This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.
Chapter four tells the story of Deborah and Barak and their defeat of Sisera and the Canaanites. There is nothing in the text that tells when Deborah became a judge or why she was chosen instead of a man, like the other judges. Given her rebuke of Barak’s apparent unwillingness to lead, it is possible that there were no men willing and able at that time. 1
For twenty years, the Canaanites, under the direction of General Sisera, had persecuted the Israelites (Judges 4:1-5). At some point, God had directed Barak to go against them with an army of 10,000 men, but he had not done so (Judges 4:6-11). When Deborah called him out on it, he agreed to lead the charge, but only if she went with him. She agreed, noting that his lack of leadership would be punished by the victory going to a woman rather than to him.
When Sisera saw the army coming out against him, he gathered his troops and chariots and rode out to rout them (Judges 4:12-16). However, Jehovah fought for Israel, and Sisera’s army was destroyed. Sisera got away on foot, looking for refuge with friends. Coming to his friend’s tent, Sisera saw the wife, Jael, and asked for shelter (Judges 4:17-24). She hid him in her tent, gave him warm milk, and lulled him to sleep. When he was fast asleep, she drove a tent peg through his temples, killing him immediately. When Barak arrived, she showed him Sisera’s body. That was the beginning of the end of the Canaanite power over Israel.
- This should not be taken, as some have done, to prove that women can lead a church if there are no qualified men. Paul is clear on the qualifications of elders and deacons, that they are to be men (1 Timothy 2:8 – 3:13; Titus 1:5-9). ↩