Deborah, Judge and Prophetess

Deborah, Judge and Prophetess

Deborah, Judge and Prophetess                      February 18, 2017

Story:  the Israel people sinned and suffered by enduring twenty years of Canaanite rule.

Deborah, the Judge and Prophetess lived during the 12 Century B.C.

She was a person who moral authority was regarded as inspired by the Lord, and was therefore accepted in the settlement of disputes. 

She was known to set under a tree between Bethel and Ramah, north of Jerusalem where the people of Israel came up to her for Judgment. 

Judges 4:1 When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. 

The land had rest for 80 years, the longest period of peace recorded in the Book of Judges, then the leadership of Ehud came to an end by his death.

Israel enjoyed peace, plenty, and prosperity and then forget God.  Then what followed was idolatry, worshipping Baalism, and the gods of the nations about them;

After Ehud dies, the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor defeats Israel with his nine hundred iron chariots and rules for twenty years. His commander, the General, Sisera, 

Judges 4:2  So the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. 

The Lord allowed Israel to be into the hands of the Canaanites as punishment for their sins. Canaan was made up a number of city-states, each ruled by a king.

Hazor was the primary stronghold, about 8 ½ miles north of the Sea of Galilee.  “Jabin” was the name (or a royal title) of the King of Hazor.  He was also called “King of Canaan,” which suggests that he was the head of a group of kings.

Joshua had burned Hazor, but the Canaanites had rebuilt it and occupied it.

Sisera’s base, located by the narrow gorge where the Kishon River enters the Plain of Acre about 10 miles NW of Megiddo.

This picture shows where they lived. 

Judges 4:3  And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel. 

With his large army and 900 chariots of iron, with iron knives projecting from the axle on each side, Jabin was securely in control of the land.

From the text you can get the idea that Sisera, captain of Jabin’s army, was the real power in the land. 

The chariot was an iron chariot that could have knives from the axle with 2 horses.

Deborah said not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel

Jabin isn’t even mentioned in Deborah’s song in Judges 5.

Jabin is a royal title, not a name.  Jos 11:10.

Once again, Israel cried out to God—not to forgive their sins, but to relieve their suffering.   20 years was a long time to wait for help. 

Judges 4:4  Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 

No information about her husband

Deborah: means bee.  The Introduction of Deborah.  She called herself a mother in Israel.

Deborah became the spirit of the government and discharged all the special duties of a judge, except that of military leader. She seem to have had direct communications from God, either of knowledge or power, or both  

Judges 4:5  And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.


For judgment: to have her advice and counsel in matters of difficulty, and to have problems between contending parties heard and decided by her, so that she might be truly reckoned among the judges.  She would seat in open air, under the shadow or canopy of the palm tree.

It is common to plant trees in the names of themselves and their friends.

But she saw herself as a mother of her people.

Deborah’s court, located about 9  miles N of Jerusalem

Judges 4:6  Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the LORD God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 

Deborah appointed Barak to be general of the armies on this occasion; which shows that she possessed the supreme power in the state.

Barak name signifies lightning, an appropriate name for a warrior.

She sent and called Barak Around 1250 b.c.

We see where Barak lived at Kedesh on the map

We locate Mt. Tabor

We can locate the Kishon River

Mount Tabor rises to about 1,865 ft. above the sea, and its broad top of nearly a mile in circumference afforded a strong position, out of reach of Canaanite chariots and from which to launch an attack on the enemy below.

If we look towards Mount Tabor, the land is flat and the fields are cover with many different flowers of many types.  This flat land with flowers is where the Canaanite camps were set up for their tents and war-chariots.

The soldiers were to gather at Mt. Tabor.  The battle would be fought along the River Kishon, which flows northwest into the Mediterranean, south of Mt. Tabor.   

Judges 4:7  and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand‘?” 

God revealed to Deborah that Barak was to assemble and help the Israelite army and draw Sistera’s troops into a trap near Mount Tabor, and there the Lord would defeat them.

Deliver him:  not his person only, but his army, and his nine hundred chariots.

