Natan’s Commentary on Judges 4 and 5

Judges 4

Judges 4:4, Deborah the prophetess. Deborah is but one of a number of women prophets or, more correctly, prophetesses that are mentioned in the Bible. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron was the first prophetess mentioned (Exod 15:20). Huldah the prophetess ministered in the time of righteous King Josiah (2 Kgs 22:14; 2 Chron 34:22). The wife of Isaiah the prophet was also a prophetess making them a prophetic team (Isa 8:3). Noadiah the prophetess ministered in the time of Nehemiah (Neh 6:14). She must have been notable, since other prophets, presumably male, are listed along with her, but she is the only one whose name is mentioned. There was also Anna the prophetess who ministered near the temple and recognized the young Yeshua to be the Messiah (Luke 2:36). Philip the evangelist had four daughters who also prophesied (Acts 21:9). Beyond that, Joel the prophet predicted that a time would come when both men and women would prophecy (Joel 2:28). Peter recognized that this prophecy was, at least, in part fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). Joel’s prophecy was also likely fulfilled in the church at Corinth where everyone was allowed to prophecy, presumably both men and women, for the purpose of edifying the brethren (1 Cor 14:29–33), and Paul refers to them all as “prophets” (1 Cor 14:29, 32).

The wife of Lapidoth (KJV). The ArtScroll Tanach has translated this phrase as “a fiery woman” since the Hebrew word lapid means torch. This implies that Deborah was energetic and decisive. The Jewish sages teach that Lapidoth is but another name for Barak since both names connote flashes of lightning, and therefore are used interchangeably (The ArtScroll Rubin Edition Joshua/Judges Commentary, p. 137). If the sages are correct, then Deborah was assisting her husband, Barak. He was the military leader of Israel, while she was the spiritual leader. Does this shake your paradigm about the role of women in biblical societies? Many times fiery women are labeled and branded as persona non grata. Is this a fair thing to do if they are women who walk in and uphold biblical standards of righteousness, and who honor and defer to male headship, if there is righteous male headship worthy of honor?

Often Barak is viewed as a reluctant, even cowardly military leader. Is this a fair assessment? Didn’t he display great faith when he heeded the Word of Elohim through Deborah, and furthermore abandoned the strategic high ground when attacking the enemy on the plain where the enemy’s chariots would be most advantageous? If Barak and Deborah were husband and wife, what does this story teach us about husbands and wives not only respecting, but heeding each other’s counsel, and then working together as a team? Who knows, YHVH may be using your wife or husband to speak to you right now!

Judging Israel at that time. Not only was Deborah a prophetess, but she acted as a judge—a de facto head leadership position in Israel at that time when there was not central leadership or government.

Judges 4:11, 17, The children of Hobab. This is another name for Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, the priest of Midian, who was a righteous man and a descendant of Abraham. Thus, the children of Hobab and the Israelites were blood related cousins and possibly fellow believers in the Elohim of Abraham. Perhaps this is why Jael was willing to kill Sisera, the heathen enemy of Israel. Because of family and, possibly, spiritual ties, despite her people being at peace with Israel’s enemies, who was will to kill Sisera out of family loyalty and devotion to Elohim.

Judges 4:14, Deborah said to Barak. Deborah, on the instructions of Elohim, commissioned Barak to go up with his army to fight Sisera with his 900 chariots of iron. This required great faith and human boldness on Barak’s part, for this would be like lightly armed infantry soldiers in our day going up against tanks. Yet armed with a prophetic word from Elohim and faith, Barak obeyed. Had Barak been a sexist, he would have dismissed the prophetesses words and not secured the victory for Israel. If Barak was the wife of Deborah (see notes at verse 4), then the lesson here is that men should listen to their godly wives. If they were not married, then men still need to listen to the counsel of godly and Spirit-led women.

Judges 4:15, YHVH routed Sisera. When we are fighting YHVH’s battles at his command and according to his mandates, he will fight for us and turn overwhelming odds against us to our favor. The Bible is full of countless examples of this. To many times, we lose our battles with our enemies because we are fighting our own battles in our own way against our own enemies and we are outside of the will of Elohim.

Judges 4:23, Elohim subdued Jabin. As grisly as this battle and the death of Sisera at the hand of Jael was, and as offensive to our western sensitivities as it may be, YHVH’s hand was in it, and he used humans to accomplish his purposes in defeating Israel’s enemies. When YHVH pronounces a death sentence on the enemies of his people, that’s it! 

Judges 5

Judges 5:1, On that day.Together, Deborah and Barak sang the following praise psalm that, it seems, the former composed (vv. 3, 7, 12) on the very day of battle and victory as a spontaneous outburst of joyful human enthusiasm. After the victory over their enemies, they did not delay to offer up a sacrifice of praise to the Elohim of Israel. “Given the fragile nature of joy so great that it bursts into a song, it must be expressed immediately, before the heightened perception begins to fade away, or is depleted by sin” (The ArtScroll Rubin Edition Joshua/Judges Commentary, p. 141). 

