Here in the Book of Judges is a cameo of another tremendous
event in the history of this people. Israel were suffering tyranny
and oppression. Twenty long years had miserably passed in
constant fear and hardship. Here was no invader, but an enemy
in their midst. Their plight was pitiful indeed. Now Deborah, a
woman, was raised up to deliver them. Was God once again
showing them, and us, that His strength is made perfect in
weakness? 'That He Who was rich became poor, that we through
His poverty might become rich' -- that the weakness of God is
stronger than men! Being a woman she was not able to command
an army in the field, but under the guidance of power from on
high she was able to choose a man of faith fitted to undertake a
'And 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?
And 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' (4:6,7).
'Barak, the son of Abinoam'. This mighty warrior must not
be confused with Balak, the king of Moab, who sought the
services of the magician Balaam to curse Israel on their way to
the land of Canaan. Barak means 'lightning', and he came from
the tribe of Naphtali. Kedesh-naphtali -- the prefix Kedesh means
a holy city. Naphtali was a holy city, for it was one of the cities
of refuge in Galilee. It was probably four miles north-west of
Whatever it was that caused Deborah to give this commission
to Barak, we are not told. We are given a clue, however, for in
Hebrews 11:32-34 Barak's name is included among the men
whose faith has been singled out by God Himself for inclusion in
His 'list of heroes' -- 'Who through faith subdued kingdoms ...
out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned
to flight the armies of the aliens'.
Deborah's words 'draw toward mount Tabor' probably
imply that Barak is to gather together the fighting men from
Naphtali and Zebulun in small groups as inconspicuously as
possible, in order to achieve the element of surprise. Mount
Tabor made a splendid watch-tower and stronghold. It had a
broad flat top nearly a mile in circumference, and so was easily
fortified. It commanded the valley where the river Kishon flowed
through the plain of Jezreel into the bay of Acre under mount
Barak makes no comment regarding the few men he is to take.
Just a token force from two of the tribes! He could obviously see
the advantage militarily of mount Tabor, providing the
Canaanites could be brought with their backs to the river below.
What he also knew was that Sisera had nine hundred chariots of
iron, and an army that outnumbered him by ten to one. We can
therefore understand his words in verse 8:
'And 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'.
Barak recognized that the spirit of God was in Deborah, that
she was endued with power from on high. To him, therefore, she
represented the Presence of God. With this Presence with him as
he directed his troops in the battle, by faith he would throw
himself into this seemingly hopeless attempt. He was prepared to
fight and leave the end with God, providing God's representative
Deborah shows her faith by agreeing to go with him. So far
as she was concerned there was no doubt as to the outcome
'And 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' (verse 9).
These words were prophetic, for that is what actually came to
pass. Doubtless Barak took this to mean that Deborah herself
would take the glory for their victory, and no doubt he was
satisfied that it should be so. The woman, however, was not
Deborah at all, and to realize the force of this we must remember
the humble and almost down-trodden position of women at this
time. It could hardly fail to be a humiliation to a great warrior to
be told that the chief honour would fall to a woman!
So Barak occupied the plateau on mount Tabor with his small
army drawn from the two northern tribes of Zebulun and
Naphtali. A small contingent was also sent by Ephraim and
Benjamin, Issachar and the western half of Manasseh, but
nothing from Reuben, Dan and Asher, Gad, Judah and Simeon.
Deborah's prophecy in verse 7 that Sisera would bring his army
to the river Kishon was brought about by the action of Heber the
Kenite, as verse 11 records:
'Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab
the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites,
and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by
We read further on that there was peace between Jabin and
the house of Heber the Kenite. Evidently they received special
treatment from the Canaanites, and were not subjected to the
misery and degradation meted out to the Israelites. Perhaps this
came about for services rendered. Here, evidently, Sisera was
told by these people, who had entered the promised land under the
protection of God's people and shared with them its blessings, of
Barak's uprising and whereabouts. Unwittingly he was the
instrument used to fulfil Deborah's prophecy, for Sisera brings
his army and his iron chariots into the valley below mount Tabor,
with the river behind him cutting off any means of retreat. Such
was the overweening confidence of this man in being able to put
down this rabble, armed as they were mainly with farm
implements and maybe a few swords and spears.
Josephus says that when Barak saw Sisera's army drawn up
below him, his heart quite failed him, and he determined to retire
to a place of greater safety. If that were true, all honour to this
man who, hearing Deborah's words recorded in verse 14, 'Up;
for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into
thine hand', went down and engaged the enemy. Small wonder
that this man's name appears among the great heroes of faith
recorded in Hebrews chapter 11.
'And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all
his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera
lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet'(verse 15).
The Lord 'discomfited' Sisera. Here was divine aid given,
God once again using a weak thing to bring to nought the
powerful forces of the enemy, who were the instruments of Satan.
But Sisera escaped. Where should he go? Where else than to the
tents of Heber the Kenite, for here were his friends. Jael, the wife
of Heber, was no friend, however. Maybe she secretly was
ashamed that her husband had turned a traitor to Israel. She
sheltered Sisera in her tent, but while he slept she slew him. 'So
God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the
children of Israel' (verse 23).
Then in chapter 5 we have a paean of praise, a song of
victory, which in energy, scorn and pathos may be equalled
elsewhere, but certainly is never surpassed.
'They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought
against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient
river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down
strength. Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the
pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones' (verses 20-22).
'Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite
be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water,
and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish'
'So let all Thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that
love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might' (verse
But let those that love Thee be as the sun's rising in his