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,
and the people offered themselves willingly—
praise the Eternal One!
3 Listen, all you kings, and pay attention, you rulers:
I, I will sing to the Eternal,
I will sing praise to Him, the True God of Israel!
4 Eternal One, when You went out from Seir
and marched from the field of Edom,
The earth shook,
and the heavens poured;
yes, the clouds poured water.
5 The mountains flowed like water before the Eternal, the God of Sinai;
they melted into a flood before the Eternal One, the True God of Israel.
6 In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath,
and in the days of Jael, the main roads were empty of caravans,
and the travelers kept to back roads.
7 But those from rural areas stayed away,
the destitute in Israel kept far off,[a]
Until I, Deborah, arose
to be a mother to Israel.
8 They had chosen new gods,
so war came to their gates.
Was there a spear or shield to be found then
among the 40,000 of Israel?
9 My heart is warmed by those in Israel called to command them,
who offered themselves willingly to the people.
Praise the Eternal One!
10 Sing this song, those of you who now ride white donkeys
and sit on rich carpets,
you who travel along the road.
11 All of you who now hear the sound of shepherds at the watering places,
proclaim the just victories of the Eternal,
the just triumphs of His destitute people in Israel,
As the people of the Eternal go down to the gates!
12 Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, and sing!
Get up, Barak! Get up and carry off your captives,
O son of Abinoam!
13 Then down went a surviving people to those who were noble,
and the Eternal One marched to me with the mighty!
14 People with roots in Ephraim went down against the Amalekites after you, O Benjamin,
with your people.
From Machir marched those commanders,
and from Zebulun went those carrying the staff of a scribe.
15 The chiefs of Issachar came with Deborah;
Issachar was faithful to Barak,
And they rushed into the valley, close at his heels.
And the clans of Reuben wondered in their heart,
16 “Why did you remain idle and aloof in the sheepfolds?
To hear whistling for the flocks?”
And the clans of Reuben wondered in their heart,
17 “Why did those of Gilead remain beyond the Jordan?
Why did the people of Dan stay with their ships?
“Why did the people of Asher stay on the coast,
settling down where they landed?”
18 But Zebulun did not fear death,
and Naphtali, too, stared down death on the heights where the battle raged.
19 The kings came, they fought;
the kings of Canaan made war.
They fought at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
but they won no spoils of silver.
20 The stars themselves fought against them;
from the heavens, the stars fought against Sisera.
21 The raging waters of Kishon swept them away,
the rushing waters, the raging waters of Kishon.
March forward, my soul, march on with strength!
22 The hooves of the horses beat loudly;
the galloping of the horses echoed.
23 “A curse on Meroz!” said the messenger of the Eternal One;
“May its people be bitterly cursed,
Because they did not come to help the Eternal,
to stand with the Eternal against the mighty foes!”
24 But Jael,
the wife of Heber, the Kenite—most blessed of women is she,
favored above all women who dwell in tents!
25 Sisera asked for water, and she gave him milk;
she gave him curds in a dish fit for lords.
26 And then she took a tent peg in her left hand
and a worker’s hammer in her right,
And she struck Sisera.
She broke and battered his head;
she pierced his temple.
27 At her feet he bowed, he fell,
he dropped silent.
At her feet he fell, he dropped,
and where he dropped, there he lay dead.
28 The mother of Sisera waited for him,
watching through the lattice of the window.
“Why is his chariot so long in returning?” she wondered.
“Where are the hoofbeats of his horses?”
29 Her wisest ladies in waiting have answers—
in fact, she herself thinks she knows the reason.
30 “Aren’t they still dividing the spoils of a successful battle?
A girl or two given to every man;
Spoils of beautiful dyed cloth for Sisera,
spoils of dyed cloth, beautifully embroidered.
Indeed two pieces of beautiful embroidered cloth for my neck.”
31 So may all Your enemies perish, O Eternal One!
But may those who love You be like the sun,
rising and going forth with power!
After this victory, the people knew peace from war for 40 years.
35 Remember when I sent you out with no money, no pack, not even sandals? Did you lack anything?
Disciples: Not a thing.
Jesus: 36 It’s different now. If you have some savings, take them with you. If you have a pack, fill it and bring it. If you don’t have a sword, sell your coat and buy one. 37 Here’s the truth: what the Hebrew Scriptures said, “And He was taken as one of the criminals,”[a] must come to fruition in Me. These words must come true.
Disciples: 38 Look, Lord, we have two swords here.
Jesus: That’s enough.
