Relationships – Deborah and Barak

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.
Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.
When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.
Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.
Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.
Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.
“I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.
“Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.
On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.”

  • Judges 4:1-24

On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
    when the people willingly offer themselves—
    praise the Lord!
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
    I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
    I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
    when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
    the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
    before the Lord, the God of Israel.
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
    in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
    travelers took to winding paths.
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.
God chose new leaders
    when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
    among forty thousand in Israel.
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
    with the willing volunteers among the people.
    Praise the Lord!
“You who ride on white donkeys,
    sitting on your saddle blankets,
    and you who walk along the road,
consider the voice of the singers at the watering places.
    They recite the victories of the Lord,
    the victories of his villagers in Israel.
“Then the people of the Lord
    went down to the city gates.
‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
    Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, Barak!
    Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.’
“The remnant of the nobles came down;
    the people of the Lord came down to me against the mighty.
Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek;
    Benjamin was with the people who followed you.
From Makir captains came down,
    from Zebulun those who bear a commander’s staff.
The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
    yes, Issachar was with Barak,
    sent under his command into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
    there was much searching of heart.
Why did you stay among the sheep pens
    to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
    there was much searching of heart.
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.
    And Dan, why did he linger by the ships?
Asher remained on the coast
    and stayed in his coves.
The people of Zebulun risked their very lives;
    so did Naphtali on the terraced fields.
“Kings came, they fought,
    the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
    they took no plunder of silver.
From the heavens the stars fought,
    from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The river Kishon swept them away,
    the age-old river, the river Kishon.
    March on, my soul; be strong!
Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
    galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord.
    ‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the Lord,
    to help the Lord against the mighty.’
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
    the wife of Heber the Kenite,
    most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
    in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
    her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
    she shattered and pierced his temple.
At her feet he sank,
    he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
    where he sank, there he fell—dead.
“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
    behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
    Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
The wisest of her ladies answer her;
    indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
    a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
    colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
    all this as plunder?’
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
    But may all who love you be like the sun
    when it rises in its strength.”
Then the land had peace forty years.

  • Judges 5:1-31

Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety.

  • 1 Samuel 12:11

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets,

  • Hebrews 11:32

A Quote

[Judges 4:22] I have been struck, while passing through many lands, by the horrible sufferings that have been endured by the poor at the hands of the rich kings and lords who were their oppressors. In almost every town we enter, we have shown to us the rack, the dark dungeon, the thumbscrew, or the internal machine, or instruments too horrible to describe that make one‘s blood run cold at the thought and sight of them. But I speak in sober earnestness when I declare that all the sufferings that have ever been inflicted have never been equal to the tyranny humanity has brought on itself—the tyranny of sin. It has brought more pains and more miseries than the craftiest inventions of the most cold-blooded and diabolical tormentors. Sin is the world’s great despot. It is such a tyranny that none but those God delivers have been able to escape from it. The wicked and powerful King Jabin is but a faint picture of the oppression that our own iniquities bring on us. We stand at the door today, not of a tent but of a tomb, and we say to the sinner who is anxious to know how his sins may be killed, ‘Come and I will show you the man you are looking for. When you come in, you will see your sins lying dead, with nails in their temples.’ The sin we dread is forgiven when we have wept before God and have cast ourselves on Christ alone. In the name of the eternal God, our sins are all forgiven. From the book of God’s remembrance, they are blotted out. They are as gone as the clouds that floated through the sky last year and left their showers on the ground. Our sins are gone, every one of them. The sins over which we have wept are gone and are forgiven.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

This relationship is rather unique.  Deborah was a prophetess.  Barak was a military leader.  Barak saved his people from oppression, but on this occasion, he is hesitant in going into battle, even with Deborah giving the prophecy that he will be victorious.  God curses Barak in that the enemy’s general Sisera will be killed by a woman because of Barak’s insistence that he would only go against this powerful enemy if Deborah accompanied him.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

With 1 Samuel and Hebrews praising Barak, with no mention of Deborah, Barak, in hindsight is praised as a brave leader of men, but this story looks more like a man hiding behind “Mommy’s apron.”

Barak, once he had the assurance that God was with him, was a brave and trustworthy leader.  Compare this, however, to Joshua.  Joshua was anointed by the priest in Moses’ presence and awarded a portion of the Spirit that was obviously given to Moses.  Joshua’s faith carried the day.  But Barak is more like us.  We have no experience where we have held out a hand and the enemy fell at our feet, without doing anything.  I can understand Barak’s hesitation.  What if something goes wrong.  I would want that person that seems to have God on speed dial.

Barak could have had God on speed dial.  He simply was unaware that God was there for His people.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

The picture of Barak sucking his thumb and hiding behind Deborah would be unkind and unfaithful to the text.  If that were the case, Deborah would have been mentioned in 1 Samuel and Hebrews.  Barak was more of a leader than many sermons have led the congregation to believe.  Yet, that moment’s hesitation led God to rob Barak of the prize in battle.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

Have you ever hesitated?  I was asked to go on a dangerous mission one time.  I weighed the options for a few seconds and then the person who had offered said, “You lose.  If you hesitate, you are not the person that I am looking for.”  But hey, introverts practice what they say before they say it.  I might have been the best person for that mission.

But we all hesitate from time to time.  Have you ever thought of when you might be near death?  Would you be like Hezekiah and ask for more time?  Would you be like Lot’s wife and turn around to see what you are leaving?

Deborah prophesied.  Her job should have been complete, but she went with Barak and wrote a song of victory.  It was the joint victory of Deborah and Barak.  But it is always the victory of God as God protects his people.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.

A Closing Prayer

As a leader, we must trust You and be bold as we face the enemy.  That shows our faith in You, and those that follow us will see that.  Help us to know that we can rely on You.  All we must do is call upon You, and You will do what is for the good of those who love You.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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