Understanding the Old Testament

Deborah the Prophetess

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Sometime after Ehud died, the Israelites again turned to evil. (Judges 4:1) So God allowed them to be oppressed for twenty years by Jabin, a Canaanite king. He ruled from the city of Hazor, a stronghold north of the Sea of Galilee, in the territory of Naphtali. Jabin had a strong army, with 900 iron chariotsóa powerful weapon the Israelites lacked. (Judges 4:3)

Judges 5:6 hints at how onerous Jabinís rule must have been for the Israelites: ďthe highways were deserted, And travelers went by roundabout ways.Ē People were too fearful to use normal routes of travel, probably because those routes were watched by Jabin's soldiers.

When Godís people sought His help, He delivered His message through Deborah, who was both a judge and a prophetess. She summoned Barak son of Abinoam and instructed him to gather an army of 10,000 men to defeat Jabin.

Jabinís influence was probably limited to the northern portions of Canaan. This seems a logical deduction from several facts: (1) Deborah judged in Ephraim and did not seem to be impacted by Jabinís oppression (see Judges 4:4-5); (2) Deborah instructed Barak to draw his army from two northern tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali, whose territory was located west and north of the Sea of Galilee (Judges 4:6, 10; however, Judges 5:14-17 implies that some of the other tribes also sent troops); and (3) the battle occurred at the Kishon River, which is in northern Israel.

Barak agreed to follow Deborahís instructions, but only if she would accompany him. (Judges 4:8) She consented, but warned him that as a result a woman would receive the honor that would otherwise be his. (Judges 4:9) Barak probably thought Deborah was referring to herself.

Per Judges 5:21, the Kishon River flooded during the battle, rendering Jabinís chariots ineffective. As a result, the Lord gave Barak a decisive victory. (Judges 4:13-16, 23-24)

After the battle, Jabinís general, Sisera, fled for his life to the tent of Heber the Kenite. Heberís wife, Jael, took Sisera in, hid him, gave him something to drinkóand then murdered him as he slept. (Judges 4:17-22) Thus, a woman, rather than Barak, received the honor of killing Sisera.

And the land had peace for another forty years. (Judges 5:31)

Questions to ponder or discuss: Barak doubted Deborahís message until she was willing to place her own safety in jeopardy by accompanying him. Can you think of a time (or times) when someone else's faithful actions helped bolster your own faith? Now think of a time when you acted on your faith. Did it help inspire anyone else? Do you believe that faith can be contagious?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15):

Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity

Stories of the Faithful (with some church history)

Christmas Stories

Understanding the Old Testament

The Truth About America Star Books


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I am a member of Trinity Arts Writers Workshop, in Bedford, Texas.