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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 4

Verses 1-24

  1. Intro: A Mother’s Place is on the Battlefield
    1. Here is a story so good it’s told twice. Once as prose, then as poetry. [prose/written language in its ordinary form. From Lt. prosa/straightforward]
    2. Ancient civilizations were patriarchal in structure. The role of men was emphasized.
      1. In many cultures women were viewed as nothing more than property, and were not permitted even to inherit the possessions of their husbands, much less given authority. Israel too was patriarchal, but women were not oppressed there as in other lands.
      2. Deborah was one of the special women, who even before the military victory over the Cannanites was “judging” Israel from Ramah.
        1. The term “judging” is important if we are to understand this woman’s importance. A judge was more than a person who settled disputes (which she did 4:5). A judge in Israel exercised all the functions of a governor: he or she held executive and legislative authority, and often military authority as well.
    3. Is the Bible really sexist, or are women valued and appreciated there?
      1. God used Miriam, Huldah/prophetess, Queen Esther, Rahab & Ruth, Abigail Rizpah, Prov 31 woman. Mary, Martha/Mary, All the women helping Christ, Priscilla, Lydia, Phebe, Eunice & lois.
    4. Few women have ever attained to such public dignity & supreme authority.
      1. She was like Joan of Ark, who 27 centuries later rode in front of the French & led them to victory.
    5. Paul mentions 33 names in Rom.16: 24 from Rome (17 men, 7 women). The other 9 were w/Paul in Corinth (8 men, 1 women).
      1. Here’s what we can learn from that list that you might not catch upon 1st reading. The 1st Century Church had incredible diversity.
        1. Rich & Poor. Jew & Gentile. Male & Female. Different Ranks, Different Races, Different Genders. It was like a garden with flowers of every color & type.
        2. Phoebe – Bright, radiant. Gk. mythology starts w/12 Titans, 6 male, 6 female. Phoebe was one of the 6 Titanesses. So the name Phoebe was of a goddess, so it’s probable she had a heathen background. But now, a sweet sister in the lord.
      2. Maybe it’s like General Haig’s “compliment” concerning Mrs Thatcher: that she was the best man in the British cabinet.
  2. BEE STING (Ch.4)
    1. ​​​​​​​(3) These military chariots often had sharp blades attached to the hubs of their wheels: foot soldiers were devastated by the charge of these heavy vehicles, their whirring knives flashing.
    2. (6) Deborah’s Secret. While we have to believe that Deborah was an exceptional person in her own right, there was more to her leadership than her special talents.
      1. We can be sure she was wise and fair: the readiness of Israelites to trek to where Deborah held court so she could settle their disputes tells us that (v. 5).
      2. But what really made Deborah special, and won her the respect of the men of Israel, was her closeness to the Lord.
        1. God spoke to this woman...and God spoke through her.
      3. She was one of those few spokesmen that God selected to communicate His will to His OT people: Deborah was a prophetess (4).
        1. It was Deborah’s special relationship with God that was recognized by all the people, and that won her their respect. And it was Deborah’s closeness to God that led Barak to call for her to go with him.
    3. Barak was willing to fight. But he wanted to be sure of God’s presence. In this particular historical situation, it was Deborah who represented to Barak the very presence of God.
      1. Was this a sign of cowardice or the way he chose to be sure that God would remain with him in battle?
      2. Is he a wimp? Well we do find him in the hall of faith (w/pretty good company).
      3. Heb.11:32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
      4. Heb.11:34 ...out of weakness were made strong…
      5. “Each of us has the opportunity to participate in ministries far beyond our own personal endeavors.” Jerry Bridges
    4. (7) Lay out the landscape: 10a Hazor (largest city in Canaan, North of Sea of Galilee). Battle is fought in the 10b,11 Jezreel Valley (this valley drains to the West by the Kishon River). Most prominent feature in that valley is a perfectly round shaped mountain, 11b,12,13 Tabor (it guards the doorway to Hazor from the South).
    5. (12) Sisera arranged his chariots on the plain below Mnt Tabor, a location with clear tactical advantages.
    6. (14) Up! - Deborah means bee [Barak (lightening)] [Jael/mountain goat]
    7. (14-16) According to the poetic account of the battle in 5:21, Sisera’s forces were swept away by the Kishon River. Evidentially a thunderstorm bogged the chariot wheels & allowed Barak’s foot soldiers to gain the upper hand.
    8. (17) Her tribe were itinerant metal-smiths. Maybe explains the friendly relationship between her husband & Sisera, Jabin probably made his chariot of iron.
      1. Sisera proved to be a coward fleeing the battle in the opposite direction.
    9. (21) Jael - woman were in charge of putting up the tents...actually they literally do everything...don’t ever mess with Bedouin women.
      1. Contrast Jael/Barak. Jael had no clear word from God but acted courageously; Barak had a clear word from God but didn’t immediately act courageously.
      2. The Lord makes heroes out of ordinary people who will loyally & courageously carry out His mission. [no, don’t be buying tent pegs]
    10. Israel was successful in defeating a superior foe, but only because God intervened on their behalf. The battle belongs to the Lord.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Judges 4". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/judges-4.html. 2017.