The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 16
Canaanites Are Defeated      [Judges 4:12–24]
 

Scripture

12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
15 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.
16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
21 Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
24 And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.


Commentary

The society of that day was strongly masculine, so it was humiliating when women had leadership in the land [1](Isa. 3:12). The pages of church history record the names of godly women like Deborah who knew God’s will, rallied God’s people, and won God’s victories; and we are grateful for them. In [2]Hebrews 11:32 , Barak is named as a man of faith, but Deborah enlisted him and saved the day. What a strange victory! God used two women, a jug of milk, a hammer, a tent peg, and a storm to defeat the enemy! One person’s faith and obedience can make a difference in history. Whether you are a leader like Deborah or a follower like Barak, be sure to be a believer; because faith makes the difference between defeat and victory.

12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.

Accompanied by Deborah, Barak now returned to Kadesh, where he summoned the chiefs of Naphtali and Zebulon. Battle plans are made and the Jewish combatants converged in small companies, from all roads and directions, "on foot," towards the battlefield. About six or eight miles east of Nazareth abruptly rises a beautifully-shaped conical mountain, about 1,000 feet high. This is Mount Tabor, its sloping sides covered with trees, and presenting from its summit one of the most beautiful views in Palestine. Here the army under Barak and Deborah gathered.

News of their whereabouts soon reached the head-quarters of Sisera (His intelligence system would have reported this.). His chariots could, of course, only have the advantage when the fight was in the valleys, and he naturally marched north-west to the plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon. This has always been, and will prove to be the site of the final contest—“And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16), the great battle-field of Israel. This fight will be the first of many times that its fertile soil was to be watered with the blood of men. The conflict has been foretold in various passages in the Old and New Testament [3](Ps 2:1–3 ), but now the geographical location is added. The more popular name is Armageddon (the Greek noun has a rough-breathing equivalent to the letter H). Megiddo is a well-known common noun for “mountain.” The word comes from a verb, meaning “to slaughter”. The site was the great battleground of the Old Testament. It was the place of the victory of Deborah and Barak  [4](Jud. 5:19 ); Josiah met his death before Pharaoh Nechoh in the Valley of Megiddo [5](II Chr 35:22–24 ). It will suffice to state that Megiddo is the mountain overlooking the Valley of Esdraelon (Gr for Jezreel), the great plain in the northern part of Palestine. Napoleon I is credited with having said of Megiddo: “What an excellent place into which all the armies of the world could be maneuvered.”

Sisera had chosen his position with excellent skill. Marching in almost a straight line upon the plain of Megiddo, his army was now posted at its entrance, resting in the ancient Canaanish town of Taanach [4](Judges 5:19, comp. [6]Joshua 12:21 ). Behind, and at his left flank, were the mountains of Manasseh, before him opened the basin of the valley, merging into the Plain of Esdraelon, watered by the Kishon. Into this plain Barak’s army must descend "on foot, and" badly armed, without experienced officers, without cavalry or chariots—and here his own 900 war-chariots would operate to the best advantage. It was not even like one of those battles in which mountaineers hold their own stronghold, or swoop down on their enemies in narrow valleys. On the contrary, everything seemed to be working against Israel—except for this, that God had previously promised to draw Sisera and his army to the river Kishon, and to deliver them into Barak's hand. Then once more the Lord appears as "a man of war," and fights on the side of His people. It is said: "And Jehovah discomfited," or rather, "threw into confusion, Sisera and all his chariots, and all his soldiers." The expression is the same as when Jehovah fought against Egypt [7](Exodus 14:25 ), and again when before Gibeon Joshua bade the sun and the moon to stand still [8](Joshua 10:10 ). It indicates the direct interference of the Lord through terrible natural phenomena; (also compare its use in [9]2 Samuel 22:15 ; [10]Psalm 18:14 ; [11]144:6 ). As we gather from     [12]Judges 5:20-22 , a fearful storm swept down from heaven in the face of the advancing army. The battle must have drawn towards Endor, where its fate was finally decided [13](Psalm 83:9, 10 ). Presently the war-chariots were thrown into confusion, and instead of being a help became a source of danger. The frightened horses conveyed destruction into the ranks of the Canaanite host. Soon, they were involved in a common panic. A scene of wild confusion ensued. It was impossible to retreat, and only in one direction could flight be attempted. And now the waters of Kishon had swollen into a wild torrent which swept away the fugitives!
To escape capture, Sisera leaped from his chariot, and fled on foot northwards towards Hazor. Already he had passed beyond Kadesh, and had almost reached safety. There the boundary of Naphtali was marked by what was known as "the oakwood at the twin tents of wandering" (Joshua 19:33). Here Heber the Kenite had pitched his tent, having separated from his brethren, who had settled in the extreme south at Arad [14](Judges 1:16 ). Living close to the boundary of Jabin's dominion, and not being in actuality Israelites, the clan of Heber had been left unmolested and "there was peace between Jabin, king of Hazor, and the house of Heber the Kenite."

