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Jdg 4:1 The children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, when Ehud was dead-
This is the intentionally repeated cycle of all the historical records, both of the judges and kings. Israel's apparent loyalty to Yahweh was only seen at the time of strong individual reformist leaders. Immediately the leader died, they returned to unashamed idolatry. Clearly the message is that no matter what strong leadership there may be amongst God's people, or what truly spiritual ethos and culture is inculcated by them- the hearts of individuals can still be untouched by it. And so without that culture, if the church closes or the individual moves away geographically or cannot attend due to health issues, or the leader dies... the commitment of the individual will be shown to have been meaningless. We must ask ourselves how our faith would really be, if we were taken away from the Godly influences and cultures in our lives. If individual believers were forcibly removed from their churches and spiritual networks- would their faith stand? This is why we must continue our appeal for personal Bible reading, indeed Bible study, and serious personal prayer and witnessing. 

"The children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh" is a refrain which occurs seven times in Judges (Jud. 2:11; 3:7,12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1), recalling how Israel both over history and in the last days were to be punished "seven times" for their sins (Lev. 26:23,24).

Jdg 4:2 Yahweh sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan who reigned in Hazor-
Yahweh sold them, but the record often says that they sold or prostituted themselves to the idols of the nations. He will confirm men in the path they wish to go.

The record of Deborah and Barak's victory over "Jabin king of Canaan" is shot through with connections with other passages which are clearly latter day prophecies, e.g. Ps. 83, Ez. 38.   There is also a very deliberate series of allusions in their song of victory to Israel's exodus from Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh's army - which is also prophetic of Israel's future deliverance from her neighbouring oppressors by the Lord's return. Other expositors have shown the links between the song of Deborah and Barak and Ps. 68, which is clearly prophetic of Christ's work of deliverance both on the cross and in the final deliverance of Israel from the forces of evil.

"Jabin" meaning "man of great understanding" may suggest that he was the intellectual think-tank behind the confederacy, whose ideology was operationalized by a capable, well resourced, military leader (Sisera). The motivation for the coming attack on Israel must be ideological as well as just "to take a great spoil". However, the words of Sisera's mother imply that he (and she!) personally was motivated by a desire for the riches of the Israelites:  "Have they not divided the prey... of divers colours of needlework... meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?" (Jud. 5:30). Such total confidence in victory is yet to be seen in a Middle East scarred with the memories of Israel's victories over the last decades.  

The captain of whose army was Sisera who lived in Harosheth of the Gentiles-
This presents an identical scenario to Sennacherib king of Assyria having Rabshakeh as his field commander during his attack on Jerusalem, which beyond doubt was a major type of Israel's latter day invasion outlined in passages like Ez. 38 and Ps. 83.  


Jdg 4:3 The Israelites cried to Yahweh, for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel-
Oppress" is the word used of how Israel were oppressed in Egypt (Ex. 3:9). But the intention, as with Israel's latter day oppression, is that it would lead them to cry out for Yahweh's salvation, 'Jesus': "For they will cry to Yahweh because of oppressors, and He will send them a saviour and a defender, and He will deliver them" (Is. 19:20 s.w.). All the judges were therefore types of the ultimate deliverance of Israel by the Lord Jesus in the last days.

The fearful implications of "chariots of iron" [probably wooden chariots with iron scythes on the wheels] is hard for us to fully appreciate. "The children of Joseph said... the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron" (Josh. 17:16), as if that were a totally understandable reason for their unwillingness to even challenge the Canaanites;  whilst some years later Saul and Jonathan were the only Israelites to have iron weapons, thanks to the Philistines' monopoly over it (1 Sam. 13:19-22). Possession of 900 "chariots of iron" was therefore like having some super-weapon into whose paradigm no other armaments could enter.  This may have its latter day equivalent during the coming period of Israel's total domination by her neighbours. See on :15.

