free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
JAEL AND SISERA
Judges 5:24-27. Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workman’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
THE subject of assassination, one would suppose, should not admit of much diversity of sentiment: but there are those even in the Christian world, who think that in extreme cases, where the death of a tyrant would put an end to grievous oppressions and desolating wars, the dagger of an assassin might be employed. I am not aware that any would attempt to vindicate this sentiment by an appeal to Scripture: they would justify it rather on reasonings from expediency: but it is certain that, though in most cases where such actions are recorded they are mentioned with abhorrence, there are some instances wherein they are mentioned with approbation and applause. Such was the case of Ehud, who stabbed Eglon king of Moab: and such was the case before us, where Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, destroyed Sisera, whom she had received under her protection, and to whom she had administered every friendly aid.
The account which is given us of this transaction must be considered in a two-fold view;
As an historic fact—
The fact itself is set forth in the foregoing chapter—
[Jabin, king of Canaan, had mightily oppressed the children of Israel for twenty years. At last they cried unto God; who directed Deborah, a prophetess, to take immediate measures for their deliverance. She commissioned Barak to raise ten thousand men; and promised, in God’s name, that Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, should be drawn to him and delivered into his hands. The event corresponded with the prediction: Sisera was defeated; and he fled away on foot, and sought refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, with whom he was at peace. Jael received him most kindly, supplied him with necessary refreshment, covered him with a mantle, and gave him every reason to expect safety under her protection. But, when he was asleep, she took a hammer, and drove a long nail through his temples and through his head: and then went out to the door of her tent, and brought in Barak to see his enemy dead upon the floor.]
And what are we to think of this fact?—
[Supposing it to be unauthorized by any commission from heaven, we cannot hesitate to pronounce it one of the vilest crimes that ever was perpetrated. Some have endeavoured to extenuate it, by saying, that she did not promise not to betray him. But this is a mere subterfuge: whether she promised or not, in words, her whole conduct was equivalent to the strongest promise: and she was guilty of the basest treachery that we can find, on record in the annals of the world. She murdered a man who was at peace with her, and whom she had undertaken to protect.
Thus strongly have we spoken on the occasion, in order that our subsequent views may not be misinterpreted.
Here a question naturally arises; If the action was so base, how comes it to be so highly commended? how comes a prophetess to pronounce such an eulogy upon her, as to call her “the most blessed of women,” for doing that which was in itself such a flagrant act of injustice and cruelty? I answer, (as we before answered in the case of Ehud,) that God is not bound by the laws which he has given to us; and that he may dispense with those obligations which men owe to each other, in order to advance his own purposes in the way he sees fit. He may, as we before observed, order Abraham to slay his son: and therefore he might equally order Jael to slay Sisera; and might make known his mind with equal certainty to her as to him. And, that he did give her this commission, we can have no doubt: for, on account of Barak’s unbelief, Deborah told him that he should lose part of the honour which he might have acquired; and that “God would sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Moreover, this whole chapter is a tribute of praise to God on account of the transaction, wherein Jael in particular is celebrated as having performed a most acceptable service to the Lord.
