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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 4

 

 

Verses 1-24

DEBORAH AND BARAK

(vv.1-24)

Ehud evidently judged Israel during 80 years of peace, but after his death Israel again turned from the Lord's ways, doing evil in His sight. It is not said what evil, but their lapses apparently always involved worshiping the idols of the nations. On this occasion the Lord delivered Israel into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan (v. 2). Jabin's name means

"he will understand," for Canaanites ("traffickers") are keen to discern where they may make material gain, and religion is one of the most convenient ways for them. This enemy has too often afflicted the Church of God too. The commander of his army was Sisera, and Israel was under bondage to them for 20 years (v. 3) until they could no longer endure the cruel bondage they suffered. Material gain may be attractive to us at first, but it will soon involve us in things that cause the believer's conscience to trouble him enough to cry out for deliverance. This enemy was a formidable one, having 900 chariots of iron.

There was no man in Israel able to take the place of judge among them, so that a woman, Deborah, had taken this responsibility (v. 4). It was an abnormal state of affairs, but if men fail in their responsibility, God does not fail, and He will use a woman to accomplish His ends. Deborah's name means"the word," reminding us that it is by the word of God that our true deliverance comes. This is a fitting answer to the pride of human understanding and discernment, which have no basis in pure truth. Deborah was not a military leader (v. 5), but she sat in quiet retirement under a palm tree between Ramah (meaning "height") and Bethel ("the house of God"). Ramah would speak of her dwelling above the level of her surroundings, as we also ought to. Bethel reminds us that the house of God was an important matter to her, as indeed should be the case with every believer today. In such a place she was able to give good advice to those who came to her for judgment.

Through Deborah God gave a message that she communicated to Barak, the son of Abinoam (v. 6). Barak means"lightning," which is swift and effective, though Barak was not so "swift to hear" when Deborah told him that the Lord had commanded that he assemble 10,000 troops from Naphtali to attack Sisera, with the assurance that God would deliver Sisera into his hand. In spite of this being God's commandment, Barak told Deborah decidedly that he would obey only if Deborah went with him(v. 8). It is good that he felt his weakness, but it is not good that he should depend on a woman for strength, or indeed even to depend on man or anything else that he might think of as dependable. He should depend fully on God. No doubt he had faith in God, but his faith was weak.

However, Deborah agreed to go, but not without reproving his timidity, telling him that the glory of the victory would not be his, for she assured him "the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (v. 9). This was a true prophecy, though Deborah was not likely thinking of Jael (vv. 17-21) when she spoke this.

Since the Lord had given the command, He also moved the 10,000 men to respond to the call of Barak to arms (v. 10). At this point the report of verse 11 intervenes. Heber the Kenite (of the descendants of Moses' father-in-law) had separated himself from the Kenites, and was living now near Kadesh. The Kenites were not of the inhabitants of Canaan, though they were not Israelites, but Heber evidently decided in favor of identifying himself with Israel, no longer with the Kenites.

Sisera, hearing of the movement of Barak and his men, was well prepared with an army including 900 chariots of iron (vv. 12-13). But this was nothing to the God of Israel, and Deborah's faith was undaunted. Her words to Barak were firm and decided, telling him to act immediately, for this was the day the Lord had delivered Sisera into Barak's hand. "Has not the Lord gone out before you?" were words of strong encouragement to Barak (v. 14).

With the Lord going before, the victory was assured and decisive. Sisera, his chariots and all his army were totally routed (v. 15). Sisera himself left his chariot and fled on foot. He evidently escaped the observation of the Israelites, but otherwise "not a man was left of all the Canaanite army" (v.16).

Sisera, the commander of the Canaanites, when soundly defeated by Israel, was able to escape alone, and to find the tent of Heber the Kenite(v. 17), whom he thought to be friendly to him because there was no conflict at that time between Heber and Jabin. When Sisera approached, Jael, the wife of Heber, met him with welcoming words (v. 18), inviting him into the tent, where she covered the weary man with a blanket. He asked for water to drink, and she gave him milk.

Then he instructed her to stand at the tent door while he slept, and to lie to anyone who might come to ask if any man was in the tent (v. 20). But she had no such intention. Instead, while he was asleep, she took a tent peg and a hammer and drove the peg through his temple so powerfully that the peg pierced into the ground below (v. 21). If her action had been with selfish motives, this would have been murder, but since Sisera was an oppressor of the people of God and it was a time of war, the Lord approved of her killing this enemy of God.

Barak and his army had missed Sisera and were looking for him after this.When Barak approached the tent of Heber, Jael came out to meet him (v. 22) and invited him into her tent to find the man he was looking for.Then Barak would realize the truth of Deborah's prophecy that the Lord would sell Sisera into the hands of a woman (v. 9).

Thus God subdued Jabin, king of Canaan that day (v. 32), and Israel was able to apply more and more pressure on him until he was destroyed. After this we read of no more military action of the Canaanites against Israel in the book of Judges.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Judges 4:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/judges-4.html. 1897-1910.

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