Deborah and Barak Deliver Israel from Jabin and
1. The children of Israel again did evil in the
sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead—The removal of the
zealous judge Ehud again left his infatuated countrymen without the
restraint of religion.
2, 3. Jabin king of Canaan—"Jabin," a
royal title (see on Jos 11:1). The second Jabin
built a new capital on the ruins of the old (Jos 11:10, 11). The northern Canaanites had
recovered from the effect of their disastrous overthrow in the time of
Joshua, and now triumphed in their turn over Israel. This was the
severest oppression to which Israel had been subjected. But it fell
heaviest on the tribes in the north, and it was not till after a
grinding servitude of twenty years that they were awakened to view it
as the punishment of their sins and to seek deliverance from God.
4. And Deborah, a prophetess—A woman of
extraordinary knowledge, wisdom, and piety, instructed in divine
knowledge by the Spirit and accustomed to interpret His will; who
acquired an extensive influence, and was held in universal respect,
insomuch that she became the animating spirit of the government and
discharged all the special duties of a judge, except that of military
the wife of Lapidoth—rendered by some,
"a woman of splendors."
5. she dwelt under the palm tree—or,
collectively, "palm-grove." It is common still in the East to
administer justice in the open air, or under the canopy of an
6. 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
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.
8. Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me,
then I will go—His somewhat singular request to be
accompanied by Deborah was not altogether the result of weakness. The
Orientals always take what is dearest to the battlefield along with
them; they think it makes them fight better. The policy of Barak, then,
to have the presence of the prophetess is perfectly intelligible as it
would no less stimulate the valor of the troops, than sanction, in the
eyes of Israel, the uprising against an oppressor so powerful as
9. the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a
woman—This was a prediction which Barak could not understand
at the time; but the strain of it conveyed a rebuke of his unmanly
11. Now Heber the Kenite … pitched his
tent—It is not uncommon, even in the present day, for
pastoral tribes to feed their flocks on the extensive commons that lie
in the heart of inhabited countries in the East (see on Jud 1:16).
plain of Zaanaim—This is a
mistranslation for "the oaks of the wanderers." The site of the
encampment was under a grove of oaks, or terebinths, in the upland
valley of Kedesh.
13. the river of Kishon—The plain on its
bank was chosen as the battlefield by Sisera himself, who was
unconsciously drawn thither for the ruin of his army.
14. 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. the Lord discomfited
Sisera—Hebrew, "threw his army into confusion"; men,
horses, and chariots being intermingled in wild confusion. The disorder
was produced by a supernatural panic (see on Jud
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
16. 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 (see on
17, 18. Sisera fled … to the tent of
Jael—According to the usages of nomadic people, the duty of
receiving the stranger in the sheik's absence devolves on his wife, and
the moment the stranger is admitted into his tent, his claim to be
defended or concealed from his pursuers is established.
19. she … gave him drink, and covered
him—Sisera reckoned on this as a pledge of his safety,
especially in the tent of a friendly sheik. This pledge was the
strongest that could be sought or obtained, after he had partaken of
refreshments, and been introduced in the inner or women's
20. he said unto her, … when any man doth
come and enquire of thee and say, Is there any man here? that thou
shalt say, No—The privacy of the harem, even in a tent,
cannot be intruded on without express permission.
21. 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 pastoral people, and for which it is
impossible to conceive a woman in Jael's circumstances to have had any
motive, except that of gaining favor with the victors. Though predicted
by Deborah [Jud 4:9], it
was the result of divine foreknowledge only—not the divine
appointment or sanction; and though it is praised in the song [Jud
5:24-27], the eulogy must be
considered as pronounced not 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.