Israel revolting from God is oppressed by Jabin, ver. 1 - 3.
Deborah concerts their deliverance with Barak, ver. 4 - 9.
Barak takes the field and conquers, ver. 10 - 16.
Sisera flies and is killed, ver. 17 - 21.
Barak sees him, and Israel is delivered, ver. 22 - 24.
2: Of Canaan - That is, of the land where most of the Canaanites,
strictly so called, now dwelt, which seems to be in the northern part of
Canaan. This seems to be of the posterity of that Jabin, whom
Joshua slew, (Jos 11:11), who watched all opportunities to recover
his ancient possessions, and to revenge his own and his father's quarrel.
In Hazor - In the territory or the kingdom of Hazor, which might now
be restored to its former largeness and power. Of the Gentiles - So
called, because it was much frequented and inhabited by the Gentiles;
either by the Canaanites, who being beaten out of their former
possessions, seated themselves in those northern parts; or by other nations
coming there for traffick, whence Galilee, where this was, is called
Galilee of the Gentiles.
3: Mightily oppressed - More than former tyrants; from his malice and
hatred against the Israelites; and from God's just judgment, the growing
punishment being suitable to their aggravated wickedness.
4: A prophetess - As there were men - prophets, so there were also
women - prophetesses, as Miriam, (Ex 15:20).
Huldah, (2Ki 22:14),
and divers others; but the word prophets or prophetesses is
ambiguous, sometimes being used of persons extraordinarily inspired by God,
and endowed with the power of working miracles, and foretelling things to
come; and sometimes of persons endowed with special gifts or graces, for the
better understanding and discoursing about the word and mind of God.
Of this sort were the sons of the prophets, or such as were bred in the
schools of the prophets. who are often called prophets, as(1Sa 10:5,10).
And because we read nothing of Deborah's miraculous actions, perhaps she
was only a woman of eminent holiness, and knowledge of the holy scriptures,
by which she was singularly qualified for judging the people according
to the laws of God. Judged Israel - That is, determined causes and
controversies arising among the Israelites, as is implied, ver.(5).
And this Jabin might suffer to be done, especially by a woman. Yet the
frequent discharge of this part of the judge's office, whereby she gained
great power and authority with the people, did notably (though not observed
by the tyrant) prepare the way for her sliding into the other part of her
office, which was to defend and rescue the people from their enemies.
5: And she dwelt - Or, she sat: she had her judgment - seat in the
open air, under the shadow of that tree; which was an emblem of the justice
she administered there: thriving and growing against opposition, as the
palm - tree does under pressures.
Came to her - To have their suits and causes determined by her sentence.
6: Called Barak - By virtue of that power which God had given her,
and the people owned in her. Kedesh Naphtali - So called, to distinguish
it from other places of that name, one in Judah, and another in
Issachar. Hath not the Lord, &c. - That is, assuredly God hath
commanded thee; this is not the fancy of a weak woman, which peradventure
thou mayst despise; but the command of the great God by my mouth.
Mount Tabor - A place most fit for his purpose, as being in the borders of
divers tribes, and having a large plain at the top of it, where he might
conveniently marshal and discipline his army.
Naphtali and Zebulun - These she names because they were nearest and best
known to Barak, and therefore soonest brought together, because they
were nearest to the enemy, and therefore might speedily be assembled, whilst
the other tribes, being at a distance, had better opportunity of gathering
forces for their succour; and because these had most smarted under this
oppressor, who was in the heart of their country; but these are not named
exclusively, as appears by the concurrence of some other tribes.
7: Draw to Thee - By my secret and powerful providence, ordering and
over - ruling his inclinations that way. In fixing the very place, she
gave him a sign, which might confirm his faith, when he came to engage.
8: I will not go - His offer to go with her, shews the truth of his
faith, for which he is praised, (Heb 11:32), but his refusal to go
without her, shews the weakness of his faith, that he could not trust God's
bare word, as he ought to have done, without the pledge of the presence of
10: Ten thousand at his feet - That is, who followed him; possibly he
intimates that they were all foot - men; and so this is emphatically added, to
signify by what contemptible means God overthrew Sisera's great host.
11: Heber - The husband of Jael. Of Hobab - Called also
Jethro. The Kenites - From the rest of his brethren, who lived in the
wilderness of Judah. His tent - That is, his dwelling, which probably was
in tents, as shepherds used.
12: They - That is, this people dwelling there, or his spies.
14: Up - Heb. arise, delay not. If we have ground to believe,
that God goes before us, we may well go on with courage and cheerfulness.
Gone before thee - Namely, as general of thine army, to fight for thee.
Went down - He doth not make use of the advantage which he had of the hill,
where he might have been out of the reach of his iron chariots, but boldly
marcheth down into the valley, to give Sisera the opportunity of using
all his horses and chariots, that so the victory might he more glorious.
15: Discomfited - With great terror and noise, as the word signifies,
probably with thunder and lightning, and hail - stones, poured upon them
from heaven, as is implied, (Jdg 5:20).
Edge of the sword - That is, by the sword of Barak and his army, whose
ministry God used; but so, that they had little else to do, but to kill
those whom God by more powerful arms had put to flight.
On his feet - That he might flee away more secretly in the quality
of a common soldier, whereas his chariot would have exposed him to
16: Left - In the field; for there were some who fled away, as
17: The tent of Jael - For women had their tents apart from their
husbands. And here he thought to lurk more securely than in her husband's
tent. Peace - Not a covenant of friendship, which they were forbidden to
make with that cursed people, but only a cessation of hostilities, which he
afforded them because they were peaceable people, abhorring war, and wholly
minding pasturage, and were not Israelites, with whom his principal
quarrel was; and especially by God's over - ruling disposal of his heart
to favour them who were careful to keep themselves uncorrupted with
Israel's sins, and therefore preserved from their plagues.
18: Fear not - This was a promise of security, and therefore she
cannot be excused from dissimulation and treachery.
19: A bottle of milk - As a signification of greater respect.
Covered him - Upon pretence of hiding him.
21: A nail of the tent - Wherewith they used to fasten the tent,
which consequently was long and sharp. This might seem a very bold attempt,
but it must be considered, that she was encouraged to it, by observing that
the heavens and all the elements conspired against him, as one devoted to
destruction. In the following son, Deborah doth not commend Jael's
Turn in my Lord, fear not; but only her action: touching which, this one
consideration may abundantly suffice to stop the mouths of objectors.
It cannot be denied, that every discourse which is recorded in scripture, is
not divinely inspired, because some of them were uttered by the devil, and
others by holy men, but mistaken. This being so, the worst that any can
infer from this place is, that this song, tho' indited by a good woman, was
not divinely inspired, but only composed by a person transported with joy
for the deliverance of God's people, but subject to mistake; who therefore,
out of zeal to commend the instrument of so great a deliverance, might
overlook the indirectness of the means, and commend that which should have
been disliked, And if they farther object, that it was composed by a
prophetess, and therefore must be divinely inspired; it may be replied, that
every expression of a true prophet was not divinely inspired; as is evident
from Samuel's mistake concerning Eliab, whom he thought to be
the Lord's anointed, (1Sa 16:6).
This is said upon supposition that Jael acted deceitfully in this
affair; but if we suppose, which is much more likely, that Jael fully
intended to afford Sisera the shelter and protection which he sought of
her, but was afterwards by the immediate direction of heaven ordered to
kill him, the whole difficulty vanishes, and the character both of Jael
and of Deborah remains unimpeached.