3 These are the nations the Lord left in order to test all those in Israel who had experienced[a]none of the wars in Canaan. 2 This was to teach the future generations of the Israelites how to fight in battle, especially those who had not fought before.[b] 3 These nations included the five rulers of the Philistines and all of the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived in the Lebanese mountains from Mount Baal-hermon as far as the entrance to Hamath.[c] 4 The Lord left them to test Israel, to determine if they would keep the Lord’s commands he had given their fathers through[d]Moses. 5 But they settled among the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 6 The Israelites took their daughters as wives for themselves, gave their own daughters to their sons, and worshiped their gods.
Othniel, the First Judge
7 The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and he sold them to[e] King Cushan-rishathaim[f] of Aram-naharaim,[g] and the Israelites served him eight years.9 The Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother, as a deliverer to save the Israelites. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, and he judged Israel. Othniel went out to battle, and the Lord handed over King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram to him, so that Othniel overpowered him. 11 Then the land had peace for forty years, and Othniel son of Kenaz died.
12 The Israelites again did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He gave King Eglon of Moabpower over Israel, because they had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight. 13 After Eglon convinced the Ammonites and the Amalekites to join forces with him, he attacked and defeated Israel and took possession of the City of Palms.[h] 14 The Israelites served King Eglon of Moab eighteen years.15 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he raised up Ehud son of Gera, a left-handedBenjaminite,[i] as a deliverer for them. The Israelites sent him with the tribute for King Eglon of Moab.16 Ehud made himself a double-edged sword eighteen inches long.[j] He strapped it to his right thigh under his clothes 17 and brought the tribute to King Eglon of Moab, who was an extremely fat man. 18 When Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he dismissed the people who had carried it. 19 At the carved images near Gilgal he returned and said, “King Eglon, I have a secret message for you.” The king said, “Silence!” and all his attendants left him. 20 Then Ehud approached him while he was sitting alone in his upstairs room where it was cool. Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you,” and the king stood up from his throne. 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and plunged it into Eglon’s belly. 22 Even the handle went in after the blade, and Eglon’s fat closed in over it, so that Ehud did not withdraw the sword from his belly. And the waste came out.[k] 23 Ehud escaped by way of the porch, closing and locking the doors of the upstairs room behind him.24 Ehud was gone when Eglon’s servants came in. They looked and found the doors of the upstairs room locked and thought he was relieving himself[l] in the cool room. 25 The servants waited until they became embarrassed and saw that he had still not opened the doors of the upstairs room. So they took the key and opened the doors—and there was their lord lying dead on the floor!26 Ehud escaped while the servants waited. He passed the Jordan near the carved images and reached Seirah. 27 After he arrived, he sounded the ram’s horn throughout the hill country of Ephraim. The Israelites came down with him from the hill country, and he became their leader. 28 He told them, “Follow me, because the Lord has handed over your enemies, the Moabites, to you.” So they followed him, captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross over.29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all stout and able-bodied men. Not one of them escaped. 30 Moab became subject to Israel that day, and the land had peace for eighty years.
31 After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath became judge. He also delivered Israel, striking down six hundred Philistines with a cattle prod.
Deborah and Barak
4 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud had died. 2 So the Lord sold them to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera who lived in Harosheth of the Nations.[m] 3 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, because Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he harshly oppressed them twenty years.4 Deborah, a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to settle disputes.6 She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you: ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? 7 Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s army, his chariots, and his infantry at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.’”8 Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.”9 “I will gladly go with you,” she said, “but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera to a woman.” So Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.11 Now Heber the Kenite had moved away from the Kenites, the sons of Hobab, Moses’s father-in-law, and pitched his tent beside the oak tree of Zaanannim, which was near Kedesh.12 It was reported to Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up Mount Tabor. 13 Sisera summoned all his nine hundred iron chariots and all the troops who were with him from Harosheth of the Nations to the Wadi Kishon. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has handed Sisera over to you. Hasn’t the Lord gone before you?” So Barak came down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him.15 The Lord threw Sisera, all his charioteers, and all his army into a panic before Barak’s assault. Sisera left his chariot and fled on foot. 16 Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth of the Nations, and the whole army of Sisera fell by the sword; not a single man was left.17 Meanwhile, Sisera had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael went out to greet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord. Come in with me. Don’t be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. 19 He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink for I am thirsty.” She opened a container of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him again. 20 Then he said to her, “Stand at the entrance to the tent. If a man comes and asks you, ‘Is there a man here?’ say, ‘No.’” 21 While he was sleeping from exhaustion, Heber’s wife Jael took a tent peg, grabbed a hammer, and went silently to Sisera. She hammered the peg into his temple and drove it into the ground, and he died.22 When Barak arrived in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to greet him and said to him, “Come and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he went in with her, and there was Sisera lying dead with a tent peg through his temple!23 That day God subdued King Jabin of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 The power of the Israelites continued to increase against King Jabin of Canaan until they destroyed him.
