Judges 4

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1 And the sons of Israel add to do the evil thing in the eyes of Jehovah when Ehud is dead,

2 and Jehovah selleth them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who hath reigned in Hazor, and the head of his host [is] Sisera, and he is dwelling in Harosheth of the Goyim;

3 and the sons of Israel cry unto Jehovah, for he hath nine hundred chariots of iron, and he hath oppressed the sons of Israel mightily twenty years.

4 And Deborah, a woman inspired, wife of Lapidoth, she is judging Israel at that time,

5 and she is dwelling under the palm-tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Beth-El, in the hill-country of Ephraim, and the sons of Israel go up unto her for judgment.

6 And she sendeth and calleth for Barak son of Abinoam, out of Kedesh-Naphtali, and saith unto him, `Hath not Jehovah, God of Israel, commanded? go, and thou hast drawn towards mount Tabor, and hast taken with thee ten thousand men, out of the sons of Naphtali, and out of the sons of Zebulun,

7 and I have drawn unto thee, unto the brook Kishon, Sisera, head of the host of Jabin, and his chariot, and his multitude, and have given him into thy hand.'

8 And Barak saith unto her, `If thou dost go with me, then I have gone; and if thou dost not go with me, I do not go;'

9 and she saith, `I do certainly go with thee; only, surely thy glory is not on the way which thou art going, for into the hand of a woman doth Jehovah sell Sisera;' and Deborah riseth and goeth with Barak to Kedesh.

10 And Barak calleth Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and he goeth up -- at his feet [are] ten thousand men -- and Deborah goeth up with him.

11 And Heber the Kenite hath been separated from the Kenite, from the sons of Hobab father-in-law of Moses, and he stretcheth out his tent unto the oak in Zaanaim, which [is] by Kedesh.

12 And they declare to Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam hath gone up to mount Tabor,

13 and Sisera calleth all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who [are] with him, from Harosheth of the Goyim, unto the brook Kishon.

14 And Deborah saith unto Barak, `Rise, for this [is] the day in which Jehovah hath given Sisera into thy hand; hath not Jehovah gone out before thee?' And Barak goeth down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

15 And Jehovah destroyeth Sisera, and all the chariots, and all the camp, by the mouth of the sword, before Barak, and Sisera cometh down from off the chariot, and fleeth on his feet.

16 And Barak hath pursued after the chariots and after the camp, unto Harosheth of the Goyim, and all the camp of Sisera falleth by the mouth of the sword -- there hath not been left even one.

17 And Sisera hath fled on his feet unto the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite, for peace [is] between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite;

18 and Jael goeth out to meet Sisera, and saith unto him, `Turn aside, my lord, Turn aside unto me, fear not;' and he turneth aside unto her, into the tent, and she covereth him with a coverlet.

19 And he saith unto her, `Give me to drink, I pray thee, a little water, for I am thirsty;' and she openeth the bottle of milk, and giveth him to drink, and covereth him.

20 And he saith unto her, `Stand at the opening of the tent, and it hath been, if any doth come in, and hath asked thee, and said, Is there a man here? that thou hast said, There is not.'

21 And Jael wife of Heber taketh the pin of the tent, and taketh the hammer in her hand, and goeth unto him gently, and striketh the pin into his temples, and it fasteneth in the earth -- and he hath been fast asleep, and is weary -- and he dieth.

22 And lo, Barak is pursuing Sisera, and Jael cometh out to meet him, and saith to him, `Come, and I shew thee the man whom thou art seeking;' and he cometh in unto her, and lo, Sisera is fallen -- dead, and the pin in his temples.

23 And God humbleth on that day Jabin king of Canaan before the sons of Israel,

24 and the hand of the sons of Israel goeth, going on and becoming hard on Jabin king of Canaan, till that they have 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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