Only outward, not real peace! There is something wild and weird about the appearance of these Kenites on the stage of Jewish history. Originally an Arab tribe they retain to the last the fierceness of their race. Although they lived among the tribes of Israel, they never seem to integrate with Israel, and yet they are more keenly Israeli than any of the chosen race.

In short, these stranger-converts are the most intense in their allegiance to the nation which they have joined, while at the same time they never lose the characteristics of their own race. We realize this, for example, in the appearance of Jehonadab, the son of Rechab [14](2 Kings 10:15 ), and again much later during the troubles that befell Judah in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 35). Jael, the wife of Heber, was to the Kenites what Deborah, the "torch-woman," was to Israel, only with all the characteristics of her race developed to the utmost. At her tent-door she meets the fugitive Sisera. She disarms his suspicions; she invites him to rest and security; she even sacrifices the sacred rights of hospitality to her dark purpose. There is something terrible and yet grand about that fierce woman, to whom every other consideration is as nothing, so that she may avenge Israel and destroys its great enemy. It all seems lawful to her, to be involved in such an undertaking; every means consecrated by the end in view. She has laid the worn warrior to rest; she has given him the best her tent affords for refreshment. And now, as he lies in heavy sleep, she stealthily withdraws one of the long iron spikes to which the tent-cords are fastened, and with a heavy hammer once, and again, and yet a third time, drives it into his temples. It is not long before Barak—a "lightning" in pursuit as in battle—has reached the spot. Jael lifts aside the tent-curtain and shows him the gory corpse. In silence Barak turns from the terrible spectacle. But the power of Jabin and his dominion are henceforth and for ever destroyed.

It seems to us, that there is not a word in Scripture that can express its approval of so horrible a deed of deceit and violence—no, not even in the praise which Deborah in her song bestows upon Jael. It was not like Deborah's war, nor like Barak's battle, but strictly Kenite. Her allegiance to the cause of the people of God, her courage, her zeal, were Israeli; but, their fanatical, wild, unscrupulous expression belonged to the race from which she had sprung, to the traditions amidst which she had been nurtured, and to the fiery blood which coursed in her veins—they were not of God or of His word, but of her time and race. Heathen history tells of similar deeds, and records them with the highest praise; Scripture with solemn silence. Yet even so Jehovah reigns, and the fierce Arab was the sword in His hand!

Deborah took the initiative in calling Barak and ordering him to engage Sisera in battle, as the Lord had commanded. But Barak, not Deborah, is commended for his faith in Hebrews 11:32. Though somewhat hesitant at first, he obeyed the Lord by faith and delivered Israel. (According to the NIV, Hobab in verse 11 should be listed as the “brother-in-law of Moses,” not father-in-law, as in the NKJV.)

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Article 4.2: The Battle Between Sisera and Barak
Barak openly showed his force of 10,000 on the southern slopes of Mount Tabor. Sisera rose to the bait. He and his chariots crossed the dry Kishon riverbed at the ford just south of Harosheth. They raced southeast along the ancient highway toward Taanach. Israelites from the south, from Ephraim, entered the valley at Jenin (5:14) and joined forces with Barak and his northern troops in the valley below Taanach, south of the Kishon. Deborah called for the attack (14). Footmen against chariots! At the critical moment rain fell, turning the plain into mire, utterly confounding the chariots and horses (5:4). The advantage was now fully with the infantry. ... Barak pressed the attack. Sisera was separated from his men and fled. The leaderless troops, not used to fighting on foot, ran for their base. The rains continued and the Kishon rose to a torrent. Those who were not slain by the Israelites in pursuit were swept away by the Kishon as they tried to cross the ford to Harosheth ... [vv. 10–16; cf.— 5:20, 21]. Daily Notes of the Scripture Union.

