Judges 4



1 And the sons of Israel again did evil in the eyes of Jehovah; and Ehud was dead.

2 And Jehovah sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, and he dwelt in Harosheth of the nations.

3 And the sons of Israel cried to Jehovah; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and he subjugated the sons of Israel with firmness twenty years.

4 And the woman Deborah was a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth; she judged Israel at that time.

5 And she dwelt under the palm·​·tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim; and the sons of Israel went·​·up to her for judgment.

6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and she said to him, Has not Jehovah, the God of Israel, commanded, Go and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men from the sons of naphtali, and from the sons of Zebulun.

7 And I will draw unto thee, to the Brook Kishon, Sisera, the commander of the army of Jabin, and his chariots and his multitude; and I will give him into thy hand.

8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, I will not go.

9 And she said, going I will go with thee; nonetheless the way that thou goest shall not be for thy splendor, for Jehovah shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.

10 And Barak called·​·up Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went·​·up with ten thousand men at his feet; and Deborah went·​·up with him.

11 And Cheber the Kenite of the sons of Chobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites, and had stretched his tent, even·​·to the oak·​·grove of Zaanannim which is by Kedesh.

12 And they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone·​·up to Mount Tabor.

13 And Sisera called·​·up all his chariots, the nine hundred chariots of iron and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the nations unto the brook Kishon.

14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Arise, for this is the day in which Jehovah has given Sisera into thy hands; is not Jehovah gone·​·out before thee? And Barak went·​·down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

15 And Jehovah routed Sisera, and all the chariots and all the camp with the mouth of the sword before Barak; and Sisera came·​·down from his chariot and fled on his feet.

16 And Barak pursued after the chariots and after the camp even·​·to Harosheth of the nations, and all the camp of Sisera fell to the mouth of the sword; there was not left even one.

17 And Sisera fled on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Cheber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Cheber the Kenite.

18 And Jael went·​·out to meet Sisera, and said to him, Turn·​·aside, my lord, Turn·​·aside to me; fear not. And he turned·​·aside to her to the tent, and she covered him with a carpet.

19 And he said to her, Give· me, I pray thee, a·​·little water ·to·​·drink; for I thirst; and she opened the bottle* of milk, and gave· him ·drink and covered him.

20 And he said unto her, Stand at the entrance of the tent, and it shall be, when any man comes and asks thee, and says, Is·​·there a man here, that thou shalt say, No.

21 And Jael, the wife of Cheber, took a peg of the tent, and set the hammer in her hand, and came softly to him, and fixed the peg into his temple, and got· it ·down into the earth, and he was·​·in·​·a·​·deep·​·sleep and was·​·faint; and he died.

22 And, behold Barak pursued Sisera, and Jael came·​·out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And he came·​·in unto her, and, behold, Sisera fallen dead and the peg was in his temple.

23 And God humbled in that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the sons of Israel.

24 And the hand of the sons of Israel went on and was hard against Jabin king of Canaan, until they cut·​·off Jabin king of Canaan.


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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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.