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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 4

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 4. Barak and Deborah.

This chapter demonstrates how Israel again sinned and were delivered into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan, by whom they were oppressed for twenty years. Excavations at Hazor have resulted in evidence of a Jabin who was king there, although not necessarily this one. Jabin appears to have been a throne name. The chapter goes on to show that Deborah and Barak consulted together about their deliverance, and that Barak, encouraged by Deborah, gathered some forces from the tribal confederacy and fought Sisera the captain of Jabin's army, whom he met, and over whom he obtained victory. Sisera, while fleeing on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber, was received into it, and slain by her while asleep in it, which issued in a complete deliverance of the children of Israel.


Verse 1

Chapter 4. Barak and Deborah.

This chapter demonstrates how Israel again sinned and were delivered into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan, by whom they were oppressed for twenty years. Excavations at Hazor have resulted in evidence of a Jabin who was king there, although not necessarily this one. Jabin appears to have been a throne name. The chapter goes on to show that Deborah and Barak consulted together about their deliverance, and that Barak, encouraged by Deborah, gathered some forces from the tribal confederacy and fought Sisera the captain of Jabin's army, whom he met, and over whom he obtained victory. Sisera, while fleeing on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber, was received into it, and slain by her while asleep in it, which issued in a complete deliverance of the children of Israel.

God’s Third Lesson : The Canaanite Invasion; Barak and Deborah (Judges 4:1-24).

Judges 4:1

And the children of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh, when Ehud was dead.’

Ehud ruled wisely and well. He encouraged the people in their worship of Yahweh, maintained the tribal links with the central sanctuary, and ensured obedience to the covenant and all involved with it, the offering of the necessary sacrifices to Yahweh, the keeping of His commandments and the justice that went along with them. All this is implicit in the fact that the people did not do grave evil in Yahweh’s sight while he lived. They sinned, as all men will, but they offered the appropriate sacrifices and offerings and generally did what was right. But when he died they slipped back into their old ways.


Verse 2

And Yahweh sold them, into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor, the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Nations.’

Hazor was an important city state in northern Canaan which had great influence over its neighbours (Joshua 11:1-2; Joshua 11:10). Archaeology tells us that it had been there since the third millennium BC and in the second millennium was extended by the building of a lower city. At this stage it would have about forty thousand inhabitants, a large city indeed. The lower city contained a Canaanite temple and a small shrine. It was referred to regularly throughout the centuries, by Egypt, Mari and Babylon, as an important political centre, and its ruler was given the title ‘Great King’ (sarrum), a status above that usually conferred on rulers of city states.

A previous king Jabin had ruled over this area in the time of Joshua, and had led a confederacy against Joshua and had been defeated and slain (Joshua 11:1-15). (This Jabin was probably his grandson or great-grandson). That was the first occasion when Israel had won a great victory over chariots. And Hazor was then burned and what remained of its inhabitants put to the sword. The lower city was destroyed by Joshua and not later rebuilt. But many of the warriors had inevitably escaped, and it is probable that some refugees had fled from Hazor before he returned, and they would repopulate the city. ‘Smote them until none remained’ and ‘utterly destroyed them’ refer to what Israel did with those they caught, in obedience to Yahweh’s commandments.

As Joshua was not in a position to occupy it, which is why he burned it as a major Canaanite threat, upper Hazor (but not lower Hazor) was rebuilt. Good sites were too valuable not to be re-used. So at this time it had been re-established and was now under another Jabin. This may have been a throne name or simply a family name re-used. No doubt Hazor was still ‘the head of the kingdoms’ (Joshua 11:10), the centre of a confederation of cities.

“The captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Nations.” Jabin maintained a standing army and again ruled, not only over Hazor, but probably as overlord over a number of other cities in a confederacy. His general was named Sisera. Sisera’s name is possibly Illyrian and it would seem he was a petty king of Harosheth of the Nations, whose site is unknown. Its name may have arisen from its cosmopolitan population or from the fact that it was populated with foreign mercenaries. Sisera himself may have been a foreign mercenary.

“Yahweh sold them into the hand of Jabin.” Jabin had grown powerful and was seeking to extend his empire. In this way northern parts of the tribal confederacy west of Jordan became subject to him, and became his ‘servants’. They were ‘sold’ into his hand by Yahweh, handed over as slaves. This would involve heavy tribute and probably heavy taskwork (‘he mightily oppressed’ - Judges 4:3).