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13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.

Sisera, upon notice of Barak’s movements, takes the field with a very numerous and powerful army: They showed Sisera, that is, it was shown to him as some think by the Kenites, mentioned immediately before, in verse 11. They gave Sisera information concerning Barak’s rendezvous, there being peace at this time between Jabin and that family (see verse 17). Whether they intended it as a kindness to him or not, it served to accomplish what God had said by Deborah [16](v. 7 ): I will draw unto thee Sisera. Sisera’s confidence was chiefly in his chariots; therefore particular notice is taken of them, 900 chariots of iron, which, with the scythes fastened to their axle-trees, when they were driven into an army of footmen, did terrible injury. So ingenious have men been in inventing methods of destroying one another, to gratify those lusts from which come wars and fightings.

The river of Kishon -- The plain on its bank was chosen as the battlefield by Sisera himself, who was unconsciously drawn there for the ruin of his army.

14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

Deborah gives orders to engage the enemy. Josephus says that when Barak saw Sisera’s army drawn up, and attempting to surround the mountain on top of which he and his forces was encamped, his heart nearly failed him, and he decided to withdraw to a place of greater safety; but Deborah animated him to make a descent upon Sisera, assuring him that this was the day marked out in the divine counsels for his defeat. "Now they appear the most threatening when they are ripe for ruin. The thing is as sure to be done as if it were done already: The Lord hath delivered Sisera into thy hand.’’ See how the work and honor of this great action are divided between Deborah and Barak; she, as the head, gives the word, he, as the hand, does the work. In this way God dispenses his gifts variously, [17](1 Co. 12:4 ). But, though ordinarily the head of the woman is the man [18](1 Co. 11:3 ), he that has the residue of the Spirit was pleased to cross hands, and to put the head upon the woman’s shoulders, choosing the weak things of the world to shame the mighty, that no flesh might glory in his presence. It was well for Barak that he had Deborah with him; for she made up what was defective in him:
1. In his conduct, by telling him, This is the day.
2. In his courage, by assuring him of God’s presence: "Has not the Lord gone out before thee? Darest not thou follow when thou hast God himself for thy leader?’’

Note,
1.   In every undertaking it is good to be satisfied that God goes before us, that we are going about our duty and under his direction.
2.   If we have ground to hope that God goes before us, we ought to go on with courage and cheerfulness. Do not be dismayed at the difficulties that you meet with when resisting Satan, in serving God, or suffering for him; for has not the Lord gone out before thee? Follow him fully then.

Up; for this is the day—this is exactly the purpose for which the Septuagint state, Judges 4:8, that Barak wished Deborah to accompany him. "I know not," says he, "THE DAY in which God will send his angel to give me prosperity: come thou with we that thou mayest direct me in this respect." She went, and told him the precise time in which he was to make the attack: Up, for THIS is the DAY in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand.

Went down from Mount Tabor—He had probably encamped his men on and near the summit of this mount. [19](See Judges 4:6. )

Barak went down from mount Tabor—it is a striking proof of the full confidence Barak and his troops reposed in Deborah's assurance of victory, that they relinquished their advantageous position on the hill and rushed into the plain in face of the iron chariots they so much dreaded.

15 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.

The Lord discomfited Sisera. He made them feel CONFOUNDED, threw his army into confusion— men, horses, and chariots being intermingled in wild disorder, and drove them pell-mell into the self-preservation mode—caused chariots to break and overthrew chariots, and threw widespread disorder into all their ranks. In this case Barak and his men had little to do but kill and pursue, and Sisera in order to escape, was obliged to abandon his chariot. There is no doubt all this was done by supernatural activity [12](see Judges 5:20-22). God sent his angel and confounded them.