There is powerful consistency in Jesus’ life. Again and again, He withdraws from the crowds to pray in solitude. Now, at this dramatic moment, Jesus again withdraws to pray—in a solitude made more intense by the fact that He has asked His disciples to pray, too, but they have fallen asleep. And in this moment of anguished emotion, Jesus mouths a prayer that resonates with His consistent message of the Kingdom. He has taught His disciples to pray, “May Your kingdom come,” which is a request for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now, drenched in sweat, Jesus Himself prays simply for God’s will to be done, even if it means He must drink the cup of suffering that awaits Him in the hours ahead.
We often speak of having faith in Jesus; but we seldom speak of the faith of Jesus, a faith He demonstrated consistently throughout His life and especially at its end. In a moment of agony, Jesus still trusted God, still yielded His will to God, and still approached God as “Father,” placing Himself in the position of a child, in trust—profound, tested, sincere.
39 Once again He left the city as He had been doing during recent days, returning to Mount Olivet along with His disciples. 40 And He came to a certain place.
Jesus: Pray for yourselves, that you will not sink into temptation.
41 He distanced Himself from them about a stone’s throw and knelt there, 42 praying.
Jesus: Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me. Yet not My will, but Your will, be done.
[43 Then a messenger from heaven appeared to strengthen Him. 44 And in His anguish, He prayed even more intensely, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.][b] 45 When He rose from prayer and returned to the disciples, He found them asleep, weighed down with sorrow. 46 He roused them.
Jesus: Why are you sleeping? Wake up and pray that you will not sink into temptation.
47 Even as He said these words, the sound of a crowd could be heard in the distance, and as the crowd came into view, it was clear that Judas was leading them. He came close to Jesus and gave Jesus the traditional greeting of a kiss.
Jesus: 48 Ah, Judas, is this how you betray the Son of Man—with a kiss?
Disciples (realizing what was going on): 49 Lord, is this why You told us to bring the swords? Should we attack?
50 Before Jesus could answer, one of them had swung his sword at the high priest’s slave, cutting off his right ear.
Jesus: 51 Stop! No more of this!
Then He reached out to touch—and heal—the man’s ear. 52 Jesus turned to the chief priests, the captains of the temple, and the elders and spoke.
Jesus: Do you think I’m some sort of violent criminal? Is that why you came with swords and clubs? 53 I haven’t been hard to find—each day I’ve been in the temple in broad daylight, and you never tried to seize Me there. But this is your time—night—and this is your power—the power of darkness.
1 O Eternal God of vengeance,
O God who sets things right, shine upon us.
2 Rise, O Judge who presides over the earth,
and pronounce Your sentence upon the proud.
Give them what they deserve!
3 How long, O Eternal One, how long
will the guilty revel in their prosperity?
4 Arrogance pours from their mouths;
all these troublemakers brag of their exploits.
5 They have broken Your people to pieces, O Eternal One,
and brought ruin to Your future generations.
6 They slay a widow, kill a newcomer,
and murder an orphan.
7 Then they say, “The Eternal can’t see what we’re up to;
the God of Jacob’s people pays no attention to us.”
8 Think, brainless people;
stupid people, when will you get it?
9 Does the God who set the ear in its place not hear?
Does the God who made the eye not see?
10 Does the God who teaches the nations
and guides humanity to knowledge,
not exercise just correction?
11 The Eternal knows the highest thoughts of the wise,
and they are worthless.[a]
12 How fortunate are those You discipline, O Eternal One,
those You train by Your divine law;
13 You relieve them in times of distress,
until a grave is dug for evildoers.
14 The Eternal will not abandon His people;
He will not turn away from those He redeemed
15 Because justice is coming for those who do what is right
and all the good-hearted will pursue it.
16 Who will back me up when evildoers come against me?
Who is willing to take my side against the wicked?
17 If the Eternal had not come to my rescue,
my soul would have descended to the land where death silences every voice.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping!”
Your unfailing love, O Eternal One, held me up.
19 When anxiety overtakes me and worries are many,
Your comfort lightens my soul.
20 Can wicked tyrants be Your allies?
Will You align with rulers who create havoc with unjust decrees?
21 They have joined forces against the life of the just-living, the right-seeking,
and have sentenced the innocent to death.
22 But the Eternal has been my citadel;
my God, a sure safe haven.
23 He will fold their wickedness back upon them,
and because they are malicious, He will silence them.
The Eternal, our True God, will scatter them.
3 A fool’s words betray his pride and invite punishment,
but the humble speech of the wise will spare them.
4 A farm without oxen has a manger without grain;
there’s a good return in the strength of an ox.