April 2.—Morning. [Or July 2.]
“Is not the Lord gone out before thee?”
AND the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead. (That sentence, “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord,” comes over and over again so often that it seems to be the only invariable fact in their history. Would not such words frequently occur in our biographies if they could be fully written?)
2 And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel. (When we read of Israel crying, we know that deliverance will come. Prayer has mercy at its heels.)
4 ¶ And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
God uses all classes and both sexes for his work. In this case a man plays a very secondary part, and two women share the honour. One strikes the first blow, and the other the last. Although women do not go out into public preaching, or to fight in the open field like Barak, they can do much at home with the tent-pin of personal address, and in society by encouraging the soldiers of the Lord.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6, 7 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
The Lord has not only leading strings to draw his people, but fatal cords with which to draw his foes whithersoever he wills.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. (He had not faith enough to go alone, and therefore, though he won the battle, he had not the honour of the victory. We lose much when we lean upon an arm of flesh. At the same time he showed a noble spirit in entering upon a conflict in which another was to receive the chief honour.)
10 ¶ And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him. (Many good men only need a call from some brave leader, and they will rally to the standard. God has his ten thousands in our Israel yet. O for the man and the hour! Rather, O for the Lord’s own Spirit to call us to the combat!)
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
Little dreamed he when he sallied forth in his pride that he was being lured to his destruction. Some trust in horses, and some in chariots, but vain are such defences against the Lord of hosts.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
The word of Deborah sharpened the sword of Barak. Holy women often encourage the Lord’s ministers.
15 And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; (The Lord did it, Barak was but the sword in his hand.)
16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
God’s sword never misses one whom he means to smite. This is fatal news for the impenitent.
17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 ¶ And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
This instruction was very like the shameful custom which is so common, for servants to be ordered to say, “my mistress is not at home,” when she is in the house all the time. Let not Christians borrow lying habits from heathens.
21 Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
This would have been a dastardly action had she been moved by motives of gain, but as an act in which she became the executioner of a man condemned of God, and the slayer of the great enemy of her adopted country, her conduct is rightly praised. The patriotic heroine recognized in the fugitive the enemy of her God and of his people, and her eye had no pity, neither did her hand spare him.
22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. (So the proud tyrant was disgraced as well as killed. Somewhere or other God has feeble instruments who will be made wise to put down error, and drive a nail through the head of false doctrine. O Lord, arise and plead thine own cause.)
23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
O God, be thou no longer still,
Thy foes are leagued against thy law;
Make bare thine arm on Zion’s hill,
Great Captain of our Holy War.
As Amalek and Ishmael
Had war for ever with thy seed,
So all the hosts of Rome and hell
Against thy Son their armies lead.
By Kishon’s brook all Jabin’s band
At thy rebuke were swept away;
O Lord, display thy mighty hand,
A single stroke shall win the day.
O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near and like my God;
And flesh and sin no more control
The sacred pleasures of my soul.
My flesh shall slumber in the ground,
’Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound;
Then burst the chains with sweet surprise,
And in my Saviour’s image rise.
Sleep not, soldier of the Cross!
Foes are lurking all around;
Look not here to find repose:
This is but thy battle ground.
Up! and take thy shield and sword;
Up! it is the call of heaven:
Shrink not faithless from thy Lord;
Nobly strive as he hath striven.
To the God of all creation
Let us sing with cheerful voice
In the Rock of our salvation
Let us heartily rejoice.
In his presence let us gather
With glad hearts and thankful lays,
And to God, our heavenly Father,
Show our joy with psalms of praise.
He is King among all nations,
God above all gods is he;
In his hand are earth’s foundations,
The strong hills and rolling sea.
He created land and ocean,
He with beauty clothes the sod;
Let us kneel in deep devotion,
Bless our Maker and our God.
April 2.—Evening. [Or July 3.]
“Lead thy captivity captive.”
WE shall now hear Deborah sing her right noble poem of victory. She was both prophetess and poetess. All powers of poetry should be consecrated to the honour of God who bestows them.
1, 2 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. (Unto God all the praise is given. The people were willing, but God made their zealous valour to be successful.)
3 Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel. (To such a woman, upon such a theme, the loftiest monarchs might wisely listen.)
4, 5 Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel. (All the kings around are bidden to remember the glorious marching of Jehovah, when he led his people from Egypt to Canaan; even on the road to battle the Lord displayed the glory of his majesty.)
6, 7 In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways. (Trade and travelling were at an end, for the country was unsafe.) The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. (Husbandry could not be carried on, the people fled to the walled towns for fear.)
8 They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? (On account of Israel’s idolatry, they had become so reduced, and their oppressors had so completely disarmed them, that they had no fit weapons for war.)
9 My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord. (It is indeed a blessing when the governors lead the way in good things.)
10 Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.
Justice could not be dispensed, civil affairs were all unhinged, no one was safe, but Deborah and Barak changed the scene.
11 They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates.
In times of peace, when no robber was to be feared at the well, this song of gratitude would be sung, and the Lord would be praised.
12 Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.
Mark how the poet glows and burns.
13 Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty. (God put Deborah first as ruler, but she did not fail to make honourable mention of all who shared in the fight, nor afterwards to rebuke those who shunned it.)
14, 15 Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.
16 Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. (Divided in council and indolent in spirit, Reuben lent no assistance. This was a sad business.)
17 Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.
Some with no excuse, and others with a bad excuse, refrained from the patriotic war, and missed its glories. How disgraceful not to do their utmost in such a cause. Lord, save us from cowardice and slothfulness, and let us rather be such bold, self-sacrificing spirits as those the poet sings of in the next verse.
18 Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. (Here we are compelled to make a break, until our next reading.)
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 188–190). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.