The First Armageddon Battle

“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” —Psalm 34:17

IT IS GENERALLY believed that the great battle of Armageddon is near. This study relates to the first of the great battles in the valley of Megiddo, noted for its many slaughters. It is therefore the basis of the divine prediction respecting the “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Dan. 12:1), which will precede and prepare the way for Messiah’s glorious rule of a thousand years.—Rev. 20:6

The Israelites, guilty of idolatry, had, according to God’s covenant with them, been chastened by his permitting their enemies to vanquish them. They had come to great straits. Their enemies had become strong and high-handed. General Sisera, of the northern Canaanites, having humbled the Israelites of northern Palestine for years, moved with a large army, intent upon victories in the south. The strength of his army is indicated in a statement that it contained nine hundred iron chariots.—Judg. 4:13

By the time he had gone as far south as the Valley of Megiddo, the messengers reached him, informing him that Barak, a leader among the Israelites, had seized the opportunity of Sisera’s absence and was also leading southward an army of ten thousand Israelites. Under divine guidance, Barak made Mt. Tabor his army base—the same place which in Jesus’ day became known to his followers as the Mount of Transfiguration, and where the coming kingdom of Messiah was represented in a vision. Here we have another remarkable feature in this picture of the future—the association of the vision of the kingdom, and its proximity to the Armageddon field of disaster, symbolic of the overthrow of present institutions.


General Sisera, looking with scorn upon the Israelites, advanced with his army on both sides of the River Kishon toward Mt. Tabor. Then it was that the word of the Lord came afresh to General Barak, directing him to advance against the army of the Canaanites. The slaughter was a great one. Sisera’s army was defeated in battle, so that it scattered. A great storm and cloudburst swelled the river, making quagmires of the lower valleys, rendering useless the chariots of Sisera. His soldiers, fleeing for their lives, were cut down by the Israelites, while other thousands were swept down the river to the sea.

This interference by God on behalf of his people, Israel, is styled in figurative language as the fighting of the “stars of heaven” against Sisera’s army. (Judg. 5:20-22) Similarly, in the great Armageddon soon to come it will not be human might that will prevail, but the disconcerted hosts will effect the complete disruption of the present order of things, for “every man’s hand shall be against his brother and against his neighbor.” (Ezek. 38:21; Zech. 8:10; 14:13) It is the ‘cloudburst’ of truth, and the ‘rising waters’ of knowledge which are bringing to pass this great human catastrophe—which the Lord will overrule for the blessing of the world.


Although the Lord has been pleased generally to use men in connection with his work, not only as typical characters but also as ministers of the Gospel, nevertheless the Scriptures give us pictures of noble women who, because of the failure of men, have also been used. Notable among these is the case of Deborah. She perceived how neglect of the divine law had borne fruit in the subjugation of her people. Before this incident of General Sisera’s attack, she perceived that heathenism was spreading throughout the land of Canaan, and that what was needed was a guide to point the people to the right way—back to God. The Canaanites, whom they had not conquered, had conquered them.

The conquest of Israel had been permitted by God. It had its incipient state when the Israelites neglected the divine direction that they should live separately from all other people. Instead, women had enticed their husbands and their children to the heathen gods of worship. Apparently many of Israel who had not gone over to idolatry had nearly lost their knowledge and appreciation of the true God.

The same difficulty is present today in the Christian world. Christian people have been alienated from the Bible by creeds that teach error. What the people need is correct information respecting the true God of love and his real plan, as outlined in the Bible.

In the dark hour of Israel’s oppression, the princes of the tribes seemed to lack patriotism, as well as faith in God. Each tribe was a separate state, and there was no cohesion between them—the divinely intended bond of union, the true religion, having relaxed. It was about this time that the Lord, seeking a way through which to be gracious to his people, found that fulfillment through a woman named Deborah. She realized the situation more keenly than others, probably because more deeply consecrated to God and his service. She moved from her home in the north to a central place in the highlands of Ephraim. From there she sent encouraging, stimulating messages to the chief men of the various tribes. She was respected. Her counsel was appreciated and her advice was sought. In this sense she judged, admonished, guided, and assisted Israel.


Deborah is styled a prophetess. This could mean public teacher, or one through whom the Lord sent special messages. Some things connected with this story indicate the latter. Surely the Lord used her because she was a willing and consecrated servant of his principles and his people. What a lesson is here for all of God’s people, that in order to be used in the Lord’s service and to accomplish things for him and his, full devotion of heart is essential.

At an opportune time, when Sisera’s army with nine hundred chariots had proceeded southward to Megiddo, Deborah sent word to Barak, a leader in her tribe—Naphtali. She admonished that now was the time to do something for the deliverance of God’s people, and that he should immediately march to battle with ten thousand Israelites. Barak refused unless she would cooperate by going with him. (Judg. 4:8) She agreed to do so, forewarning him, however, that the honor of the matter would thus be divided with herself, and that he would lose a part of his blessing by reason of his lack of courage. Thus it was that when Barak’s army moved to Mt. Tabor, it was under General Barak’s command, but a woman was the real mouthpiece or agent of God directing the affairs of the battle which brought such a signal victory to Israel.

When General Sisera’s chariots stuck in the mire and his army was defeated, he fled afoot with others, only to be overtaken by the victors. Entering a supposedly hospitable tent, he hid himself and fell asleep. His hostess took advantage of the situation and drove a tent-pin through his temple.

The death of Sisera and his army did not precipitate them into a hell of eternal torture, but merely was the passageway by which they ‘slept with their fathers’. (Deut. 31:16) They have known nothing since, and will know nothing in the future until the time of their awakening. That awakening God has graciously timed so that it will be after Messiah shall have taken possession of the world, and by the establishment of his kingdom shall have overthrown the kingdom of Satan and the reign of sin and death.

Sisera and his army will come forth, like the remainder of mankind, as a result of the redemptive work of Jesus, made possible at Calvary. They will come forth in order that the grace of God may be testified to them, and that they may have an opportunity, by obedience to the laws of the kingdom, to prepare themselves for entering into everlasting life on the plane of human perfection in an earthly paradise.

With these thoughts before us, it makes little matter whether death comes upon us through war, pestilence, or disease. Praise is to God for his wonderful plan!

A thousand years! Earth’s coming glory!
     ‘Tis the glad day so long foretold!
‘Tis the bright morn of Zion’s glory
     Prophets foresaw in times of old!
                      —Hymns of Dawn, #152

Dawn Bible Students Association
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