Our proud hearts are apt to rise up in rebellion against God on this occasion; and to ask, how such an order could consist with his perfections? But let us be careful how we presume “to reprove God [Note: Job 40:2.].” We forget that he is the Creator of all, and “may do what he will with his own [Note: Matthew 20:15.];” and that “he giveth not account of any of his matters [Note: Job 33:13.].” Let us remember too, that we are no more than mere worms, which, as creatures, have no claim to existence for one moment; and, as sinners, deserve to be in hell: and that, consequently, it is not possible for God to do us any injustice. If, however, we still be disposed to quarrel with this dispensation, the answer of St. Paul to such objectors must be resorted to; “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” Consider the objections to which that reply was made; and it will be found abundantly sufficient for every other objection that can be raised [Note: Romans 9:16-24.] — — —]
Let us next consider this account,
As an emblematic record—
The words which close this divine hymn, clearly shew that we are to consider the history in this view [Note: Compare ver. 31 with Psalms 83:2-4; Psalms 83:9-10.]. The transaction was an emblematic representation,
Of the judgments that await God’s enemies—
[Sisera’s army was, humanly speaking, invincible, especially by such an handful of men as Barak could muster, and even the greater part of them unarmed, except with such weapons as they might hastily collect [Note: Jdg 4:13 with 5:8.]. Indeed his mother and friends had not the least doubt of a successful issue to the conflict. But when his time was come, he and his army were wholly destroyed: and the very steps which he took for the destruction of God’s people, God himself overruled to effect his overthrow [Note: Judges 4:6-7.]. Thus it shall be with all the oppressors and persecutors of God’s Church and people: how potent soever they may be, and however secure they may think themselves, “their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not [Note: 2 Peter 2:3.].” They exult in the thought of what they will effect: but God “laugheth them to scorn, for he seeth that their day is coming [Note: Compare Psa 2:3-4 with 37:12, 13.].” The very plans which they concert for the destruction of the Church, God will often overrule for their own destruction [Note: Micah 4:11-12.]: or, if no particular judgment come upon them in this world, the time is quickly coming, when they would be glad to have “the rocks and mountains fall upon them, to cover them from the wrath ”of an avenging God. They think themselves strong now: but “will they be strong in the day that HE shall deal with them, and will they thunder with a voice like his?” O that they were wise and would consider this, ere they “be suddenly destroyed and without a remedy!”]
Of the triumphs that are prepared for the Lord’s people—
[The Church at large, or individuals in it, may be reduced, like Israel of old, to great distress; but they shall surely triumph at last. However weak you may be in yourselves, you have no cause to fear; for God is on your side; and will suffer neither sin nor Satan to have dominion over you [Note: Romans 6:14; Romans 16:20.]. You need not direction or assistance from man; you need not say to any human being, “If thou wilt go with me, I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, I will not go [Note: Judges 4:8.]:” for God is with you; and “through him you shall be more than conquerors.” His voice to every one of you is, like that of Deborah to Barak, “Up, for this is the day that the Lord hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee [Note: Judges 4:14.]?” The very “stars in their courses shall fight for you [Note: ver. 20.],” rather than that you shall be subdued. This is the testimony of all the prophets; nor shall any one that trusts in it be disappointed of his hope. See how the sun bursts through the clouds that obscured it in the early morn, and shines forth in its might: so shall you rise above all your enemies, and shine forth in everlasting glory [Note: ver. 31.].]
The subject addresses itself particularly,
To those who are in affliction—
[What was the remedy to which Israel had recourse, when their affliction pressed sore upon them? It was prayer: “they cried unto the Lord.” And is not the same remedy open to us? is it not also as effectual as ever? Is the Lord’s hand shortened that it cannot save, or his ear heavy that it cannot hear? He has given the direction, “Call upon me in the time of trouble, and I will hear thee, and thou shalt glorify me:” “nor will he ever suffer any to seek his face in vain” — — — ]
To those who have been delivered from it—
[Delay not to render thanks to your Almighty Deliverer. Whatever means he may have used, remember that HE is the first great Cause, “the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift.” Stir up yourselves then to glorify him, like Deborah of old; “Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake; utter a song.” Call to mind also the various circumstances both of your affliction and deliverance; that nothing maybe omitted which may enhance the mercy in your eyes, or give glory to your heavenly Benefactor. This is a matter of great importance: if you rest in general acknowledgments, you will feel but weak emotions of gratitude: but if you search out occasions of praise, you will soon be filled with wonder and amazement at the mercies vouchsafed unto you.]
THE PRAYER OF DEBORAH
Judges 5:31. So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.
OF the victories gained by God’s ancient people, many are so incredible, that we could never believe the histories that record them, if we did not know those histories to have been written by holy men, under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The destruction of a mighty army by means of trumpets, and lamps in broken pitchers, seems altogether fabulous: yet was this effected by Gideon, in conformity with the direction given him, and in dependence upon God. The overthrow of Jabin the king of Canaan, by ten thousand men under the command of a woman, was scarcely less miraculous, especially if we consider to what a low state the whole kingdom of Israel was reduced, and how exceeding powerful was the army of their oppressors: yet was Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, routed by this little band, and not so much as a single individual of that mighty host survived the contest [Note: Judges 4:16.]. The hymn of thanksgiving, wherein Deborah celebrated this wonderful event, is recorded in the chapter before us; and she closes it with a prayer,
For the destruction of all God’s enemies—
Imprecations, when personal and vindictive, are contrary to the mind of God: but when uttered as denunciations of God’s determined purpose, they are not unsuited to the most holy character. Even St. Paul said, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maran-atha [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.].” Thus, in imprecating destruction on God’s enemies, Deborah must be understood to express,
Her approbation of it as just—
[Who does not see, that those who rise in rebellion against their God, deserve punishment? — — — There is not a creature suffering under the displeasure of the Most High, who must not say, “True and righteous are thy judgments, Lord God Almighty [Note: Revelation 15:3.].”]
