After Ehud’s deliverance from the Moabite oppression, the land of Israel had rest for 62 years (1342-1280 BC). This should have confirmed the people in the true worship of the true God; but instead, it made them secure, and it indulged their lusts. They again chose the ways of idolatry; but the Lord used distress to drive them back to Him, for there was no other way of relief. As a consequence of their idolatrous ways, Jehovah sold His people into the hands of Jabin, the king of Hazor. This tyrant grievously oppressed them for 20 years (1280-1260 BC) – a period longer than the previous servitudes to the Mesopotamians and the Moabites. Such was the condition of the people who had chosen “new gods” for themselves; and they were a picture of the condition of every person in every age of the Church who forsakes Christ, “the fountain of living waters,” in order to dig broken cisterns for themselves that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13).
Once again, the Lord proved that His arm is never shortened, and that freedom and victory are always possible to faith and obedience. How could a weaponless and impoverished people resist a king who had 900 chariots of iron? But they did not need to despair. Their forefathers did not win the land of Canaan “by their own sword, neither did their own bow save them”; and so also, this newer generation was about to find out that a new deliverance could be effected again, without sword or spear.
The 20 years of subjection to Jabin had proved to be a reign of terror; for the foe was not only mighty, but they also occupied a commanding position in the northern part of the land. But toward the end of these calamitous years, the spirit of prophecy was again manifested in Israel – for the first time since the death of Moses. On this occasion, the gift was bestowed upon a woman named Deborah. She was instructed in Divine knowledge by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. The people first listened to her as the explainer of the Divine will; and then they acknowledged her as the representative of the Divine law, which had been too long forgotten and disobeyed. She made known the will of God in the administration of justice, under a palm tree in the center of the highlands of Ephraim. At length, in 1260 BC, Deborah was impelled – by Divine direction – to summon the repentant tribes to join in a united effort to cast off the yoke of the king of Hazor. She called on Barak – a warrior from Kedesh in Naphtali – to assemble the Israelite forces at Mount Tabor, and she gave him the assurance that the hosts of Jabin would be delivered into his hand. We ought not to be dismayed at the difficulties which we meet with when we serve God or suffer for Him, for He Himself goes before us!
The call was not obeyed without hesitation; Barak desired that Deborah – as the Lord’s spokesperson – would accompany him. The tribes of Zebulun, Naphtali, and Issachar came immediately; Ephraim and Benjamin furnished a contingent; but the tribes of Asher and Dan held aloof, and the tribes beyond the Jordan River took advantage of their natural isolation to remain inactive at this critical period. And the men who did answer Barak’s summons only totaled 10,000. But Jehovah had gone before them! When the vast multitude of the foe came down and advanced, Barak – following the tactics of Joshua at Merom – led his little band of heroes boldly and swiftly against the chariots of Jabin! The sudden charge threw the enemy into confusion. Then, upon their wavering ranks, it seems that a storm of wind and rain burst forth! The clouds poured forth torrents of water, and the stream swelled and overflowed its banks! (chapter 5:21) The plain was converted into a quagmire, and the enemies’ heavy chariots became the very instruments of their defeat; for the horses vainly strove to plunge through the deepening mire! (chapter 5:22) The discomfiture was complete, and the destruction total. And Sisera, the defeated commander, jumped down from his chariot and fled – leaving his routed army to its fate. Sisera’s chariots had been his pride and confidence, and here we see how those who rest on created things as their confidence are soon disappointed.
Weary and thirsty, Sisera sought out the tent of Jael, the wife of a friendly chief, Heber the Kenite (a relative of Moses’ wife). The defeated general was kindly received by Jael, who refreshed him with milk; and then she directed him to lie down to sleep safely in her own tent – into which, according to the customs of the time, no man would venture to intrude. But this generous impulse of offering protection and hospitality soon gave place to feelings of a different kind. The slumbering warrior was a member of a nation whom God had doomed to destruction for their crimes. Would Jael dare to cast the cloak of protection over one whom God had devoted to destruction? No. Seizing a tent-pin and a hammer, she drove the pin into the temples of the sleeping general; and then she showed him as a lifeless corpse to his pursuer, Barak. In the same way, all our connections with God’s enemies must be broken off, if we desire to maintain a relationship with Him. And it is interesting to note that he who sought to destroy Israel with his 900 iron chariots was destroyed himself with one iron nail. Thus we are reminded again that the Lord uses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty! (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
Another 20 years of rest for Israel (1260-1240 BC) were the fruits of that terrible struggle on the banks of the Brook Kishon.
Dear Redeemer! In all our battles with our spiritual foes, give us grace to lean upon Your strength, which is perfected in our own weakness. Amen.
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