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Judges - Chapter 4
Canaanite Oppression, vs. 1-3
What a tragic repetition! One would think when the Israelites had seen the result of forgetting the good example of Othniel, and the grace of God in delivering them again through Ehud, with the eighty years of peace he brought them, they would never again lapse into apostasy.
But the generations pass, and the children have to learn the lessons of their parents all over again. Again the enticements of the land turned them from the Lord.
This time the Lord allowed the rise of an enemy from their very midst, from those people who had been left in the land, whom the Lord had said would be pricks and snares.
When Israel under Joshua had conquered the land, now perhaps two hundred years in their past, the Canaanites had been wholly subjugated (Joshua 11:1-15). They had recovered now, so that they had again established their capital at Hazor and had another king, Jabin, as their leader. They were getting their revenge on Israel.
Jabin had a brave and valorous man to lead his armies, Sisera, whose town of Harosheth was located in the Kishon valley about sixteen miles from Megiddo.
It was in the tribal lot of Zebulun and should have been possessed by them. Sisera vigorously oppressed the Israelites for twenty long years, and he had iron chariots, numbering nine hundred, to enforce his will. So oppressive did the Canaanite tribute become that the Israelites repented again and called on the Lord.
Deborah Calls for Barak, vs. 4-9
At this time the Lord had two judges in Israel. Though it is not here related that Barak was a judge his name appears among others who were judges in other passages (Hebrews 11:32). The other judge was a great woman of the times, Deborah, who was a prophetess. The question has been raised by some as to why the Lord raised up a woman to lead Israel. In my first pastorate I had a great old Bible teacher in my congregation who answered this question by saying, "There were no men who would answer His call." This seems to be borne out in the person of Barak. How many times has the work of the Lord’s churches persevered through the faithfulness of godly women?
Deborah lived in the tribe of Ephraim, her house marked by a notable palm tree. Barak lived at Kedesh, the chief city of the tribe of Naphtall, near Chinnereth, or the Sea of Galilee. Barak seems to have been more a material leader of Israel, while Deborah represented the spiritual. The Lord sent His call for Barak through Deborah. It was that he should gather an army of ten thousand men from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali on mount Tabor. This mountain lay between the Kishon valley and the southern end of Chinnereth. The Lord would cause Sisera to gather the Canaanite forces, with the dreadful chariots of iron, into the Kishon valley, and there He would deliver them into Barak’s hand.
There is nothing to indicate that Barak disbelieved the Lord’s message. What he evidenced is a rather weak faith. On the other hand, he had great confidence in Deborah and her influence with God. He refused to go to the battle of the Lord unless Deborah would accompany him. One might say that Barak had faith in Deborah’s faith. Here is a lesson of how the faith of one strong person will encourage another, (Galatians 6:2). Deborah consented readily to go with Barak, but informed him it would be no honor to him, for the Lord .would give Sisera into the hand of a woman. Barak probably thought Deborah had reference to herself.
Sisera Defeated, vs. 10-16
Barak does not seem to have lost any time gathering his ten thousand men to him at Kedesh. Deborah came also with him, and they proceeded to mount Tabor, overlooking the Kishon valley, according to the command of the Lord.
Meantime Sisera learned of the Israelites’ gathering through a Kenite man named Heber, a descendant of Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab. These people had settled in Judah (Judges 1:16), but Heber had left his people and moved into the northern tribe of Naphtali. He was the informer against Barak. So Sisera gathered his army and the nine hundred iron chariots and came into the Kishon valley. The river plain would be a good place to use the fearsome chariots to advantage against the Israelites.
When all was ready Deborah commanded Barak to get up and be on his way, for the day had arrived when the Lord would give Sisera into his hand. She said, "Is not the Lord gone out before thee?" The Lord always goes before his people in their battles, and they should always follow when He has gone before, (Matthew 9:9). As soon as the battle was joined the Lord began to discomfit Sisera and his chariots. They began to flee from Barak and his men. God gave the Israelites the strength to overcome.
They pursued the army of Sisera all the way back to their quarters at Harosheth, and the Lord gave them complete victory over Sisera’s host, for "there was not a man left."
Jael’s Deed, vs. 17-24
When Sisera forsook his chariot he did not flee toward Harosheth as the army did, but headed for the camp of Heber to hide out there. This was probably a ruse to throw the Israelites off his track. It appeared that he had made a wise move, for Jael, Heber’s wife, hurried out to meet him and invited him to turn in to her tent and hide.
Sisera fully trusted Jael When he asked her for a drink of water she gave him miLu Sisera was exhausted and needed the nourishment the milk provided. She gave him a place in the tent and concealed him under a mantle. Before he fell into a sleep of exhaustion Sisera cautioned Jael to stand in her tent door- and when any man came to inquire to say there was no man there.
We do not know why Heber collaborated with Sisera against Israel. It may have been that he feared him. If he was friendly with Sisera the feeling must not have extended to Jael, for she used the opportunity which was presented her to kill the captain of the Canaanite host. As soon as he was soundly sleeping Jael took a tent nail and a hammer, approached the sleeper stealthily, and drove the spike through his temples. Jael was a daring woman, for she did not cease her blows until she had driven the spike completely through Sisera’s head and fastened him to the ground.
How can such a murderous act be excused? Again it was the judgment of God on the enemy of His people, and Jael was blessed for her deed. It rid that land of one who opposed himself to God and the ways of God. When Barak finally found Sisera’s trail and followed it to Jael’s tent Jael invited him in to gaze upon the dead body of his enemy. No doubt, Barak understood then what Deborah meant when she said the Lord would sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.
Once again the Canaanites were totally subdued and their power eradicated. We do not again read of their rising to cause trouble to Israel.
From Judges, chapter 4, let us learn that 1) the Lord chastises His people every time they turn away from Him; 2) the faith of one strong Christian can bolster the faith of a weaker one; 3) physical might cannot prevail against the Lord; 4) those who defy God will utterly perish.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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