Susan McGeown, Author

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God's Mighty Three

Posted by Susan McGeown on October 8, 2013 at 11:20 AM

God’s Mighty Three: Deborah, Barak, & Jael[1]

For a printable copy of this blog entry click here.

Key Questions To Think About:

  • Whose opinion really counts?
  • Who is your authority in the way you lead your life?

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

Judges 4:1 After Ehud’s death, the Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight.2 So the Lord turned them over to King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-haggoyim. 3 Sisera, who had 900 iron chariots, ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help.  


  • Had a big reason to hate Israel.  Read Joshua11:10-13 to see why.
  • “Jabin” was probably a dynastic name that many rulers had throughout Hazor’s history.

10 Joshua then turned back and captured Hazor and killed its king. (Hazor had at one time been the capital of all these kingdoms.) 11 The Israelites completely destroyed every living thing in the city, leaving no survivors. Not a single person was spared. And then Joshua burned the city.  12 Joshua slaughtered all the other kings and their people, completely destroying them, just as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded. 13 But the Israelites did not burn any of the towns built on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua burned.

Judges 4:4 Deborah,the wife of Lapidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time. 5 She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would go to her for judgment.


  • She is the only woman of the Hebrew Bible who gained renown on her own merit, not becauseof her relationship to a man.
  • Through prayer and meditation she sought the will of God.  As a result, she was considered to “speak the word of God.”
  • Would judgeover Israel for 40 years.


  • Husband or description of Deborah’s personality? “Lapidoth” can also be translated as “fiery” or “torch”.  Some scholars believe that this is not Deborah’s husband (there is no traditional “son of” which would be the equivalent of his last name) but rather should be translated as, “Deborah, a fiery woman”.  Lapidoth is not a traditional Hebrew name.  'Eshetlapidot' could be translated "wife of Lapidot," but it also means "woman of torches."[2]

 Women during this time:

  • Subservient to all males
  • Valued only by the sons they produced
  • Unable to be a witness in court

Prophet of God:

  • God’s spokesperson to the people
  • Never wrong with predictions or advice.  Deuteronomy 18:22  22 If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.
  • Deborah was not the first woman – Miriam, Moses’ sister was a prophet

Judge of God:

  • God’s authority on earth; leaders before the monarchy was put in place.
  • Deborah is the only female judge recorded in the Old Testament.

Key Questions To Think About:

  • What kind of person would Deborah have had to be?  Her husband Lapidoth?
  • What would have given Deborah her credibility as a prophet and as a judge?

Judges 4:6 One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam, who lived in Kedesh in the land of Naphtali. She said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you:Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. 7 And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.”

8 Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.”

9 “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”


  • His name means “lightning”
  • Without the leadership of Joshua, who had replaced Moses, the twelve tribes that made up the nation of Israel was influenced by the pagan cultures that surrounded them.  They abandoned God and God allowed them to be subjugated as a result.
  • Commander of Israel’s “army” which had been ruthlessly oppressed for twenty years.

Key Questions To Think About:

  • Does this conversation change your impression of Deborah?
  • What is your first impression of Barak?  Explain.
  • Read Hebrews 11:1-2, 32-34 below to get a biblical perspective.

11 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 

Judges 4:9  So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 At Kedesh, Barak called together the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, and 10,000 warriors went up with him. Deborah also went with him.

Judges 4:11 Now Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab, had moved away from the other members of his tribe and pitched his tent by the oak of Zaanannim near Kedesh.

Moses’ Relationship to the Kenites:

  • Wife was Zipporah (Exodus 2:21)
  • Brother-in-lawas Hobab (Numbers 10:29)
  • Kenites were not Jewish, but had some history of being “friendly” with the Jews.

Key Questions To Think About:

  • We learn of Heber the Kenite but we don’t know for what purpose.  Whose side is he on?  Do you have any theories?

Judges 4:12 When Sisera was told that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 he called for all 900 of his iron chariots and all of his warriors, and they marched from Harosheth-haggoyim to the Kishon River.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get ready! This is the day the Lord will give you victory over Sisera, for the Lord is marching ahead of you.” So Barak led his 10,000 warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. 15 When Barak attacked, the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and warriors into a panic. Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot. 16 Then Barak chased the chariots and the enemy army all the way to Harosheth-haggoyim, killing all of Sisera’s warriors. Not a single one was left alive.

