Later the prophet Habakkuk faces the same thing– a prideful, scornful, violent enemy; & YHWH God tells Habakkuk to overcome them w/ faith. (HAB 2:4) Hey, if God be for us, who can be against us??
The year is c. 1209 B.C., & the Canaanites have terrorized the Israelites for 20 yrs. Moses & Joshua are long dead. It is in a 350 yr. period called “The Judges”. It resembles our times in many ways—everyone is doing what was right in his own eyes (JDG 21:25). It was a crooked perverse generation. There is no Israeli govt., God is ruling directly as king & using godly judges to mediate problems for the Tribes of Israel. There is no civil govt. There are 48 Levitical cities, each w/ over 200 Levite priests to teach the people the Torah (teachings of YHWH), but most people have turned their back on God. Not only have the Canaanites terrorized the people so badly they won’t live in the countryside or use roads, but they have convinced many of the people to worship their gods, the chief of which are: Baal, the God of Storms, and Ashtoreth, the God of Fertility. Israelites who farm have been convinced they need the help of Baal for their crops. God has raised up Deborah to be Israel’s judge. She works out of her home, sitting under a palm tree in front to dispense her compassionate wisdom. Her job is a labor of love as she unselfishly receives no pay.
The Canaanites are cruel descendants from Canaan (a son of Ham). They have intermarried with the fierce Aryan Hurrians (who probably gave them their chariot technology) as well as the local Amorites. They are politically org. into city-states, the main one in 1209 B.C. is Hazor ruled by King Jabin. Jabin has an incredibly strong army led by Commander Sisera, which has 900 iron chariots w/ powerful archers—these are the anc. equivalent to a modern tank, and like tanks they need the same kind of landscape as tanks operate in. Jabin is moving his army towards a plain south of the Sea of Galilee, threatening God’s people. Deborah arises like Joan of Arc to save her people. She must find a general & raise an army…Israel has neither. Her search for a general finds only one reluctant candidate, Barak (whose name means “Lightning”). He has faith & a command presence, but he is totally unwilling to take the job & move forward unless Deborah personally leads him.JDG 4:8 He has faith in her faith in YHWH. The just will live by faith. HAB 2:4 is really the key to dealing with our enemies. In fact w/out faith it is impossible to please Him.HEB 11:6 Deborah will need something, because on the surface things look impossible. Most Israelites are shallow & content with the status quo. Her people have almost no weapons, and their spiritual anarchy has led to moral crises—bear in mind by going along with the Canaanite religions they are performing human sacrifices, drunken orgies, lots of temple prostitution, snake worship & homosexuality. Deborah doesn’t curse the darkness, she does things to overcome it.
Deborah is being led by God. She inspires Barak & tells him that God will provide them a victory if they obey Him. Deborah & Barak are a good team. When Barak asks for volunteers for a 10,000 man militia, he gets volunteers from 6 tribes, even though Deborah said to focus on recruiting from the two tribes most threatened. Obviously the men trust both Deb & Barak & their faith in God, to volunteer for a campaign that appears hopeless!! By the way, Dan & Asher are busy w/ their shipping. The tribe of Dan has ignored the territory God gave them, & has gone off on their own. Neither could care less what happens to Israel. The other tribes are somewhat distant & don’t volunteer to help either. Gathering the 10,000 ill equipped volunteer militia, Barak moves them west a few miles to Mt. Tabor where they can observe the movement of Sisera’s army on the plain as they move east from Megiddo. Sisera’s army crosses the River Kishon (which is really a stream). At that point, Barak under Deborah’s leadership does a courageous thing. He moves his militia west towards the enemy’s powerful army. Before the armies meet, God sends a storm. I find this amusing, because just as God mocked the gods of Egypt by turning their gods into plagues, a storm hits the Canaanite army. Remember their head god Baal was God of Storms!! The torrential downpour turns the plain to mud & the stream into a wide flood. Chaos ensues. Like Hitler’s tanks before Moscow stuck in the mud, their chariots get stuck fast, and when they break free are colliding. The Canaanite army falls apart & tries to flee but the flooding takes out many of them. The few stragglers are taken care of by the poorly armed militia. Sisera’s chariot is abandoned & he tries to get back to the King. He stops at the Kenite tribe, who are neutral, goes into one of the houses for the night, but doesn’t realize that the woman’s daughter has been gang raped by him & his men. When he goes to sleep, the woman of the house courageously kills him, & fulfills Deborah’s prophecy that God would use a woman to take him out. Deborah then composes an Ode (a victory poem), which like Shakespeare poetry, has had experts in Hebrew poetry analyzing all the words, metrics, parallelisms, alliterations, & her genius to compose the masterpiece which she and Barak teamed up to sing. Obviously not only was she wise, dynamic, and had great faith, but she was intelligent.
Deborah was a real leader. She was that 5% that makes things happen. We have women like her among us today too. It was her total pure faith in YHWH God that saved her people. She gave God all the credit for the victory. People who believe in nothing…well, they change nothing for the better. God does use the weak things of the world, to confound the proud strong evil elite, but the weak ones He uses are people like Deborah, who are led by the Spirit of God. It reminds me of a verse, “Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear My voice; you complacent daughters, give ear to My speech…until the Spirit is poured upon [you]…” ISA 32:9,15