Judges 4-5The Voice (VOICE)
God takes what is different about Ehud and makes it a strength. This is God’s habit throughout the Old Testament—making unlikely heroes into agents of His deliverance from the enemies of Israel. Earlier God used Moses, an infant marked for death, to liberate His people from Egypt. Soon God will use two women, marginalized in a patriarchal society, to save Israel from Sisera. And much later, God will choose David, a young boy, to save Israel from the mighty Philistines. Time and again, God proves He can use anyone to accomplish His goals.
4 After Ehud died, the people returned to doing what the Eternal said was evil. 2 So the Eternal made them subservient to Jabin, king of Canaan, who ruled from Hazor. Jabin’s general was a man named Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.
3 The people of Israel cried out to the Eternal again for help. Since Sisera had 900 iron chariots, he prevailed against and oppressed the Israelites for 20 years.
These iron chariots are an especially potent assault vehicle against the Israelites on the plains, but not as much in mountainous regions.
4 At that time, Deborah the prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, served as judge over Israel. 5 She used to sit beneath the palm tree of Deborah, situated in the hill country of Ephraim between Ramah and Bethel, and the people would go up to her there to settle disputes. 6 She urgently sent for Barak, the son of Abinoam, out of Kedesh-naphtali.
Deborah: The Eternal God of Israel commands you: “Go and get into position near Mount Tabor. Take 10,000 soldiers from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. 7 I will draw out Sisera, Jabin’s general, to meet you at the wadi Kishon with his chariots and his army, and I will deliver him to you.”
Barak (to Deborah): 8 I will do this if you will go with me; but if you won’t, then I won’t go either.
Deborah: 9 I will certainly go with you, but you should know from the beginning that this battle will not lead to your personal glory. The Eternal has decreed that the mighty Sisera will be defeated by a woman.
Then Deborah got up and accompanied Barak to Kedesh. 10 Barak summoned the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, and they sent 10,000 men to follow him. With Deborah, they went to Kedesh.
11 Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from all the other Kenites (the descendants of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses) and had camped far away, under the great tree at Zaanannim, near Kedesh.
12 When Sisera the general heard that Barak, the son of Abinoam, had gone up in force to Mount Tabor, 13 he called out all 900 of his iron chariots, and all the soldiers who were with him from Harosheth-hagoyim to the wadi Kishon.
Deborah (to Barak): 14 Get up! For this is the day that the Eternal has given you victory over Sisera. In fact, He has already gone out ahead of you.
So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 warriors following. 15 As Barak and his forces watched, the Eternal threw Sisera and all his chariots and his entire army into a panic before them; all Sisera’s army died by the sword. Sisera himself climbed down from his chariot and escaped on foot, 16 while Barak and his army pursued Sisera’s chariots and army all the way back to Harosheth-hagoyim. All of Sisera’s warriors perished by the sword; not one of them was left alive.
17 Sisera had fled to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, and he must have thought himself safe at last, since there was peace between Jabin, the king of Hazor, and Heber the Kenite.
18 Jael went out to meet Sisera.
Jael: Come in, my lord, come in with me. There is nothing to be afraid of here.
So he came inside the tent with her, and she covered him with a rug just in case some of Barak’s soldiers came looking for him.
Sisera: 19 May I have a little water to drink?
He was very thirsty, so she opened a skin filled with milk and gave him a little, then covered him again.
Sisera: 20 Stand and wait at the opening to the tent. If anybody comes and asks you, “Is anyone inside?” tell them “No.”
21 Sisera fell into a deep sleep, for he was weary. Jael, the wife of Heber, took a tent peg in one hand and a hammer in the other. She crept softly to his side. Then she drove the peg into his temple, down into the ground, and killed him.
22 When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him.
Jael: Come inside, and I will show you the man you seek.
So he went into the tent with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with a tent peg driven through his head.
23 On that day, God vanquished Jabin, king of Canaan, before the people of Israel; 24 and the Israelites bore down harder and harder on him until at last Jabin, king of Canaan, was destroyed.
Known as the Song of Deborah, this victory song is one of the oldest passages in the Bible; it is beautiful and powerful, as well as filled with information. In addition to praising and chastising certain tribes for their role—or lack thereof—in battle, it also celebrates a victory God has given His people through the agency of two women: the judge Deborah and Jael, who, as Deborah prophesied (verse 9), brings final victory over the enemy general Sisera.
These cultures value masculine strength, aggression, and war-prowess; they don’t value female ingenuity and courage. So for the first hearers of this story, the last people they expect to bring military victory are women. But once again, God takes ordinary people with their gifts, strengths, and weaknesses—and brings military victory through the unexpectedly strong hands of women.
5 Then, that same day, Deborah and Barak, the son of Abinoam, sang a song in victory:
2 The leaders of Israel stood up,
6 In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath,
10 Sing this song, those of you who now ride white donkeys
12 Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
19 The kings came, they fought;
22 The hooves of the horses beat loudly;
23 “A curse on Meroz!” said the messenger of the Eternal One;
31 So may all Your enemies perish, O Eternal One!
After this victory, the people knew peace from war for 40 years.
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