Jdg 4:4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, judged Israel at that time-
Deborah" is usually interpreted as meaning 'bee', but clearly it is a form of the common Hebrew word for 'word' or 'saying', debar. The prophetess was a woman of the word, and as with many personal names, she was named after her life's work- just as Anglo Saxons carry the name carpenter, smith, buckler, joiner etc. She "judged Israel" perhaps in the sense of giving them judgments from God's word.

Jdg 4:5 She lived under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came up to her for judgment-
Presumably this refers just to those Israelites who wanted to hear the judgments of God's word. She laments in Jud. 5:10 LXX that she was largely ignored, and she rebukes those who ignored her prophetic words and had been unwilling to assist in the battle: "Ye that sit on the judgment-seat, and walk by the roads of them that sit in judgment by the way". It was Deborah who sat by the roadside giving judgment from God's word, and who was largely ignored

Note the parallel between an Angel sitting under an oak and a prophetess sitting under an oak (Jud. 4:5; 6:11). In Jer. 23:18,22 we find prophets standing in the “council of the Lord” (RV) to receive His word; and yet this sounds very much like Angels standing in the court of Heaven to receive God’s word of command. “The God of the spirits [Angels] of the prophets sent his Angel” to the prophet John (Rev. 22:6 RV); implying that as God had sent His Angel-Spirits to inspire the prophets, so now He did to John. Ps. 147:15,18 speak of the sending out of God’s word to melt snow and send rain; this must surely refer to the Angels being sent out from the court of Heaven to do these things. The way the “watcher and holy one” came down from Heaven is paralleled with the word of Divine command likewise coming down from Heaven (Dan. 4:23,31). The universe is not just ticking away on clockwork; the Angels are actively being sent out from Heaven to perform what may appear the most mundane and repetitious of things. Thus God sends out His Angels; He sends out His word; and He also sent out His prophets (Haggai- Hag. 1:12; Ezekiel- Ez. 3:5,6). God rose up and sent out His prophets (2 Kings 17:13; Jer. 7:25 and many others). He is described as doing this because those prophets likewise identified with the word (as Deborah- see on :4) and became part of their own message.

Jdg 4:6 She sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh Naphtali and said to him-
'The holy place of Naphtali' is an example of the paganic place names still being used. Barak is being called to leave all that and go and work for Yahweh in His strength. "Barak", 'lightning', is the word used to describe Yahweh's miraculous manifestation through lightnings in the saving of His people (s.w. Dt. 32:41; 2 Sam. 22:15), and He will use them again in the last days when He repeats these ancient victories over Israel's enemies (s.w. Hab. 3:11; Zech. 9:14). But Barak was slow and nervous to live up to the potential victory which was implicit in his name; and that was the tragedy of Israel's history at the conquest. And it is the abiding tragedy of so much spiritual history.    


Hasn’t Yahweh, the God of Israel, commanded-
This could imply he had received the prophetic word to go into battle, but had not responded. Jud. 5:2 LXX says that "A revelation was made in Israel when the people were made willing", referring to the specific prophetic word given to Deborah here in Jud. 4:6,7 that victory was possible- if the people were willing. Which Barak wasn't, completely.

‘Go to Mount Tabor and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and Zebulun?-
"Mount Tabor... the river Kishon (Jud. 4:6,7) is near the valley of Jezreel - Armageddon. Hence Jud. 5:19 speaks of "the waters of Megiddo", and "men of... Naphtali... and... of Zebulun" from those same areas (4:6) were used to win the victory. "Take with you", AV "draw toward", is s.w. :7 for how God would likewise draw the enemy toward them. The two sides were to be drawn together by God in conflict.

Jdg 4:7 I will draw to you, to the river Kishon-
This 'drawing' points forward to Gog, the chief (military?) prince of Meshech and Tubal (parts of Assyria?), being drawn into Israel with hooks in his jaws (Ez. 38:4,8).

