Deborah: Supporter and Leader

KEY VERSE: “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” —Judges 4:8

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Judges 4:4-9, 14-16; 5:1-3

DEBORAH was the fourth of the leaders or judges of Israel. She was also referred to as a prophetess or an inspired woman of the Lord. She apparently lived in very humble circumstances and her abode was shaded by a large palm tree. The Israelites came to her for judgment.

The children of Israel had been oppressed for over twenty years by Jabin—a circumstance the Lord permitted because of the disobedience of the Israelites. His treatment was very harsh and they cried out to the Lord for relief. Apparently Jehovah heard their cry, and communicated with Deborah, giving her instructions that would bring about the release of the Israelites from the tyranny of Jabin.

We are not given much information about Barak, but from the information we have, it is reasonable to assume that he was a God-fearing man who had found favor in the sight of the Lord. We believe also, that God had directed Deborah to send for Barak as one who would know how to organize and direct an army of men. We read in Judges 4:6: “She sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, 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?” These orders were sent to Barak through Deborah as the commandment of the Lord God of Israel.

Under the tyranny of a powerful and jealous oppressor, Barak could gather an army of this size only by persuasions and exhortations, but with the Lord’s help he did succeed in getting ten thousand men, who were probably very poorly equipped especially when compared with Jabin’s army of chariots and his multitude of soldiers. It was evident that this was a very dangerous undertaking, and while Barak had faith, yet it was not strong enough to exclude misgivings. It hardly seems reasonable that Barak doubted that the commandment came from God, but rather, knowing the difficulty of the undertaking, he needed strength and support, which Deborah could and did give. We read in Judges 4:8,9: “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. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.”

The entire battle and subsequent deliverance of the Israelites was to the Lord’s glory, and was another evidence of his overruling providence on behalf of his people. But to show how demeaning the defeat would be to the power represented in Jabin, Deborah prophesied that the captain of Jabin’s army, Sisera, would be destroyed by a woman.

Barak located his small army in a position on high ground and apparently intended to wait for Sisera’s army to approach and thus be placed in a position of disadvantage. But Deborah assured him that the very day had come, and that the Lord had gone forth before him, and had delivered Sisera into his hand. (Judg. 4:14,15) The text states that “the Lord discomfited Sisera.” The Hebrew word translated discomfited is hamam and it carries the thought of confusion and disorganization. Therefore, with Sisera’s army in disarray, Barak marched his army down onto the plain where the iron chariots of Sisera’s army had the greatest advantage, and because of this Barak’s and the Lord’s victory became the more illustrious.

Sisera’s army was completely decimated, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled away on foot like a common soldier, probably to avoid notice. In fear, he hastened to the tents of Heber and found a hiding place in the tent of Jael. Probably she intended kindness to Sisera when she invited him into her tent and showed him hospitality, but by a divine impulse she was afterward led to consider him as the determined enemy of the Lord and his people. She was therefore moved to avail herself of the opportunity to destroy him. This she did while Sisera was asleep. In Judges 4:22 we read, “Behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead.” Barak must have remembered the prophecy of Deborah.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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