Summary: Which matters most to you - doing the job or getting the credit? That’s what Barak faces in a battle against Israel’s enemies. He makes the right choice - do we? Also - letting God do a complete work of healing in our lives.
Chapters 4 and 5 of Judges are a real bright spot in a book that is mostly bleak and depressing. Not only do we see a great victory but it also features some real role reversals. This time it’s not the guys who shine, but the gals. We have a woman, Deborah, who is both a judge and a prophetess. I don’t think any of the other judges had both roles until Samuel. So we’ve got Deborah who leads, judges, prophecies, and sings and writes her own music! And then we’ve got Jael. This is one tough woman. She fools an army general - someone the entire nation was afraid of - into lying under a blanket, drink warm milk, and fall asleep. Then she decides she needs to shore up the tent and the guy happens to be in the way of her tent peg and "pow!" the general is dead the battle won.
These two chapters also have a lot to teach us when God calls us to "step up the plate" in dealing a death blow to the flesh - just how far are you willing to go?
Verses 1 - 3
The continual lapsing of Israel back into idolatry could be seen as the difference between religious reformation and spiritual awakening. The former is a temporary, outward change in appearance. The latter is a permanent, inward change in character.
Israel is sort of like the man Jesus described in Matthew 12 who had the demon exorcised and his home swept and in order, but not filled with anything else, so more demons came. Israel keeps going from bad to worse to worse still. Israel asked for physical deliverance, but not spiritual deliverance.
Jabin was king of Hazor, a city Joshua had burned in chapter 11 but the Canaanites had rebuilt. Being King of Canaan probably means he was head of a confederacy of nations. When we let the flesh remain in our lives, it is amazing how it will organize itself to rebel against the desires of the Spirit.
Verses 4 - 7
Deborah means "bee." God raised her up as a prophetess and a judge. This was humiliating to a male-dominated society in Israel. She saw herself as a mother to wayward children (5:7) and Israel needed a bit of humiliation!
Verses 8 - 10
Barak ("lightning") was a reluctant hero. Why did he hesitate and what did it mean? Was he calling God into question? It doesn’t seem like it. Perhaps he just recognized Deborah’s role in hearing from God so he thought it good that she should go along.
Verses 11 - 23
Notes on the battle: Heber the Kenite is a distant relative of Moses (1:16). He might have been trying to live a neutral existence between these two warring peoples but when Israel starts to move in battle, he goes to Sisera and gets him to fall right into Israel’s trap.
The battle was likely fought during the dry season from June to September because Sisera would never have taken his 900 chariots in battle in the rainy season. God brought torrential rains (5:20) which made Sisera’s chariots ineffective like when Pharaoh sent his chariots into the Red Sea.
It’s also interesting because Sisera’s god, Baal, is the god of storms. So it might well have put them into a panic thinking that their own god had turned against them.