JUDGES – Chapter 4 – Teaching Notes – Don D. Stephens

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 the king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; —

This is the 3rd apostasy. As long as the judge, who God raised up, lived, the people obeyed the Lord. As soon as he died, people quickly forgot the Lord.

Israel had already taken Hazor in an earlier battle, when Joshua was alive.

However, they evidently didn’t follow instructions by cleaning it all out, because they allowed the people to remain there. Jabin has now become strong, and Jabin puts them to a tribute. This, again, was the direct result of their failure to follow God’s instructions.

It would seem that it would be the northern tribes around the Galilee that were more affected by this king, because Hazor is just north of the Sea of Galilee, probably 5 to 7 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and then up into the area of the upper Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is approximately six hundred feet below sea level. The upper valley is above the Sea of Galilee. Hazor is north towards Hermon, not a long distance.

Historically, Hazor was a very powerful city. There are vast excavations there, including a huge tell. It would be an exciting time for me, to visit this area.

So God sold them into the hand of Jabin the Canaanite, who was reigning in Hazor; and the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and for twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

As we discussed in previous chapters, chariots of iron were equivalent to tanks in battle in those days. They were formidable weapons against the infantry. Pulled by the horses, an infantry wouldn’t have a chance against the chariots. And 900 chariots of iron is no small armament. It makes for a powerful brigade.

Deborah, the prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, who judged Israel at that time. She dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel would come unto her for judgment.

This woman was a prophetess. She was a judge in Israel, and they would come to her for judgment. She is, indeed, a prophetess, so she speaks the work of the Lord.

And so she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and she said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with you 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 your hand. And Barak said unto her, If you will go with me, I will go: but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.

This was not a very brave gesture, by this man, was it? He wouldn’t go to fight, unless she went with him. Again, we see man unwilling to trust the promise of God for delivery. He turns to the flesh for help.

And so she said, I will surely go with you: notwithstanding the journey that you take shall not be for your honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And so Deborah arose, and went with Barak unto Kedesh.

Again, this lack of trust in the LORD cost Barak the honor of the victory. The honor of this victory went to a woman, according to Deborah.

So 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, who 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.

Heber was a descendant of Moses’ father in law. These people came into the land with the children of Israel but, for the most part, they settled in the wilderness around Arad and Beersheba. They were nomadic type Bedouin people, who chose the southern country to settle. However, this one guy had moved up to the northern areas.

In Israel, today, the Bedouins live all over Israel. Most of them are in the wilderness area, with many Bedouin tents and encampments between Jerusalem and Jericho. If you go up to Galilee, you will find them encamped near Galilee, and you’ll find them encamped in an area near Mount Carmel. It’s amazing that this group of people still exist today, in much the same way they did, historically, in tents, with their livestock all around them. So, it is not unusual to have a Bedouin in the northern part.

In this story, this one Bedouin had left the normal habitat down in the wilderness area, and had come on up towards the upper end of the Sea of Galilee, near Kedesh, and he warned the king. Evidently, he had a good relationship with the King of Hazor, with Jabin, and he warned him that the children of Israel had gathered together at Tabor.

Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the rest of the Kenites, pitched his tent in the plain, which is by Kedesh. And he showed Sisera [the captain] that Barak was gone up to mount Tabor. So Sisera gathered together all of his chariots, all nine hundred chariots of iron, and the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river Kishon.

The river Kishon really isn’t much of a river. It’s more like what we, in Missouri, would call a stream. There is not much water in it, today, so it is really hard to see. You can see the green trees that grow along the banks, but there isn’t really much water in Kishon. So, he gathered together, with his 900 iron chariots, at Kishon.

And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, with the ten thousand men after him. And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all of his chariots, and all of his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.

In the song of Deborah, we find that God did this by sending a kind of flood. The chariots got bogged down in the mire and couldn’t move. So, the troops became easy targets for Barak’s infantry, who came pouring down out of Mount Tabor and attacked them. This happened right there by the Kishon. Barak attacked them and destroyed them, but Sisera jumped out of his chariot, and began to flee.

But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all of the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left. Howbeit Sisera had fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite:

This is the tent of the same guy, who had warned Sisera about where they were camped. Jael is his wife.

…….for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; and don’t fear. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me a drink, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him a drink, and covered him. 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. Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took a hammer in her hand, and she went softly unto him, and she smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. And so he died instantly.

That is a pretty gruesome scene, isn’t it? He must have fallen asleep, because he was so tired from the running. She snuck in and drove a nail through his head.

Ouch!

Now, there is some question as to the deceitfulness of Jael. There are a lot of possibilities here, one of them being, because there was a friendship involved, that when Sisera first arrived, she recognized him, because her husband had warned him that Barak was in Mount Tabor with some troops. It could be that she was genuine in her offer of hospitality, but when, through his fear and telling her to like about where he was, while he hid, she may have realized that he had been defeated. So, being determined to get on the winning side, she took the action. I don’t want to get too harsh on Jael, because there is that very real possibility.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet, and said unto him, Come, and I will show you the man that you are looking for. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan.

It’s interesting that Barak, himself, was chasing Sisera. I can’t even imagine the excitement that would come with such a complete victory over such huge odds. It would be obvious to Barak that God’s hand was in all this. Based on that, he kept pushing forward to complete the mission, with the promise of complete victory from God.

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