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Judges Lesson 5 - Judges Chapter 4:1-24
Last week, we finished up our study on the third chapter of the book of Judges. We saw the people serving God, and then falling back to their old ways and getting back under oppression. God would raise up a deliverer, a judge, and then the people would follow after the ways of the Lord normally until that judge died. As we concluded last week, we saw the third judge being raised up, and it was Shamgar. Little was written about this man in the book of Judges.
I. Third Apostasy and Servitude
Judg 4:1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
Unfortunately, Israel returns to their former ways and do evil in the sight of God. If we learn nothing else from our study of Judges, we should understand that sin does not pay.
Judg 4:2 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.
The oppressing nation came from within the land of Israel. The Canaanites of the north had grown strong again, and another King Jabin was ruling again. This was not the King Jabin whom Joshua had defeated in Joshua 11)
Jabin also had a mighty captain of his host, Sisera, who is said to have been of Harosheth of the Gentiles, a place in the north, around the forests of Mount Lebanon. This King had 900 chariots of iron which enabled him to be more powerful in battle in the plains.
Judg 4:3 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.
For twenty years these Canaanites harassed and oppressed the Israelites. We talked last week that this was caused by the people not doing what God had told them to do. They were to go in and destroy all the inhabitants of the land, but rather than doing this, they made leagues with them.
After the death of Ehud, Israel again turned to idolatry, and a new period of oppression began. Sisera, captain of the host, had nine hundred chariots of iron. These chariots caused dread among the Israelites who had no such armaments. For twenty years Jabin oppressed Israel.
II. Deborah, Barak, and the Fourth and Fifth Judges.
Judg 4:4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
God is such a kind and wonderful Lord. Once again, he hears the cry of his people and raises up a judge to deliver them. This time, it was Deborah, a prophetess. Apparently, God saw fit to communicate a revelation to her, in respect to the information needed for the time. Deborah was a respected leader, and many in Israel came to her for counsel and guidance. She lived in Mount Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel. This is located in the section given to the tribe of Benjamin.
Judg 4:5 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.
Judg 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?
Judg 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.
Deborah becomes concerned about the oppression in the northern sections and she calls for Barak to join her against the enemy. This implies that the tribes of the north had been coming to Deborah for counsel. Barak lived in Kedesh, one of the cities of refuge located in the tribe of Naphtali.
Josh 20:1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
Josh 20:2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
Josh 20:3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
Josh 20:4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
Josh 20:5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
Josh 20:6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
Josh 20:7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
In verse 6 of our text, Deborah received a message from the Lord which she conveyed to Barak. He was commanded to go to Mount Tabor, Southwest of the Sea of Galilee, and take with him 10,000 men out of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. God had informed her that He would draw the host of Sisera into the Kishon valley, with his much feared chariots, and there He would deliver them into his hands. It is very important to note that it was God who would deliver the enemy.
Judg 4:8 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 desires the presence of Deborah to go with him into the battle. I believe this means that Barak had confidence that God was with this woman. Barak's victory came due to doing what God had commanded, and he also showed great faith. Whatever we do, we must do it by faith.
Rom 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
God says that whatsoever is not of faith is of sin. We need to trust God, not only in the big issues of life, but also in the small matters.
J. Vernon McGee said this about Deborah.
Here we have a mother in Israel, Deborah, who is described as being both a prophetess and a judge. We are also told that she was the wife of Lapidoth, but I like to turn that around and say that Lapidoth was the husband of Deborah. She was quite a woman. She was raised up by God to judge Israel, and she called upon the general to get busy. He was not doing his job. He should go against the enemy that Israel might be delivered from slavery. 
Judg 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.
Deborah agrees to go with Barak but informs him that the victory would not be for his honor, but God would sell Sisera into the hands of a woman. After she gave him this news, they arose and went to Kedesh.
Judg 4:10 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.
Barak called his troops from Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. They went up to Mt. Tabor with 10,000 warriors. We can conclude from this that the primary oppression was probably in those two tribes.
Judg 4:11 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.
Judg 4:12 And they showed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
Judg 4:13 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 had heard of the Israelite preparations and he responded by assembling his army of chariots and his troops at the river of Kishon. Since he had these 900 chariots, Sisera would be stronger in the valley than in the hills so he gathers in the valley to do battle. We know that someone had told Sisera about Barak being in Mt Tabor. It appears that Heber, the Kenite, gave this information because of fear that Barak would lose the battle and this would put him in good terms with Sisera.
Judg 4:14 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.
Judg 4:15 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.
Judg 4:16 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.
Deborah informs Barak that his was the day in which the Lord would give Barak the victory. She explains to Barak that the Lord had went out before him in battle. With this knowledge, Barak takes his 10,000 troops and goes out to battle Sisera. You and I can have that same confidence in the battles of life if we will wait on the Lord, and let him fight our battles for us. God went before them, lead the way, and prepared the Victory for Barak. The army of Sisera and all his chariots were defeated by the Lord. Barak did not chase after Sisera, but went after the army and put them to death with the sword. It says there was not a man remaining, but that all were put to death.
Judg 4:17 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.
Judg 4:18 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.
Judg 4:19 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.
Judg 4:20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
Sisera flees to the tent of Heber to find refuge. There had been peace between Heber and Jabin, the King of Hazor. We have no record that this relationship had been broken. We see that Sisera is met by Jael, the wife of Heber. She invites Sisera to turn in unto her. Heber apparently was not home at this time. She turns into the tent and covers him with a mantle. She did this to hide Sisera in case some of Barak's army came that way to seek Sisera. In verses 19 and 20, he asks two favors. The first was "Give me a little water." Sisera had come from a long trip fleeing from Barak, and was not doubt tired and thirsty. Heber lived about in the center of Naphtali, so Sisera had traveled from near Mt. Tabor east to the Sea of Galilee and then north to Kedesh. Jael gave him milk instead and covered him after he drank. He then asks her to stand by the door and lie if any one came and inquired about him.
Judg 4:21 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.
This woman was doing a very evil thing, but perhaps it was in the perfect will of God. Jael drives a tent peg through his temple and puts him to death.
Judg 4:22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
This fulfilled the prophecy in verse 9. By Jael killing Sisera, she was choosing sides with Israel, the people of God. If you want to be on the winning side, get on God's side. Read the last part of Revelation, the Christians win in the end. Her decision to do this no doubt took courage. There was no way at this point that she could know for sure Israel would win the victory. Deborah commends Jael for what she did in Judges Chapter 5 in verse 24.
Judg 5:24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
Judg 4:23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
Judg 4:24 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.
When Barak arrived, he goes into the tent and finds Sisera lying on the floor dead. It appears that Barak continued in the battle and subdued Jabin and the Canaanites. This gave the Jezreel valley back into the hand of the children making them stronger in power. This gave all of the excellent land to farm, and it also brought the northern tribes into a geographical unity with the stronger and more principle tribes of the south.
Matthew Henry spoke about the deliverance of Israel from King Jabin.
Israel is completely delivered out of the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, v. 23, 24. 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 now 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; and probably it is with an eye to the sentence they were under that this 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 to read of the kings of Canaan any more after this. The children of Israel would have prevented a great deal of mischief if they had sooner destroyed these Canaanites, as God had both commanded and enabled them; but better be wise late, and buy wisdom by experience, than never wise. 
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J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.
Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.