Verse 3

And the children of Israel cried to Yahweh, for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and he mightily oppressed the children of Israel for twenty years.’

They once again recognised that Yahweh alone could help them in a situation like this and began to turn from their idols and to seek Him once again, paying more attention to the tribal covenant, becoming more faithful to the central sanctuary, and reinstating the law of God. The old ways had never been completely forgotten, but had fallen into partial disuse. Now they were restored.

“For he had nine hundred chariots of iron.” Gathering together the strength of his confederate cities he possessed nine military units (‘hundreds’) of chariots. No wonder they cried to Yahweh. Who else could deal with a menace like this? The nine may represent a threefold three, thus signifying totally complete in itself.

“And he mightily oppressed the children of Israel for twenty years.” This was longer than both Cushan-rishathaim and the Moabites, although the latter in a totally different area and possibly concurrent. ‘Mightily oppressed’ suggests that this was worse than they had previously experienced anywhere among the tribes, partly possibly in consequence of revenge because of the ruin that they had previously brought on Hazor, and their behaviour then. They had not been too kind either. The tribes in mind here would include Naphtali, Issachar, and Zebulun and possibly parts of Manasseh. They were thus impoverished and ill-used.

Eight (Judges 3:8), eighteen (Judges 3:14), twenty (Judges 4:3) years of oppression might not seem to us a progression mathematically, but it would be different to his readers. For eight progressed to eight plus ten and then to doubled ten. They were increasing in intensity.


Verse 4

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, she judged Israel at that time.’

Deborah is one of three prophetesses mentioned in the Old Testament, two of whom were powerful figures. The others were Miriam (Exodus 15:20) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14). Deborah means ‘a bee’ and was a relatively common name. The fact that she was a prophetess indicated that she had the Spirit of Yahweh. Her influence was so powerful that she was made a judge of Israel. All recognised an aura about her. It is significant that while prophetesses were officially allowed as religious functionaries, priestesses were not. Women could serve at the door of the Tabernacle but they could not enter it (Exodus 38:8). This may have been partly because of the function that priestesses served in other religions with their sexual rites. The Tabernacle was an asexual reserve.


Verse 5

And she stationed herself under the palm tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel, in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.’

When local justice failed, or cases were too complicated, or inter-tribal, or needed special discernment, the people would come to her. She was seen as having wisdom from God. She stationed herself under a palm tree (which would provide shade) which was ever afterwards called ‘the palm tree of Deborah’. (There is little reason for identifying it as the oak under which Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, was buried). Under a prominent tree would appear to have been a regular place for giving judgments, and made the judge accessible.

“Between Ramah and Bethel.” This would be in Benjaminite territory, and central for the tribes. It would be near Mizpah where the tribes met for judgment (Judges 20:1).

“And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” One of the responsibilities of the judges was administration and justice. But all who were called judges were seen as having Yahweh with them in one way or another. Such a position required the Spirit of Yahweh.


Verse 6

And she sent and called Barak, the son of Abinoam, out of Kedesh-naphtali. And said to him, “Has not Yahweh, the God of Israel commanded? Go, and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with you ten eleph men of the children of Naphtali, and of the children of Zebulun.” ’

The Spirit of Yahweh was at work for Deborah had foreseen short term coming events. She was thus completely in charge. We must assume that Barak was a recognised battle leader whose influence was such that she knew men would follow him. The power of her influence is seen in that he came. His name means ‘lightning’, a worthy opponent for Baal, the god of lightning who was worshipped in Hazor. He was to be Yahweh’s lightning. He lived in Naphtali territory, of which Hazor was one of the cities allotted to them. Perhaps both were in her mind when she chose him.

“And said to him, “Has not Yahweh, the God of Israel commanded?”” Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel, was in charge of operations here. He was their commander (compare Joshua 5:14). And He was doing it through Deborah.

“Go, and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with you ten eleph men of the children of Naphtali, and of the children of Zebulun.” Mount Tabor was a mountain rising from the plain of Jezreel to a height of 588 metres (1900 feet). It was steep-sloped and on the Zebulun-Issachar border. There they would be safe from chariots, which would encourage the Israelite fighting men. ‘Go and draw’ refers to the plan to draw Sisera’s chariots towards Mount Tabor. He was to take ten largish units of men. Military units were split into ‘elephs’, ‘hundreds’ and ‘tens’ (Judges 20:10), but as often with military units the number was theoretical. The actual group would be far smaller.


