The Book of Judges introduces us to a variety of interesting characters from this period in Biblical history. The most popular or well-known are, I imagine, Samson and Gideon. However, the events that took place during the time of Deborah and Barak are really quite inspiring, and having recently listened to a taped lecture from the 1990’s by Rev. Frank Dowsett, I wanted to share with you this wonderful story from the Bible.
At the time when Deborah was a Judge in Israel, the Israelites, (having turned away from the Lord after the death of Ehud) found themselves oppressed and controlled by Jabin, king of Canaan. He had as captain of his men, Sisera, who must have been quite a formidable man, for we are told he had nine hundred chariots of iron and had ‘mightily oppressed the children of Israel’ for twenty years! In fact, Sisera’s name apparently means ‘Battle Array’! Quite fitting when you consider that this whole episode involved a battle between him and Barak/Israel.
Now Deborah, the wife of Laminoth, was a prophetess and a highly respected one. She dwelt under a palm tree – known as Deborah’s palm – between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim – and all Israel came to her to answer their questions. She had been appointed a Judge under God, and it would seem that she was most effective in both roles. Her name means a Bee – rather strange perhaps, but considering her work and actions, she must have been very efficient, very busy, and very organized – all of which could be applied to a Bee, whether a drone – or – more appropriately – a Queen!
The Judges period in Israel’s history portrays the way Israel wove itself from following Almighty God and His ways – to turning away from Him and worshipping false gods instead – and back again, time after time! And in fact, it is a reflection of the whole of Israel’s existence – and beyond – which brings us up to present times with the Israel nations of Britain, America, and other kindred lands. Why do we do this, when we know full well that turning away from our wonderful Guardian and Protector will only lead to oppression and war! Will we ever learn? Well, hopefully we will, one day…!
But back to the time of Deborah – a woman chosen of the Lord. And God instructed Deborah to call Barak who was the son of Abinoam, from Kedesh-naphtali. He was to lead the forces of the Israel army against their oppressors, and he probably was not too keen on doing this initially, because as we know, the captain of the enemy was a very fearful man! And this is where Deborah really proved her worth, because Barak said he would only do so, if Deborah went with him. She had told him that God would deliver not only Sisera into their hands, but Jabin the king also, however, this was not quite enough for Barak – let her prove her faith in what God had told her by accompanying him in his endeavour! And she did!
We considered the meaning of Deborah’s name, and Sisera’s, but what of Barak? His name means lightning or thunder. The word lightning is mentioned in the Bible 13 times, and in the plural 14 which totals 27 – 3 x 9 = 27, so you have 3 times the number of judgments. Thunder is mentioned 19 times. 19 = Divine Order combined with Judgment. If you add all the variations of the word, then there is a total of 40 which means probation and chastisement. And if you look up some of the verses where thunder and lightning (and their variations) are used, we have – as lightning shines – 6 instances where we have it used in the sense of a flashing sword, and in 2 Samuel 22:15, we read of – arrows of light -and in psalm 18:14; ‘Yea, He sent out His arrows, and scattered them; And He shot out lightning’s, and discomforted them.”
So, in Barak’s name, we read that God was certainly going to deal with the oppressors of His Israel people. And if any of you are thinking; “what about ex-president, Barack Obama”, (I know the name has a ‘c’ in it…) well, I guess it was on his watch that ‘Bin Laden’ – who was officially held responsible for 9/11, and considered America’s no.1 enemy – was eliminated. However, perhaps we should also consider current President ‘Trump’ – now there is an interesting name! In fact, I remember back at the 2016 BIWF convention in Buxton, England, Michael Clark commented on the then candidate for the American presidential election and asking whether this Trump was in fact heralding the LAST Trump…! And it may well be so, because the word Trump is only mentioned twice in the Bible, and both times being in the New Testament, with (1) in regard to the resurrection of the dead and (2) in regard to the return of the Lord. (see 1 Cor. 15:52 and I Thes. 4:16).
However… “…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. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with rue, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. 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…”
It is interesting to note that after Barak had asked Deborah to accompany him in his task, that Deborah prophesied it would not be Barak who would put an end to Sisera – but a woman. Was this because Barak, in insisting Deborah go with him, showed that he did not trust God’s Word enough to go without his Prophetess, and so the ‘honour’ of Sisera’s demise would be given to a woman?
On the other hand it does say in Deut. 20:1-4; “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: Far the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say unto them, Hear, 0 Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you…”
So, we should not really hold Barak’s request for Deborah’s presence, against him for it was an accepted thing to have the `voice’ of God – to urge the people on – and to give assurance of God’s hand in the outcome of the said battle – and He certainly used Deborah in that respect. But nevertheless, perhaps because Deborah was prepared, even though a woman, to go with Barak, that the LORD allowed a woman (Jael), to have ‘the honour’ of giving Sisera his comeuppance.
In fact, the story of Deborah and Barak shows us that in such actions as war and conflict, we always need to have God with us. We should remember that during both World Wars, the Nation came together in prayer on more than one occasion – to ask for Almighty God’s help – and He gave that much needed help! I was reminded while watching a TV programme (The Key of David), on the subject of the D-Day Invasion that President Roosevelt of America and also King George VI both called their Nations to prayer – and what magnificent speeches they gave.
So, let us take heart in our battle today – the battle to uphold our Israelite heritage – our God given Christianity, and take a stand against the evil that is all around us. God hears our prayers, if He did not then we would have gone under a long while ago! And He will deliver us, just as He delivered Deborah and Barak, and His people at that time. To deliver His people and bring them back to Him is His Will – so, Thy Will be done indeed! Amen.