So that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. His chariot being probably distinguished by its superior size and elegance, would betray the rank of its rider, and he saw therefore that his only chance of escape was on foot.
God himself [20A]routs  the enemy’s army. Barak, in obedience to Deborah’s orders, went down into the valley, though there upon the plain the iron chariots would have so much the more advantage against him, quitting his fastnesses upon the mountain in dependence upon the divine power; for in vain is salvation hoped for from hills and mountains; in the Lord alone is the salvation of his people, Jer. 3:23. And he was not deceived in his confidence: The Lord discomfited Sisera. What they wished they would have known—the lord would send a fierce rainstorm that would make the Kishon River overflow and turn the battlefield into a sea of mud [12](Jg. 5.20-22). It was not so much the bold and surprising alarm which Barak gave their camp that dispirited and dispersed them, but God’s terror seized their spirits and put them into an unaccountable confusion. The stars, it seems, fought against them, [12]Judges 5:20-22. Josephus says that a violent storm of hail which beat in their faces gave them this rout, disabled them, and drove them back; so that they became a very easy prey to the army of Israel, and Deborah’s words were made good: "The Lord has delivered them into thy hand; it is now in thy power to do what thou wilt with them.’’

16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

But Barak pursued . . . unto Harosheth. Broken and routed, the main body of Sisera's army fled northward; others were forced into the Kishon and drowned [12](see Judges 5:21-22).

Barak bravely improves his advantage; he follows the opening blow with undaunted resolution and unwearied diligence. He prosecutes the victory, pursues the scattered forces, even to their general’s head-quarters at Harosheth, and spares none whom God had delivered into his hand to be destroyed: There was not a man left. When God goes before us in our spiritual conflicts we must bestir ourselves; and, when by grace he gives us some success against the enemies of our souls, we must improve upon our success by watchfulness and determination, and carry on the holy war with gusto.

17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

In the battle that followed, the Israelites pursued the fleeing army all the way back to Harosheth and annihilated the entire force. In the meantime, however, Sisera fled away on foot and came to the tent of Heber the Kenite. It was there that he met Heber’s wife Jael, from whom he sought refuge. Verse 17 notes that there was peace between Jabin and Heber at that time, and this made an ideal place for the defeated king’s general to hide himself.

It is possible to view Heber from the perspective that He was part of God’s plan to lure Sisera into the trap. Heber wasn’t an alley of Jabin’s; he was simply trying to maintain a neutral position in a divided society. But once the Jewish army was in place at Mount Tabor, Heber ran and gave the news to Sisera; and Sisera had no reason to question the report. Sisera began to move his army and fell right into the trap.

We have seen the army of the Canaanites totally routed. Now here we have,

1. The fall of their general, Sisera, captain of the host, in whom, it is likely, Jabin their king put all of his confidence, and therefore he was not present for the battle. Let us trace the steps of this mighty man’s fall.

2.  He quitted his chariot, and took to his feet. His chariots had been his pride and the basis of his confidence; and we may suppose that he despised and defied the armies of the living God, because they were all on foot, since the army of Israel had neither chariots nor horses. Early on, the fighting becomes a rout that favors Israel, and he is made ashamed of his confidence, and forced to quit the fight; he leaves his chariot, although we may presume that it was the best made, of any of them. He is afraid for his life, and so he runs away from his own men; he runs as fast and as far as he can.

3. He fled for shelter to the tents of the Kenites, having no strong-hold, or any place of his own where he would be safe. The lowly and secluded way of life of the Kenites’, perhaps was something he had formerly despised and ridiculed, and he hated them even more because of their religion; yet now he is glad to put himself under the protection of one of these tents: and he chooses the tent or apartment of Heber’s wife’s, perhaps because it happened to be close by, and the first one he came to. And he was encouraged to go there at this time since there was peace between his master and the house of Heber: not that there was any agreement offensive and defensive between them. Jabin did them no harm; he did not oppress them as he did the Israelites. They were beyond suspicion and they were not feared because of their plain, quiet, harmless way of living. That is why Sisera thought he might be safe among them; but he failed to consider that, though they themselves did not suffer from Jabin’s power, they heartily sympathized with the Israel of God that did.

4. Jael invited him in, and bade him very welcome. She probably stood at the tent door, to ask those ‘passers by’ for news of the army, and who was winning the battle which was fought close by. If that was not the case, she may have stood at the tent door waiting for an opportunity to show kindness to a wounded Israelite, if there should be an opportunity for it; but seeing Sisera come running away from the site of the battle, panting and out of breath, she invited him to come and rest himself in her tent, and, while she seemed sensitive to his circumstances, perhaps she already intended to do him some harm or to give him to some passing Israelite soldiers. He would have readily accepted her offer since he preferred the woman's tent because of the secrecy it afforded; for, according to the etiquette of the eastern countries, no person ever intrudes into the apartments of the women. And in every dwelling the women have a separate apartment.

