Judges 4 & 5

Judges 4 & 5: Deborah, the Judge

Ehud, the left-handed Benjamite leads Israel into 80 years of peace and prosperity.  Then once again we see when their leader dies, Israel backslides again and does evil in the sight of the Lord. And once again the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, the king of Canaan who ruled from the city of Hazor.

Let me provide you with a list of the characters in this never ending drama of Israel in today’s lesson from Judges 4 & 5.

Jabin- King of Canaan, ruling and reigning from Hazor. The enemy, a tyrant.

Deborah- a Jewish judge , a woman of faith and courage. Her name means-‘bee’. And she is certainly industrious and busy as a bee, known for her sweetness and wisdom but also a mighty sting.

Barak- the general or commander of the Jewish armies under Deborah. His name means ‘ lightning.’

Sisera- a leader of King Jabin’s forces, a villain who leads 900 chariots into battle. We are told he was a cruel man who oppressed Israel under King Jabin for 20 years. ( In Judges 5:30- – we read : They divided the spoils of their raids- ‘ a girl or two for each man, colorful garments for Sisera. They kidnapped and took as slaves- girls with whom they did with as they pleased. These were vile men who used the excuse of war as men often do to commit vile and violent acts)

Heber- a Kenite who  is a friend of King Jabin

Jael- wife of Heber

We read in Judges 3, Israel enjoyed 80 years of peace and prosperity under Ehud’s influence. But as soon as he died they returned to doing evil in the eyes of the Lord.  A cycle we see in the history and life of Israel.   They became complacent and secure and they also became wanton.

Notice after the Lord sold them into slavery and they spent 20 years under the cruel oppression of King Jabin and his commander Sisera, then as before – ‘ they cried out to the Lord for help.’ There is a difference between religious reformation and spiritual revival.  What we are seeing in the story of Judges is religious reformation  under the leadership of godly leaders God has raised up.  When the godly leaders like Othneil and Ehud removed the idols and commanded the people to worship only Jehovah, the people obeyed. But when the constraint of leadership was removed the people obeyed their own sinful desires.

Religious reformation is a change in  outward behavior and conduct which is temporary and caused by the pressures of a godly society which wants to worship God. When the influence of godly people is removed from society we see the lusts of sinful people begin to corrupt the society. Spiritual revival on the other hand is an inward change of heart that changes one’s outward behavior and conduct. We know in the future in the last days, Paul tells us: “ For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the One who now holds it back will continue to do so till He is taken out of the way. And the lawless one will be revealed.” (2 Thess. 2)  Paul is speaking of the Holy Spirit.  In those days of Othneil Ehud, and Deborah, the Spirit of the Lord would be on one man or woman who would through the power of the Spirit constrain evil and people’s behavior would be restrained. But when the person upon whom the Spirit rested died, the people did evil because the one who restrained them was taken out of the way.

Time and time again we have witnessed through history how people will turn into a violent mob when the law is overpowered and they can do what they want to do. Nazi Germany- and remember Germany was considered a Christian nation,when the influence of God was not conforming their society but when a godless powerful leader like Hitler takes control who allowed and encouraged such atrocities as the concentration camps- we saw the result and their treatment of the Jews.  It was inhuman- it was vile- it was accepted.  When the restraint is removed and everyone else is doing it- we get people who will do whatever they can get away with- as we have seen in looting and riots in days gone by.

The people then were sold into slavery- for slavery is  a picture of  sin as it really is- a cruel slave master. The oppression finally caused them to cry out to God for help. The problem seems to be they wanted comfort for their suffering. They wanted relief not repentance and forgiveness of their sins. Revival can only come with true repentance from our sins. These were selfish people who wanted God to save them from their suffering- they wanted His comforting, but not His cleansing.  They were not uprooting the cause of their bitter harvest- and they would eventually produce another bitter harvest in this cycle of selfishness.  They needed to pray as David did: “ Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” ( Ps. 51: 10)

I wonder if America can see what their real problem is?   Are we crying out to God for comfort from our suffering; for relief from our anxieties?  Or are we as God’s people , who are called by His Name, humbling ourselves and praying and seeking God’s face and turning from our wicked ways? ( 2 Chronicles 7)    King Jehosophat was surrounded by a vast army- he did not know what to do- but he inquired of the Lord and his eyes were upon the Lord.  He proclaimed a fast for all of Judah and the people came together to seek help from the Lord. ( 2 Chronicles 20)  Oh that we would have a proclamation from the leadership to pray and fast and seek help from the Lord!