The brook or stream, River Kishon so called from its winding course is normally dry could swell very suddenly and dangerously, to overflow its banks with heavy rains.

Judges 4:8  And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” 

Barak was not a “judge”, but Military Leader; he got his orders from Deborah, who was Spiritual leader in the land, Deborah. 

Paul put Barak among the heroes for faith, Hebrews 11:32-33

Barak showed the high opinion he had of Deborah as a judge of Israel, and prophetess of the Lord; being desirous that he might have her with him, thinking it might help them to fight better.

But why:

  • to pray to God for him,
  • to give him advice and counsel on any emergency,
  • being as the oracle God
  • testified his regard to the Lord, and to his presence,
  • might be to prevail upon the people to go with him,
  • he might fear would not believe him, or
  • pay any regard to his words, and
  • be in dread of engaging with the enemy, unless she was present; which he
  • supposed would satisfy them as to the mind of God in it
  • give the army heart and spirit.

Judges 4:9  So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 

Deborah or was it God that was somewhat upset with Barak about this.

This prophecy what will happen, he probably did understand at the time.

Normally, the general of an army receives glory, but Barak will not.

Judges 4:10  And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him. 

The Israel army was all footmen, since they did not have a cavalry.  According to Josephus, the enemy had 10,000 horses.

Later, volunteers from the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, joined Deborah.

Reuben, Dan, Gilead, Asher, refused to come. {Jug 5:16,17}

What Deborah and Barak did was an act of faith; they were depending upon His promise

  • Josephus said the king’s commander met them,
  • pitched his camp not far from the enemy;
  • the Israelites were so afraid at the large number of enemies,
  • they were going to leave
  • Deborah kept them there and commanded them to fight the enemy that very day. 

Judges 4:11  Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

They were distant relatives of Moses. 

Judges 4:12  And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 

It was Heber and his family that first warned Canaanites General that the Israelites were going to rebel.   

Judges 4:13  So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon. 

See where Canaanite Forces are

The Canaanites depended on 900 iron chariots. The Israelites were depending upon the Lord.  Josephus said there were 3000 chariots.

The Canaanites probably had three hundred thousand foot soldiers, and ten thousand horses, besides the iron chariots: brought with them.

Canaanite General chose this area as the battlefield

Judges 4:14  Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the LORD gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 

Deborah, who was fully assured of it, and therefore it became Barak and his men, and great encouragement they had, to follow, since as the Lord went before them, they might be sure of victory

Deborah told Barak the precise time in which he was to make the attack

Judges 5:19-23 “Kings came to fight, then battled the kings of Canaan at Taanach near the waters of Megiddo. They took no silver as the spoils of war. (20) The stars fought from heaven; they fought against Sisera from their orbits. (21) The current of the Kishon River swept them downstream, that ancient current, the Kishon’s current! March on strongly, my soul! (22) Then loud was the beat of the horses’ hooves–from the galloping, galloping war steeds! (23) “‘Meroz is cursed!’ declared the angel of the LORD. ‘Utterly and totally cursed are its inhabitants, because they never came to the aid of the LORD, to the aid of the LORD against the valiant warriors!'”

Josephus wrote:  So the battle began, a great storm, vast quantity of rain and hail, and the wind blew rain in the face of the Canaanites so they could not use their weapons, and to the backs of the Israelites.  The Canaanites 900 iron chariots are bogged down when heavy rain falls on the low-lying land beneath the steep slopes, mud, and they are swept away by the overflowing River, Kishon.

Judges 4:15  And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 

The Lord and His angels were involved in the battle.

The Israelite’s rushed down those slopes of Mount Tabor, boldly attacked the Canaanite camps became sitting targets for the Israelites army charging down the mountainside and won a glorious victory

His chariot would betray the rank of its rider and was caught in mud, his only chance of escape was on foot.

The Lord sent a fierce rainstorm that would make the Kishon River overflow and turn the battlefield into a sea of mud (Judge 5:20-22).  In addition to the storm, they were thrown into panic and total confusion.

Judges 5:20-21 NIV  From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera.  (21)  The river Kishon swept them away, the age-old river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong!

