Judges 4

A Strong Woman

The sinful patterns of Israel continue, and improvement is soon followed by a decline. God continues to show mercy to his people and raises up judges to rescue them, but instead of repentance and faithfulness, the people return to their evil ways. This theme is resumed as the people return to their idolatry after Ehud died. God is holy and must judge sin, so the Lord sold Israel to Jabin who was a Canaanite king that reigned in Hazor. Sisera commanded the army of Jabin and oppressed Israel cruelly for twenty years by utilizing nine hundred iron chariots. Suffering led Israel to cry out to the Lord, and he heard their cries for help. God continues to show his steadfast love to Israel in spite of their sinful sequence and Deborah is distinct from the other judges. She was a woman in a position of leadership which is rare in the older testament. Deborah was actively serving the Lord and did not begin as a response to foreign oppression. Deborah received direct revelation from God as a prophetess, and she had established the location where she served. The people of Israel regularly came to her for judgment. The book of Judges treats women favorably and previously made mention of Achsah, Caleb's clever daughter (1:13-15) and soon to introduce another during this national crisis. 

A Hesitant Man

Deborah summoned a military leader named Barak in response to the command of the Lord. God's directive to Barak was to gather ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun. God was going to draw out Sisera and bring him to the river Kishon to give him into the hands of Barak and the army. Instead of decisive faith, Barak places conditions on God's command and places an ultimatum on Deborah. He refused to go unless Deborah accompanied him. Deborah agrees to go with him but explains this journey will not result in his honor. Instead, the Lord will give Sisera into the hand of a woman. The two of them depart for Kedesh together, and Barak gathers the army as he had been instructed to do by the Lord. Ten thousand men march toward Kedesh and at their head is Barak and Deborah. The narrative introduces a new character, and this will play a vital part at the conclusion of the coming battle. Heber, an Israelite is residing nearby and is not at odds with King Jabin. 

The Battle

The army of Israel positioned itself on Mount Tabor and word quickly reached Sisera. Sisera responded by gathering his unit with nine hundred chariots, and they made their way toward Israel as a show of force. Deborah announces to Barak that this was the day that the Lord would defeat Sisera because once again the Lord was going before his people to drive out their enemies. They army plunged into the valley, and the Lord routed Sisera and his army of iron chariots. God brought unseasonable rain to the valley and flooded the valley which rendered the iron chariots useless (Judges 5:4, 20-21). Sisera abandoned his men and his chariot fleeing on foot from the battle. Every enemy fell that day save Sisera who ran for his life.

At The Hands Of Another

Sisera came to the tent of Jael thinking that he would be safe because of the peace between Jabin and Heber. Jael came out to meet the runaway general and offers him shelter in the tent. He agrees to enter, and Jael disarms the general of his suspicions and convinces him not to be afraid. She hides him under a rug, and when asked for water she brings some milk to the exhausted general. She covers Sisera which is to serve as camouflage, and he instructs Jael to stand guard at the door and get rid of any would-be pursuers. The warrior falls asleep, and Jael seizes the opportunity to grab a tent peg and a hammer. She softly returns to the sleeping general and drives the tent peg through the temple of Sisera and into the ground. As Barak approached, Jael went out to meet him and directs him to the place where he will find his enemy. Barak enters the tent to find Sisera in a pool of blood with a tent peg through his temple. Jabin's army was utterly destroyed, and his kingdom soon fell. God gave mercy and relief to his children through unusual means and circumstances. The Lord a righteous judge and he does all things well.

Things To Consider:

  • Why do you think sinful patterns repeat themselves?
  • Can we bring suffering on ourselves? How?
  • How is perceived strength a weakness?
  • Why do you think God used Deborah?
  • Who are the people in your life offering you wise counsel?
  • Are you listening to their counsel? Why or why not?
  • Are you responding to their counsel? Why or why not?
  • Why do we struggle with taking God at his word?
  • Are you trying to place conditions on your obedience? If so, why?
  • Do you ever thank God for what you don't see or understand?
  • Heber moved. How was this providence?
  • Why do you think Jael responded the way she did?
  • What do you think she believed about God and his people? Why?