The Book of Judges Chapters 4 and 5 record the history of the nation of Israel in the time of the prophetess Deborah. During this period the Israelites, now in the Promised Land after the military conquests of Joshua, went through a constant cycle of falling into sin, being punished by God via an attack by enemy invaders, crying out to the Lord in repentance and a Judge being raised up to lead the nation back towards God and deliver them from their troubles. Deborah was one of the 12 judges and in her account in Joshua Chapters 4 and 5 we see the faith, strength and leadership of a faithful woman of God.
God instructed the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites completely from the land of Israel but they failed in doing so. As a result, their enemies would routinely regroup and try to attack the Israelites once more to reclaim the Promised land for themselves. During the time of Deborah’s term as judge, the King of Canaan saw an opportunity for attack:
And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel. And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 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? 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. – Judges 4:1-7.
King Jabin sent Sisera, the captain of his army to lead their chariots and soldiers against the Israelites. The chariot at this time in history was one of the most devastating weapons in warfare. It gave the Canaanites a decided advantage in battle to destroy the nation of Israel. In the conflict detailed in this short passage there are several valuable spiritual principles:
– The Israelites cried out to God – The impending attack of the Canaanites came as a result of the sins Israel committed. Once their former Judge, Ehud, passed away, the national fell into sinful rebellion against The Lord. Judges 5 tells us that “they chose new gods” – once again falling into the sin of idolatry by worshiping demons and fallen angels. But what is most important is that once their suffering commenced, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. The same principle applies during the Christian life. While a Christian can never lose their salvation in Jesus Christ, they can certainly be punished on Earth for sins before God. If you are a Christian and you are in sin, expect God to chastise you. In fact, being disciplined by God is confirmation of His love for you:
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? – Hebrews 12:7-9.
Even when you know you are in sin, do not let your guilt keep you from confessing your sins to God and getting right with The Lord. As the passage states, we take correction from our earthly parents, employers, teachers and other authority figures in our lives and respect it. We should give even more respect to The Lord after being punished for our sin. And if you have suffered some hardship for it, rejoice and know that God indeed loves you as His child.
– God Always Leaves a Faithful Remnant – Even when it feels like an entire nation is fallen into sin, The Lord will still have His people who worship Him and have faith in Him, remaining as well. Deborah was waiting for the Israelites when they sought her Godly counsel. They only needed to seek her out. It is no different today. If you are in distress, seek Godly wisdom from a believer who you trust. Or maybe you will be the remnant for someone else who is going through a trial.
– Solve Earthly Problems with Godly Solutions – Rather than figuring out a battle plan against the King of Jabin or putting together a delegation to go negotiate a peace treaty, the Israelites sought the prophetess Deborah to hear the Word of God. This was yet another sign that they were getting back on track spiritually with The Lord. The Israelites were in a serious crisis. Death was literally knocking on their door in the form of a massive army. And rather than rely on their own “knowledge” and strength, they turned to God for a solution. This is so important for Christians today to take heed of. When you face a crisis, tragedy or are terribly afraid, look to God. Turn to the Word or a Godly leadership for biblical advice.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. – James 1:2-5.
We will have times of trial in this life to test, prove and strengthen our faith in God. They are inevitable as long as a Christian still lives in this cursed, sinful world. The temptation to think of a solution on your own and then pray for God to fulfill it is strong. Many times we think “if I just have ______, I will be out of this problem!” But as the passage from James indicates above, first and foremost a believer should just ask for wisdom to see God’s perspective on the problem you are facing. Pray for God’s wisdom in any crisis and as the Bible says, God will give it “liberally.”
Deborah Inspires The Nation
-A true Prophet of God only preaches God’s Word – Since the Bible was not yet complete at this time, it was the prophets, who were chosen by The Lord to receive His Word and deliver it to the people. The Prophetess Deborah sent for Barak and told him only what God said. This is the the New Testament guideline for Pastors today – to preach God’s Word. Deborah did not add her own opinions, ideas or suggestions to God’s Word. She preached only what “The Lord hath commanded.” How forgotten is this among pastor’s today? Many have twisted scripture, focused on person-centered sermons, self-help advice or just preached against the Bible altogether. Even as the world is moving to water down the Scriptures and apostate churches are following suit, seek a church led by Godly pastors who are not willing to compromise Biblical truths for their own ideas and imaginations.