Obviously, Sisera would have been soaking wet from the rainstorm. Was he thirsty? Well he might have been. Was he cold, or afraid of catching cold? Or did he desire to be hid from the pursuers, if they should search that tent? Did he want a little water to cool his tongue? The best liquor her tent afforded was at his service, and that was milk; she gave him more milk than he requested; and her friendship increased his confidence and security.  We may assume, he drank heartily, and, seeing that he felt refreshed, he wanted to sleep and renew his strength. The skins of animals were often used to store milk, which in turn could be easily churned to produce curds (butter). This drink, which is similar to liquid yogurt, is still commonly used by modern-day Arabs.
Was he cold, or afraid of catching cold? Or did he desire to be hid from the pursuers, if they should search that tent? She covered him with a blanket. One more expression of care for his safety.

20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? That thou shalt say, No.

Only when he wanted her to tell a lie for him, and to say he was not there, did she decline making any such promise. Sisera made a mistake by telling Jael to lie if anyone asked if he was there. Being a wise woman she concluded that Sisera was fleeing the battlefield, which meant that the Jews had won the battle and the Canaanite grip on the land was broken. If she protected Sisera, she would be in trouble with the Jews, her own relatives. No doubt someone was chasing Sisera, and whoever it was would not be satisfied until the captain was dead. We must not sin against God, no, not to oblige those sinners who would lead us to participate in their sin. Lastly, We must suppose that she kept her tent as quiet as she could, and free from noise, so that he might fall sleep quickly and sleep sound. And now Sisera was very unsafe when he was feeling very secure. How uncertain and precarious is human life! And what assurance can we have of it, when it may so easily be betrayed by those with whom it is trusted, and those may prove its destroyers who we hoped would be its protectors! It is best making God our friend, for he will not deceive us.

Stand in the door of the tent. Seeing that no man would intrude into the women's apartment without permission, her simply saying, there is no man in my tent, would rule out a search.

NOTE: The text offers no explanation as to why Jael turned against Sisera. Perhaps, she did it out of a sense of duty to defend God’s people, or perhaps because she disagreed with the Kenite-Canaanite coalition.

21 Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Then Jael took a nail of the tent. Most probably one of the pins with which the tent ropes are fastened to the ground. Escape was almost impossible for Sisera, but the taking of his life by the hand of Jael was murder. It was a direct violation of all the notions of honor and friendship that are usually held sacred among rural people, and it is almost impossible to imagine a woman in Jael's circumstances to have had any motive, except that of gaining favor with the victors. Though predicted by Deborah--"Deborah replied, “Certainly, I'll go with you. But you won't win any honors for the way you're going about this, because the Lord will use a woman to defeat Sisera.” So Deborah started out for Kedesh with Barak." [20](Judges 4:9), it was the result of divine foreknowledge only—not the result of divine appointment or sanction; and though it is praised in the song [21]Judges 5:24-27), the eulogy must not be considered as a pronouncement on the moral character of the woman and her deed, but on the public benefits which, in the overruling providence of God, would flow from it.

He was fast asleep and weary. As he lay on one side, and was overwhelmed with sleep through the heat and fatigues of the day, the piercing of his temples must have in a moment put him past resistance. She drove the long nail through his temples, which fastened his head to the ground, and killed him instantly. And, though this was enough to do the job, yet, she had to make sure of it; (if we translate [22]Judges5:26  rightly), she cut off his head, and left it nailed there. Whether she planned to do it or not, when she invited him into her tent, we have no way of knowing; probably the thought darted into her mind when she saw him lie so conveniently to receive such a fatal blow; and, without a doubt, the thought brought with it evidence sufficient to reveal that it did not come from Satan as a murderer and destroyer, but from God as a righteous judge and avenger. She perceived so much brightness and heavenly light in the enticements to do it for the honour of God and the deliverance of Israel, and nothing of the blackness of malice, hatred, or personal revenge. Notice that she had plenty of help to do it when the opportunity presented itself:

(1.) It was a divine power that enabled her to do it, and inspired her with more than manly courage. What if her hand should shake and she should miss her blow? What if he should awake when she was attempting it? Or suppose that some of his attendants followed him, and surprise her in the act, how dearly would she and all hers be made to pay for it? Yet, by obtaining help from God, she did it effectively.

