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Verses 1-31



To celebrate God's great victory over Canaan, Deborah and Barak sang a remarkable song. Since Deborah's name is mentioned first, it seems likely that she composed the song (v. 7). It begins with leaders in Israel taking their proper place to provide leadership as ordered by God. But what rightly accomplishes this is the willing response of the people in offering themselves to engage in warfare for the Lord's sake. Kings and princes are summoned to hear the praises of the Lord for this great victory (v. 3).

Then the Lord is addressed in verse 4. He is seen as going out from Seir, marching from the field of Edom. Edom (the same name as Adam with only the vowels changed, for the flesh loves to disguise itself) pictures the strength of the flesh. The Lord leaves all that behind, for fleshly energy means nothing to Him. He marches in majestic splendor, causing the earth to tremble and the heavens to pour torrents of water. The gentle rains speak of the blessing of the Word of God that brings forth fruit. But when rain is increased to a downpour, this pictures the Word of God bringing judgment. Just as bright sunshine can be a blessing and yet excessively hot sun a curse, so sufficient water is good, but excessive water an unwelcome affliction. God can easily use for judgment that which He first intended for man's good.

"The mountains quaked before the Lord" (v.5--NASB). Mountains symbolize authorities, and this includes Mount Sinai, which expresses the authority of law over Israel. The awesome majesty of God was evident when the law was given. "Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly" (Exodus 19:18). Who will not fear before a God of such magnificent power and splendor?

Verse 6 goes back to speak of the sad condition into which Israel had fallen before their victory over Sisera. "In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways." This was because of Philistine and Canaanite oppression (Ch. 3:31 and tie. 4). Israelites were afraid to come into the open, walking on highways, because endangered by the hostility of their enemies, so that they sought the obscurity of the byways. This is a reminder ofPsalms 84:5; Psalms 84:5, "Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee,...they in whose heart are the highways" (JND trans.). The highways lead straight on to a certain destination, so that having the highways in the heart speaks of having the attitude of going unhinderedly onward towards the goal in glory of being with the Lord (Philippians 3:14), and therefore not inclined to turn into the byways, the devious, winding paths that may draw less attention, but are not the straight paths of faith.Let us have firm decision in making Christ in glory our one real Object, not turning to one side or the other.

Also, "village life ceased." This too became endangered, for in the villages there was no protection.In times of peace and prosperity, village life can be very pleasant.Everyoneknows everyone else, and life goes on without great trouble. But the Philistines and Canaanites would threaten any attempt to continue village life. Similarly, Satan attacks small assemblies of God's people today by mocking them for continuing to maintain a small testimony, and tempting some to give this up.

Sad conditions in Israel continued until" I, Deborah, arose a mother in Israel' (v. 7). How beautiful to read this! She does not say, "a leader in Israel," but "a mother." It was because of her mother's heart that she was moved as she was, out of care for the people as though they had been her children.

Israel had foolishly chosen new gods (v.8) and this was followed by losing their defense: "not a shield or spear was found among forty thousand in Israel." Thus Satan, in injecting his idolatrous religion into Israel, had divested Israel of any protection against the Philistines and Canaanites. These tactics are used by evil nations today. They urge other nations to disarm, telling them this is the way to have peace, but when they do disarm, they find themselves exposed to the oppression of the enemy. But the Lord tells believers to "Put on the whole armor of God' (Ephesians 6:11), for the enemy is both deceitful and treacherous.

Yet, in spite of the lack of weapons, Deborah says her heart was with the rulers of Israel who offered themselves willingly to engage in battle with Sisera (v. 9). Their good influence spread also to the people.

But there were some who did not act on the call of God. Instead, they were riding on white donkeys, sitting in the place of judges, walking far from the noise of the archers (vv. 10-11). They chose not to be involved, yet were judges. Many today do the same. They can stand back and criticize the way things are done, considering their judgment to be very wise, yet take no part in fighting against the enemy.They are bidden to speak.What can they say for themselves?

However, in the end they would have reason to recount the righteous acts of the Lord, among the watering places. They would be refreshed and benefited by the Lord's blessing, though not part of the army.Instead of merely judging then, they would be subdued by the evidence of God's working, and would speak of this. For God's actions had liberated the villages in Israel,and the people would no longer fear to enter the gates.

"Awake, awake, Deborah! awake, awake, utter a song! Arise, Barak" (v. 12). Most translations do not translate the following words precisely as in the Hebrew language. The NIV renders it, "Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam," but JND's margin says that this is literally, "Take captive your captivity." Ephesians 4:8 speaks similarly of Christ, "He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." As Israel was in a state of captivity, Barak led captive this very state of captivity, thus releasing all who were in bondage. The Lord too, by His perfect sacrifice on Calvary, has led captive the state of captivity in which people were held, so that the people (believers) are set free.This is confirmed inHebrews 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15: "In as much then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Christ has not taken these people (believers) captive, but has released them from captivity.

