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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Judges 4:1 . When Ehud was dead. This period includes eighty years from the death of Othniel, and was fraught with important events. Chushan’s eight years of affliction, and Eglon’s eighteen of presidency are included in the eighty years.

Judges 4:2 . Jabin king of Canaan, a descendant or relation of Jabin mentioned in Joshua 11:0. He reigned in Hazor, which Joshua had burned; but the Canaanite returning, had restored it as their metropolis.

Judges 4:4 . Deborah, a prophetess. She judged Israel, by the honour which God had put upon her on account of her predictions. Therefore her country honoured her as a heavenly princess, and as they had honoured judges to whom the Lord had spoken. She is not put into the list of the secular judges; yet Semiramis, before her time, was enthroned as queen of Nineveh.

Judges 4:6 . Tabor, a high and detached hill, with a plain on the top. Hosea 5:1. On these hills the chariots could not act, nor in the adjacent marshes.

Judges 4:13 . The river of Kishon. It rises from the streams of mount Tabor, runs six miles to Nazareth, and thence westward to the sea, and disembogues to the south of mount Carmel, after a pretty straight course of ninety miles. Near the mouth of this river Elijah slew the prophets of Baal.

Judges 4:14 . Up, for this is the day. The LXX make Barak to object against going alone, because he did not know the day in which the Lord would send his angel to deliver them.

Judges 4:17 . Sisera fled to the tent of Jael. In the east, the pavilion of a lady is sacred; and by the covenant of Heber, he was personally known to the family.

Judges 4:21 . Jael smote the nail into his temples. She evidently had disapproved of the covenant which her husband had made with Jabin, all such covenants being forbidden by the law. The deed of killing the oppressor of her country was glorious, as that of Ehud, and that of Judith. Her praise is celebrated by the prophets, whose hallowed songs we must not arraign; but the words and means she employed cannot without the greatest difficulty be defended.


After the death of Ehud, as after the death of Joshua, the carnal heart of Israel became attracted by the carnal objects of pagan pleasures and worship. This was their usual sin, and it was followed by the usual punishment. Jabin king of the Canaanites oppressed them for twenty years, and with a heavier hand than Eglon king of Moab. The stroke following the sin, and with so severe a hand that it induced the oppressed people to cry to the Lord. Adversity has never been an unfriendly soil to the growth of piety, nor had the Lord wholly forsaken them. He inspired Deborah to instruct and judge them; she was not inferior to any of the prophets in excellence of spirit: it was this excellence, and these divine endowments, which elevated her to the presidency of Israel. This woman, scarcely able to embolden Barak, though at the divine command, to break the iron yoke of Canaan, was obliged to put herself at the head of the little army, whose number God had limited to ten thousand men, that Israel might not glory in an arm of flesh.

Heber, impelled by policy, made a league with Jabin, and betrayed the cause of the country which had adopted him. His fathers had followed Israel, believing in their covenant. Now this man, more degenerate than his neighbours, had in fact renounced that covenant, and sought an alliance with the oppressor. He was one of those who claimed kindred with the Israelites in their prosperity, but disowned them in adversity. Such is the heart of a carnal man; and in this case it had proved his utter destruction, had it not been for the heroic fortitude of his wife. Let us never forsake either God or his people in the hour of adversity, for it often proves that God by adversity has been preparing the greatest glory for his people.

When the day of the wicked is come, the Lord infatuates them to their destruction. The treason of Heber, not less than the sword of Barak, contributed to lead Jabin to the waters where his chariots could not act, and where the Lord would visit the Canaanites with a total slaughter. How happy is that man, how privileged that nation, who simply abide in covenant with God, and know no policy but righteousness and truth.

The glory of this day was consummated by an illustrious deed of Jael. She still believing in JEHOVAH, and abhorring the league of her husband with Jabin, received the fugitive, but made him no promise of safety. She refreshed him with food, and covered his feet; but resolved that the glory of his fall should not be by another. Fearing nothing therefore from the husband, for whose crime she now atoned, and whose life she now saved; and fearing nothing from her own trembling hand, or from vengeance, in case she awoke the warrior; she took the iron pin of her tent, and piercing his skull with a single blow, left him fastened to the wood. Thus Deborah, inspired of God, planned the emancipation of her country, and Jael gave a finishing stroke to the glory of the day. When called to oppose iniquity let us neither consider our own weakness, nor be intimidated at the greatness, power, and number of the wicked. And the woman who abides in God, though her husband depart from him, may yet live to save her house.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/judges-4.html. 1835.
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