(2.) It was a divine warrant that justified her in the doing of it; and therefore, since no such extraordinary commissions can any longer be anticipated, it should not in any case be imitated. The laws of friendship and hospitality must be religiously observed, and we must despise the thought of betraying any whom we have invited and encouraged to put a confidence in us. And, as to this act by Jael (like that of Ehud in the chapter before), we have reason to think she was conscious of a divine impulse upon her spirit to do it, and when it was done she felt satisfied with herself (and it ought to satisfy us too) that it was well done. God’s judgments are a great deep. The instrument of this execution was a nail of the tent, that is, one of the great pins with which the tent was fastened to the ground. Women often would tear down and set up their tents; therefore she had experience in driving these nails. Her strength and skill had no doubt been toughened by a common Bedouin duty of hammering down tent pegs to secure tents, or striking them loose to take down tents. It is ironic that the man that thought he could destroy Israel with his many iron chariots is himself destroyed with one iron nail. Hence do the weak things of the world confound the mighty. He dies with his head nailed to the ground, an emblem of his earthly-mindedness. His ear (says Bishop Hall) was fastened close to the earth, as if his body had been listening for what had become of his soul. He dies by the hand of a woman. This added to the shame of his death before men; and had he but known it, as Abimelech [23](Jg. 9:54 ), we may well imagine how much it would have added to the aggravation of his own heart.

22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
24 And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

As Barak passed by in pursuit, Jael invited him in to see the corpse of his enemy. Thus was Deborah’s prophecy of verse 9 fulfilled. God used a mere honeybee (Deborah) to cast down human reason (Jabin), when it exalted itself against the knowledge of God. The judgment came upon the foe like lightning (Barak). Jael (climber) used a tent peg (the witness of her pilgrim life) to bring down the pretensions of the mighty. The hammer speaks of the Word [24](Jer. 23:29 ).

So, Barak finds his enemy dead. We are not told what impression this made on the victorious Barak, but I believe he was very well pleased to find his work already done; unless perhaps, he resented the general’s death coming by any hand but his. As he stood looking at the dead he may have thought back to what Deborah said— the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman; at the time he little thought that the prediction would be fulfilled in such a way as this.

It should be noted that no attempt is made in the text to justify Jael’s action. She is looked upon as a heroine who delivers the enemy into the hands of the Israelites. Throughout the scene, God is acting in history while actually controlling history. He allows the heathen to chasten His people and then in turn raises up deliverers to save them. Israel is completely delivered out of the hands of Jabin king of Canaan. They not only shook off his yoke by this day’s victory, but they afterwards prosecuted the war against him, till they had destroyed him, he and his nation being by the divine appointment devoted to ruin and not to be spared. The Israelites, having soundly smarted for their foolish pity in not doing it before, resolved to do it now, since it is in their power to indulge them no longer, but to make a thorough riddance of them, as a people to whom to show mercy was as contrary to their own interest as it was to God’s command. The enemy is named three times here in these last two verses, and called king of Canaan; for as such he was to be destroyed; and so thoroughly was he destroyed that I do not remember reading about the kings of Canaan any more after this. The children of Israel would have prevented a great deal of trouble if they had destroyed these Canaanites sooner, as God had both commanded and enabled them; but it is better be wise late, and buy wisdom by experience, than never to be wise.