Read Deborah’s Song in Judges 5:4-5, 8b-9, 20-21 to get a clearer picture of what went on during the battle.

4 “Lord, when youset out from Seir and marched across the fields of Edom,

the earth trembled, and the cloudy skies poured down rain.

5 The mountains quaked in the presence of the Lord, the God of Mount Sinai—in the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.

Yet not a shield or spear could be seen among forty thousand warriors in Israel!

9 My heart is with the commanders of Israel,with those who volunteered for war.

20 The stars fought from heaven.  The stars in their orbits fought against Sisera.

21 The Kishon River swept them away—that ancient torrent, the Kishon.

March on with courage, my soul!

Judges 4:17 Meanwhile,Sisera ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because Heber’s family was on friendly terms with King Jabin of Hazor. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come into my tent, sir. Come in. Don’t be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.19 “Please give me some water,” he said. “I’m thirsty.” So she gave him some milk from a leather bag and covered him again.

20 “Stand at the door of the tent,” hetold her. “If anybody comes and asks you if there is anyone here, say no.”

21 But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died.

22 When Barak came looking for Sisera,Jael went out to meet him. She said, “Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he followed her into the tent and found Sisera lying there dead, with the tent peg through his temple.

Key Questions To Think About:

  • Sisera ran the opposite way of his army.  What do you think that meant?
  • Why did Jael do what she did?
  • Was what Jael did murder or God’s will?

Read Deborah’s Song in Judges 5:24-27 to hear what Deborah and Barak thought of Jael’s actions.

 24 “Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.  May she be blessed above all women who live in tents. 25 Sisera asked for water, and she gave him milk.  In a bowl fit for nobles, she brought him yogurt. 26 Then with her left hand she reached for a tent peg,and with her right hand for the workman’s hammer.  She struck Sisera with the hammer, crushing his head.  With a shattering blow, she pierced his temples.  27 He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet. And where he sank, there he died.

Judges 4:23 Soon that day Israel saw God defeat Jabin, the Canaanite king. 24 And from that time on Israel became stronger and stronger against King Jabin until they finally destroyed him.

Key Questions To Think About:

  • Were all of Deborah’s predictions proved true?
  • The hands of what woman claimed victory over Sisera?

 DEBORAH’S SONG[3]:  This is considered by many to be the oldest poem in the Bible.

 “Judges 5:1 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

2 “Israel’s leaders took charge, and the people gladly followed.  Praise the Lord!

3 “Listen, you kings!  Pay attention, you mighty rulers!  I will sing to the Lord.  I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel.

4 “Lord, when you set out from Seir and marched across the fields of Edom, the earth trembled, and the cloudy skies poured down rain. 5 The mountains quaked in the presence of the Lord, the God of Mount Sinai—in the presence ofthe Lord, the God of Israel.

6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, and in the days of Jael, people avoided the main roads, and travelers stayed on winding pathways.  7 There were few people left in the villages of Israel[a]—until Deborah arose as a mother for Israel.  8 When Israel chose new gods, war erupted at the city gates.Yet not a shield or spear could be seen among forty thousand warriors in Israel!  9 My heartis with the commanders of Israel, with those who volunteered for war. Praise the Lord!

10 “Consider this, you who ride on fine donkeys, you who sit on fancy saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road.  11 Listen to the village musicians gathered at the watering holes.  They recount the righteous victories of the Lord and the victories of his villagers in Israel. Then the people of the Lord marched down to the city gates.

12 “Wake up, Deborah, wake up! Wake up, wake up, and sing a song! Arise, Barak! Lead your captives away, son of Abinoam!

13 “Down from Tabor marched the few against the nobles. The people of the Lord marched down against mighty warriors.  14 They came down from Ephraim—a land that once belonged to the Amalekites; they followed you,Benjamin, with your troops.  From Makir the commanders marched down; from Zebulun came those who carry a commander’s staff.  15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah and Barak.  They followed Barak, rushing into the valley.  But in the tribe of Reuben there was great indecision.  16 Why did you sit at home among the sheepfolds—to hear the shepherds whistle for their flocks?  Yes,in the tribe of Reuben there was great indecision.  17 Gilead remained east of the Jordan. And why did Dan stay home?  Asher sat unmoved at the seashore, remaining in his harbors.  18 But Zebulun risked his life, as did Naphtali, on the heights of the battlefield.