Sisera the captain of Jabin’s army with his chariots and his multitude, and I will deliver him into your hand’-
The apparently insuperable strength of Sisera is recognized, but within that recognition there is the encouragement that God would deliver it all into the hand of Barak. He disbelieved this, and so the victory was given into the hand of a woman. Thus God set up a potential which a man didn't realize, and in this case, He transferred it into the hands of another (:9).

Jdg 4:8 Barak said to her, If you will go with me then I will go, but if you will not go with me I will not go-
If Yahweh had commanded him (:6), then Yahweh would be with him. But just as Israel wanted a human king rather than Yahweh, so Barak wanted a human manifestation of God to be with him. Just as Asa is recorded as serving God just as well as David, when actually this wasn't the case; but God counted him as righteous (1 Kings 15:11), so the incomplete faith of men like Baruch was counted as full faith by later inspiration (Jud. 4:8,9 cp. Heb. 11:32). Sometimes the purges of idolatry by the kings is described in undoubtedly exaggerated language- such was God's joy that at least something was being done?

Jdg 4:9 She said, I will surely go with you; nevertheless the journey that you take will not be for your honour, for Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh-
The potential was that the enemy was to be sold into Barak's hands (:7). But Barak didn't fully believe that, and so the potential was applied to another. This is still how God works.

Jdg 4:10 Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh and he went with ten thousand men following him; and Deborah went with him-
Heb. 11:32 seems to imply that Barak did this in faith, although not to the ideal level possible for him.

Jdg 4:11 Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the children of Hobab the brother-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent by the oak in Zaanannim which is by Kedesh-
Kedesh, 'holy place', was an example of the pagan names still being used by the Israelites. Likewise Zaanannim is LXX "the oak of the covetous ones", and we recall the association of oaks with idolatry. Again we are getting the impression of strength coming out of surrounding spiritual weakness. Heber's separation from the Kenites is here not presented in a very positive light. See on :17. 

Jdg 4:12 They told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor-
The battle plans seemed all the wrong strategy in human terms. The dreaded chariots were at full advantage on the flat land around the Kishon. Barak took his men up into the mountain, which was logical, as chariots couldn't be used there. But then they are told by God to come down from mount Tabor and fight with the chariots (:14). As with the capture of Jericho, God's strategy is seen as unwise humanly. But this is the 'foolishness of the thing preached' which Paul says confounds the might of this world. 

Jdg 4:13 Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles to the river Kishon-
This 'gathering together' is spoken of in latter-day passages - Zech. 14:2 and Rev. 16:14. These previous invasions which typify those of the future, also mention this 'gathering together': Sisera's forces did this (Jud. 4:13), as did those of Ammon (Jud. 10:19; 1 Chron. 19:7), the Amorites (Jud. 11:20), the local powers with Assyria in Hezekiah's time (Mic. 4:11), Gog's forces (Ez. 38:7), the Arab-Canaanite tribes (Gen. 34:30) and especially the Philistines (Jud. 16:33; 1 Sam. 13:5,11; 17:1; 25:1; 28:1; 29:1; 2 Sam. 23:11). This is quite some emphasis. Thus while we can expect to see greater potential Arab unity developing around the Israel issue and perhaps a common allegiance to charismatic 'Nebuchadnezzar' figure for a brief period, their complete meeting of minds will not be until the final push against Jerusalem.

Jdg 4:14 Deborah said to Barak, Go, for this is the day in which Yahweh has delivered Sisera into your hand-
But as explained on :7,9, Yahweh's plan was indeed that ideally Sisera would be delivered into Barak's hand. But his faith wasn't up to it, so the enemy was to be delivered into a woman's hand. But it seems Deborah, as a prophet, knew that it was still potentially possible for Barak to have the victory through the enemy being delivered into his hands.

