After the death of Ehud, who had defended the Israelites, the children of Israel began to sin, so much so that it is referred to as evil in the Old Testament. The Lord allowed them, as a result, to be sold to Jabin, the king of Canaan. They were oppressed by him for twenty years and cried to the Lord for help.
During this time, Deborah, a woman known as being faithful, wise, and fair, judged Israel. The people of Israel came to her where she judged, under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim. She was the wife of Lapidoth and is described in the Bible as a prophetess, possibly because there were no righteous priesthood holders to hold the position.
Concerned about the suffering of the Israelites, Deborah sent for Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali. She reminded him that the Lord had commanded the Israelites to go toward Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun. The Lord had promised to deliver Sisera, captain of king Jabin’s host, into their hands if they did so.
Barak agreed to go, but only if Deborah would go with him. He felt the plan would fail without her because his soldiers were only foot soldiers from the hills, unaccustomed to fighting on plains. She agreed to go but warned him that the battle wouldn’t be for his honor. The Lord would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.
He gathered the men and did as Deborah instructed. When Sisera learned the children of Israel were approaching, he gathered nine hundred iron chariots and all his people. Deborah instructed Barak to go forward because that day the Lord would deliver Sisera into his hands. Barak took his ten thousand men and began to battle. With the Lord’s help, they were successful and Sisera fled. Barak pursued and continued battle until all the soldiers were dead.
A Woman Delivers Sisera to Barak
Sisera escaped, however. He ran to Jael’s tent. She was the wife of Heber the Kenite. She invited him into her tent and covered him with a mantle. He asked for water and she gave him milk. Then he asked her to guard the tent door and to deny he was there if asked.
Exhausted, he fell asleep. As he slept, she murdered him by driving a tent nail into his temple. When Barak came to the tent, still pursuing Sisera, she showed him the body, thus fulfilling Deborah’s prophecy that Sisera would be delivered by the hand of a woman. (See Judges 4.)
Judges 5 contains a song of praise sung by Deborah and Barak about the victory.
Adapted from Every Person in the OT by Lynn F. Price; Horizon Publishers and the Bible Dictionary.