19 “The kings of Canaan came and fought, at Taanach near Megiddo’s springs, but they carried off no silver treasures.  20 The stars fought from heaven. The stars in their orbits fought against Sisera.  21 The Kishon River swept them away—that ancient torrent, the Kishon.  March on with courage, my soul!  22 Then the horses’ hooves hammered the ground, the galloping,galloping of Sisera’s mighty steeds. 23 ‘Let the people of Meroz be cursed,’said the angel of the Lord. ‘Let them be utterly cursed, because they did not come to help the Lord—to help the Lord against the mighty warriors.’

24 “Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.  May she be blessed above all women who live in tents.  25 Sisera asked for water, and she gave him milk.  In a bowl fit for nobles, she brought him yogurt.  26 Then with her left hand she reached for a tent peg, and with her right hand for the workman’s hammer. She struck Sisera with the hammer, crushing his head.  With a shattering blow, she pierced his temples.  27 He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet. And where he sank, there he died.

28 “From the window Sisera’s mother looked out. Through the window she watched for his return, saying, ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?  Why don’t we hear the sound of chariot wheels?’

29 “Her wise women answer, and she repeats these words to herself:  30 ‘They must be dividing the captured plunder—with a woman or two for every man.  There will be colorful robes for Sisera, and colorful, embroidered robes for me.  Yes, the plunder will include colorful robes embroidered on both sides.’

31 “Lord, may all your enemies die like Sisera!  But may those who love you rise like the sun in all its power!”  Then there was peace in the land for forty years.

 Lessons For Us All

KEY BIBLE VERSE:  Let those who love You rise like the sun in all its power!  Judges 5:31b

 ~Let your vision of the world not be shapedby the political situation of the day

but by your relationship with God.~

All scripture is meant for us to learn a lesson that we can then apply to our lives.  What lessons are we meant to take from the lives of Deborah, Barak, and Jael?

Authority: Perhaps you’re not in an influential position of authority - you can still be to your children and the children in your neighborhood and lead them in the right direction.  Perhaps you have little power in your job or position - you can still be to those around you and inspire them to righteousness.  Perhaps your life allows little time or opportunity for significant positions of leadership - you can still be in your sphere, whether big or small, wielding influence far beyond your lowly position.  You can be like Deborah, used of God.

Influence: You may feel that you don’t have a lot of influence on anybody.  But you do. Offer up to God your talents and your relationships.  And begin using them to extend His kingdom.(4)

Wisdom:  Deborah shows us the way of wisdom.  She truly lived out the adage that the way up is down.  The way to greatness in God’s kingdom is the way of humble service.  Never seeking, never aggressive, never too assertive, Deborah waited on God, encouraged others to take the lead, and assisted only when needed.  (7)

Virtue:  Declare to Him your desire to become a person who, like a warrior, moves through the challenges and duties of life with valor, courage, bravery, stamina, endurance, and power- His power. (7)

Today:  All that Deborah had is available to you today. Her wisdom is discovered in the Scriptures.  Her confidence in God is found in a relationship with him.  Her bravery is achievable when you put your trust in God and his promises.  Her inner strength and calm leadership are characteristic of confidence not in herself but in her God.  All Deborah offered to Israel she offers to you as an example of someone willing to be used by God. (1)

Examples: Christian womanhood is at a risk in our culture today. We are in desperate need for women of faith who are willing to courageously stand against sin and stand for righteousness.  But it is not enough for us to make this decision for ourselves and to carry the banner alone.  We must motivate others to follow.  Christian women need to have a vision of women confidently and boldly serving the Lord God.  We need to challenge them to lives of virtue and servanthood in order to glorify our glorious God.  We cannot issue the challenge in a vacuum.  We must be willing to make the investment, to give faithful instruction, to nurture, then to sound a clarion call to biblical womanhood.  Are there women who will step forward and bring their lives under the authority of God’s Word regardless of the risks?  Together we will celebrate aresurgence of virtuous living among the daughters of the King.  (Susan Hunt) (4)

Faith in God is necessary for any worthwhile task, and the bigger the task, the more faith is required.  God uses whom he wishes, whether a woman like Deborah or an unknown man like Barak. God will use each of us if we put our faith in him, obey, and follow where he leads.  (47)

