JOSHUA had died, and after him the children of Israel had no settled leader for nearly four hundred years, not till the days of Samuel. During this time the people often forgot the Lord and were led away to the worship of idols. Then some enemy would oppress them, and the Lord would raise up a leader to deliver them. These leaders were called judges. We must read about some of them.
At one time the enemies were the Canaanites, the “low-landers,” living especially by the Jordan and in the seashore plain. Jabin king of Hazor was their leader. It was a different Jabin from the one who ruled in Hazor in the days of Joshua. The other Jabin had chariots in his army, and this Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron. They were wilh Sisera, Jabin’s captain, at Harosheth.
See on the map where Mount Carmel juts out into the sea. North of Carmel is a broad plain for some distance along the shore; further inland is the great, rich plain of Esdraelon. The hills of Galilee at one point come close to Carmel, leaving only room for the brook Kishon to run through towards the sea. Just here was Harosheth, looking one way upon the seashore plain and the other upon the great plain of Esdraelon; and here the chariots were stationed to guard this gate-way and command the plains. Esdraelon is a beautiful meadow, green or checkered with many-colored crops, and in the old lime dotted with many towns, stretching away twenty miles to the hills that shut it in. On the east are three mountains: Tabor is furthest north, an even-shaped rounded mountain rising steeply from the plain; Little Hermon is next, and Gilboa is furthest south. Between them narrow strips of green reach like lingers down to the Jordan.
At this time Deborah a prophetess judged Israel. Can we find her home? It was in the tribe of Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel. She called Barak to lead the army of I srael. Can we find his home ? It was in the tribe of Naph-tali, at Kedesh, not far from Hazor. The army was from the tribes nearest at hand, Naphtali and Zebulun. Deborah and Barak gathered soldiers on Mount Tabor. Princes of Issachar were also with them, who lived in the great green plain below.
Sisera and his chariots came out from Harosheth into the plain towards Tabor, and the army of Israel came down from the mountain and met, them in the plain. In their thanksgiving for the victory Deborah and Barak sang, “They fought from heaven ; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away. . . . Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings.” Perhaps there was hail such as helped Joshua and the children of Israel at Beth-horon. The rain also swelled the stream and made the meadow along its banks a mire, in which the horses and chariots sank. So “Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet,” northward.
There were some tents pitched on the highland west of the Sea of Galilee, near the oak of Zaanaim, belonging to a part of the family of the Kenites, descendants of the old priest of Midian, the father-in-law of Moses. The Kenites had come with the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. Most of them lived in the south, but Heber had separated from the rest of his people and had pitched his tent in the highland west of the Sea of Galilee. They were at peace with their strong neighbor Jabin king of Hazor, but they still wished well to their old friends the children of Israel. So Sisera fleeing from the battle came to the tent of Heber. What befell him there, we shall learn as we read the story.
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 king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. 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.
And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. 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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire 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 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. And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. 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 king of Canaan. …So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.—Judges IV.; V. 31.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Sisera with his horses and chariots >> Natural reasonings which evil uses to destroy conscience and spiritual life
Deborah under the palm tree >> Trust in the saving power of the Lord
Army in the mountain descending upon the enemy in the plain >> Heaven fighting our own battles
Jael’s help >> A simple love of Truth which welcomes teaching from the Lord