Posts Tagged 'Deborah'

Panic Podcast: Interesting Women in the Bible – Deborah, Part 2

With today’s podcast, we’ll conclude our brief look at Judge Deborah, and a glance at the unimpressive man Barack, as well as woman named Jael, no less interesting as Deborah, who found a singular use for a tent peg!  Don’t go camping with Jael…


Panic Podcast: Interesting Women in the Bible – Deborah, Part 1

On today’s podcast, we’ll be looking at an amazing woman named Deborah.  She was a prophetess who became judge (or governor) in Israel.  God raised her up to lead His people out of oppression to a thoroughly nasty man named Jabin.  Don’t tell me that God doesn’t use women!  Wait until you discover how able Deborah was and why she was the perfect woman to carry out God’s will.


Stories of Five Judges, Part 5

Deborah: Woman of the Moment, Judges 5

The story of Deborah occupies two chapters in the book of Judges. In these two chapters we have two accounts of the final struggle between the Israelites and the people of Canaan, the Canaanites. The remainder of Judges concerns skirmishes with foreign invaders, the Moabites, the Edomites, and the Ammonites, people from across the Jordan, and the Philistines from the Mediterranean Sea.

Chapters four and five are not unlike Hebrew parallelism; like the structure of Proverbs and other Hebrew poetry. Chapter four has the story in prose and chapter five present the same story in poetic fashion. We will examine the events in chapter four as we meet a most remarkable woman.

1. The Oppressor, 4:1-3

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, now that Ehud was dead. So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help. (TNIV)

Israel’s next problem came from the Canaanite forces led by two men, Sisera and Jabin and affected mostly the northern tribes. The Israelites fell away from the Lord, again, when Ehud died. Jabin was the Canaanite king of severely oppressed Israel for 20 years and Sisera was the wicked general of the mighty Canaanite army. The strength of the Canaanite army lay in its 900 chariots, considered a formidable force at this time in history.

2. Deborah’s Challenge, 4:4-10

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’ ”

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him. (TNIV)

God raised up a judge, a woman, named Deborah, to deliver them. The “evil” that the Israelites were involved in was idolatry but also involved a dangerous sense of complacency. Chapter 5 gives us a glimpse of the moral conditions at the time of Deborah:

Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. (5:7-8, TNIV)

The people, consumed with sin and self-centeredness had no fight in them. God’s judgment descended within the context of history. The Canaanites were in the process of driving out all foreigners who were stealing their territory, and turned on those who been ensnared in their vile religion. They oppressed, not only the Israelites, but many others. Despite appearances, though, the Canaanites were not operating according to their own agenda but were tools in the hands of a sovereign God. What a powerful lesson: history moves under God’s control. Or, as Thomas a Kempis is thought to have said,

Man proposes, but God disposes.

Job was forced to admit the same thing:

I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

God is sovereign and He uses whatever He needs to accomplish His will for this planet, which is being carried along by Christ Himself, according to the writer of Hebrews 1:3–

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Into this environment, God raised up a judge who happened to be a woman. Throughout the Bible we have many examples of women exercising prophetic gifts and acting as capable leaders in God’s plan. Deborah was a prophetess, as was Miriam before her (Exodus 15:20) and also a woman by the name of Huldah (2 Kings 22:14). The rule of women in Israel was not the norm and her rise to prominence was probably due to the lack of qualified and willing men.

The fact that God chose a woman was a disgrace to men. Barak was Deborah’s counterpart and he certainly distinguished himself as a spineless wonder, indicative of men in general during this time. At the depth of the oppression, she called for this man, whose name means “lightening” or possibly “lure.” Through His prophetess, God commanded Barak to assemble an Israelite Army at Mount Tabor, about 12 miles from Megiddo, a strategic center for a military campaign. His job was to “lead the way” and lure the enemy into a trap. If Barak did his part, God would give success and glory to Barak.