The passage continues:
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. 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. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him. 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 Kedesh. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
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. 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. 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. 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. – Judges 4:8-16.
What a victory! Against great odds, the Israelites defeated King Jabin and the Canaanites. And there are more lessons in this passage:
– Deborah respected God’s Order for men and women – As prophetess over Israel, Deborah clearly commanded the respect of the people. As judge and prophetess she was the law-giver to the people and the source of God’s Word. However, she did not rule the nation. Many articles and commentaries on this portion of the Bible call Deborah “ruler of Israel” or a “warrior princess” but this was not the case. The Hebrew word for “judge” in the Book of Judges is shaphat which means “law-giver; one who executes judgment; to decide controversy.” This is further confirmed in Judges Chapter 8 after the Judge Gideon won a mighty victory for the Israelites over their enemies in Midian. The people, impressed and awed by Gideon wanted to make him their king:
Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you. — Judges 8:22-23.
So it should be clear that Deborah was not a ruler over Israel (in fact there was no human ruler over the Israelites until King Saul). Similarly, she did not lead the army into battle. Barak, whom God had chosen to lead, was in charge of the armies. Even when Barak was apparently too scared to even go into battle without Deborah accompanying him, she agreed to join him on the trip but stayed back at mount Tabor to let Barak lead and the armies “went after him.”
Rather than usurp Barak, she encouraged him to obey God. This should be an example for a Godly woman. God has ordered the male to lead in certain areas of life and under the Mosaic law, only men over the age of 20 were to go into battle (Numbers 1:1-3). And in other chapters, some of the male judges did indeed take on the role of “deliverer” and fought in battles (Deborah is never given that title in Scripture).
Rather than seeking her own glory or saying “I’m the one who speaks directly to God, I’m in charge here!”, Deborah humbly submitted to God’s plan and wisdom over her own. This was not an example of a woman “doing the job because a man would not step up.” Rather, it was a Godly woman called by Lord, sharing God’s Word in the manner and order God had clearly outlined. Yet today, in the age of apostasy, many women have taken on the role of pastor despite the Bible saying the Pastor should be the “husband of one wife.” Ironically, many of these women defend their disobedience to Scripture on the grounds that they have “the anointing” or that they were “called of the The Lord.” Are they following Deborah’s example of faithful obedience or their own agenda?
In the end, God has his own plan for Barak. As the Scriptures detail, God determined that while Barak would be victorious in battle, the death of the wicked Canaanite captain Sisera would be accomplished by a woman. So God dealt with Barak’s indecision the way He saw fit.
– God Provided the victory – As Deborah had preached from the beginning, it was God who provided the victory for the Israelites. God literally went and defeated the armies of Sisera. Webster’s 1828 dictionary (which was based on the language of the King James Bible) defines the word ‘discomfited’ as “Routed; defeated; overthrown.” This of course is a picture of a Christian’s salvation. It is not through any work, plan or action of our own that a person is saved. It is only through the work of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. The duty of the person is to believe in it. Jesus Christ fought the battle against sin and death by taking on the sins of humanity and dying as a sacrifice to receive God’s wrath and provide freedom from sin and eternal life for all who believe.
Similarly Barak was able to achieve the victory just by having faith in God’s Word and leading the men into battle. By the time they showed up, God had already won the battle and the armies of Israel only needed to chase down the last of the fleeing Canaanite soldiers. And as Jesus is described in Ephesians leading the souls of the righteous to Heaven, so too did Barak “lead thy captivity captive”
Deborah Gives God The Glory
Judges chapter 5 is a song of praise and worship the Deborah sings to The Lord:
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel. LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. – Judges 5:1-5.
– Giving God credit for all – Rather than throw themselves a victory parade, Deborah and Barak sang praises to The Lord for their victory.
-- Deborah embraces her role – In verse 7, Deborah calls herself a “mother of Israel.” While not a Queen or military leader, she took her role of mother over her people very seriously and faithfully. She followed God and led her children, the Israelites to put their faith in The Lord to deliver them from their enemies. In this she is a fine example and role model for Christian women (and men) today. In her song, you can hear her compassion for the people of Israel, her rejoicing over God’s defense of her nation and her desire for righteous judgment of the enemies of God. Her strength came through her reliance on God and she was blessed with helping to save her nation from destruction and bringing peace to her land. The close of her song typifies Deborah’s faith and the Christian life, ever looking to glorify God and trusting in His promises to glorify us in eternity:
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. – Judges 5:31.