Is your relationship so vital with your Maker and your joy and gratitude so child-like, spontaneous and unquenchable that you do not delay to praise him the moment a blessing from heaven comes your way? Giving in to spontaneous emotional outbursts may seem foreign to our Western mindset, but this is an innate and dynamic aspect of the Hebrew psyche. In the psalms, for example, we see many examples of immediate emotional expressions of gratefulness to YHVH often occurring directly on the heals of major events. 

If you have never tried writing a psalm of praise to the Almighty as an expression of gratitude, pain, sorrow or whatever, try it. It is a wonderfully therapeutic activity and brings one closer to their Creator in a special and sensitive way. You may not think of yourself as the possessor of poetic abilities, but take the leap and sit down the next time that you are experiencing an emotional high (or low) and put your thoughts and feeling to pen and paper. No one has to ever read it, but, under the inspiration of the Spirit of Elohim, you may surprise yourself at the results and find a new, even fulfilling and healing, emotional outlet for your emotions.

Judges 5:2, When leaders lead. Often nothing occurs and heaven’s plans are not advanced in the affairs of men because leaders fail to rise up and lead. Most people are followers and are looking to leaders to lead them. YHVH has given the gift of leadership to certain individuals and called them to be servant-leaders of his people (see Rom 12:8), but many, if not most people refuse to answer the call to do so. In the absence of selfless, godly and leaders who offer themselves, many of heaven’s great plans fail to get accomplished until such people are raised up and obediently respond to heaven’s mandates. Deborah and Barak were examples of leaders in Israel who answered the call to step forward and to lead people publicly. On the other hand, Jael, was a leader of sorts, who answered the call to do great things in the quietness of her own home.

Judges 5:7, A mother in Israel. Along your spiritual journey, have you ever encountered a “mother in Israel” who YHVH used to change the course of your life and shape your spiritual destiny through her wise counsel and guidance? Such a Deborah-like woman is loving, but she does not fail to scold or discipline her children when they need it. May YHVH raise up such righteous and discerning women in Israel in our day!

Let’s not forget the other woman in this passage: Jael. While one woman, Deborah, was a well-known public figure functioning as a prophetess, judge and military leader in Israel, another woman was hidden away in the wilderness out of the limelight, simply fulfilling her role as a house (or tent) wife. She, too, was a mother in Israel, who was quietly walking in righteousness in her own home, yet YHVH brought a ministry opportunity her way. Though the task she was asked to do was a grisly one, she did not shrink back when duty called to her. In so doing, she helped to save the nation of Israel at a very tenuous time in its existence, and her name is immortalized in Deborah’s psalm of praise. 

What is the lesson for us in this often-forgotten biblical story? Simply this. Be faithful to do what YHVH has called you to do, no matter how insignificant and hidden away in the shadows of human experience it may seem, and he will bring you greater opportunities to rise and shine for his purposes. As a result of your obedience, your Father in heaven will reward you with blessings unspeakable.

Judges 5:8, Not a shield or spear was seen. Often times when Israel fell into apostasy and was taken over by her enemies, her oppressing conquerors would deprive the Israelites of sword, spear and other sharp implements, so they would be defenseless and unable to rebel. There is nothing new under the sun. In our day, the same thing occurs when tyrannical leaders confiscate all the firearms from those they want to rule over and oppress. If and when this occurs and the people repent of their sins, the arm of YHVH is not shortened in his ability to deliver his unarmed and defenseless people from the hands of their enemies. All his people need is obedient faith in Elohim and he will miraculously destroy their enemies in his own amazing ways. The Bible is full of many such examples.

Judges 5:17–18, Dan…Asher. These tribes failed to come to the aid of the other tribes of Israel when it was in their power to stop the advancing enemies of Israel. As a result, Deborah concentrate her ire in the form of a prophetic curse on the inhabitants of Meroz, likely a city in the territory of Dan which could have stopped Sisera in his advance to the east of northern Israel; they refused “to come to the help of YHVH.” (See notes on verse 23.) In times of trouble, and when under the threat of a common enemy, the people of Elohim need to stand together to fight YHVH’s battles united and synergistically. At that exact moment, your neighbor may be your enemy’s target, but the next moment it may be you. 

Judges 5:31, Your enemies. In this case, Israel’s enemies were YHVH’s enemies. Because of this the Israelites were victorious because heaven’s hand was there to aid them. Had the enemies been only those of Israel and not YHVH, Israel would likely have been defeated. This lesson for us is this: when going to battle, we must make certain that we are fighting YHVH’s battles in righteousness, and not our own battles in unrighteousness (e.g., for carnal reasons such as out of selfishness, covetousness, vindictive revenge or animosity).

Forty years. Forty years or one generation is about as long as Israel could remain faithful to Elohim. Only a remnat of righteous saints carried the torch of righteous obedience onto the next generation, while the rest of YHVH’s people slipped into worldliness and spiritual darkness, even though many of them maintained the outward pretense of religiosity. The same is true today.


2 thoughts on “Natan’s Commentary on Judges 4 and 5

  1. Shalom Natan.
    May Abba keep you well & strong in His strength.

    Thought you would like to know for correction near the end of your article.

    If Barak was the wife of Deborah.

    Thankyou Natan, for your many blessings of wisdom in openess in discussion of all manner of things laid before us by Elohim for our instruction.

    Blessings to All.
    In my prayers.
    Praise our King.

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