Just as all the animals and everything in the eretz promised to Abraham was 'delivered into the hands' of Noah (s.w. Gen. 9:2), so the nations of that eretz were delivered into the hands of Israel (s.w. Ex. 6:8; 23:31; Dt. 2:24; 3:2,3; 7:24; 21:10; Josh. 2:24; Jud. 1:2). Tragically, like Adam in Eden [perhaps the same eretz promised to Abraham] and Noah in the new, cleansed eretz, Israel didn't realize this potential. What was delivered into the hand of Joshua (Josh. 2:24) actually wasn't delivered into their hand, because they disbelieved (Jud. 2:23); and this looks ahead to the disbelief of so many in the work of the Lord Jesus, who has indeed conquered the Kingdom for us. They considered the promise of the nations being delivered into their hand as somehow open to question, and only a possibility and not at all certain (Jud. 8:7; Num. 21:2 cp. Num. 21:34). Some like Jephthah (s.w. Jud. 11:32; 12:3), Ehud (Jud. 3:10,28), Deborah (Jud. 4:14), Gideon (Jud. 7:15) did, for a brief historical moment; but as individuals, and their victories were not followed up on. Instead they were dominated by the territory. And so instead, they were delivered into the hands of their enemies within the eretz (s.w. Lev. 26:25; Jud. 13:1).   

Hasn’t Yahweh gone out before you? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor and ten thousand men after him-
See on :12. To come down from mount Tabor to where the chariots could be used was the very opposite of good strategy. Deborah in Jud. 4:14 quotes the words of Dt. 9:3 concerning the Angel going before Israel to drive out the nations to Barak, to inspire him with courage in fighting them. She recognized that the work the Angels did when they went out many years ago to do all the groundwork necessary for Israel to destroy all the tribes of Canaan was done for all time. It was not too late to make use of that work by making a human endeavour in faith. So with us, the smaller objectives in our lives as well as our main goal of reaching the Kingdom have all been made possible through the work of Christ and the Angels in the past. Deborah's recognition of this is shown in her song- Jud. 5:20: "They (the Angels) fought from Heaven; the stars (Biblical imagery for Angels) in their courses fought against Sisera". In passing, note that the Hebrew for 'courses' is almost identical with that for 'ladder' in the account of Jacob's vision of a ladder of Angels. Strong specifically defines it as meaning 'staircase'. See on Ex. 14:24.

Other implications that a repentant Israel will be used to win this great victory, are to be found in the mention of "the river Kishon" and "Harosheth", which was near Mount Carmel. These places feature in the record of Elijah's great appeal to Israel; the apostate element among them were slain at the Kishon (1 Kings 18:40), as the faithless in Israel will be in the last days.  The typical inference here in Judges that the invader will be destroyed at this same place would suggest that they will share in the judgments that come upon God's enemies, and therefore perish in the same geographical location.   Yet it was also in this same place that Israel repented, finally responding to Elijah's ministry. The work of the Elijah prophet of the last days will likewise culminate in a spiritually revived Israel defeating their enemies.

Jdg 4:15 Yahweh routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the sword before Barak, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot-
This stress on chariots, both in the record of the attack and of God's defeat of them, takes the mind back to the Egyptian chariots which pursued Israel and were destroyed in the Red Sea. "The Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host" (Jud. 4:15) recalls how God "troubled (same Hebrew word translated " discomfited") the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels... so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee... and the Egyptians fled" (on foot, Ex. 14:24-27), just as Sisera "lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet" (Jud. 4:15), due to the mud produced by the hail (Ps. 83:9).

Jdg 4:16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth of the Gentiles, and all the army of Sisera fell by the sword; there was not a man left-
"There was not a man left" matches the comment concerning the Egyptians, that "there remained not so much as one of them" (Ex. 14:28). We find the essence of the Red Sea deliverance repeated in life after life, situation after situation, in Israel's history. This happens to the extent that some of the Psalms can speak as if we were there present; and Paul stresses how that passage through water remains a type of the baptism of every believer to this day (1 Cor. 10:1). Just as Yahweh confounded Israel's enemies at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:24,25), so He did in Deborah's victory over Sisera (Jud. 4:15); and likewise "not one was left".

Jdg 4:17 However Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite-
The wives of Bedouin chiefs have their own tent.

