Summary: God raises up Barak to lead Israel, but he loses out on the full blessing of partnering with God because of a lack of faith.
Possessing the Promises #3
Deborah & Barak (With a little help from Jael)
• After Ehud, the left-handed assassin of Eglon, Israel has peace for 80 years – the longest period of peace during the period pf the judges.
o Yet they fall in to the cycle of disobedience and faithlessness
o Sold into the hands of a Canaanite king Jabin who reigned in Hazor – a city previously destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua
o The commander of Jabin’s army was a man named Sisera and his army’s claim to fame was the possession of 900 iron chariots.
o This is the equivalent of having nuclear arms – Israel doesn’t have anything to compare to the military strength of Sisera
o For 20 years they were subjected to Jabin when they cried out to the Lord for help.
• At that time an Israelite woman was leading Israel – she was also a prophetess (a spokesperson for the Lord). Her name was Deborah. Her name means “honey bee” – she was the original Yellow Jacket!
o She held court under a tree where people from all over for help with decisions. She was probably more of a judge in the sense that we use the word than any of the other judges.
o It was quite a distinction, especially for a woman.
• Lead by the Lord she summons a man named Barak and commissions him to lead the battle against Sisera. She assures him with these words:
o "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: `Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’ "
o Barak seems to have some reservations. He says to Deborah that he’ll do it, but only if she goes with him. If you don’t go, I don’t go!
o This could be a sign of great respect to Deborah acknowledging her leadership and her relationship with God. Or it could be a sign of reluctance on Barak’s part; perhaps a sign of doubt and lack of faith.
o Deborah seems to be a little perturbed leading me to believe that she interprets this as doubt. After all, it’s not as if this battle is Deborah’s idea – she has received a command from the Lord!! Why doesn’t he believe it!!
o She agrees to go with him but tells him that he will not get the honor for the victory. That honor will go to a woman.
o Initially you think that Deborah is going to do something spectacular to bring victory to the Jews, but God already has another woman ready to take action – a woman we will be introduced to later.
• So they gather their 10,000 volunteers from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and go off to battle. Everything goes Israel’s way. All Sisera’s army retreats and Barak pursues the chariots all the way to Sisera’s headquarters. Sisera, however, has gone another direction. He has cowardly abandoned his troops and finds a friend among the tent dwelling people called the Kenites.
o The Kenites are not Jews, but the do have a connection with the Jews. Moses married a Kenite girl and they had been friendly to the Jews in earlier days. The Kenites now however have friendly relations with Jabin. So Sisera flees there because he expects to find a friendly people. And it looks as if he does.
o A Kenite woman, Jael, comes out to meet him; gives him some milk to drink and a place to rest. Sisera makes himself look like he’s running from something because he says to Jael, “If anybody comes by don’t tell them anyone’s here.”
o At that point something possesses Jael to take action. Maybe she’s heard of the Jews victory. Maybe her intuition simply says that something is not right with a man who insists that no one find him. Or maybe there are forces working here that are beyond our and her understanding. Anyway, she picks up a tent peg and a hammer. I’m told in the Ancient Near East women were responsible for setting up the tents, so this woman has probably swung a hammer or two. She takes the tent peg, places it at Sisera’s temple, raises the hammer and Sisera is killed – by a woman. A non-Jewish woman.
o Meanwhile, Barak is roaming the countryside looking for Sisera. Deborah’s prophecy has come true – the honor goes to a woman, not to Barak!
o They begin a period of forty years of peace after this great victory. God comes through again for his people. An unlikely heroine emerges to seal an unlikely victory.