We left off last week discussing the beginning of Ehud’s leadership as Judge of Israel. After Ehud was Shamgar, of whom we know very little, mostly from Judges 3:31, which references how he slayed 600 men of the Philistines with only an ox goad, thus delivering Israel from that oppression. Following him, another judge of Israel is discussed in chapters 4-5. The setting is oppression, yet again, for Israel; this time it was twenty years of harsh oppression at the hand of Jabin king of Canaan. At that time, Deborah, a prophetess, was judging Israel. The account of her helping the Israelites out of oppression begins with her call to Barak, one of the leaders of the armies of Israel. She stood as a motivator for Barak to do what the Lord had already commanded him to do, which was to deploy troops at Mount Tabor. It appears that Barak had already forsaken this idea once before when Deborah encourages him to do what the Lord commanded. Deborah reminded him of the words of the Lord, how the Lord had said concerning Jabin the oppressor: “I will deliver him into your hand.” But this still was not enough to move Barak to action and perform the will of the Lord. However, he does express his willingness to go, on one condition, that Deborah went along with him (Judges 4:8). She agreed to go but told him that there will be no glory for him in the victory, for Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army will fall by the hand of a woman. The woman that she speaks of is not herself but another, as we will see.
As Barak’s men, with Deborah, marched to Mount Tabor, as the Lord had commanded, Sisera responded with his troops and met the army of the Lord. The account of the battle is short and simple, and the glory is the Lord’s. Judges 4:15 records the situation, how the Lord threw Sisera’s army into wild confusion (as the Hebrew sense of “discomfited”). The picture, it seems, is that of horses and chariots intermingling, colliding, and crushing men. They crashed right into the edge of the sword of Barak and his army. A tremendously wonderful victory that ended 20 years of harsh oppression. The iron chariots of Canaan, which were so feared by the Israelites, crumbled before their eyes in a “ayth” (self) “haw-mam’” (destruction). What fools the wretched Israelites must have thought they were to have lived in fear for the last 20 years of something that God removed in a moment. Why didn’t they trust him sooner? Dwell on that for a moment, but let’s not forget to look at ourselves afterward. What might we be in fear of today? What might be causing us to remove our trust in God for far too long than we ought? Are we just as foolish as they? Oftentimes, just as it was in the times of old, the people of God drive their minds away from calming trust and spent much time in fear of a country, a group, a people, a threat, or a weapon. May we not miss the application.
The iron chariot of Sisera was also caught in the destruction, as is evident from his jumping off his chariot and running away on foot. He escaped and found a tent of a husband and wife who chose to live away from the populace. This couple was descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, but at this time, their family ties were known allies to Jabin king of Canaan. So Sisera thought he had found sanctuary in the tent of this couple. The wife, Jael by name, even assured Sisera to not be afraid, that he’d be safe and comfortable in their tent. She laid him down, covered him up, and when he asked for water, she opened a fresh skin of milk. On the one hand, she was showing herself as going above and beyond the requests of her houseguest, but on the other hand, it was the perfect circumstance to allow Sisera to fall fast asleep, and he did. Once well asleep, Jael softly crept up over Sisera, and with a hammer in hand, she drove a tent peg into his temple and down into the ground. This is what the Lord revealed to Barak through Deborah that the head of the army will be given into the hands of a woman.
Judges chapter 4 stands in testimony of two women, Deborah and Jael, who trusted in the Lord; they did not show doubt or fear, but moved straightforwardly to accomplish the Lord’s will. An excellent example for the Lord’s children today.
Article by Tanner Campbell