Verse 7

And I will draw to you, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his large body of fighting men, and I will deliver him into your hand.”

These were the words of their battle general, Yahweh. Once Sisera heard of their gathering on Mount Tabor, in what was clearly an attempt at rebellion, he would take his chariots and men over to the mount in accordance with Yahweh’s plan. Then Yahweh would arrange for them to be delivered into the hands of Barak’s small army.

But the song of Deborah makes clear that Barak had reserves to call on from the tribal confederacy. Some came from Ephraim, others from Benjamin, and more from Machir (Manasseh) (Judges 5:14).


Verse 8

And Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, then I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.’

Barak was a warleader, not a prophet. He considered the ten units he would have with him on Mount Tabor and he considered the nine units of chariots, and the further large army of fighting men, a standing army trained for war, and he did not like the odds. So, yes, he was willing to trust Yahweh’s plan, but only if Deborah confirmed her faith in it by going with him. Furthermore he felt that this would aid the fulfilment of the plan, for he had every confidence that Yahweh would fight for Deborah. And the men of Naphtali (with Issachar) and Zebulun would be far more likely to come if she was among them, so great was the common belief that Yahweh was with her. He had faith but he also wanted some kind of confirmation and guarantee.


Verse 9

Judges 4:9 a

‘And she said, “I will surely go with you. Except that now the journey you take will not be for your honour, for Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”

Deborah’s confidence in Yahweh was total and she unhesitatingly agreed. But as a result of his unwillingness to trust God on his own Barak was now warned that the greatest honour of victory, the slaying of Sisera, would not be his. Instead it would be by a woman’s hand, although it would still be Yahweh’s doing. Barak was content. He probably thought she meant herself.

Like much prophecy her prophecy had a twofold fulfilment, a conscious one and an unconscious one. Possibly even Deborah did not know that. Yahweh gave her the words but the details of the fulfilment must await events. Firstly it would be because as judge of Israel she would now be commander-in-chief and when the battle was won the glory would go primarily to her. Barak had forfeited his chief place. But secondly it was because Yahweh had other plans for Sisera. Instead of a glorious death he would be humiliated.

“Yahweh will sell Sisera.” This indicates Yahweh’s complete control over Sisera. He had the right to ‘sell’ him. He would do to Sisera what He had previously done to the children of Israel (Judges 4:2). He would be ‘sold off’, handed over like a bondservant who could not do anything about it.

Judges 4:9 b

‘And Deborah rose and went with Barak to Kedesh.’

In accordance with her promise Deborah went with Barak to his home town (Judges 4:6). Meanwhile, as the song of Deborah makes clear, the call went out to the tribes of the confederacy to come to the aid of their brothers. (The non-mention here demonstrates how careful we must be in interpreting the silences of Scripture. Writers were not giving an inclusive history but an outline of events that, while true, conveyed their spiritual message).


Verse 10

And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh. And there went up ten eleph of men at his feet, and Deborah went up with him.’

Zebulun and Naphtali responded to his call and sent him the ten units of fighting men that he asked for. All knew what this meant. The die was cast. They would be seen as rebels.

And he led them up Mount Tabor. And Deborah, as she had promised, went with them. ‘At his feet’ indicates that they followed him up the ascent. It was probably a great comfort to that hardy group of men to see among them the one whom they believed had the Spirit of Yahweh within her.


Verse 11

Now Heber, the Kenite, had separated himself from the Kenites, even from the children of Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far as the oak in Zaanannim, which is by Kedesh.’

The purpose of this verse is to explain why Heber was where he was when the later events occurred. For some reason Heber had left the group of Kenites who had gathered to Hobab (Judges 1:16). He had not wanted to be a part of Judah. His presence here was providential. As semi-nomads, Kenites lived in tents and kept themselves to themselves, and that is how he wanted it. They probably survived by doing metalwork. They were thus useful to farmers and to fighting men alike. The oak in Zaanannim was a famous landmark (compare Joshua 19:33) and would have cultic connections among the Canaanites (the Hebrew used always has such in mind). To them it was a sacred place. This probably later gave Sisera more of a sense of security.


Verse 12

‘And they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor.’

“They” is general. There were many Canaanites who would not look happily on an Israelite rebellion. It would suit them for Sisera to learn of it immediately. ‘Barak is out to cause trouble and has gathered some fighting men on Mount Tabor’, they would tell Sisera.