For there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite-
This would suggest Heber had moved away from the things of God and was now in league with Jabin, rather than maintaining the connection between the Kenites and Israel. We recall that Moses' wife was a Kenite. See on :11. Again we are getting the impression of strength coming out of surrounding spiritual weakness.

Jdg 4:18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; don’t be afraid. He came in to her into the tent and she covered him with a rug-
LXX "Hid him behind  curtain". Here again, as with Rahab, Ehud and the Gibeonites, we have deception used as an expression of faith.

Jdg 4:19 He said to her, Please give me a little water to drink for I am thirsty. She opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him-
The cameraman of Divine inspiration is zoomed close in here upon the two people in the tent. She gives him more than he asks, not water but milk, and butter (Jud. 5:25), perhaps thinking that dairy products would make him more sleepy. She did what she did on the spur of the moment, for she was surely not expecting Sisera to come stumbling in to her tent. Although she had her own tent, there is no evidence that the other people in the encampment, including her husband, agreed with her actions. Like Ehud, she acted completely alone, quite against the expectations of her surrounding family and environment.   

Jdg 4:20 He said to her, Stand at the door of the tent and when any man comes and asks you ‘Is there any man here?’ say ‘No’-
The theme of gender continues. She surely had children and other women in her tent. She was to speak of Sisera as if he were not even a man, but a woman. The whole story is a deconstruction of the male glorifying narrative of those times. And this was not purely for the sake of it, rather is it part of a wider theme that God works through the despised in order to achieve His greatest victories.

Jdg 4:21 Then Jael Heber’s wife took a tent peg and a hammer in her hand and went quietly to him and hammered the peg into his temples, and it pierced through into the ground-

This is clearly intended to be understood as the seed of the woman smiting the seed of the serpent in the head. Jael smiting off Sisera's head may be the basis of Ps. 110:7: "therefore shall he lift up the head". It also connects with David cutting off Goliath's head in an encounter full of echoes of the latter-day conflict between Christ and Israel's enemies. In the same way as Israel then had to follow up David's token victory, so they had to do the donkey- work in the wake of Sisera's death, and so they will also engage in a process of subduing the nations after Christ's initial dramatic victory at Armageddon - the landing of the stone upon the feet, the killing of Goliath, the nailing of Sisera's head. "The hand of the children of Israel prospered ('going, went and was hard', A.V. mg.), and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin" (Jud. 4:24) definitely speaks of a subsequent process of subjugation.  

For he was in a deep sleep; so he died-
LXX "darkness fell upon him and he died". But the idea seems to be that he swooned, and then died. She didn't kill him outright, according to Deborah's song of praise for Jael, he rose up and then fell down dead at her feet (Jud. 5:27). This makes Jael's bravery all the more commendable, especially in that her husband was in league with Jabin. 

Jdg 4:22 As Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, Come and I will show you the man whom you seek. He came to her and there lay Sisera, dead; and the tent peg was in his temples-
In Jud. 5:15 LXX, Deborah comes over as in command in the field, sending Barak on foot to find Sisera: "And princes in Issachar were with Deborah and Barak, thus she sent Barak on his feet in the valleys into the portions of Reuben". 

Jdg 4:23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the Israelites-
The nations in the land being "subdued" was the outcome of Israel being obedient to the covenant (s.w. Dt. 9:3). We read this word "subdued" used of how the land was at times subdued before Israel (Jud. 3:30; 4:23; 8:28; 11:33). But each time it is clear that the people generally were not obedient to the covenant. One faithful leader was, and the results of his faithfulness were counted to the people. This is what happened with the Lord's death leading to righteousness being imputed to us.

Jdg 4:24 The hand of the Israelites prevailed more and more against Jabin the king of Canaan until they had destroyed him-
All this is but one of several hints that after Christ's latter day destruction of the military arm (cp. Sisera) of the enemies in the land of Israel, the campaign is then taken to the civil headquarters (represented by 'Babylon' in the Apocalypse?), typified here by Jabin.