These people seemed to cry out to God when distress and circumstances drove them to Him and they saw no other way of relief. Do we do the same things?  Do we find ourselves enslaved by something because we have gone our own way, taken lightly God’s Word and not obeyed God’s commandments?

Have we looked at God’s commandments and said some of these are too hard Lord. I just cannot obey these commands. You do not understand our situation and circumstances, Lord, which prevent us from being able to carry out your commands- at least not all of them.  We are doing the best we can, Lord.

Do you not realize God’s commandments are by their very nature, God’s enablements, His empowering of us to do what He has commanded?  WE are to obey by faith and leave the circumstances to God. We are not to look at the circumstances, our own feelings, and the consequences of obedience and choose what we will obey and what we will not obey.

Look what God has done in this story- God has selected a woman to be their judge. Women in their roles of mothers take care of raising children .  God is saying to Israel, you are acting like children, therefore, I am going to give you a woman because you are to be treated as children who need a mother.

Deborah was both a prophetess and a judge. Deborah saw herself in this role as she describes herself in the Song of Deborah, Judges 5, as – Deborah , arose;  arose a mother in Israel.’

Now we see three major roles in the Old Testament: prophet, priest and leader ( king/queen/judge). Miriam, Moses’s sister was called a prophetess. Others would be queens, Deborah is both a prophet and judge/leader- but no woman is ever seen as a priests.   ( I believe women are equal to men, but God has shown us in Scripture they can use their gifts in any role to serve Him, but not as priests, only men are chosen for this role. I would say this is doctrine or policy is not major. We must agree on the major doctrines of salvation by grace, the power of the Lord’s blood, the deity of Christ, the Triune nature of God, the need of grace for forgiveness and the inerrancy of Scriptures.  Other issues such as baptism vs. sprinkling, church government, speaking in tongues, music, etc.- are minor.   We can disagree on these minor issues in love, but worship together in spirit and truth on those major doctrines that make us brothers and sisters in the Lord. – but we must also not be too quick to judge those whose belief is different.)

Now the reason I am including Judges 5 in this lesson is Judges 5, is known as the song of Deborah and it gives us some information we do not have in Judges 4 account.  If you remember in Judges 1, the tribe of Judah along with tribe of Simeon had some early victories over the Canaanites until they ran into the iron chariots on the plains.  When the field of battle was level, the iron chariots could slice through men like the proverbial knife through hot butter.  A force of 10,000 would be no match for 900 chariots on the plains- they would be like infantry going against tanks.  So this is where the plan makes no sense from a military standpoint.  It appears to be playing into the hands of the enemy.

It made no sense to King Jehosophat they were to go against the armies with the choir in front; or that Joshua was to march around the walled city of Jericho seven times and then blow the trumpets- but they obeyed God and left the circumstances to Him.   When will we learn this lesson?

When will we learn – the battle is the Lord’s?

We will see this is God’s plan and His strategy how to fight the battle in a situation where the enemy seems to have the advantage.    Here is the plan as Deborah lays out to her general, Barak. She tells him, “ The Lord, the God of Israel commands you : Go take with you 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera,the commander of Jabin’s army with his chariots and troops to the Kishon River and give them into your hands.”

Now General Barak says to Deborah: “If you go with me, I will go; but if you do not go with me, I won’t go.” “ Very well,Deborah said, “ I will go with you. But because of the way your are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera to a woman.”

Now it is interesting , geographically this region by the Kishon River is known as the Valley of Jezreel. Napoleon would fight and win a battle against the Turks in 1799, as there would also be a battle there during WW I.  Sisera with his superiority being in his iron chariots felt he had the army of Barak exactly where he wanted them  for if they came down upon the plains- his army of 900 chariots would decimate their ground forces.   This is where we turn to Judges 5 to the Song of Deborah who tells us what took place and why the battle is the Lord’s.