God’s faithfulness:  Behind the story of Jael and the death of Sisera is a God who promised never to forget his people and who holds to that promise.  When hope seems dim and the prospect of victory seems close to impossible, God is at work, bringing about his plan.  The people of Israel during the time of the judges must have worn God to exasperation with their continual wavering.  When times were good they easily forgot God and went their own way.  But as soon as times got tough, they went running to him for deliverance.  Sound like anyone you know?  The story of the wavering of God’s people continues even today  We so easily move forward on our own, thinking we can handle it all, until we run up against something too hard for us.  Only then do we run to God for help.  But what anamazing God he is.  Always there.  Always willing to rescue us when we call.  Always willing to forgive. (1)

Bravery: Careful now.  What Jael did under the circumstances was big, bold, and brave.  It’s the kind of thing you do in wartime.  But for those of us facing hostile enemies on the home front, the bravest thing we can do is fight back in ways that are quiet, prayerful, and redemptive. (4)

Boldness: It takes a brave woman to take a stand for her convictions - to endure confrontation and scorn from her accusers (and sometimes, misunderstanding from her own friends)  Be bold! (4)

No Fear: “ I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.  When I sat down on the bus the day I was arrested, I had made up my mind about what it was that I had to do, what I felt was right to do.  God did away with all my fear.  It was time for someone to stand up - or in my case, sit down.  I refused to move.”  (Rosa Parks) (4)

Societal Rules:  Despite the rules of society, anyone with exceptional personal and spiritual qualities can rise to leadership. 


Picture pg. 2:  Painting of Deborah by Charles Landelle, 1901

Map pg. 3: additions by Sue McG.

Picture pg. 4:  Jael and Sisera, Artemisia Gentileschi1593-1656, Museum of fine Arts, Budapest

Picture pg. 6:  Sisera Lying Dead by James Jacques JosephTissot, 1896-1902, Jewish Museum, New York

Picture pg. 7:  Jael, Deborah and Barak, by Salomon de Bray1597-1664, Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht

Picture pg. 7:  “I Arose a Mother in Israel” painting byElspeth Young, who gave Deborah a sword as a symbol not of fighting, but of theWord of the Lord and His promise of deliverance.


Source 1.  Women of the Bible:  A one-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture By Ann Spangler & Jean E. Syswerda, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999, ISBN: 0-310-22352-0

Source 2.  All the Women of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer, Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan, ISBN 0-310-28151-2

Source 3.  she shall be called Woman by Frances Vander Velde, Kegel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1957, ISBN:0-8254-4003-3

Source 4.  Women of Character Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1998 ISBN: 0-8054-9277-1)

Source 5.  Great Women of the Bible by Clarence Edward Macartney, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1942,  ISBN:  0-8010-5901-5

Source 6.  Bad Girls of the Bible and What We can Learn From Them By Liz Curtis Higgs, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1999, ISBN: I-57856-125-6

Source 7:  Women Who Loved God By Elizabeth George, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1999, ISBN: 1-56507-850-0

Source 8:  The Bible Reader’s Companion By Lawrence O. Richards, Chariot Victor Publishing, Wheaton Illinois, 1991, ISBN:  0-89693-039-4

Source 9:  Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective by James B. Hurley,  Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1981, ISBN: 0-310-42731-2

Source 10:  Manners and Customs of the Bible, By James M. Freeman, Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA, 1996, ISBN: 0-88368-290-7

Source 11:  Archaeology and Bible History,  By Joseph P. Free, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992, ISBN: 0-310-47961-4

Source 12:  30 Days to Understanding The Bible,  By Max Anders, Word Publishing, Dallas, 1994, ISBN:  0-8499-3489-3

Source 13:  Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times, Barbara J. Morgan, Editor, Reader’s Digest, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville, NY, 1997

Source 45:  NLT Study Bible, New Living Translation, Second Edition, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 2008, ISBN:  978-1-4143-2455-5

Source 46:  Who’s Who and Where’s Where in the Bible By Stephen M. Miller, Barbour Publishing Co., Ohio, 2004, ISBN:  1-59310-111-2

Source 47:

Source 48:


[1] Judges 4-5  New Living Translation (NLT)  Deborah Becomes Israel’s Judge


[3] Judges 5 New Living Translation (NLT)  “The Song of Deborah”


Categories: Bible Study, On Women, Spiritual Tidbits

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