Chapter 16 - Canaanites Are Defeated - Page 2 of 6 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
In short, these stranger-converts are the most intense in their allegiance to the nation which they have joined, while at the same time they never lose the characteristics of their own race. We realize this, for example, in the appearance of Jehonadab, the son of Rechab 14(2 Kings 10:15 ), and again much later during the troubles that befell Judah in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 35). Jael, the wife of Heber, was to the Kenites what Deborah, the "torch-woman," was to Israel, only with all the characteristics of her race developed to the utmost. At her tent-door she meets the fugitive Sisera. She disarms his suspicions; she invites him to rest and security; she even sacrifices the sacred rights of hospitality to her dark purpose. There is something terrible and yet grand about that fierce woman, to whom every other consideration is as nothing, so that she may avenge Israel and destroys its great enemy. It all seems lawful to her, to be involved in such an undertaking; every means consecrated by the end in view. She has laid the worn warrior to rest; she has given him the best her tent affords for refreshment. And now, as he lies in heavy sleep, she stealthily withdraws one of the long iron spikes to which the tent-cords are fastened, and with a heavy hammer once, and again, and yet a third time, drives it into his temples. It is not long before Barak—a "lightning" in pursuit as in battle—has reached the spot. Jael lifts aside the tent-curtain and shows him the gory corpse. In silence Barak turns from the terrible spectacle. But the power of Jabin and his dominion are henceforth and for ever destroyed.
It seems to us, that there is not a word in Scripture that can express its approval of so horrible a deed of deceit and violence—no, not even in the praise which Deborah in her song bestows upon Jael. It was not like Deborah's war, nor like Barak's battle, but strictly Kenite. Her allegiance to the cause of the people of God, her courage, her zeal, were Israeli; but, their fanatical, wild, unscrupulous expression belonged to the race from which she had sprung, to the traditions amidst which she had been nurtured, and to the fiery blood which coursed in her veins—they were not of God or of His word, but of her time and race. Heathen history tells of similar deeds, and records them with the highest praise; Scripture with solemn silence. Yet even so Jehovah reigns, and the fierce Arab was the sword in His hand!
Deborah took the initiative in calling Barak and ordering him to engage Sisera in battle, as the Lord had commanded. But Barak, not Deborah, is commended for his faith in Hebrews 11:32. Though somewhat hesitant at first, he obeyed the Lord by faith and delivered Israel. (According to the NIV, Hobab in verse 11 should be listed as the “brother-in-law of Moses,” not father-in-law, as in the NKJV.)
Article 4.2: The Battle Between Sisera and Barak
Barak openly showed his force of 10,000 on the southern slopes of Mount Tabor. Sisera rose to the bait. He and his chariots crossed the dry Kishon riverbed at the ford just south of Harosheth. They raced southeast along the ancient highway toward Taanach. Israelites from the south, from Ephraim, entered the valley at Jenin (5:14) and joined forces with Barak and his northern troops in the valley below Taanach, south of the Kishon. Deborah called for the attack (14). Footmen against chariots! At the critical moment rain fell, turning the plain into mire, utterly confounding the chariots and horses (5:4). The advantage was now fully with the infantry. ... Barak pressed the attack. Sisera was separated from his men and fled. The leaderless troops, not used to fighting on foot, ran for their base. The rains continued and the Kishon rose to a torrent. Those who were not slain by the Israelites in pursuit were swept away by the Kishon as they tried to cross the ford to Harosheth ... vv. 10–16; cf.— 5:20, 21. Daily Notes of the Scripture Union.
________________________________________________________________13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
Sisera, upon notice of Barak’s movements, takes the field with a very numerous and powerful army: They showed Sisera, that is, it was shown to him as some think by the Kenites, mentioned immediately before, in verse 11. They gave Sisera information concerning Barak’s rendezvous, there being peace at this time between Jabin and that family (see verse 17). Whether they intended it as a kindness to him or not, it served to accomplish what God had said by Deborah 16(v. 7 ): I will draw unto thee Sisera. Sisera’s confidence was chiefly in his chariots; therefore particular notice is taken of them, 900 chariots of iron, which, with the scythes fastened to their axle-trees, when they were driven into an army of footmen, did terrible injury. So ingenious have men been in inventing methods of destroying one another, to gratify those lusts from which come wars and fightings.
The river of Kishon -- The plain on its bank was chosen as the battlefield by Sisera himself, who was unconsciously drawn there for the ruin of his army.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
Deborah gives orders to engage the enemy. Josephus says that when Barak saw Sisera’s army drawn up, and attempting to surround the mountain on top of which he and his forces was encamped, his heart nearly failed him, and he decided to withdraw to a place of greater safety; but Deborah animated him to make a descent upon Sisera, assuring him that this was the day marked out in the divine counsels for his defeat. "Now they appear the most threatening when they are ripe for ruin. The thing is as sure to be done as if it were done already: The Lord hath delivered Sisera into thy hand.’’ See how the work and honor of this great action are divided between Deborah and Barak; she, as the head, gives the word, he, as the hand, does the work. In this way God dispenses his gifts variously, 17(1 Co. 12:4 ). But, though ordinarily the head of the woman is the man 18(1 Co. 11:3 ), he that has the residue of the Spirit was pleased to cross hands, and to put the head upon the woman’s shoulders, choosing the weak things of the world to shame the mighty, that no flesh might glory in his presence. It was well for Barak that he had Deborah with him; for she made up what was defective in him:
1. In his conduct, by telling him, This is the day.
2. In his courage, by assuring him of God’s presence: "Has not the Lord gone out before thee? Darest not thou follow when thou hast God himself for thy leader?’’
1. In every undertaking it is good to be satisfied that God goes before us, that we are going about our duty and under his direction.
2. If we have ground to hope that God goes before us, we ought to go on with courage and cheerfulness. Do not be dismayed at the difficulties that you meet with when resisting Satan, in serving God, or suffering for him; for has not the Lord gone out before thee? Follow him fully then.
Up; for this is the day—this is exactly the purpose for which the Septuagint state, Judges 4:8, that Barak wished Deborah to accompany him. "I know not," says he, "THE DAY in which God will send his angel to give me prosperity: come thou with we that thou mayest direct me in this respect." She went, and told him the precise time in which he was to make the attack: Up, for THIS is the DAY in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand.
Went down from Mount Tabor—He had probably encamped his men on and near the summit of this mount. 19(See Judges 4:6. )
Barak went down from mount Tabor—it is a striking proof of the full confidence Barak and his troops reposed in Deborah's assurance of victory, that they relinquished their advantageous position on the hill and rushed into the plain in face of the iron chariots they so much dreaded.
15 And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.
The Lord discomfited Sisera. He made them feel CONFOUNDED, threw his army into confusion— men, horses, and chariots being intermingled in wild disorder, and drove them pell-mell into the self-preservation mode—caused chariots to break and overthrew chariots, and threw widespread disorder into all their ranks. In this case Barak and his men had little to do but kill and pursue, and Sisera in order to escape, was obliged to abandon his chariot. There is no doubt all this was done by supernatural activity 12(see Judges 5:20-22). God sent his angel and confounded them.
So that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. His chariot being probably distinguished by its superior size and elegance, would betray the rank of its rider, and he saw therefore that his only chance of escape was on foot.