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1-2 And the Lord had another reason for letting these enemies stay. The Israelites needed to learn how to fight in war, just as their ancestors had done. Each new generation would have to learn by fighting the Philistines and their five rulers, as well as the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites that lived in the Lebanon Mountains from Mount Baal-Hermon to Hamath Pass.[a]

Moses had told the Israelites what the Lord had commanded them to do, and now the Lord was using these nations to find out if Israel would obey. 5-6 But they refused. And it was because of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who lived all around them. Some of the Israelites married the people of these nations, and that’s how they started worshiping foreign gods.

Othniel

The Israelites sinned against the Lord by forgetting him and worshiping idols of Baal and Astarte. This made the Lord angry, so he let Israel be defeated by King Cushan Rishathaim of northern Syria,[b] who ruled Israel eight years and made everyone pay taxes. The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and he chose Othniel to rescue them. Othniel was the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz.[c] 10 The Spirit of the Lord took control of Othniel, and he led Israel in a war against Cushan Rishathaim. The Lord gave Othniel victory, 11 and Israel was at peace until Othniel died about forty years later.

Ehud

12 Once more the Israelites started disobeying the Lord. So he let them be defeated by King Eglon of Moab, 13 who had joined forces with the Ammonites and the Amalekites to attack Israel. Eglon and his army captured Jericho.[d] 14 Then he ruled Israel for eighteen years and forced the Israelites to pay heavy taxes.

15-16 The Israelites begged the Lord for help, and the Lord chose Ehud[e] from the Benjamin tribe to rescue them. They put Ehud in charge of taking the taxes to King Eglon, but before Ehud went, he made a double-edged dagger. Ehud was left-handed, so he strapped the dagger to his right thigh, where it would be hidden under his robes.

17-18 Ehud and some other Israelites took the taxes to Eglon, who was a very fat man. As soon as they gave the taxes to Eglon, Ehud said it was time to go home.

19-20 Ehud went with the other Israelites as far as the statues[f] at Gilgal.[g] Then he turned back and went upstairs to the cool room[h] where Eglon had his throne. Ehud said, “Your Majesty, I need to talk with you in private.”

Eglon replied, “Don’t say anything yet!” His officials left the room, and Eglon stood up as Ehud came closer.

“Yes,” Ehud said, “I have a message for you from God!” 21 Ehud pulled out the dagger with his left hand and shoved it so far into Eglon’s stomach 22-23 that even the handle was buried in his fat. Ehud left the dagger there. Then after closing and locking the doors to the room, he climbed through a window onto the porch[i] 24 and left.

When the king’s officials came back and saw that the doors were locked, they said, “The king is probably inside relieving himself.” 25 They stood there waiting until they felt foolish, but Eglon never opened the doors. Finally, they unlocked the doors and found King Eglon lying dead on the floor. 26 But by that time, Ehud had already escaped past the statues.[j]

Ehud went to the town of Seirah 27-28 in the hill country of Ephraim and started blowing a signal on a trumpet. The Israelites came together, and he shouted, “Follow me! The Lord will help us defeat the Moabites.”

The Israelites followed Ehud down to the Jordan valley, and they captured the places where people cross the river on the way to Moab. They would not let anyone go across, 29 and before the fighting was over, they killed about ten thousand Moabite warriors—not one escaped alive.

30 Moab was so badly defeated that it was a long time before they were strong enough to attack Israel again. And Israel was at peace for eighty years.

Shamgar

31 Shamgar the son of Anath was the next to rescue Israel. In one battle, he used a sharp wooden pole[k] to kill six hundred Philistines.

Deborah and Barak

After the death of Ehud, the Israelites again started disobeying the Lord. So the Lord let the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor conquer Israel. Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, lived in Harosheth-Ha-Goiim. Jabin’s army had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he made life miserable for the Israelites, until finally they begged the Lord for help.

Deborah the wife of Lappidoth was a prophet and a leader[l] of Israel during those days. She would sit under Deborah’s Palm Tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, where Israelites would come and ask her to settle their legal cases.

One day, Barak the son of Abinoam was in Kedesh in Naphtali, and Deborah sent word for him to come and talk with her. When he arrived, she said:

I have a message for you from the Lord God of Israel! You are to get together an army of ten thousand men from the Naphtali and Zebulun tribes and lead them to Mount Tabor. The Lord will trick Sisera into coming out to fight you at the Kishon River. Sisera will be leading King Jabin’s army as usual, and they will have their chariots, but the Lord has promised to help you defeat them.

