Deborah and Barak Are Called - Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Chapter 15
Deborah and Barak Are Called Judges 4:1–11

1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

The cast of characters in this drama is as follows:
Jabin: King of Hazor, in Canaan, a tyrant. Probably the key person in this drama, because God raised him up to discipline the people of Israel.
Deborah: A Jewish judge; a woman of faith and courage.
Barak: A reluctant Jewish general.
Sisera: Captain of Jabin’s army.
Heber: A Kenite neighbor, at peace with Jabin.
Jael: Wife of Heber, handy with hammer.
Jehovah God: In charge of wars and weather.


1And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
2And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

After the death of Ehud the eighty-year period of rest came to an end, and the Israelites once more sinned against God. Here is Israel backsliding from God: They yet again did evil in His sight, forsook his service, and worshiped idols; for this was the sin which now most easily beset them. See in this historical evet:
a. The surprising strength of corruption, which hustles men into sin in spite of having experienced its fatal consequences before. The predisposition to backslide is difficult to retrain.
b. The common ill effects of a long peace. The land had peace for eighty years, which should have bolstered them in their religion; but, on the contrary, it made them secure and immoral, and indulgent of those lusts which the worship of the false gods was dsigned to gratify. Consequently, it i said that the prosperity of fools destroys them.
c. The great loss which a people sustains by the death of good governors. They did evil, because Ehud was dead. While alive, he kept a strict eye upon them, restrained and punished everything that could lead to idolatry, and kept them close to God’s service. But, when he was gone, they revolted, fearing Jabin more than God.

About 200 years earlier the Lord had freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, but here the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of 1Canaan , whose headquarters were at Hazor. The name Jabin was probably a 2dynastic title, rather than a personal name. He was also called “King of Canaan.” This title probably means that he was the head of a confederacy of kings. According to Joshua 11, the Israelites had earlier conquered the city of 3Hazor and killed “Jabin,” the king of that city a century before. Several such names appear in the Bible and are prevalent in these early accounts. Notice that the personal name of Pharaoh is never given. Other such name-titles include Abimelech of the Philistines. This is similar to the usage of the personal name Caesar as a throne name for the subsequent rulers of the Roman Empire. Most scholars assume that Hazor was rebuilt after the destruction by Joshua and again occupied a place of prominence at this time. However, Kitchen (Ancient Orient and Old Testament, p. 68) suggests that the destruction by fire under Joshua was the final destruction of the city and that Jabin was merely from that area and, therefore, associated with it since no emphasis is actually placed on the city of Hazor itself. Jabin’s main source of strength came from his general Sisera from Harosheth of the Gentiles. Sisera’s name has been identified as possibly Hittite, or even Egyptian, by those who see him as an official in the Megiddo district, which was under strong Egyptian influence (Bruce, p. 223). Pfeiffer (p. 241) notes that 4Sisera’s home, is usually identified with modern Tell-amar, located at the place where the Kishon River passes through a narrow gorge to enter the Plain of Acre, about ten miles northwest of Megiddo. For details on the archaeological excavation at Hazor see Y. Yadin--Hazor. The oppression by Jabin and Sisera lasted for twenty years because of the superior military strength of the Canaanites. Verse 3 claims that Sisera had nine hundred chariots of iron. This number is rarely questioned since Thutmose III captured eight hundred twenty-four chariots among the spoils of the Battle of Meggido (James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 237). This gave Sisera, the military leader of the combined armies, a source of complete dominance until a situation arose in which chariots could not be used.

When Ehud was dead—Why not when Shamgar was dead? Does not this intimate that Shamgar was not reckoned in the number of the judges?

The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead—the removal of the zealous judge Ehud again left his infatuated countrymen without the restraint of religion.

Jabin king of Canaan—probably a descendant of the Jabin (a royal title) mentioned in 5Joshua 11:1 , who had gathered together the wrecks of the army of that Jabin defeated by Joshua. Calmet supposes that these Canaanites had the dominion over the tribes of Naphtali, Zebulun, and Issachar; while Deborah (whose name means “honeybee”) judged in Ephraim, and Shamgar in Judah. The second Jabin built a new capital on the ruins of the old 6(Jos. 11:10, 11 ). The northern Canaanites had recovered from the effect of their disastrous overthrow in the time of Joshua, and now triumphed in their turn over Israel. This was the severest oppression to which Israel had been subjected. But it fell heaviest on the tribes in the north, and it was not until after a grinding servitude of twenty years that they were awakened to view it as the punishment for their sins and to seek deliverance from God.
Article 4.1:Israel Oppressed By Their Enemies.
When they forsook God, he forsook them; and then they became an easy prey to every spoiler. They alienated themselves from God as if he were none of theirs; and then God alienated them as none of his. Those that threw themselves out of God’s service threw themselves out of his protection. What has my beloved to do in my house when she has thus played the harlot? Jer. 11:15. He sold them into the hand of Jabin. This Jabin reigned in Hazor, as another of the same name, and perhaps his ancestor, had done it before him, whom Joshua routed and slew, and burnt his city, Jos. 11:1, 10. But it seems, in process of time, the city was rebuilt, the power regained, the loss retrieved, and, by degrees, the king of Hazor becomes able to terrorize Israel, who through sin had lost all their advantage over the Canaanites. This servitude was longer than either of the former, and much more grievous. Jabin, and his general Sisera, did mightily oppress Israel. That which aggravated the oppression was:
a. That this enemy was nearer to them than any of their former foes; they lived within their borders, and by this means had more opportunity to do them damage.
b. That they were the natives of the country, who hated them, for invading and dispossessing them. So when they had them in their power, they would be more cruel and mischievous towards them in payback for the old quarrel.
c. That these Canaanites had formerly been conquered and subdued by Israel; in the past they were sentenced to be their servants 7(Gen. 9:25 ), and might now have been under their feet, and utterly incapable of giving them any trouble, if Israel’s own slothfulness, cowardice, and unbelief, had not allowed them to get control. To be oppressed by those whom their fathers had conquered, and whom they themselves had foolishly spared, would be very grave.

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