The woman saw a sword...

Rejoicing Women - Second in a Series

Judges 5 begins, Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam, however, it soon becomes clear that it is her song. Barak joins with her but does not phrase it. Let's look at Judges 4 to understand why.

Early in the book of Judges, after being delivered from many enemies by three judges, Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar, roughly two centuries after the death of Moses and one century before Israel's last judge, Samuel, would rule, a strange occurrence is introduced: A woman is judging Israel under the shade of her own palm tree (Jdg 4:4, 5).

Evidently leadership in proclaiming God's Word had fallen to a woman, an unusual occurrence. In any case God honored her, which some commentators view as his way of provoking the men to be ashamed of themselves for their lack of desire to serve the Lord.

As Deborah sat beneath her private palm judging the Hebrews, a time came when she sent for Barak and charged 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? (Jdg 4:6)

Evidently Barak had received a word from God to go to war and Deborah was assuring him. He lacked confidence even though the Lord had stated he would deliver Sisera, captain of the Canaanite army, into his hand. (Jdg 4:7) So he said to Deborah, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go, but not if you don't. (Jdg 4:8)

She agreed to go but prophesied, The journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. (Jdg 4:9) She knew that Barak ought to look to the Lord, not to her.

So Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh and there were 10,000 men, and Deborah (Jdg 4:10). It is also noted that Heber the Kenite, a relation of Moses by marriage, was living in the area and that his kin helped Sisera by showing him that Barak had stationed his army at mount Tabor (Jdg 4:11).

Sisera gathered 900 chariots of iron and his troops. A historian, Josephus (ref) states that his army consisted of 3,000 infantry and 10,000 calvary besides the iron chariots. In an excellent commentary, John Gill has written this of the chariots: (ibid)

...chariots which carried scythes at the side of them, fastened to the orbs of the wheels, and were on both sides; and in some stood out ten cubits which running furiously among the infantry, cut them to pieces in a terrible manner; of which Cyrus had in his army at first but an hundred, afterwards increased to three hundred; and yet here a petty prince of Canaan had nine hundred of them.

Deborah said to 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 descended mount Tabor followed by his 10,000 troops.

Seeing the active obedience of his people, the Lord discomfitted their enemies by the edge of his sword so that Sisera jumped from his chariot, and then Barak pursued his troops. (Jdg 4:15-16)

Today, when we are called to defeat terrifying enemies against all odds, our Lord still goes before us with his sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God Eph 6:17, our Bible. This word has power to clear our way, strengthen us, and give us the victory. The sword of the Lord driving, reaching, polished, pure, strong, tested, reflecting the light of a thousand suns, going before Barak all the way down the mountain, pictures the Word as our shield and defense (Prov 30:5; Mat 4:4).

to be continued

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