“I’m not going unless you go!” Barak told her.

“All right, I’ll go!” she replied. “But I’m warning you that the Lord is going to let a woman defeat Sisera, and no one will honor you for winning the battle.”

Deborah and Barak left for Kedesh, 10 where Barak called together the troops from Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand soldiers gathered there, and Barak led them out from Kedesh. Deborah went too.

11 At this time, Heber of the Kenite clan was living near the village of Oak in Zaanannim,[m] not far from Kedesh. The Kenites were descendants of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, but Heber had moved and had set up his tents away from the rest of the clan.

12 When Sisera learned that Barak had led an army to Mount Tabor, 13 he called his troops together and got all nine hundred iron chariots ready. Then he led his army away from Harosheth-Ha-Goiim to the Kishon River.

14 Deborah shouted, “Barak, it’s time to attack Sisera! Because today the Lord is going to help you defeat him. In fact, the Lord has already gone on ahead to fight for you.”

Barak led his ten thousand troops down from Mount Tabor. 15 And during the battle, the Lord confused Sisera, his chariot drivers, and his whole army. Everyone was so afraid of Barak and his army, that even Sisera jumped down from his chariot and tried to escape. 16 Barak’s forces went after Sisera’s chariots and army as far as Harosheth-Ha-Goiim.

Sisera’s entire army was wiped out. 17 Only Sisera escaped. He ran to Heber’s camp, because Heber and his family had a peace treaty with the king of Hazor. Sisera went to the tent that belonged to Jael, Heber’s wife. 18 She came out to greet him and said, “Come in, sir! Please come on in. Don’t be afraid.”

After they had gone inside, Sisera lay down, and Jael covered him with a blanket. 19 “Could I have a little water?” he asked. “I’m thirsty.”

Jael opened a leather bottle and poured him some milk, then she covered him back up.

20 “Stand at the entrance to the tent,” Sisera told her. “If someone comes by and asks if anyone is inside, tell them ‘No.’”

21 Sisera was exhausted and soon fell fast asleep. Jael took a hammer and drove a tent-peg through his head into the ground, and he died.

22 Meanwhile, Barak had been following Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “The man you’re looking for is inside,” she said. “Come in and I’ll show him to you.”

They went inside, and there was Sisera—dead and stretched out with a tent-peg through his skull.

23 That same day the Israelites defeated the Canaanite King Jabin, and his army was no longer powerful enough to attack the Israelites. 24 Jabin grew weaker while the Israelites kept growing stronger, and at last the Israelites destroyed him.

Deborah and Barak Sing for the Lord

After the battle was over that day, Deborah and Barak sang this song:

We praise you, Lord!
Our soldiers volunteered,
    ready to follow you.
Listen, kings and rulers,
while I sing for the Lord,
    the God of Israel.

Our Lord, God of Israel,
when you came from Seir,
    where the Edomites live,
rain poured from the sky,
the earth trembled,
    and mountains shook.

In the time of Shamgar
    son of Anath,
and now again in Jael’s time,
roads were too dangerous
    for caravans.
Travelers had to take
    the back roads,
and villagers couldn’t work
    in their fields.[n]
Then Deborah[o] took command,
protecting Israel
as a mother
    protects her children.

The Israelites worshiped
    other gods,
and the gates of their towns
    were then attacked.[p]
But they had no shields
    or spears to fight with.
I praise you, Lord,
    and I am grateful
for those leaders and soldiers
    who volunteered.
10 Listen, everyone!
Whether you ride a donkey
    with a padded saddle
    or have to walk.
11 Even those who carry water[q]
    to the animals will tell you,
“The Lord has won victories,
    and so has Israel.”

Then the Lord’s people marched
    down to the town gates
12 and said, “Deborah, let’s go!
Let’s sing as we march.
    Barak, capture our enemies.”

13 The Lord’s people who were left
joined with their leaders
    and fought at my side.[r]
14 Troops came from Ephraim,
    where Amalekites once lived.
Others came from Benjamin;
officers and leaders
came
    from Machir and Zebulun.
15 The rulers of Issachar
    came along with Deborah,
and Issachar followed Barak
    into the valley.

