pounded Sisera, she pierced his head, she split and struck through his temple. At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead” (5:24-27).
The one who terrorized Israel for 20 years is defeated with a single blow, and it was delivered by a woman!
“The mother of Sisera looked through the window, and cried out through the lattice, ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarries the clatter of his chariots?’ Her wisest ladies answered her, yes, she answered herself, ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil: to every man a girl or two; for Sisera, plunder of dyed garments, plunder of garments embroidered and dyed, two pieces of dyed embroidery for the neck of the looter?’ Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD! But let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength” (5:28-31).
Sisera’s mother expected a victorious return (as had typically been the case), but this time was different. This time she was left empty with grief for her son would not return to her.
“So the land had rest for forty years” (5:31). This was a blessing from God under Deborah’s and Barak’s leadership, coupled with Israel’s repentance. The nation enjoyed rest for four decades until they decided to wander yet again from the way of righteousness.