In Judges 5 : 4-6 we read what happened:  “ O Lord when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai. “  The Lord sent a sudden and violent rainstorm that turned the Jezreel Valley into a flooded plain of mud in which the chariots could not maneuver and the army of 10,000 easily killed all the troops.  We see Sisera, their leader abandon his chariot and take off on foot.

Now we mentioned in a cast of characters, Heber, the Kenite who was friendly to King Jabin  and his commander, Sisera.  So Sisera takes off on foot with Barak in pursuit. He reaches the tent of Heber, who he knows in a supporter and is met at the tent by Heber’s wife, Jael.

( Now a side note to explain what is about to take place:  women were responsible for setting up tents and taking them down. So they were used to using a hammer and tent peg to set up a tent.  Also it was the mid-east custom to take in visitors and protect them. )

So Sisera felt he was in a safe place, as Heber was a known friend and ally.  He asked for something to drink, and Jael covers him, makes him comfortable, gives him milk to drink and waits for him to go to sleep and drives a tent peg with her hammer in his temple , nailing him to the ground. He is killed instantly.

The man who had such pride in his iron chariots is defeated at the hands of a woman with an iron tent peg.

Now as we read these historical accounts of battles fought long ago- it is easy to fall into the thinking the battle is between the Israelites and the Canaanites. But the battle is actually spiritual. The conflict being waged in the world today and throughout history is a conflict that has been and is being waged in the invisible, spiritual realm that is being manifested in the visible, physical realm.

Huh? You might say and wonder have I watched the news lately? First understand what the Bible says: “ Our struggle is  NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD BUT AGAINST THE RULERS, AGAINST THE POWERS , AGAINST THE WORLD FORCES OF THIS DARKNESS AGAINST THE SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES.” (Ephesians 6)

There are two world views.  I can assure you what you watch on television news is expressing a natural world view.  It views the world through the lens of understanding as  natural man does- not believing in the supernatural but only in what it can see, touch, taste, hear and feel.  It is the scientific world view. All answers lie in man’s ability to figure out the problem and come up with the solution. They believe if you believe in supernatural beings involved in ongoing warfare in the invisible, spiritual realm that spills out onto the physical, visible realm of earth- you are foolish, superstitious and completely bonkers!

The second world view is a spiritual world view which says there is a realm outside of the physical. In this realm there is an ongoing battle between the forces of darkness and evil against the forces of good and light.  It is ultimately against these forces we do battle – not against flesh and blood.

If you are born again, you are born into this battle,into this war and you have a role to play.  The problem is many Christians are deceived into believing the natural world view and become frustrated as they watch events unfold on nightly television and want man to fix this problem with earthly weapons and methods.

Now let’s refocus- where is the battle taking place?  In heavenly places. It is spiritual warfare. It requires spiritual weapons. If the problem originates in the heavenly places, you need a solution that originates in heavenly places.   Isn’t it interesting how Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us about this spiritual battle that is taking place in heavenly places in the closing of his letter in chapter six; however, Paul began his letter by telling us in the first chapter of Ephesians – “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blesses  US IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS WITH EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING CHRIST.” (  Ephesians 1: 3)

The enemy of your soul is three fold:  the devil and the fallen angels; your old nature, ( the flesh) and the world culture.  These three conspire to build a stronghold in your life, in your family, in your church and in your community.

A stronghold is a mind-set, that accepts a situation as unchangeable, even though that situation is contrary to the Word of God.

It is an area you have yielded to the enemy that he uses to create a stronghold in your life that can affect not only your life, but your family and church and community. In fact these are the areas the enemy will attack:  attack you personally; your family; your church and your community- our society.