The nobles and the mighty (v. 13) were those who oppressed Israel, and the Lord came down against them. Ephraim, Benjamin and Zebulon are mentioned favorably (v. 14) and also Issachar, taking their stand with Deborah and Barak (v. 15), and willingly going with them into battle. But Reuben was evidently troubled by internal disunity and did not arrive at any decided conclusion. There were divisions and great resolves of heart, but these were apparently like New Years resolutions that completely fail. How many there are who have apparent real concern, yet never take a decided stand for the Lord! Reuben sat among the sheep-folds to hear the bleatings of the flocks. Are we like them in any way? Instead of doing the work the Lord puts before us, do we just sit down to hear the bleatings (the complaints) of the sheep? They had great searchings of heart; but it seems to have borne no fruit in decided action (v. 16).

Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan (v. 17).This was the land they had chosen, and they were content not to involve themselves in helping the rest of Israel in their conflict. We too may find it easy to excuse ourselves from being involved in the conflict of the saints of God just because we are geographically at a little distance from them.

"And why did Dan remain on ships? "The ships speak of trade and commerce, so that the inference is that business was more important to Dan than conflict for the Lord. "Asher continued by the seashore, staying "by his inlets." It seems Asher, like Dan, did not want his life disturbed, for he had inlets by which he was profited. "By the seashore" infers too that he was gaining from the Gentiles (of whom the sea speaks), and association with the world will always hinder true service for the Lord.

In commendable contrast to this, Zebulon was willing to risk its life for the Lord's sake(v. 18), and Naphtali also chose the field of battle. There are always dangers in conflict, but when it is for the Lord, should we fear such dangers?Let us rather "put on the whole armor of God."

In this song of Deborah and Barak the battle is briefly described in graphic language in verses 19 to 22. When the kings of Canaan fought, they found that the heavens fought against them (v. 30), and the stars. This is significant of spiritual authority higher than an earthly level, and which Canaan was not prepared to meet. It was earthbound men who challenged the authority of the Lord Jesus in His acting for God on earth. They asked Him, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?' (Mt 31:23). He asked them a most penetrating question in return, "The baptism of John -- where was it from? From heaven or from men?" (v. 25). This defeated them, and they admitted themselves unable to answer. Thus too, heaven's authority defeated Sisera and his hosts. Without this, Barak and his men could not have gained the victory.

The river Kishon is also mentioned as having part in this victory (v. 21). God had said He would influence Sisera to come to Kishon(tie. 4:7), and it may be that many of his army were literally swept away by the torrent, possibly because trapped by Israel's army.

A bitter curse is pronounced against Meroz for not coming to the help of the Lord (v. 23). There must have been a special reason for this curse, for the curse is not pronounced against others who failed to come, Reuben, Gilead, Dan and Asher (vv. 16-17).

In contrast, Jael is said to be "most blessed among women" (v. 24). When Sisera asked for water, she gave him milk, a picture of giving the simple, elementary truth of God even to an enemy (v. 25). But Sisera pictures one who does not respond to the truth, and grace refused results in judgment.The tent peg speaks of the truth of God also as that which sustains the pilgrim character of a believer, for it keeps the tent in place. Jael did not hesitate to use this for the execution of Sisera in his sleep(v. 26). She illustrates the faith that is willing to use the truth, whether in grace or in judging for God.

Deborah also thinks of how the women of Canaan would be affected at this time. The mother of Sisera looked through the window in anxious wonder as to why he took so long to come home (v.28), for Sisera and his armies were accustomed to winning their battles with no difficulty.Her wise friends, and she herself, thought the answer was that Sisera and his men were engaged in taking time to gather and divide the spoil taken from Israel, girls and garments, etc. What a shock it would be to these women to find that both Sisera and his armies were not only defeated, but destroyed!

"Thus let all your enemies perish, O Lord!" In this present day of grace we do not pray that people will perish, but we do pray that principles of evil that attack us may be fully defeated.In fact, we are to put to death such things as "fornication, uncleanness, passionate desire and covetousness which is idolatry' (Colossians 3:5). But in contrast, those who love the Lord shall be like the sun coming out in its full strength (v. 31). This anticipates the millennium, when "the Sun of righteousness" will arise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2).Christ is the Sun, but believing Israelites will then be like Him, just as we (believers of this dispensation) will be like Him in heaven (1 John 3:2). Following this victory that land was at peace for 40 years (v. 31).

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