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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books

Judges 4

Verses 1-24

Judges chapter four may indicate Shamgar worked only briefly after Ehud. At any rate, the children of Israel began to worship idols again after the death of Ehud ( Jdg_4:1 ; Jdg_5:8 ). God allowed Jabin, king of the Canaanites, to conquer and rule over them. Jabin's general, Sisera, terrorized the people with nine hundred chariots of iron for twenty years (4:2-3; Jos_17:16-18 ). During this time of oppression, Deborah judged the people under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel. She describes herself as a mother in Israel, possibly because she loved the people with a mother's love (4:4-5; 5:7). She is called a prophetess because she made God's will known. Miriam, Noadiah, Hulda, Anna and Philip's four virgin daughters are also called by that name ( Exo_15:20 ; Neh_6:14 ; 2Ki_22:14-20 ; Luk_2:36 ; Act_21:8-9 ). Like other judges, Deborah heard the cases brought to her and made sure all was handled justly.

God also used her to gain Israel's freedom from their enemies by having her call Barak from Kadesh in Naphtali. Barak was to assemble 10,000 fighting men of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. When they were assembled, God promised to call out the army of Sisera at the River Kishon and deliver them into their hands. Barak would not go without Deborah, possibly because he lacked confidence in himself or because he wanted to be reassured of God's wishes in reference to the attack by the presence of his spokeswoman. Deborah said she would go, but the honor of the victory would be given to a woman (4:6-9).

When Sisera heard that Barak assembled an army at Tabor, he led his chariots and armies to the River Kishon. Then, Deborah told Barak to begin the battle because God had delivered Sisera into their hand. Josephus says a rain and hail storm occurred as the battle began, with the wind driving it right into the faces of the enemy (compare 5:19-22). Certainly, it could be said God was fighting for them in that case. Sisera fled on foot while the rest of the army was killed by the sword (4:10-17).

Verses 11 and 17 tell us Heber the Kenite had separated from his tribe, was at peace with Jabin and lived beside Kadesh. As Sisera fled, he came to the tent of Heber and was invited in by Jael, Heber's wife. She hid him under a blanket and brought him milk when he asked for a drink of water. He promptly fell asleep and she took a tent peg and drove it through his temple into the earthen floor, thus killing him. This would seem to be the fulfillment of God's prophecy through Deborah in verse 9.

When Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, Jael invited him in to see the man he sought. As always, the true credit for the victory of God's people goes to God himself and the text notes such was accomplished in the presence of the children of Israel (4:18- 23; 5:24-27).

With God's help, Israel grew stronger and stronger until they were able to destroy Jabin. As Deborah says in her song, "Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord! But let those who love Him be like the sun When it comes out in full strength." The text then simply tells us the land had rest for forty years (4:24; 5:28-31).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Judges 4". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.