Title: Judges 4-5. Deborah's song, part 1.
Announcements / opening prayer:
Let's look at the right or wrong of Jael's execution of Sisera before we move on to Deborah's song.
JDG 4:21 But Jael, Heber's wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died.
More detail is given in Deborah's song.
JDG 5:24 "Most blessed of women is Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Most blessed is she of women in the tent.
JDG 5:25 " He asked for water and she gave him milk; In a magnificent bowl she brought him curds.
JDG 5:26 " She reached out her hand for the tent peg, And her right hand for the workmen's hammer. Then she struck Sisera, she smashed his head; And she shattered and pierced his temple.
JDG 5:27 "Between her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay; Between her feet he bowed, he fell; Where he bowed, there he fell dead.
Deborah's prediction in 4:9 comes to fruition.
She is called a blessed woman and so she is praised for her actions, at least by Deborah. She acted in deceit, but as we have seen with Ehud who also acted in deceit and assassination, she was used by God to carry out His judgment. We must remember that God will even use evil people and nations to execute His judgment, like Babylon and Assyria upon Judah and Israel. I wouldn't say that Jael is evil in the category of Babylon, but I doubt that she should be praised for her methods. She was not instructed by God to do this, and so she does not make God an author of deceit.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
But those who deal faithfully are His delight.
So when we look at the big picture, we see in Israel, as commanded by God, to take the battlefield openly, without deceitful tactics, and await His power. We see in the fiery Arab woman deceit and assassination.
It's not a race issue, but a people issue. It is a contrast to those who humbly follow the command of God and those who do according to their own ways and customs, no matter what race they are a part of.
None of us have to "aid" God's plan by lying or deceiving others. The power is in the truth and not in any of man's ways of trickery.
I shy away from personal judgments in such cases. She is praised in Deborah's song but not by God, but the song is in the inspired word of God as being praised. One thing we know for sure, and it is that God can use any instrument He chooses, but He does not force them to do it. He is wise enough to use them in their free-will.
So I refer to Alfred Edersheim.
"There is, as it seems to us, not a word in Scripture to express its approbation of so horrible a deed of deceit and violence— no, not even in the praise which Deborah in her song bestows upon Jael. It was not like Deborah’s war, nor like Barak’s battle, but strictly Kenite. Her allegiance to the cause of the people of God, her courage, her zeal, were Israelitish; their fanatical, wild, unscrupulous manifestation belonged to the race from which she had sprung, to the traditions amidst which she had been nurtured, and to the fiery blood which coursed in her veins—they were not of God nor of His word, but of her time and race. Heathen history tells of similar deeds, and records them with highest praise; Scripture with solemn silence, Yet even so Jehovah reigneth, and the fierce Arab was the sword in His hand!"
JDG 4:22 And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, "Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking." And he entered with her, and behold Sisera was lying dead with the tent peg in his temple.
Barak was not given the satisfaction of killing the general. It is possible that it is a result of his weakness in faith, but we are not told.
We see in the scripture that God employs sinners as the instruments of His penal justice in carrying out the plans of His kingdom, but they are not instigated to the performance of wicked deeds by an inward and secret impulse from Him. They choose to do what they do and yet God allows them to be the sword in His hand.
JDG 4:23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the sons of Israel.
JDG 4:24 And the hand of the sons of Israel pressed heavier and heavier upon Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan.
Not all the Canaanites are destroyed, but the kingdom of Hazor under Jabin is destroyed and the land enjoyed peace for forty years.
Now we turn to Deborah's song in which more detail is given.
The song was composed by Deborah, vs. 3, 7, 12.
The first part, vv. 3-11, she expands upon the significance of the victory.
I find it quite satisfying that Deborah was so overwhelmed by the grace of God that she chose to write the occasion into a song so that Israel could always remember it and celebrate it. In this she is like David, whose passion for the Lord led him to write many songs.
JDG 5:1 Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying,
JDG 5:2 "That the leaders led in Israel, That the people volunteered, Bless the Lord!
The Hebrew word translated "leaders" refers to strong ones who were champions in the fight and went before the people in bravery and strength.
"leaders" - champions in the fight who put forth strength and courage before the people.
They were willing to go and to fight and to lead others into the fight. They had strength and bravery through faith and the Lord is praised for rising them up. They went into battle without any outward or authoritative command by a king, for Israel has no king.
This introduction transports us in the most striking manner into the time of the judges, when Israel had no king who could summon the nation to war, but everything depended upon the voluntary rising of the strong and the will of the nation at large.
Israel has no king to summon them to war. The strong must always be ready to volunteer and show faith and to lead others.
The manifestation of this strength and willingness Deborah praises as a gracious gift of the Lord.
JDG 5:3 " Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I — to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.
The "kings and rulers" are kings of heathen nations who were to discern the mighty acts of Jehovah. It is evangelization of Gentile nations.
It can't refer to kings and rulers in Israel since they had none at the time. The Gentile nations were to learn to fear Jehovah as almighty God.
The news of major battles was always spread by mouth on the trading routes, which also traveled over the sea. When there was a major upset and word of a miracle, news travelled farther and faster. It's not that everyone believed the news, but at the least they received it. As we see in Rahab in Jericho, God was sure to spread the news of His miraculous dealings in order to give all men the option to discern His power and through fear of Him to perceive His gospel and believe.
JDG 5:4 "Lord, when You did go out from Seir, When You did march from the field of Edom, The earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, Even the clouds dripped water.
JDG 5:5 "The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord, This Sinai, at the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.
Jehovah is pictured as marching from the east [Seir, a mountain east of Edom] to meet Israel at Sinai where the cloud descended and the earth quaked.
Deborah refers to the Exodus when the power of God caused the miraculous release of the Jews from Egypt and at Sinai, God confirmed them as His nation. This is a reminder to Israel and all the nations that Jehovah is the only God and that Baal and all other false gods show no power. The other nations should fear and believe.
Moses also refers to this mighty act in his blessing:
"The Lord came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.
This is how Moses begins his blessing and so Deborah at the start of her song unmistakably borrows Moses' pattern of blessing. She makes the praise of this glorious manifestation of God the starting-point of her praise of the great grace, which Jehovah as the faithful covenant God had displayed to His people in her own days.
Moses describes Sinai as a witnessed fact while Deborah clothes the remembrance of it in the form of an address to God, to bring out the thought that the help which Israel had just experienced was a renewal of the coming of the Lord to His people.
It is like asking, if the Lord saved you then, setting you free when the odds were impossible, then won't He deliver you now?
Paul does the same thing when he writes:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
As so many prophets and writers will do throughout Israel's history, Deborah seeks to renew the covenant of Moses in the hearts of Israel during her time. And why follow the conditional covenant of Moses? Certainly the curses in the Law are dire, but there is a greater reason. If God delivered you from the way of slavery in Egypt and gave you freedom then the way of His plan for you must also be the way of freedom. Following the law will give Israel the experience of freedom.