Deborah and Barak Are Called - Page 2 of 5 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
Nine hundred chariots of iron—Chariots armed with iron scythes, as is generally supposed; they could not have been made of all iron, but they might have been shod with iron, or had iron scythes projecting from the axle on each side, by which infantry might be easily cut down or thrown into confusion. The ancient Britons are said to have had such chariots.
Israel returning to their God: They cried unto the Lord, when distress drove them to him, and they saw no other way of relief; they asked for God to relieve their suffering not to forgive their sins. Had they truly repented, God would have done much more than deliver them from physical slavery. He would have delivered them from their spiritual bondage as well. Those that slight God in their prosperity will find themselves under a necessity of seeking him when they are in trouble.
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?
7And 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.
8And 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.
9And 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.
Deborah, a prophetess. A woman of extraordinary knowledge, wisdom, and piety, instructed in divine knowledge by the Holy Spirit and accustomed to interpret His will; who acquired an extensive influence, and was held in universal respect, insomuch that she became the animating spirit of the government and discharged all the special duties of a judge, except that of military leader. God can use women mightily for civil, religious or other tasks, e.g. Deborah’s rise to the status of Judge is the exception in the book, because of Barak’s failure to show the courage to lead courageously. God rebuked his cowardliness by the pledge that a woman would kill Sisera. For God to give His people a woman judge was to treat them like little children, which is exactly what they were when it came to spiritual things.
The wife of Lapidoth. Rendered by some, "a woman of splendors."
She judged Israel—this is, I believe, the first instance of female government, on record. Deborah seems to have been supreme both in civil and religious affairs; and Lapidoth (whose name means “torch”), her husband (nothing else is known of this man.), appears to have had no hand in the government. But the original may as well be translated a woman of Lapidoth, as the wife of Lapidoth.
The palm tree of Deborah. It is common for the Hindu’s to plant trees in the names of themselves and their friends; and some religious mendicants (Religious extremists who live by begging for charity) live for a considerable time under trees. It is common still in the East to administer justice in the open air, or under the canopy of a shady tree.
She sent and called Barak (whose name means “lightning”). She appointed him to be general of the armies on this occasion; which shows that she possessed the supreme power in the state.
God did not raise up a man this time. He raised up a member of the “weaker sex,” a prophetess named Deborah. The context makes it clear that she was a well-respected leader in Israel. Her place of residence was located between Ramah and Beth-el in Mount Ephraim, putting her in the south of Ephraim, about fifty miles from the scene of the battle. For the most part, prior to the incident where she rallies the tribes together and assists Barak in leading them to victory, her position seems to be that of a non-military judge.
It is not the norm for a woman to occupy such a place of spiritual authority, but this was a time of religious and moral decline. She should not be used as an example of the woman’s role in the church today, since she is the exception and not the rule. Also, this was Israel, not the church. Deborah commissioned Barak to go north and attack Sisera’s forces, but he refused to go unless she accompanied him. Because of his reluctance to lead he was told that the victory over Sisera would be given to a woman rather than to him.
The year of the redeemed came at long last, when Israel was to be delivered out of the hands of Jabin, and restored again to their liberty, which we may suppose the northern tribes, that lay nearest to the oppressors and felt most the effects of his fury, did in a particular manner cry out to God. For the oppression of the poor, and the sighing of the needy, now will God arise. Now here we have,
1. The preparation of the people for their deliverance, by the prophetic conduct and government of Deborah. Her name signifies a bee; and she suited her name through her hard work, wisdom, and great usefulness to the public. She is said to be the wife of Lapidoth; but, because the terminology is not commonly found in a man’s name; some make this the name of a place: she was a woman from Lapidoth. Others take it appellatively, Lapidoth signifies lamps. The Rabbin say she had employed herself in making wicks for the lamps of the tabernacle; and, having stooped to that lowly office for God, she was rewarded afterward with the highest office in the land. Or she was a woman of enlightenment, or of brilliance, one that was extraordinarily knowing and wise, and so came to be very eminent and illustrious. Concerning her we are here told,
a. That she was intimately acquainted with God; she was a prophetess, one that was instructed in divine knowledge by the immediate inspiration of the Spirit of God, and had gifts of wisdom, to which she attained not in an ordinary way: she heard the words of God, and probably saw the visions of the Almighty.
b. That she was entirely devoted to the service of Israel. She judged Israel at the time that Jabin oppressed them; and perhaps, being a woman, she was the more easily permitted by the oppressor to do it. She judged, not as a princess, not by a civil authority conferred upon her, but as a prophetess, and as God’s mouth to them, correcting abuses and redressing grievances, especially those which related to the worship of God. The children of Israel came up to her from all parts for judgment, not so much for the deciding of controversies between men, but for advice about what was wrong with things pertaining to God. Those among them who for some time had secretly grieved over the impieties and idolatries of their neighbors, but did not know how to go about creating in them saving faith in Jehovah God, now made their complaints to Deborah, who, by the sword of the Spirit, showed them the judgment of God, and reduced and reclaimed many, and excited and animated the magistrates in their respective districts to execute the laws. It is said she dwelt, or, as some read it, she sat under a palm-tree, named after her; the palm-tree of Deborah. Either she had her house under that tree, a poor habitation which would be built under a tree, or she had her judgment-seat in the open air, under the shadow of that tree, which was an emblem of the justice she sat there to administer, which will thrive and grow against opposition. Josephus says that the children of Israel came to Deborah, to desire her to pray to God for them, that they might be delivered out of the hand of Jabin; and Samuel is said at one particular time to judge Israel in Mizpeh, that is, to bring them back again to God, when they made the same address to him upon a like occasion, 7(1 Sa. 7:6, 8).
The project laid for their deliverance. When the children of Israel came to her for judgment, they found salvation. So those that seek God's grace shall have grace and peace, grace and comfort, grace and glory. She was not herself fit to command an army in person, being a woman; but she nominated one that was fit, Barak of Naphtali, who, it is probable, had already distinguished himself in some encounters with the forces of the oppressor, living near him (for Hazor and Harosheth lay within the lot of that tribe), and thereby had gained a reputation and notoriety among his people. Some struggles, we may suppose, that brave man had made in an effort to shake off of the yoke of oppression, but could not succeed with it until he had his commission and instructions from Deborah. He could do nothing without her leadership, or she without his hands; but both together made a complete deliverer, and accomplished a complete deliverance. The greatest and best are not self-sufficient, but need one another.