Reading through these two chapters concerning Deborah was interesting and also entertaining. We see and understand that woman play a huge role in biblical history. We know that women were created equally but differently than men. Women have a unique occupation that only a woman can fill. As ladies we see things and feel things men just can’t begin to understand. This is exactly why God created us and why he uses us so influentially to impact others lives.
So we are introduced to our 4th judge of Israel. This judge is divinely chosen and divinely created as a woman. Now we need to understand that yes God created men to lead, and yes women are to submit but God orchestrated this story with great detail and with great intention. The women mentioned here are simply obeying God’s command to his chosen nation. If these women are not in God’s will because of their methods then it would be hard to deem any Israelite soldier differently. These women performed just as God created them and in this case aided in delivering Israel from bondage.
Deborah steps into this role as a judge after the last judge had passed and Israel in a state of rebellion, again! She is a prophetess, a mouth used by God himself. Now at this time Israel again has been enslaved to an enemy namely Canaan. The commander of Canaan is Sisera and he cruelty rules Israel for 20 years (longest bondage yet). Now with God’s word she calls for her commander Barak who is going to save Israel. Her charge to Barak is bold and confident. In this culture it was not accepted for women to be in the position Deborah was in. Barak I am sure pushed the thought aside that he was being solicited by a woman.
Barak is hesitant to head into battle with the odds terribly against him. Canaan had chariots of Iron and that tells us they were wealthy and strong. Now in those days this would have been a suicide mission for Barak. Barak seeks Deborah’s presence during this battle and she agrees to attend. Now there are arguments that Barak was being a coward and not demonstrating faith. If you look in Hebrews 11:32 we see Barak listed as a man of faith. I believe Barak wanted the presence of his God with him and the closest thing he had was God’s mouthpiece.
As the story unfolds we see Sisera gather his army at the river of Kishon. Only during the dry season would this wise commander call his chariots and army near a river for battle. Otherwise the chariots would get stuck and the battle would turn into a slippery mess. In verse 11 we are introduced to Heber and Israelite family who had moved fairly close to Canaan. This seems kinda randomly mentioned but this is a very important detail. In two verses we are given the result of this massive battle with really no details at all. God destroys this army by Barak`s sword and not a man was left.
Verse 17 we see Sisera flee into the tent of Heber where apparently there was a contract of peace. Why was there a contract of peace between an Israelite and a known enemy? Heber had moved his family as close to the enemy as possible and had a peace agreement! What does this say about his character? Why does anyone have peace with the wicked? Now we see Jael, Heber’s wife, invite Sisera in and makes him very comfortable. So much so that he falls into a deep sleep and Jael drives a tent-peg through his temple. Graphic huh?
Why would the wife of Heber who had peace with this enemy do such a thing? Jael knew who the God of Israel was and what he expected. She understood her husband’s closeness to the enemy was wrong and she was going to stand for truth. Jael invited this commander into her tent with great risk to herself. Israel has victory and Canaan falls hard to an unlikely character.
We then move into chapter 5 where Deborah and Barak sing a victory song. So we no longer are reading a narrative but poetry. This changes our view and understanding of this portion of Judges. I want to take note of a couple important bits of information not mentioned in chapter four. First in verse 4 we see that Deborah states when Barak marched out to battle at the river of Kishon a great storm hit the battle field. Remember it’s suppose to be the dry season and so it sent the Canaanite army into confusion. The word “routed” in 4:15 means confusion; you see the connection?
Deborah then mentions the lack of leadership among Israel and how she came in as a Mother to Israel, she cared and nurtured it. She discloses the active tribes who trusted God and also those who sat on the sideline (v14-18). Again she mentions the rain washing the enemy away. In verse 23 she mentions the curse of Meroz which seems to imply a curse on those who wouldn’t come fight for God. She quickly moves into a blessing on Jael who had brought honor to God by her faith. If God calls her blessed who am I to say otherwise?
Now in the description of Sisera’s death take note that Jael used a common tool just as Shamgar had in chapter 3. Also note where he died, at Jael’s feet. Deborah then proclaims her perception of what Sisera’s Mother was thinking and feeling after the battle. Just as any Mother would be worried and anxious for her son’s safe return from war. His mother concluded what was logical and what her son’s habit was after a victory and that soothed her. Now the heartbreaking news is that Sisera’s habit was to divide up the women and rape them before returning home. Deborah knew Sisera’s habit, she perceives his Mother knew, and Jael most likely was aware of this disgusting betrayal of a women!!!!
What a piece of necessary but disturbing information! As Jael let this perverse man into her tent she knew his tendencies just the same. Jael was not about to ignore her nurturing, loving, sensitive spirit and allow this man to continue violating so many women. Now would a man also have picked up on Sisera’s cruel behavior, Maybe. Jael on the other hand probably felt a duty to stand for all women and in so doing she was called blessed!
Does this story call us women to gang up on men and stand for our rights. No, we are to joyfully submit and honor God through obeying his word. Even if our husbands were to lock arms with the enemy we are to stand and respectfully decline our partnership with sin. We as women have a magnificent role even today to stand for truth and justice. We cannot forget that even on those gloomy days at home with our children we can make a difference. We can be strengthened by his word and pray daily for grace and wisdom. Don’t sit on the sidelines and just allow sin to reign in your heart. Battle against your sin and remember God is your commander and he will have victory!
With Great Love and Truth,