Her desire of it as good—
[The Law of God, which denounces a curse against every transgression, is declared to be “holy and just and good [Note: Romans 7:12.].” In like manner, all considerate men are agreed in acknowledging it a blessing to live under laws wisely enacted and faithfully administered. What though the execution of the laws prove fatal to some? it is a benefit to the community, who are thereby enabled to live in peaceful security. So the execution of God’s laws proves doubtless terrible to those who are called to sustain his vengeance; yet to the whole universe is it the means of displaying the justice and holiness of the Deity, which, if sin were unpunished, would be altogether compromised and eclipsed.]
Her expectation of it as certain—
[In fact, her imprecation has the force of a prediction; a prediction which shall assuredly be accomplished in its season. Of Sisera’s army not one survived: and of those who die in their sins, there shall not one be found at the right hand of God in the day of judgment. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.”]
To this she adds a prayer,
For the advancement of all his loving and obedient people—
Well is the distinction drawn between the enemies and the friends of God. The latter are described as “those who love him [Note: Ephesians 6:24.].” If, between men, we could admit a medium between love and hatred, we can by no means admit of it between God and his creatures. Indifference towards God would be constructive enmity. Those only who love him can be numbered amongst his friends. In behalf of these, therefore, she prays, that they may “be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.” Under this beautiful image she prays,
That they may shine with ever-increasing splendour—
[The sun in its early dawn casts but feeble light upon the world; but soon proceeds to irradiate the whole horizon, and to burst with splendour upon those who but a little before were immersed in darkness. Thus, the goings-forth of those who seek the Lord diffuse at first but an indistinct and doubtful gleam [Note: Hosea 6:3.]: but, through the tender mercy of God, they advance; and “their light shines brighter and brighter to the perfect day [Note: Proverbs 4:18.].” How desirable is this to be realized in us! Let us so walk, my Brethren, that “our profiting may appear unto all.”]
That they may diffuse benefits whithersoever they come—
[The sun is the fountain of light and life to the whole world. Look at the places where, for months together, the sun never bends its course: the whole face of nature wears the appearance of death: and nothing but the return of his kindlier influences restores her to life. Thus in countries where the friends of God are not found, the whole population are in a state of spiritual and moral death: but “in their light is light seen [Note: Psalms 36:9.],” and from them is spread abroad a vital influence, to animate and fructify the sons of men. View the path of the Apostle Paul “from Judea round about unto Illyricum:” in all his way he was the instrument of “turning men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.].” Such should we also be, my Brethren, according to the ability which God has given us, and the opportunities he affords us: we should “shine as lights in a dark world, holding forth to all the word of life [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.],” for the illumination and salvation of all around us.]
That they may reflect honour upon God in the eyes of all who behold them—
[Who ever contemplated the sun shining in his strength, and did not admire the wisdom and goodness and power of Him who created it? “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy-work; nor is there any speech or language where their voice is not heard [Note: Psalms 19:1-3.].” Such should be the effect of the light diffused by the saints of God: it should constrain all to confess that “we are God’s workmanship [Note: Ephesians 2:10.],” and “so to shine before men, that they may be compelled to glorify our Father which is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].”]
[Inquire, Brethren, to which of these classes you belong: for, however they may be confounded now, there will be an awful difference between them ere long; the one “awaking to everlasting shame and contempt [Note: Daniel 12:2-3.],” and the other “shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father [Note: Matthew 13:41-43.].” On the one shall the justice of God be magnified; but in the other shall his love and mercy be glorified, to all eternity [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.].]
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 5". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany