Judges 4

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1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord after the death of Aod,

2 And the Lord delivered them up into the hands of Jaban king of Chanaan, who reigned in Asor: and he had a general of his army named Sisara, and he dwelt in Haroseth of the Gentiles.

3 And the children of Israel cried to the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots set with scythes, and for twenty years had grievously oppressed them.

4 And there was at that time Debbora a prophetess the wife of Lapidoth, who judged the people,

5 And she sat under a palm tree, which was called by her name, between Rama and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for all judgment.

6 And she sent and called Barac the son of Abinoem out of Cedes in Nephtali: and she said to him: The Lord God of Israel hath commanded thee: Go, and lead an army to mount Thabor, and thou shalt take with thee ten thousand fighting men of the children of Nephtali, and of the children of Zabulon:

7 And I will bring unto thee in the place of the torrent Cison, Sisara the general of Jabin's army, and his chariots, and all his multitude, and will deliver them into thy hand.

8 And Barac said to her: If thou wilt come with me, I will go: if thou wilt not come with me, I will not go.

9 She said to him: I will go indeed with thee, but at this time the victory shall not be attributed to thee, because Sisara shall be delivered into the hand of a woman. Debbora therefore arose, and went with Barac to Cedes.

10 And he called unto him Zabulon and Nepbtali, and went up with ten thousand fighting men, having Debbora in his company.

11 Now Haber the Cinite had some time before departed from the rest of the Cinites his brethren the sons of Hobab, the kinsman of Moses: and had pitched his tents unto the valley which is called Sellnim, and was near Cedes.

12 And it was told Sisara, that Barac the son of Ablinoem was gone up to mount Thabor:

13 And he gathered together his nine hundred chariots armed with scythes, and all his army from Haroseth of the Gentiles to the torrent Cison.

14 And Debbora said to Barac: Arise, for this is the day wherein the Lord hath delivered Sisara into thy hands: behold he is thy leader. And Barac went down from mount Thabor, and ten thousand fighting men with him.

15 And the Lord struck a terror into Sisara, and all his chariots, and all his multitude, with the edge of the sword, at the sight of Barac, insomuch that Sisara leaping down from off his chariot, fled away on foot.

16 And Barac pursued after the fleeing chariots and the army unto Haroseth of the Gentiles, and all the multitude of the enemies was utterly destroyed.

17 But Sisara fleeing came to the tent of Jahel the wife of Haber the Cinite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Asor, and the house of Haber the Cinite.

18 And Jahel went forth to meet Sisara, and said to him: Come in to me, my lord, come in, fear not. He went in to her tent, and being covered by her with a cloak,

19 Said to her: Give me, I beseech thee, a little water, for I am very thirsty. She opened a bottle of milk, and gave him to drink, and covered him.

20 And Sisara said to her: Stand before the door of the tent, and when any shall come and inquire of thee, saying: Is there any man here? thou shalt say: There is none.

21 So Jahel Haber's wife took a nail of the tent, and taking also a hammer: and going in softly, and with silence, she put the nail upon the temples of his head, and striking it With the hammer, drove it through his brain fast into the ground: and so passing from deep sleep to death, he fainted away and died.

22 And behold Barac came pursuing after Sisara: and Jahel went out to meet him, and said to him: Come, and I will shew thee, the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, be saw Sisara lying dead, and the nail fastened in his temples.

23 So God that day humbled Jabin the king of Chanaan before the children of Israel:

24 Who grew daily stronger, and with a mighty hand overpowered Jabin king of Chanaan, till they quite destroyed him.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 4      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 4: Deborah

Yet again, the children of Israel had disobeyed the Lord. At this point in time, they had been under the yoke of Jabin, a Canaanite king, for twenty years. He had nine hundred chariots of iron, and was apparently very powerful.

The Lord raised up Deborah, a prophetess, to free the Israelites from oppression under Jabin. The text says that she would pass judgements for the children of Israel while she sat under the palm tree of Deborah.

Deborah summoned Barak, an army officer, and told him to go with ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun to fight King Jabin’s armies. Barak said he would only go if Deborah went as well, so she agreed to join him. Deborah then prophesied that Sisera, the enemy commander, would be defeated by a woman.

The two armies clashed at by the River Kishon, and all of Sisera’s men were killed. Sisera then fled to the tent of Heber, an Israelite who was on peaceful terms with King Jabin. Jael, Heber’s wife, invited Sisera to come in with the comforting words, “fear not”. She covered him with a blanket, gave him milk to drink, and let him sleep there.

Then Jael quietly took a tent peg and drove it into Sisera’s temple using a hammer, so that the peg stuck in the earth. When Barak came to the tent, pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to tell him, “come, and I will show you the man you seek.” And she showed him Sisera, dead, with a peg through his temple.

So Jabin’s army was defeated that day, and Israel grew stronger until their oppression under Jabin came to an end.

*****

Deborah is an especially significant character in the Bible, because she was the only female judge of Israel. It was very unusual for a woman in those times to rise to power, yet she truly earned the respect of her people. Deborah, as a woman, stands for the nurturing power of the Word to strengthen us during regeneration. Her name means ‘a bee’, but this comes from a word meaning ‘to speak’ – here, to speak the Word. Bees make honey; honey is nutritious; God’s word is our nourishment (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 3424[2]).

The fact that Deborah judged from under a palm tree may seem like a passing detail, but even this contributes to the spiritual meaning of the story. Palm trees stand for the divine truths of the Word, which means that Deborah was judging the people from her understanding of the Lord’s truths.

King Jabin’s nine hundred iron chariots represent the apparent power of false beliefs, thoughts and persuasions over us. The number ‘nine’ stands for something which is complete, and ‘iron’ here stands for either natural truths or falsities. A ‘chariot’, being pulled by a horse, always stands for a set of teachings or doctrine. These three symbols add to the picture of a very powerful enemy: false ideas and views that can weaken and overwhelm us (Arcana Caelestia 4720[2]).

The spiritual meaning of the complex arrangement between Barak and Deborah is that we can only deal with our spiritual conflicts if we take the Word’s power (Deborah) with us. Barak, a man, represents the power of truth, but Deborah says a woman will gain victory over Sisera. The feminine stands for the power of love: our charity, our affection for good, and our wish to be useful. These qualities are always essential in our spiritual life (see Swedenborg’s work, Apocalypse Explained 1120[2]).

The story about Jael and Sisera is really about actively resisting the temptations of evil in our lives. Jael, a woman, stands for the power of good to overcome what is false in our mind. Driving the tent peg through Sisera’s head stands for the complete destruction of what is false. Driving it right through and into the ground stands for the power of good in our life and in our regeneration, because the ground represents our actions (Arcana Caelestia 268).

When Barak and Jael meet, it stands for the unity between good (Jael, a woman) and truth (Barak, a man). This unity of good and truth appears again at the start of the next chapter, in which Deborah and Barak sing of Israel’s victory.

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