The fall of Jabin at the hands of so few SINGS of the Lord’s intervention. Deborah, Barak, Jael and the 10,000 faithful are sung of in victory!
SO MANY things about this victory are special and unique. It is definitely song material! First was God’s use of a woman to relay His messages to Israel. Second was her summons to a man who had already had that message in his heart. Third is his insistence that SHE come to the battlefield with them. Fourth is the number and origin of the men who came. Fifth are the forces they faced and those forces’ defeat. Sixth is the manner of the leader’s death. And last is the absence of any other help from Israel.
In the entry titled Judge Deborah we go over most of these points except the last one. I’m going to hit the first six again but just briefly. I want to focus on the last one a bit more today.
First, Deborah is the only judge God raised up that was a woman. I did a little research yesterday concerning women in the role of prophetess. I found there were only seven (or nine if you include Rachel and Leah) women mentioned. They were Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, Abigail, and Esther. To my knowledge most of these women’s prophetic activities were short. Deborah’s was extensive, widely known and actively sought after. Yeah God! Even in a male dominated society, You chose to elevate women.
Second, Deborah’s initial interaction with Barak shows that God had already given him the message she was delivering. He chose to ignore it. He may have been waiting for confirmation because what he was called to do was extraordinary! He probably wanted to make SURE he was hearing from the right source. I can understand his reluctance in going with whatever pops into your mind. I like to check things out too.
Thirdly, Barak INSISTED that Deborah go with him. If you look back through history you will find that most armies feared women on the battlefield. Women were often part of the plunder but NOT the plunderers. They did not make the battle plans or serve on the front lines. They bound up the wounded, cared for the soldiers and kept the “home fires burning” during the absence of their men. But Barak would not go to war unless Deborah went with him and he didn’t begin his battle until SHE called for the attack. She also reminded him of Who was really carrying out the victory.
For the fourth point, when Barak marshaled his troops they came from two tribes of Israel; Naphtali and Zebulun. God told Deborah to tell Barak exactly where to get his troops from and how many to take. Barak’s location that he was summoned from tends to indicate that he was from the tribe of Naphtali. These two tribes border one another but they also share borders with several other tribes. There was the exact number of men ready, willing and able to answer the call from these tribes alone.
The fifth point comes from the other side. The number of men is not given but the number of chariots is. There were 900 chariots. These were “war machines” and capable of doing great damage. They would not be alone though. The number of chariots suggests a massive force accompany them. These would be the archers, spearmen, swordsmen, scouts, and runners. I would put this force at least the same in number as Barak’s troops or even greater. The enemy only had 900 chariots so if they were sending all they had from this one armament you can probably assume they were turning out with all they had from the other divisions too. I may be wrong in this assumption though because they thought their chariots invincible. Which brings us to the fact that Barak and his 10,000 men, even with Deborah there, were not physically able to DEMOLISH this enemy. But that is exactly what they did. Not a man escaped! GOD FOUGHT THIS BATTLE FOR THEM!
My sixth point is the manner and initiator of the leader of this HUGE army’s death. God used Jael to end this man’s reign of terror on her fellow Israelites. She wasn’t under the thumb of the oppressors because her husband had made friends with him. But Jael wasn’t her husband. She acted to end the oppression when the opportunity presented itself. She has her own verse in this victory song! From verse 24-27 her hospitality and carefully orchestrated movements that ended in death are recounted. God put her in the right place at the right time to help deliver Israel.
The final point in this song is the fact that none of the rest of Israel raised a finger to help. This song starts with the beginning of Israel. It sings praises for the people choosing to follow God in the beginning. It definitely skips over the times they rebelled but highlights some of the more important points in their history with God. It also points out the conditions at the time this battle was waged.
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways. The villagers ceased in Israel” (verses 6-7a). People were afraid to travel. They moved around only when they had to. It was too dangerous to do otherwise. “Was shield or spear to be seen among fourth thousand in Israel? My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people” (verses 8b-9). Weapons were few or non-existent. Israel didn’t have some big army, armed to the teeth, to fight for them. They had their farmers and anyone else who would physically stand in the gap.
We don’t know if these two tribes were the only ones affected by this occupation but I doubt it. They were surrounded by their brothers. Asher was between them and the sea. Manasseh was below and Barak had to cross it to reach Deborah in the land of Ephraim. Gad was on the other side of the Jordan on their eastern side. Yet NONE of these tribes rose up in this battle. Issachar is mentioned as having supplied commanders though.
“From Ephraim their root they marched down into the valley. Following you, Benjamin with your kinsmen; from Machir marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the lieutenant’s staff; the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed at his heels. Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds, to hear the whistling for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of the heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he stay with the ships? Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, staying by his landings. Zebulun is a people who risked their lives to the death; Naphtali, too. On the heights of the field” (verses 14-18).
Why didn’t the other tribes help? Why did God only call for troops from these two tribes? Were they the only ones He knew would listen? If they weren’t called, why are they scolded for not participating? Did they fail to act afterwards or were they refusing help beforehand?
Reminds me of the story of Henny Penny. She asked for help MANY times and was rebuffed each time as those she sought help from were too busy with their own concerns. AFTER all the work was done and the fruits of her labor were evident did they offer to “help” her consume them. But unlike Henny Penny’s lazy friends, the rest of Naphtali and Zebulun’s neighbors reaped the benefits of their hard work. There was still work left to do in crushing Jabin’s rule completely but the hard work had already been done. His forces lay in shambles and he had NO chariots left. Maybe that is when the rest of the tribes (or at least the ones nearby) were ready to lend a hand.
Father God, I would like to think that I would be one of the early responders in this song but I can’t say for sure if I would. I am famous in my own life for waiting until all the bugs are worked out before buying a new piece of technology. I’m also one who has to be SURE it is You calling me instead of my own ambition. Would my faith be strong enough to step out without my own Deborah? Would I be a Barak, a Deborah, a Jael, one of the 10,000 or even a Reubenite shepherd? Or would I be like someone from Judah who wasn’t even mentioned because they were too far away and ‘minding their own business’?
Show me my place Lord in the work You have. I don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines ‘soul searching’ when You have called me to do something more. But I also don’t want to rush out into any battle that I started on my own because I couldn’t tell who was ‘encouraging me’ to take up arms. I want to be able to hear as clearly as Deborah did. I wouldn’t mind being as quietly dedicated as Jael was either. She served her best where she was at until You brought her an opportunity she KNEW was from You. Lead me Lord as clearly as You led these two women.