In response to this challenge, Deborah faces another kind of opposition. With a guarantee of success, Barak expressed a willingness to participate in the plan but only if Deborah went with him. This has a very familiar ring to it. It seemed to be the Israelite habit to almost do the Lord’s will His way but not quite. But almost doing the will of God His way is not doing the will of God. God does not reject Barak, but he received no glory or honor from the Lord. J.N. Darby makes this observation:

But this want of faith is not to his credit. Men will keep the place which answers to the measure of their faith; and God will again be glorified through another instrument; a woman in this case.

In other words, God’s will will be done, with or without a particular person’s help. In fact, Deborah predicts that the honor of killing Sisera would go to a woman, Jael, the wife of Heber. So, Deborah goes along and the trap is set.

4. Sisera’s army routed by Barak, verses 12-16

When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. (TNIV)

So Barak marshaled an army of 10,000 men, and Sisera gathered his chariots and soldiers, and both armies were ready to do battle. According to Josephus, a Jewish historian, a great and sudden storm may have aided in the defeat of Sisera. Josephus writes that the Kishon Brook flooded, bogging Sisera’s chariots down in mud. Deborah’s song in chapter five seems to support that account:

“Kings came, they fought, the kings of Canaan fought. At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,they took no plunder of silver. From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong! (Judges 5:19-21, TNIV)

Without a doubt, the battle was the Lord’s from the very first moment; in His sovereignty the Lord used nature to accomplish His purposes. What a lesson in the sovereignty of God; He was using Jabin and Sisera to judge the Israelites, and here He has used nature to utterly rout Sisera’s forces. Sisera himself left his floundering chariot and ran away.

5. The Death of Sisera, verses 17-22

Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

“I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

“Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If anyone comes by and asks you, ‘Is there a man in here?’ say ‘No.’ ”

But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead. (TNIV)

Sisera’s flight from the Israelites carried him past the camp of a man named Heber. We are first introduced this man back in verse 11 this way:

Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

That’s all we know about this man. We find out that his wife’s name was Jael and they were Kenites, a nomadic people who, because they were related to Moses, had strong ties to Israel. The Kenites were also known as friendly people, which is why Sisera decided to take advantage of Jael’s hospitality.

After having some milk, Sisera felt safe enough to take a nap. At that moment, Jael took a wooden mallet and long tent peg and with such force, she drove that tent peg through Sisera’s right temple, out the other side, and deep into the dirt. It reminds us of the force with which Ehud assassinated Eglon. Here was a woman who knew how to handle tools! This was not all that unusual, incidentally, because during this time, women were responsible for setting up the tents.

Some Christians who don’t understand the dynamics of the Word of God see a problem with how Jael handled the enemy and Jesus’ supposed policy of non-violence. It should be noted that Sisera cruelly oppressed the Israelites for two decades. It should also be noted that, according to Deut. 7:2; Josh. 6:7; etc.), all Canaanites were under a “total destruction” death sentence. Again we see the sovereignty of God, who used a woman go carry out His will. God had promised complete victory, and victory was not considered complete until the leaders were eliminated. With the military campaign over in disgrace, God ended the oppression of Jabin and the Canaanites by giving strength to the Israelite army, enabling them to destroy their enemy.

When Barak at last showed up, Jael showed him the dead commander. One can only imagine how Barak realized that Deborah’s prediction had come true: Barak lost the honor of ridding Israel of their chief oppressor. Sisera had died at the hands of a woman, the most disgraceful of deaths in that culture. Here in graphic illustration do we see a fulfillment of this verse:

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. (Prov. 3:34, TNIV)


There are a number of valuable lessons for believers in the story of Deborah. First, God is absolutely sovereign and He uses ways and means to achieve His purposes that we could never imagine. Habakkuk 1:5 says this:

Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

The same thing could be said of your life and mine. We could scarcely believe what God is doing in the background to push us along to our inevitable destinies. Sickness, tragedy, who knows what God uses. Second, God’s will will be accomplished with or without your help. God gave Barak a chance to achieve glory, instead, because of his lack of faith, he went down in Hebrew history as a footnote, while the glory went to a woman.

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