The enemy questions the Word of God. He implies God has placed limitations on your life- that God is a legalists, a kill-joy, who is too hard, strict and judgmental.  In doing so, the enemy does something very clever: he gets you to overlook the goodness of God.  God told Adam and Eve they may eat freely from every tree in the garden but one.  Realize how many things God told the first couple they shall enjoy and the one thing they shall not .  This is why we are to come to God and make our requests and petitions known to Him with thanksgiving. Instead sometimes we are like pouting teenagers who are angry with their parents because they will not let us go to the party, forgetting all they have done for them- from the roof over their heads, the clothes on their  back and the food that they eat.   God is good, unbelievably good to us, as we often say-‘ better than I deserve.’  And yet we come many times to God with frustrations as to why He has not done this or that for us.    I wonder if the people of Israel in this story had forgotten all the good things God had done for them.

As Eve listened to the serpent, the devil that day- something happened. She began to look at the tree through the eyes of the enemy.  Exactly what he wanted her to do.  And it is exactly what he still wants us to do- to look at sin through his eyes, not God’s.  This is the deception of the enemy is : to see sin through his eyes and deception is his primary and most effective weapon.

Look at our society today- it questions God’s Word. It views God’s word as limiting their lives and  condemning their choices.  The result- a successful attack on all four fronts by the enemy.

Our individual lives are constantly battling strongholds.

Our families are under attack with Christian’s divorce rate right up there with the non-Christian.

Our churches are under attack- financially, doctrinally, and with false teachers. Youth are turned off.

Our society is for the most part- agnostic; and more concerned about being politically correct rather than morally upright. In fact- what the Bible calls immoral and unnatural- our society recognizes as good and honorable.

The battle line was drawn in the garden.  The battle would be between the offspring ( the seed ) of the serpent and the offspring the seed of the woman.  Good vs evil.  Therefore when you and I were born again and became a member of God’s family we were enlisted in the war.

Now for the good news from the only source that broadcast good news, 24-7: The Word of God.

Colossians 1:16 tells us what we need to know:  “ For by Him( Lord Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers(KJV dominions) or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.”

Also in Colossians 2:15 we read : “ And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  The Lord Jesus not only cancelled all our sins, taking them away and nailing them to the cross, He has disarmed the evil angels who entice and deceive people with false teaching and questioning God’s Word.

Now look at these terms:  throne is a chair of authority. We do not have kings and queens in America but our president occupies a chair of authority in the White House. Dominions are territories ruled by the authority on the throne. In America we have 50 governors of our 50 states.  A ruler is a specific person who occupies the seat or chair of authority. The last term is authorities. Authorities are the rules, the laws that are legitimately enforce by the throne. In America this is represented by our Constitution.

This verse in Colossians tells us all these categories were created by God for good. But since the fall and entrance of sin- all of these have been corrupted.

Now I want us to see how this can work under God- read the story of Exodus again and realize that Pharaoh of Egypt was an unrighteous ruler. Says who? The Bible, Pharaoh worshipped false gods and idols and enacted unrighteous laws. God raised up a Redeemer in the man of Moses who went against this unrighteous ruler and unrighteous laws and through the power of prayer and Almighty God changed the situation.

This brings us to the question we face and must answer:  Since the church, the body of Christ, is armed with God’s authority and since Satan is a defeated, disarmed foe, why are we not seeing Christ’s victory being reproduced here on earth at this time in our country?

There is only one answer. The church is not doing its job. The body of Christ is not obeying its Head. We are to carry out the Great Commission. We are to tell the world around us what has been accomplished by Jesus Christ in our lives and in this world at the Cross of Calvary.

We must take the kingdom of God beyond our four walls on Sunday into the community. We must make disciples, arm them with the weapons we have which are mighty to the tearing down of strongholds.

Listen to Paul’s instructions: “ His( God) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. “

It starts, stays the course and finishes with prayer. Prayer engages the heavenlies.

Pray for our rulers to be saved. Even if they are not saved, pray they will be used for good.  A church’s prayer life should be so powerful that it shapes the community in which it resides.

Prayer must be accompanied by positive action.

Jesus said: “ If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” ( Matthew 18)   Visualize Jesus in your midst- the center of the circle and what you are praying for is his will to be done.  Thy kingdom come- thy will be done!!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14