Sisera would know that the force could not be too large from the fact that they were on Mount Tabor. He probably never dreamed that they actually expected to fight his chariot force, but appreciated that when Israelites banded together it was Canaanites who would suffer. And he did not want armed bands on his territory. It is possible, however, that he also received information that the call had gone out to other tribes. Thus he would then know that the threat might soon be a major one, and had to be dealt with at once. The expectation of others joining them would explain why they were waiting in a place where his chariots could not touch them. The only thing to do was stamp out he rebellion immediately. The last thing he considered was that they were there as a provocation to him.


Verse 13

And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him from Harosheth of the Nations, to the river Kishon.’

Sisera was taking no chances, and this was to be a massive show of strength to prevent such incidents happening again. He called together his chariot force of nine units of chariots, and his soldiers and mercenaries who dwelt in Harosheth of the Nations, probably a garrison town. These were the forces immediately available. Then he amassed them in the plain beside the river Kishon. This was within easy reach of Mount Tabor.


Verse 14

And Deborah said to Barak, “Up, for this is the day in which Yahweh has delivered Sisera into your hand. Is not Yahweh gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten eleph men after him.’

The Canaanite army were gathered at the river Kishon, not expecting an attack. After all it was they who were the hunters. The last thing they expected was for the Israelites to come down to meet them, and they would be taken totally by surprise. It was probably the last thing that the Israelites had expected either. But at Deborah’s words, communicated to them by Barak, they responded. Was the Spirit of Yahweh not with her? And now she had promised that He would be with them.

“So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten eleph men after him.” At Deborah’s command the Israelite forces swept down the mountain - had she not promised that Yahweh had gone in front of them? - and attacked the Canaanite force, taking them by surprise.

“Is not Yahweh gone out before you?” In chapter 4 there is not a word to explain the significance of this, except as a general theological promise. Nothing is said about the rainstorm. But their victory proved it was true. Yahweh was there fighting for them. Had we not, however, had the song of Deborah we would not have had the full explanation which was that while the troops and chariots of Sisera waited by the banks of the river, heavy rains fell on the surrounding mountains causing flash floods and further heavy rains which swept down and flooded the plain (Judges 5:21), which was already possibly soggy. As a result the chariot wheels were bemired in the mud. Clad in their iron weaponry and accoutrements the footsoldiers too would find the going heavy. The song puts it in terms reminiscent of the delivery from the soldiers of Pharaoh at the Sea of Reeds.

Thus when the army of Barak, fervent and more lightly clad, and therefore more capable of dealing with the mud, suddenly and unexpectedly swept down on them they were thrown into even more confusion. Their chariots were useless, their leadership caught up in them, and the unexpected attack caught them unprepared.


Verse 15

Judges 4:15 a

‘And Yahweh discomfited Sisera and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak.’

It was a total rout. Without iron accoutrements to hinder them, and more lightly armed, and fired by the belief that Yahweh had done this, the Israelites could cope with the conditions much better. And the Canaanites were already in disarray. So while there would undoubtedly be some resistance, they were totally unprepared. And not knowing how many of these dreadful barbarians were coming against them, and being without their main officers, who were caught up in their chariots, to rally them, they panicked and eventually turned and fled. And a fleeing army is easily beaten, especially by the more lightly clad.

Judges 4:15 b

‘And Sisera lighted down from his chariot, and fled away on his feet.’

This is the only indication we have in Judges 4 of the flooding of the plain. Sisera must have left his chariot because it was unusable. Only flooding could have done that, and caused him to panic in this way. Possibly his officers were the ones who told him to save himself while they fought a rearguard action, or perhaps he got away in the confusion, but it emphasises the panic that had seized hold of the Canaanite army, and Sisera as well. They had heard about the activities of Yahweh, God of Israel, and now they were seeing Him in action. They did not like the odds.


Verse 16

But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, as far as Harosheth of the Nations. And all the host of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword and there was not a man left.’

Some of the chariots were able to get themselves clear of the mud and escape, which was the only thing now on their minds, while the footsoldiers also fled, hindering the chariots. That proud and powerful army, with its mighty chariots, that had swept so triumphantly and confidently on to the plain by Kishon, now fled, a bedraggled, mud-bespattered, broken and totally spent force, prey to the flashing blades of the men of Naphtali and Zebulun who followed with blazing eyes and triumphant cries.

