Judges 4 Deborah And Barak.
Again one reads of the practice of evil among the people with the loss of godly leadership, at this stage with the death of Ehud (v. 1 Cf. 2:11, 19). So again, the LORD “sold them” to his and their enemy, in this case Jabin the Canaanite, a descendant of the Jabin of Joshua 11:1-9 (v. 2 NGSB. 337 Cf. Ps. 106:40-43). In saying that he sold them it of course implies that he had bought them, that they were his by redemption (Is. 52:3). What specifically caused them to be sold was their evil deeds (Cf. 2:14; Is. 50:1). Chariots covered with iron proved to be too formidable for the people to drive out. This was a fault of Judah (1:19)! This subjugation under Sisera lasted 20 years (v. 3 Cf. I Sam. 12:9; Ps. 83:9). Into this context we find the LORD raising up a prophetess named Deborah, who as a prophetess through whom the word of God came, was also a judge at that time (v. 4). It is important to note that not all judges were prophets, but there is no mention of women as judges except one like Deborah who was also a prophetess. The fact that she was also a prophetess would seem to indicate that this was a prerequisite for her as a woman to also sit as a judge. As a prophetess she was called to remind the people of their covenant obligations, and of their sin in turning their backs on the LORD (v. 5). “The palm tree of Deborah” is likely named after Rebekah’s nurse of Genesis 35:8. (NGSB. 337)
Perhaps because she was a woman, the word of the LORD to Barak was not immediately heeded by him, to deploy his troops at Mt. Tabor. More likely it was a case of Barak being only a military man, though not fearful as some like Waltke and others suppose, did want some assurance of victory. The LORD said that he in turn would cause Sisera to deploy his troops in opposition (vv. 6-7). Verse 8 would seem to suggest that Barak lacked courage, but the writer to the Hebrews suggests otherwise (11:32). What Barak was asking for in asking for Deborah to accompany them, is that she would back up her words with her own commitment. After all, it was a rare event to have a word from a prophetess to go to war against such odds. Nevertheless, it did speak to a lack of faith on his part, and as a result he would not be credited with any victory, but instead the LORD would “sell Sisera into the hand of a woman,” which would also be humiliating for Sisera (v. 9). So Barak and Deborah went together (v. 10). As the LORD had promised, he through his chose means caused Sisera to deploy for war (vv. 11-13). Then Deborah, as was her calling, told Barak that the LORD was moving and he must move with him (v. 14). Despite having all his men and their chariots, Barak and his men were able to defeat them all (vv. 15-16).
Sisera fled, no doubt in hopes of not being defeated personally by a woman in Deborah, but the woman Jael would later put a spike through his head (vv. 17-22). So Deborah’s prophetic word did find fulfillment. She was not speaking of herself. The people would increase in strength, eventually defeating Jabin himself (vv. 23-24). Jael stands out as one who regarded the covenant which her ancestors had with Israel, ie., the Kenite with Moses, was greater than the treaty her husband Heber had with the children of Jobab (4:11). In giving milk instead of water Sisera was put to sleep. Although he asked Jael to lie for him, she instead bore true witness against his treachery, thus her deception was praised, contrary again to some who think they can ignore the clear testimony of the scriptures they claim to exegete. Again, we read of a complete destruction here, and again under a foreign woman. So again the LORD shows that the victory was his through those who in human terms were considered insignificant.