After Ehud’s death, the Israelites again did not obey God

Chapter 4

v1 After Ehud’s death, the Israelites again did not obey God. v2 The *Lord allowed Jabin to *conquer them. Jabin was the king of Hazor in *Canaan. Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-Haggoyim, led the king’s army. v3 He had 900 iron *chariots. And he made life very hard for the *Israelites for 20 years. Then they cried to the *Lord for help.

These stories are about the northern *tribes. The people in *Canaan may have attacked 6 northern *tribes. The enemy is Jabin the king of Hazor. He does not do anything in the story, but he is still important. Jabin may be the name of a royal rank rather than a personal name. In Joshua 11, we read that people had destroyed Hazor. However, they had probably built it again. About 40 000 people lived in it. People thought that they had destroyed Hazor. But now they knew its power once more. This was another attack by an old enemy. There is something similar in the book called Revelation. There we read about an evil animal. People had hurt its body so that it would die. Then it recovered. We can say that we have succeeded against enemies and bad things. However, they can come to life again. In this world today, no success against what is wrong will ever be final.

Sisera had 900 iron *chariots. These were the newest military *weapons. The *Iron Age was replacing the Bronze Age. (The Bronze Age was when people made *weapons from bronze. Bronze is a mixture of a red metal and tin.) God’s people wanted that country called *Canaan. However, they opposed the way in which its people lived. God would give *Canaan to *Israel’s people. But *Israel’s people had to force the people in *Canaan to leave. *Israel’s people also had to oppose the evil customs of the people in *Canaan. *Canaan was a pleasant country, but the moral values of its people were not good. *Israel’s people did not learn this until the people in *Canaan ruled over them.

v4 Deborah the female *prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was *Israel’s judge at that time. v5 She made judgements about legal matters. She did this under the Palm Tree of Deborah. (A palm tree is a tree with no branches. It has large leaves at the top.) That tree was between Ramah and Bethel. It was in the hilly country where Ephraim’s *tribe lived. The *Israelites asked Deborah to decide about their arguments. v6 She sent someone to fetch Abinoam’s son Barak from Kedesh. This was in the area where Naphtali’s *tribe lived. ‘The *Lord, the God of *Israel’s people, commands you’, she said. ‘ “Take 10 000 men from Naphtali’s *tribe and from Zebulun’s *tribe. And go to Mount Tabor. v7 Sisera is the leader of Jabin’s army. I will make him go to the Kishon river. He will go with his *chariots and his army. I will give you success.” ’ v8 Barak said, ‘I will go if you will go with me. If you do not go with me, I will not go.’ v9 ‘All right’, Deborah said, ‘I will go with you. You will not get any praise for this. Instead God will allow a woman to kill Sisera.’ So Deborah went with Barak to Kadesh. v10 Barak called the people from Zebulun’s *tribe and Naphtali’s *tribe. 10 000 men followed him and Deborah also went with him.

The name Deborah means ‘bee’ (an insect that makes honey). She was a leader who could do a lot. She was not an important judge, because not all the *tribes followed her. Barak means ‘lightning’.

In this story, the enemy is one that we expect. But *Israel’s leader is one that we do not expect. Someone uses a method that we expect. But that person is someone that we do not expect. God does what he has promised to do. But he does not tell us how he will do it. Deborah was not the only ruler. Barak ruled as well. In Hebrews 11, we read that the person with *faith was Barak more than Deborah. Deborah came from the south. The northern *tribes asked her for help. She told Barak to get his army together at Mount Tabor. This is a well-known place about 1300 feet high. There, God would give Sisera and his army to Barak. The writer only writes about 2 *tribes here. In the next chapter, there is a poem about the battle. There he writes about 4 more *tribes. The reason for this may be that the battle was in two parts. The first part was at Tabor. And the second part was at the Kishon river. The writer does not say that Barak was wrong. Barak did what Deborah told him to do. He said that he would go. But he would only go if Deborah went with him. Compare that with what Moses said in Exodus 33:12-17. Barak refused to do anything without Deborah the female *prophet. This was because of what he believed. He believed that he was not good enough. But he trusted in the grace of God. This grace came by Deborah. Barak is the example of a person who trusted God. Other people get the praise.

v11 Heber the *Kenite had gone away from the *Kenites to live somewhere else. The *Kenites were the *descendants of Hobab, Moses’ wife’s father. Heber had erected his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim. This was near Kedesh.

v12 Sisera heard that Abinoam’s son, Barak had gone to Mount Tabor. v13 Then he prepared his entire army. This included 900 iron *chariots. And it included all his men from Harosheth-Haggoyim to the Kishon river. v14 Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go. Today God will give Sisera into your hands. God has gone ahead of you.’ So Barak led his 10 000 men down Mount Tabor. v15 With their swords, the *Lord completely defeated Sisera and all his *chariots and his army. Sisera got down from his *chariot and he ran away on foot. v16 Barak chased the *chariots and army as far as Harosheth-Haggoyim. Israel’s army killed all the armies of Sisera. Nobody remained alive.

10 000 men was a small army compared with Sisera’s very large one. But the *Lord completely defeated Sisera’s army. They controlled the valleys. There they could move their *chariots with care and skill. However, the heavy rain caused the Kishon river to flood. (See Judges 5:4, 21.) This surprised them. Their *chariots could not move in the mud. The *Israelites easily defeated them.

v17 Sisera ran away to Jael’s tent. Jael was the wife of Heber the *Kenite. Hazor’s king Jabin was at peace with Heber’s *tribe. v18 Jael came out to meet Sisera. And she spoke to him. ‘Come in here, sir. Do not be afraid.’ He came in and she covered him with a thick blanket. v19 ‘Please give me some water’, he said. ‘I need to drink.’ She gave him some milk and she covered him up again. v20 ‘Stand in the doorway of the tent’, he said. ‘If someone asks you “Is anyone here?” say, “No”.’ v21 Then Jael took a hammer and a *tent peg. She quietly went to him while he was sleeping. He was very tired. She hammered the *tent peg through his head and he died. v22 Barak looked for Sisera and Jael met him. ‘Come’, she said. ‘I will show you the man that you want.’ So he went in with her. There lay Sisera. He was dead, with the *tent peg through his *skull.

v23 That day God defeated Jabin the king of *Canaan, in front of the *Israelites. v24 They became stronger and stronger against Jabin, until they completely destroyed him.

Sisera ran away. And he accepted Jael’s invitation to hide in her tent. He thought that he was safe. However, after he had drunk some milk, he fell asleep. Then Jael murdered him. She used a hammer and a *tent peg. When Barak arrived, his enemy was dead. Deborah was an honest person, but Jael was not *faithful. She was a very cruel person. She did things by herself and she did not ask other people about those things first. Like Ehud, Jael killed somebody in private. And she did it with great force. Sisera did not think that she would act like this.