“There was not a man left.” That is, that they could find to slaughter. They killed all that they could find. But there was at least one who had escaped their flashing blades, who fled for his life, seeking refuge.


Verse 17

However, Sisera fled away on his feet, to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. For there was peace between Jabin, the king of Hazor, and the house of Heber the Kenite.’

Before going into detail the writer summarised what was to happen, and humiliates Sisera. ‘He fled away on his feet’. That mighty charioteer of Canaan, running for his life, his chariot deserted. ‘To the tent of Jael.’ The very thought would startle the listener. They would freeze at the thought. That was unforgivable. His ally’s wife’s tent, a place he should never ever have considered entering, even in his last extremity. And yet it offered safety, for no one would imagine him entering such a place.

“For there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.” Not a peace between equals but a peace because Heber and his encampment were useful as metalworkers. They had received permission from Jabin to camp there because their activities were useful, and they presented no threat. But under such a treaty Sisera should have been concerned to protect his ally’s wife.


Verse 18

Judges 4:18 a

‘And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, ‘Turn in, my lord, turn in to me. Do not be afraid.’

Jael went out to meet him. She would see the hunted look of the fugitive and realise what had happened. She would also know how important a man he was for the wellbeing of the Canaanites. It may be that she knew that he was making for Hazor and determined to prevent him reaching there by a ruse. But it may be that she had some private reason for revenge. There is much about the narrative, including its silences, to suggest so. But the writer is not interested in her private revenge, only in the fulfilment of Deborah’s prophecy. And he is enjoying what happened.

So she offered him refuge, but in a forbidden place, in a woman’s tent, the tent of his ally’s wife, alone. This was a breach of etiquette of the highest level, especially between men who had some kind of covenant between them. A nobler and less terrified man would have refused. He must have known what her husband’s view would be. What the view of all good men would be. And it would be disastrous for her reputation for him to be alone with her. The truth is that ‘Turn in to me’ was possibly seen by him as an invitation to enjoy more than just food and drink, otherwise he would surely have protested, which makes his behaviour even more despicable. What protection did he deserve when he behaved like this? But he was used to being welcomed by women. He would make use of her in two ways at the same time. He may well have made the attempt before.

“My lord.” A polite address to an important man. But she would call her husband ‘my lord’ as well.

Judges 4:18 b

‘And he turned in to her into the tent; and she covered him with a covering.’

This was possibly in order to hide him, but more likely it was because he stripped some of his ‘armour’ off. It was heavy and uncomfortable and he was very hot, very tired, and felt safe. The covering or rug (some kind of covering - the word occurs only here and its specific meaning is not known) was to preserve some level of propriety. But how could that be in a married woman’s tent? It accentuates the position.


Verse 19

Judges 4:19 a

‘And he said to her, “Give me, I pray you, a little water to drink, for I am parched.”

It should be noted that up to this stage she had not offered hospitality. Perhaps he should have taken a hint from that. To hide a male fugitive in your tent might be one thing, to feed him there another. So he has committed another breach of etiquette.

Much is made here by commentators of the question of hospitality, but it is questionable whether that was always seen as fully applying to women. There was no hospitality shown to the woman when the old man offered the Levite’s concubine to the sodomites gathered outside his house (Judges 19:24), even though she had eaten at his table. It was the preservation of the men that was seen as important. That may suggest that in hospitality matters it was often in fact the menfolk who were seen as the ones who counted. Perhaps the women were in many cases merely sheltered because of their menfolk. Thus Jael may not have felt that similar laws applied to her. And the laws of hospitality did not provide for a married woman having a man alone with her in her tent. That was a flagrant breach of hospitality.

Judges 4:19 b

‘And she opened a leather skin of milk, and gave him drink and covered him.’

It may be she had no water, or perhaps she was trying to reassure him of her friendly intent. The covering was probably so that he could sleep.


Verse 20

And he said to her, “Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man shall come and enquire of you, and say, Is there any man here? That you will say, no.”

If Jael is to be criticised for dishonesty, what about Sisera? He wanted her not only to lie for him, but also to do so in a way that would put her in danger. If they forced their way into her tent at least she would have some excuse, but to blatantly lie to hide him would put not only her, but the whole encampment, at risk. He thought only of himself. Thus he forfeited any right he had to hospitality. The whole incident covers him in dishonour. If she had had any qualms about what she was about to do before, from a hospitality point of view, they would surely have disappeared by now.