But the tribe of Reuben
    was no help at all![s]
16 Reuben, why did you stay
    among your sheep pens?[t]
Was it to listen to shepherds
    whistling for their sheep?
No one could figure out
    why Reuben wouldn’t come.[u]
17 The people of Gilead stayed
    across the Jordan.
Why did the tribe of Dan
    remain on their ships
and the tribe of Asher
stay along the coast
    near the harbors?

18 But soldiers of Zebulun
    and Naphtali
risked their lives
    to attack the enemy.[v]
19 Canaanite kings fought us
at Taanach by the stream
    near Megiddo[w]
but they couldn’t rob us
    of our silver.[x]
20 From their pathways in the sky
    the stars[y] fought Sisera,
21 and his soldiers were swept away
    by the ancient Kishon River.

I will march on and be brave.

22 Sisera’s horses galloped off,
their hoofs thundering
    in retreat.

23 The Lord’s angel said,
    “Put a curse on Meroz Town!
Its people refused
to help the Lord fight
    his powerful enemies.”

24 But honor Jael,
the wife of Heber
    from the Kenite clan.
Give more honor to her
than to any other woman
    who lives in tents.
Yes, give more honor to her
    than to any other woman.
25 Sisera asked for water,
but Jael gave him milk—
    cream in a fancy cup.
26 She reached for a tent-peg
and held a hammer
    in her right hand.
And with a blow to the head,
    she crushed his skull.
27 Sisera sank to his knees
    and fell dead at her feet.

28 Sisera’s mother looked out
    through her window.
“Why is he taking so long?”
    she asked.
“Why haven’t we heard
    his chariots coming?”
29 She and her wisest women
    gave the same answer:
30 “Sisera and his troops
are finding treasures
    to bring back—
a woman, or maybe two,
    for each man,
and beautiful dresses
    for those women to wear.”[z]

31 Our Lord, we pray
that all your enemies
    will die like Sisera.
But let everyone who loves you
shine brightly
like the sun
    at dawn.

Midian Steals Everything from Israel

There was peace in Israel for about forty years.

Footnotes

  1. 3.3 Hamath Pass: Or “Lebo-Hamath.”
  2. 3.8 northern Syria: The Hebrew text has “Aram-Naharaim,” probably referring to the land around the city of Haran (see Genesis 24.10; 25.20; 28.2,6; 31.18,20; 33.18; 35.23-26; 46.8-15; 48.7).
  3. 3.9 Othniel was the son of. . . Kenaz: See the note at 1.13.
  4. 3.13 Jericho: See the note at 1.16.
  5. 3.15,16 Ehud: Hebrew “Ehud the son of Gera.”
  6. 3.19,20 statues: Or “stone idols” or “stone monuments.”
  7. 3.19,20 Gilgal: About a mile and a half from Jericho, where Eglon probably was (see verse 13).
  8. 3.19,20 upstairs. . . cool room: Houses usually had flat roofs, and sometimes a room was built on one corner of the roof where it could best catch the breeze and be kept cooler than the rest of the house.
  9. 3.22,23 he climbed. . . porch: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  10. 3.26 statues: See the note at 3.19,20.
  11. 3.31 sharp wooden pole: The Hebrew text has “cattle-prod,” a pole with a sharpened tip or metal point at one end.
  12. 4.4 leader: See 2.16 and the note there.
  13. 4.11 the village. . . Zaanannim: Or “the oak tree in the town of Zaanannim.”
  14. 5.7 villagers. . . fields: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  15. 5.7 Deborah: Or “I, Deborah.”
  16. 5.8 The Israelites. . . attacked: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  17. 5.11 Even. . . water: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  18. 5.13 side: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 13.
  19. 5.15 But. . . at all: Or “But the people of Reuben couldn’t make up their minds.”
  20. 5.16 sheep pens: Or “campfires.”
  21. 5.16 No. . . come: Or “The people of Reuben couldn’t make up their minds.”
  22. 5.18 to attack the enemy: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  23. 5.19 stream near Megiddo: Probably refers to one of the streams that flow into the Kishon River.
  24. 5.19 rob us of our silver: The army that won a battle would take everything of value from the dead enemy soldiers.
  25. 5.20 stars: In ancient times, the stars were sometimes regarded as supernatural beings.
  26. 5.30 and beautiful. . . wear: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

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