Read Judges 4
4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.
12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.
14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.
16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.
18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.
19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.
20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”
21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.
23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.
A lot happens in today’s reading, so before jumping into what the passage means let’s quickly review our characters. Jabin is the Caananite king ruling over Israel, Sizer is his army commander, Deborah is our current resident judge and prophet, Barak is the leader of Israel’s troops, and Heber and Jael are two Israelites who pitched their tent away from the other members of the tribes. There are a lot of people and moving pieces, so when needed, refer back to this list to keep straight who is doing what. With this knowledge, reread today’s passage, keeping track of who does what.
The first verse of this chapter has a phrase that we will be seeing a lot over the next few weeks: “The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight.” An important word in that phrase is “again.” This has already happened (and will continue to happen throughout the rest of this book and the history of Israel). They were wicked and disobedient people, who really only turned to God when they absolutely needed it. When reading over Israel’s constant failures, we can be reminded of our own shortcomings and need for God’s mercy and grace. His repeated short-term redemption in this book serves to prove His unconditional and reckless love for us, and point to His long term redemption plan fulfilled in Jesus.
This chapter also shows God’s ability and desire to use anyone who is available and willing to be used. It would be a miss to ignore the fact that Deborah was a female, and not just that, but the only female judge in the book. There are many examples of God-fearing women being vessels for the Lord throughout the Bible, doing what it took to protect His people and His promises, and the women mentioned in Judges 4 are no exception. God uses whoever He wants, whenever He wants. While reading the rest of the book of Judges, pay close attention to the traits that make each judge unique and different from the other judges that God used to protect and lead His people.
- Who was your favorite character in today’s reading? Why?
- What does this chapter teach us about humanity?
- What does this chapter teach us about God?
By The Way
This victory against Jabin and Sizer was so great that King David references it in Psalm 83:9- “Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon.”
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