Verse 21

Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a tent-pin, and took a mallet in her hand, and went quietly to him, and smote the pin into his temples, and it pierced through into the ground. For he was in a deep sleep. So he swooned and died.’

It was because he had gone to sleep that she was able to do this. Using a tent-pin and mallet was second nature to such a woman who in an encampment would use them regularly. It was seen as a job for women. That is why they were in her tent. Thus she would be very adept with them. The weapon was more effective than a knife for this purpose. The bones would not deflect it. They also meant that if he suddenly woke up while she was crossing over to him it would not look so suspicious.

Thus did she ensure that this enemy of Israel did not escape. That it was her deliberate purpose to kill him from the start we cannot doubt. That she breached etiquette in doing so is, as we have seen, doubtful. Everything about his actions was wrong. He himself breached every rule of etiquette with regard to a man’s wife, and he was willing to take advantage of her and put her at risk into the bargain. He had forfeited any right to consideration. And what other method could a woman have used to kill such a powerful enemy?

It is possible that she did it because her sympathies lay with Israel, and Israel’s God, although Heber may have left the family of Hobab because he was not prepared to enter covenant with Yahweh. But there is no mention of Yahweh or of any such motive. In fact there is a remarkable and studied silence about it. Why no exultation? Why no praise to Yahweh? Why no reference to Him having delivered Sisera into her hand? We might be embarrassed about her deed but it is doubtful if anyone in her time would have anything but admiration for it. Yet she must have had some special reason for her act, for hating him so.

Perhaps he had previously shamed her in some way. Perhaps he had previously made lewd advances towards her during visits to the camp, or used his position to force his attentions on her. Like many men he would persuade himself that really she would enjoy it, (even if he thought about it). He was a Canaanite to whom sexual misbehaviour was second nature, with the power and authority to do almost what he wanted. And she was a semi-nomad, with little power. But as such she had the stricter moral ideas of her type. We cannot know all that lay behind it and should therefore hesitate to judge. But let us make no mistake about it. She took her revenge on a man who revealed what he was by being where he was. No woman of her type would have doubted the rightness of what she did.

His death at the hand of a woman would lead to mockery by fellow soldiers. His breaching of her tent would cause shock among tent dwellers. His death brought rejoicing throughout Israel. And he died a coward for the way he deserted his men. And the ribald laughter at the way he had been deceived would echo everywhere. He died without honour anywhere.


Verse 22

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man who you are looking for.” And he came to her, and behold, Sisera lay dead, and the tent-pin was in his temples.’

Barak, probably accompanied by some of his men, was on Sisera’s track. He would not want him to escape. And Jael went out to meet him. She was presumably expecting pursuit.

“And said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man who you are looking for”.” Her quiet approach, with no sense of exhilaration, but rather with a sense of grim satisfaction, would seem to confirm that she had had a private reason for what she did. She was not celebrating Yahweh’s victory but quietly enjoying her own revenge.

“And he came to her, and behold, Sisera lay dead, and the tent-pin was in his temples.” He found the man he was hunting down, lying in the tent with the tent-pin through his temples. She wanted it known what she had done. A woman’s vengeance.

Note that the word ‘come’ used by Jael is the same as the word ‘go’ used by Deborah (Judges 4:6). Because of his unwillingness to act alone his victory was dependent on two women.


Verse 23

So God subdued on that day Jabin, the king of Canaan, before the children, of Israel.’

Jabin’s efforts through his standing army had been thwarted, and instead it was he who had been subdued. His general was dead, his army decimated. It was something from which he would never recover. Note the use of ‘God’ instead of Yahweh. What had happened in Jael’s tent was not seen as a direct act of Yahweh. She had been inspired by other motives.


Verse 24

And the hand of the children of Israel prevailed more and more against Jabin, the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin, the king of Canaan.’

Having commenced successfully Barak did not let up. Gradually with his men he broke Jabin’s power base and eventually destroyed the king himself. Hazor and its confederates would no longer be a threat to them. Thus there was peace in that area for a generation while Israel re-established themselves, and they would be able to move around reasonably freely and settle in the plain of Esdraelon (Hebrew - Jezreel - Judges 5:31). But there is no mention of driving out the Canaanites. Obedience was only partial and they would still be a thorn in the side of Israel.

 


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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Judges 4:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/judges-4.html. 2013.

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