Here, I. Barak beats up for volunteers, and soon has his quota of men ready, Jdg. 4:10. Deborah had appointed him to raise an army of 10,000 men (Jdg. 4:6), and so many he has presently at his feet, following him, and subject to his command. God is said to call us to his feet (Isa. 41:2), that is, into obedience to him. Some think it intimates that they were all footmen, and so the armies of the Jews generally were, which made the disproportion of strength between them and the enemy (who had horses and chariots) very great, and the victory the more illustrious; but the presence of God and his prophetess was abundantly sufficient to balance that disproportion. Barak had his men at his feet, which intimates their cheerfulness and readiness to attend him whithersoever he went, Rev. 14:4. Though the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were chiefly depended on, yet it appears by Deborah’s song that some had come in to him from other tribes (Manasseh and Issachar), and more were expected that came not, from Reuben, Dan, and Asher, Jdg. 5:14-17. But these are overlooked here; and we are only told that to make his 10,000 men effective indeed Deborah went up with him. The Jdg. 4:11; concerning the removal of Heber, one of the families of the Kenites, out of the wilderness of Judah, in the south, where those families had fixed themselves (Jdg. 1:16), into the northern country, comes in for the sake of what was to follow concerning the exploit of Jael, a wife of that family.
II. Sisera, upon notice of Barak’s motions, takes the field with a very numerous and powerful army (Jdg. 4:12, 13): They showed Sisera, that is, it was shown to him. Yet some think it refers to the Kenites, mentioned immediately before, Jdg. 4:11. They gave Sisera notice of Barak’s rendezvous, there being peace at this time between Jabin and that family, Jdg. 4:17. Whether they intended it as a kindness to him or no, it served to accomplish what God had said by Deborah (Jdg. 4:7): I will draw unto thee Sisera. Sisera’s confidence was chiefly in his chariots; therefore particular notice is taken of them, 900 chariots of iron, which, with the scythes fastened to their axle-trees, when they were driven into an army of footmen, did terrible execution. So ingenious have men been in inventing methods of destroying one another, to gratify those lusts from which come wars and fightings.
III. Deborah gives orders to engage the enemy, Jdg. 4:14. Josephus says that when Barak saw Sisera’s army drawn up, and attempting to surround the mountain on the top of which he and his forces lay encamped, his heart quite failed him, and he determined to retire to a place of greater safety; but Deborah animated him to make a descent upon Sisera, assuring him that this was the day marked out in the divine counsels for his defeat. “Now they appear most threatening they are ripe for ruin. The thing is as sure to be done as if it were done already: The Lord hath delivered Sisera into thy hand.” See how the work and honour of this great action are divided between Deborah and Barak; she, as the head, gives the word, he, as the hand, does the work. Thus does God dispense his gifts variously, 1 Cor. 12:4-11 But, though ordinarily the head of the woman is the man (1 Cor. 11:3), he that has the residue of the Spirit was pleased to cross hands, and to put the head upon the woman’s shoulders, choosing the weak things of the world to shame the mighty, that no flesh might glory in his presence. It was well for Barak that he had Deborah with him; for she made up what was defective, 1. In his conduct, by telling him, This is the day. 2. In his courage, by assuring him of God’s presence: “Has not the Lord gone out before thee? Darest not thou follow when thou hast God himself for thy leader?” Note, (1.) In every undertaking it is good to be satisfied that God goes before us, that we are in the way of our duty and under his direction. (2.) If we have ground to hope that God goes before us, we ought to go on with courage and cheerfulness. Be not dismayed at the difficulties thou meetest with in resisting Satan, in serving God, or suffering for him; for has not the Lord gone out before thee? Follow him fully then.
IV. God himself routs the enemy’s army, Jdg. 4:15. Barak, in obedience to Deborah’s orders, went down into the valley, though there upon the plain the iron chariots would have so much the more advantage against him, quitting his fastnesses upon the mountain in dependence upon the divine power; for in vain is salvation hoped for from hills and mountains; in the Lord alone is the salvation of his people, Jer. 3:23. And he was not deceived in his confidence: The Lord discomfited Sisera. It was not so much the bold and surprising alarm which Barak gave their camp that dispirited and dispersed them, but God’s terror seized their spirits and put them into an unaccountable confusion. The stars, it seems, fought against them, Jdg. 5:20. Josephus says that a violent storm of hail which beat in their faces gave them this rout, disabled them, and drove them back; so that they became a very easy prey to the army of Israel, and Deborah’s words were made good: “The Lord has delivered them into thy hand; it is now in thy power to do what thou wilt with them.”
V. Barak bravely improves his advantage, follows the blow with undaunted resolution and unwearied diligence, prosecutes the victory, pursues the scattered forces, even to their general’s head-quarters at Harosheth (Jdg. 4:16), and spares none whom God had delivered into his hand to be destroyed: There was not a man left. When God goes before us in our spiritual conflicts we must bestir ourselves; and, when by grace he gives us some success against the enemies of our souls, we must improve it by watchfulness and resolution, and carry on the holy war with vigour.