All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Divine Intervention

After the death of Joshua and the distribution of the land of Canaan to the tribes, Israel begins it drift into apostasy. They are not destroying all the remnants of the native inhabitants in their inherited territories, and these heathens are influencing Israel to turn from the Lord and begin to adopt heathen practices.

The Lord begins to intervene, by raising up twelve judges during the period between the death of Joshua and the beginning of the monarchy. These judges are largely local and affect only a portion of the country.

Othniel delivers Israel from the oppression of the king of Mesopotamia (see Judges 3:7–11), Ehud kills king Eglon, freeing Israel from the Moabites (seeJudges 3:12–30), and Shamgar delivers Israel from the Philistines (see Judges 3:31).

Then we find the story of Deborah, the prophetess, who eventually frees Israel from the oppression of the Canaanites (see Joshua 4:1–5:31). She is also a judge, settling court cases brought to her by the people.

Because of their wickedness, the Lord has “sold” Israel into the hand of Jabin, the king of Canaan (see Judges 4:2), and his army commander, Sisera, is well-equipped with 900 chariots of iron! The Canaanite oppression of Israel lasts for 20 years, until they cry out to the Lord in desperation.

Then Deborah calls for Barak, and says, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and the sons of Zebulun; and against you I deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?” Judges 4:6–7.

Barak responds saying, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go, I will not.” He wants the security of her prophetic guidance, rather than trusting only in the Word of the Lord.

Deborah agrees to go with him, but warns him that there would be no glory for him in the victory, because the Lord would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman. (He probably thinks that the woman will be Deborah). p Barak’s name means “lighting” and Deborah’s means “bee.” The combination of the two together indicates that their army would strike like lightning and sting like a bee.

Meanwhile, Heber the Kenite (a descendant of the father-in-law of Moses) separates himself from the other Kenites and pitches his tent near where Deborah holds judgment. As a result, it is reported to Sisera that Barak has gone up Mount Taber with his army.

While this heathen commander prepares his large army, and 900 chariots for battle, Deborah says to Barak that it is now time for the Lord to deliver Sisera into his hand. Sisera marshals his army across the Jezreel Valley to the River Kishon, but Barak, apparently following the strategy of Deborah, gathers his forces on the top of Mount Tabor, where they can strategically view the surrounding area.

The plan is to lure Sisera’s army across the Jezreel Valley into the plain of the Kishon River. They will rush down the mountain at full speed if Sisera’s army flounders in the muddied battlefield and overflowing water of the Kishon River. However, this plan obviously depends on divine orientation, and His intervention as to battlefield conditions, and the proper moment to attack.

When that moment comes, Barak and his army rush down Mount Tabor to engage the enemy at the River Kishon. But a sudden storm sent by the Lord causes a flash flood that ends with Sisera’s army being wiped out by the edge of the sword. Only Sisera escapes on foot, and Jael lures him into her tent and covers him with a blanket.

By offering this hospitality, she violates the custom of the ancients, since this sort of invitation is only offered by the husband. But she is the wife of Heber, the Kenite, and at this time there is peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the Kenites.

Then Sisera requests a drink of water. He totally violates the norms of the ancients by asking both for a drink, and protection, since both of these are to be offered only by the host.

After he falls asleep, Jael picks up a tent peg and a hammer used to pound it into the ground. Then she drives it through Sisera’s temple into the ground. Murdering a guest is not within the acceptable customs of the ancients, either; but on the other hand, her action may be justified on the grounds that he is a potential threat to her, her household, and her relatives.

As Barak pursues Sisera, Jael comes out to meet him and says, “Come , I will show you the man whom you seek.” Judges 4:22. And when Barak enters the tent, he sees Sisera, dead, with a peg through his temple.

The death of Sisera liberates Israel from the long oppression of the Canaanites, and ushers in 40 years of peace. It demonstrates once again that the Lord wins the battles, not His people.

To commemorate this victory, the song of Deborah is composed in poetry—an indication that this is an important victory that should be sung over and over by future generations.

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