  • What helped to confuse and frighten the Canaanites was the sudden appearance of heavy rains during the traditional dry season (June –Sept).
  • He would not have taken his chariots to the fields if there was any hint of bad weather.
  • When you remember, that to them, Baal was the god of storms, you can imagine how this impacted the superstitious Canaanites.
  • Josephus says there was heavy rain and hail,
  • and the wind blew the rain in their faces,
  • which so blinded their eyes,
  • that their slings and arrows were of no use to them; and t
  • hey that bore armor were so benumbed,
  • that they could not hold their swords.

Judges 4:16  But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left. 

No one escaped except for Sisera.  Reported  that nine hundred and ninety seven thousands of His army were slain.

Main body of the army fled northward; others were forced into the Kishon River and drowned

The commander of the Canaanites, fled on foot across the plain

Judges 4:17  However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 

Women had their tents apart from their husbands.

He might think himself safer in a tent than in a town; and especially in the tent of a woman, where he might imagine no search would be made; for women of note, in those times, had separate tents,

He managed to get near the oak of Zaanannim, on the border of Naphatali (Josh 19:33), about six miles east of Mt. Tabor, and the site of the tents of Heber.

Sisera knew that Heber and his family were friendly toward King Jabin, and regarded it as a safe house.

Judges 4:18  And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket

In this culture, nobody would dare enter a wife’s tent except her husband; entering into a woman’s tent, itself, brought them under the death penalty.

She covered him with a blanket: Either to hide him, should any search be made for him, or it may be to keep him from catching cold, being in a sweat through his flight, and being also perhaps inclined to sleep through tiredness 

Judges 4:19  Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. 

(Probably buttermilk)  Sisera had no reason to suspect danger: Heber’s clan was friendly; Jael had shown hospitality and kindness; no pursuing Israelite soldier would force his way into a woman’s tent. He was now confident that he had found a dependable ally and where he could rest in peace. 

Judges 4:20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.'”

He makes the mistake of asking her to lie if anyone asked for him. 

She then realizes that the battle was lost, the grip of the Canaanites was broken, and he was “on the run.” 

If she protected Him, she’d be in trouble with the Israelites, her own relatives. 

Anyone chasing Him wouldn’t be satisfied until the captain was dead.

Judges 4:21  Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. 

In the eastern cultures, the women put up and took down the tents; she knew how to use a hammer with iron nail.  What Sisera didn’t know was that God had promised that a woman would take his life.

So he died; not in the field of battle, but in a tent; not by the sword, but by a nail; not by the hand of a man, but of a woman, as Deborah foretold and prophesied,

Judges 4:22  And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple. 

So Barak saw that a woman had the honor of victory, as Deborah prophesied

What impression this made on the victorious Barak is not said: it could not give him much pleasure, especially when he learned the circumstances of his death.

This victory gained by a woman, as Deborah had foretold and prophesied.

Judges 5:24-26  “Blessed above all women is Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite; most blessed is she among women who live in tents! (25) Sisera asked for water–she gave him milk. In a magnificent bowl she brought him yogurt! (26) She reached out one hand for the tent peg, and her other for the workman’s mallet. Then she struck Sisera, smashing his head, shattering and piercing his temple.

Judges 4:23  So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. 

Judges 4:24  And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

Josephus says, that as Barak went towards Hazor, he met Jabin, and slew him; and took his cities, and destroyed the inhabitants of them and was the commander of the Israelites for forty years, of rest.

Let’s take one more look at the battle between the Lord, Deborah, Barak and Jabin and Sisera.

  • This is a Google Earth Pro Map aerial of the lay of the land around Mount Tabor.
  • We see the location of the Kishon River going through the flat land.
  • Can see on them where both Israel and Canaanite forces gather before the battle.
  • We see on the map where Israel forces won the battle and victory.
  • Then the area where Sisera was killed with a tent peg through his head.

Judge 5:1-31    Deborah and Barak rejoice and sang in victory.

Israel will be at peace for almost forty years.

Possible grave of Deborah or Barak, but to guess, probably Barak, since he is from Kadesh.

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