5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang: 2 When the leaders lead[n] in Israel,when the people volunteer, blessed be the Lord. 3 Listen, kings! Pay attention, princes! I will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel. 4 Lord, when you came from Seir,when you marched from the fields of Edom, the earth trembled, the skies poured rain, and the clouds poured water. 5 The mountains melted before the Lord, even Sinai,[o] before the Lord, the God of Israel. 6 In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael,the main roads were deserted because travelers kept to the side roads. 7 Villages were deserted,[p]they were deserted in Israel, until I,[q] Deborah, arose, a mother in Israel. 8 Israel chose new gods, then there was war in the city gates. Not a shield or spear was seenamong forty thousand in Israel. 9 My heart is with the leaders of Israel, with the volunteers of the people. Blessed be the Lord! 10 You who ride on white[r] donkeys, who sit on saddle blankets, and who travel on the road, give praise! 11 Let them tell the righteous acts of the Lord, the righteous deeds of his warriors in Israel, with the voices of the singers at the watering places.[s] Then the Lord’s people went down to the city gates. 12 “Awake! Awake, Deborah!Awake! Awake, sing a song! Arise, Barak, and take your prisoners, son of Abinoam!” 13 Then the survivors came down to the nobles; the Lord’s people came down to me[t]with the warriors. 14 Those with their roots in Amalek[u] came from Ephraim; Benjamin came with your people after you. The leaders came down from Machir, and those who carry a marshal’s staff came from Zebulun. 15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah; Issachar was with Barak; they were under his leadership[v] in the valley. There was great searching[w] of heartamong the clans of Reuben. 16 Why did you sit among the sheep pens[x]listening to the playing of pipes for the flocks? There was great searching of heartamong the clans of Reuben. 17 Gilead remained beyond the Jordan. Dan, why did you linger at the ships?Asher remained at the seashoreand stayed in his harbors. 18 The people of Zebulun defied death, Naphtali also, on the heights of the battlefield. 19 Kings came and fought.Then the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the Waters of Megiddo, but they did not plunder the silver. 20 The stars fought from the heavens; the stars fought with Sisera from their paths. 21 The river Kishon swept them away, the ancient river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul, in strength! 22 The horses’ hooves then hammered—the galloping, galloping of his[y] stallions. 23 “Curse Meroz,” says the angel of the Lord,“Bitterly curse her inhabitants, for they did not come to help the Lord, to help the Lord with the warriors.” 24 Jael is most blessed of women, the wife of Heber the Kenite; she is most blessed among tent-dwelling women. 25 He asked for water; she gave him milk. She brought him cream in a majestic bowl. 26 She reached for a tent peg,her right hand, for a workman’s hammer. Then she hammered Sisera—she crushed his head; she shattered and pierced his temple. 27 He collapsed, he fell, he lay down between her feet; he collapsed, he fell between her feet; where he collapsed, there he fell—dead.28 Sisera’s mother looked through the window; she peered through the lattice, crying out: “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why don’t I hear the hoofbeats of his horses?” [z]29 Her wisest princesses answer her; she even answers herself:[aa] 30 “Are they not finding and dividing the spoil—a girl or two[ab] for each warrior, the spoil of colored garments for Sisera, the spoil of an embroidered garment or two for my neck?” [ac] 31 Lord, may all your enemies perish as Sisera did.[ad] But may those who love himbe like the rising of the sun in its strength. And the land had peace for forty years.
Deborah, Barak, and Jael’s story shows us an important characteristic of God. He almost never provides in human strength or expectation. We think Deborah, the woman, will be the champion. But then it’s going to be Barak. But wait, what? A woman who isn’t even an israelite kills the king? Don’t always look at how God provides for His people in what makes sense. Jesus’ birth made anything but sense, and God saved all those who would call upon His name through Him.