The victory led to the complete demise of Jabin and brought peace and prosperity to Israel for about forty years [25](5:31 ).
Something should be said to justify the conduct of Jael: But first, it must be acknowledge that she slew Sisera in circumstances which caused the whole transaction to appear exceedingly questionable. They are the following:—
1.  There was peace between her family and the king of Canaan.
2.  That peace was no doubt made, as all transactions of the kind were, with a sacrifice and an oath.
3.  Sisera, knowing this, came to her tent with the utmost confidence.
4.  She met him with the most friendly greetings and assurances of safety.
5.  Having asked for water, to show her friendship and respect she gave him cream, and that in a vessel suitable to his dignity.
6.  She put him in the secret part of her own tent, and covered him in such a way as to evidence her good faith, and to inspire him with the greater confidence.
7.  She agreed to keep watch at the door, and deny his being there to any that might inquire.
8.  As she gave him permission to hide himself with her, and gave him refreshment, she was bound by the rules of Asiatic hospitality to have defended his life, even at the risk of her own.
9.  Notwithstanding, she took the advantage of his weariness and deep sleep, and took away his life!
10.  She exulted in her deed, met Barak, and showed him in triumph what she had done.

Now do we not find, in all this, bad faith, deceit, deep hypocrisy, lying, breach of treaty, contempt of religious rites, and breach of the laws of hospitality, deliberate and unprovoked murder? But what can be said to justify her shocking deed? All that can be said, and all that has been said is simply this: "She might have been sincere at first, but was afterwards divinely directed to do what she did." If this was so, she is sufficiently vindicated by the fact; for God has a right to dispose of the lives of his creatures as he pleases: and probably the cup of Sisera's iniquity was full, and his life already forfeited to the justice of God. But does it appear that she received any such direction from God? There is no sufficient evidence of it: it is true that Deborah, a prophetess, declares her blessed above women; and this seems to intimate that her conduct was pleasing to God. If Deborah was inspired on this occasion, her words are presumed to be proof that the act was right; unless we are to understand it as a simple declaration of the reputation she should be held in among her own sex. But we do not find one word from Jael herself, stating how she was led to do an act repugnant to her feelings as a woman, contrary to good faith, and a breach of the rules of hospitality. Nor does the sacred writer say one word to explain the case; as in the case of Ehud, he states the fact, and leaves his readers to form their own opinion. To say, as has been said in the case of Eglon, that "Sisera was a public enemy, and any of the people whom he oppressed might be justified in taking away his life," is a very dangerous position, as it refers one of the most solemn acts of judgment and justice to the whim, or prejudice, or enthusiastic feeling of every individual who may persuade himself that he is authorized by God to take vengeance by his own hand. While justice and law are in the world, God never will authorize individual human vengeance; the time for judging the conduct of Ehud and Jael, will be when they will stand before the tribunal of God; that time still lies in the future. I will not justify, I dare not absolutely condemn; there I leave them, and entreat my readers to do the same.

 

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  [1](Isa. 3:12) “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” This comment can be applied to the period when Deborah judged Israel—children are their oppressors, and women rule over them indicates the utter failure of the male leadership in the society of Judah. The implication of the entire chapter is that when male leadership fails, it will naturally be replaced by female leadership and incompetent childish leadership.

  [2](Heb. 11.32) “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:” Then there was Barak. When called to lead Israel to battle against the Canaanites, he agreed only on the condition that Deborah would go with him. In spite of this cowardly facet in his character, God saw real trust and lists him among the men of faith. 

[3](Ps 2:1–3) “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?   The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

[4](Jg. 5:19) “The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.”

[5](II Chr 35:22–24) “Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo. And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.  His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.”

[6](Jos. 12.21) “The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one;” God had made a promise earlier to Israel before they crossed the Jordan: “He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will destroy their name from under heaven; no one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them” (Deut. 7:24). Here are thirty-one instances of God’s faithfulness (vv. 7–24); Joshua defeated thirty-one ... kings on the west side of the Jordan.

[7](Ex. 14.25) “And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.” When Pharaoh’s army tried to follow, the LORD ... troubled them and disabled their chariots so that they drove them with difficulty. Before they could retreat, the sea closed in on them at Moses’ command. Not so much as one of them remained. The same faith that opened up the Red Sea enables us to do the impossible when we are moving forward in the will of God.

[8](Jos. 10:10) “Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.” Then, at the request of Joshua, the sun and moon “stood still" (or “tarried”), prolonging the hours that the Israelites could continue to pursue and destroy the foe before they could escape to the security of their walled cities. It is literally descriptive language to say that the sun and the moon stood still. We use such language when we say that the sun rose or set. Various natural explanations have been given as to what actually happened at this time. But it is enough to know that it was a miracle which resulted in an extended day for fighting. Spurgeon says, “How He did it is no question for us. ... It is not ours to try and soften down miracles, but to glorify God in them.”

[9](2 Samuel 22:15) “He sent out arrows and scattered them; Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them. 

[10](Psalm 18:14) “Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.”

[11](Psalm 144.6) “Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.” Here, the psalmist’s prayer changes from praise to invocation. Having ascribed blessedness unto Jehovah, he now invokes the aid of Jehovah. Taking his metaphor from 18:9, the psalmist asks Jehovah to extend Himself from the heavens and come down to the aid of man. “This was never so remarkably fulfilled as in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, when heaven and earth were, as it was, brought together.… But this will be more remarkably filled still by Christ’s second coming, when He will indeed bring all heaven down with Him—viz. all the inhabitants of heaven”—Jonathan Edwards.

[12](Jg. 5.20-22) “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.”

[13](Psalm 83:9, 10) “Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.”

[14](Judges 1:16) “And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.” The reference to the Kenite refers to the nomadic people who later settled among the Amalekites. The Kenites are also associated with the Midianites (Ex 18), indicating their constantly nomadic condition. They were related to the Israelites through Moses’ marriage to Zipporah (Ex 2:21). As a rule, they remained in favorable relationship with the Israelites until even as late as the time of David. In Judges 4 the Israelite defender, Jael, is married to Heber the Kenite. The city of palm trees commonly refers to Jericho.

[15](2 Kings 10:15) “And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.” Jehonadab, according to Jeremiah 35:6, was the founder of the Rechabites, a strict sect known for their simple life. This group of Kenite extraction (I Chr 2:55) was zealous for Jehovah, and Jehu saw in Jehonadab a sympathetic ally. Is thine heart right …? This question means: Are we in agreement?

[16](Jg. 4.7) “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.”

[17](1 Co. 12:4) “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” that is, varieties of spiritual endowments peculiar to the several members of the Church: compare "dividing to every man severally" (1Co 12:11).

[18](1 Co. 11:3) “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” 

[19](Jg 4.6) “And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, 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?” She sent and called Barak -- by virtue of her official authority as judge.
Kedesh-naphtali -- situated on an eminence, little north of the Sea of Galilee, and so called to distinguish it from another Kedesh in Issachar.
Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded? -- a Hebrew form of making an emphatic communication.
Go and draw toward mount Tabor -- an isolated mountain of Galilee, northeast corner of the Plain of Esdraelon. It was a convenient place of rendezvous, and the enlistment is not to be considered as limited to ten thousand, though a smaller force would have been inadequate.

[20A]Routes. The meaning here is “confused,” “thrown into panic.” This is what God did to Pharaoh’s charioteers in the Red Sea (Ex. 14.24), and would later do to the Philistines in Samuel’s day (1 Sam. 12.10).

[20](Judges 4:9) “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.” It is also interesting to note that Deborah did not lead this military reprisal herself, but chose Barak to serve as the commander of the tribe. He was an inhabitant of Kedesh-naphtali, near Hazor. As God’s spokesman, Deborah tells him that he is to take ten thousand men toward mount Tabor, and that God said He would draw unto thee … Sisera … and … deliver him into thine hand. The brave Barak responded that he would not go unless Deborah would go with him! She replied that she would be willing to go; but the battle would not be in his honor, for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Again, there can be no doubt that this passage is intended to indicate the weakness of male leadership at that time.

[21](Judges 5:24-27) “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. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.  At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.” Blessed above women shall Jael … be recognizes the true heroine of the story. The descriptiveness of the poem makes it clear that she deliberately deceived Sisera into thinking he was in a place of safety, when in reality he had fallen into the hands of his real enemy. 

[22](Jg. 5.26) “She put her hand to the nail and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.”

[23](Jg. 9.54) “Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.” During the battle, the enemy dropped a millstone on his head, which undoubtedly fractured Abimelech’s skull. Since death at the hands of a woman was considered to be an utter disgrace for a warrior, he urged his armor-bearer to kill him by thrusting him through with his sword.

[24](Jer. 23:29) “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” The omnipresent and omniscient God exposes the prophets for their dreams, which led people into idolatry. Their dreams were chaff compared to God’s word, which is like nutritious wheat, and also like fire and ... a hammer.

[25](Jg. 5.31) “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. And the land had rest forty years.”

 

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