How a Woman Won a Great Victory
Judges iv: 1, to
many of the people of Israel were drawn away from
the worship of the Lord, and began to live like the
people around them, praying to idols and doing
wickedly. And again the Lord left them to suffer for
their sins. A Canaanite king in the north, whose
name was Jabin, sent his army down to conquer them
under the command of his general, named Sisera. In
Sisera's army were many chariots of iron, drawn by
horses; while soldiers in the chariots shot arrows
and threw spears at the Israelites. The men of
Israel were not used to horses, and greatly feared
All the northern tribes in the land of Israel fell
under the power of King Jabin and his general,
Sisera; and their rule was very harsh and severe.
This was the fourth of these "oppressions," and it
bore most heavily upon the people in the north. But
it led those who suffered from it to turn from their
idols, and to call upon the Lord God of Israel.
At that time a woman was ruling as judge over a
large part of the land; the only woman among the
fifteen judges who, one after another, ruled the
Israelites. Her name was Deborah. She sat under a
palm-tree north of Jerusalem, between the cities of
Ramah and Bethel, and gave advice to all the people
who sought her. So wise and good was Deborah that
men came from all parts of the land with their
difficulties and the questions that arose between
them. She ruled over the land, not by the force of
any army, or by any appointment, but because all men
saw that God's Spirit was upon her.
Deborah heard of the troubles of the tribes in the
north under the hard rule of the Canaanites. She
knew that a brave man was living in the land of
Naphtali, a man named Barak, and to him she sent
"Barak, call out the tribes of Israel who live near
you; raise an army, and lead the men who gather
about you to Mount Tabor. The Lord has told me that
he will give Sisera and the host of the Canaanites
into your hands."
But Barak felt afraid to undertake alone this great
work of setting his people free. He sent back to
Deborah this answer:
"If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will
not go with me, I will not go."
"I will go with you," said Deborah; "but because you
did not trust God, and did not go when God called
you, the honor of this war will not be yours, for
God will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman."
Deborah left her seat under the palm-tree and went
up to Kedesh, where Barak lived. Together Deborah
and Barak sent out a call for the men of the north,
and ten thousand men met together with such arms as
they could find. This little army, with a woman for
its chief, encamped on Mount Tabor, which is one of
three mountains standing in a row on the east of a
great plain called "the plain of Esdraelon," "the
plain of Jezreel," and "the plain of Meggido,"—for
it bears all these three names. On this plain, both
in Bible times and also in the times since the
Bible, many great battles have been fought. Over
this plain winds the brook Kishon, which at some
seasons, after heavy rain, becomes a foaming,
From their camp on the top of Mount Tabor the little
army of Israel could look down on the great host of
the Canaanites with their many tents, their horses
and chariots, and their general, Sisera. But Deborah
was not afraid. She said to Barak:
"March down the mountain with all your men, and
fight the Canaanites. The Lord will go before you,
and he will give Sisera and his host into your
Then Barak blew a trumpet and called out his men.
They ran down the side of Mount Tabor and rushed
upon their enemies. The Canaanites were taken so
suddenly that they had no time to draw out their
chariots. They were frightened and ran away,
trampling each other under foot, chariots and horses
and men in a wild flight.
And the Lord helped the Israelites; for at that time
the brook Kishon was swollen into a river, and the
Canaanites crowded after each other into it. While
many were killed in the battle, many were also
drowned in the river.
Sisera, the general of the Canaanites, saw that the
battle had gone against him and that all was lost.
He leaped from his chariot and fled away on foot. On
the edge of the plain he found a tent standing
alone, and he ran to it for shelter and hiding.
It was the tent of a man named Heber, and Heber's
wife, Jael, was in front of it. She knew Sisera, and
said to him, "Come in, my lord; come into the tent;
do not be afraid."
Sisera entered the tent, and Jael covered him with a
rug, so that no enemy might find him. Sisera said to
her, "I am very thirsty; can you give me a little
water to drink?"
Instead of water she brought out a bottle of milk
and gave him some: and then Sisera lay down to
sleep, for he was very tired from the battle and
from running. While he was in a deep sleep, Jael
crept into the tent quietly with a tent-pin and a
hammer in her hand. She placed the point of the pin
upon the side of his head, near his ear, and with
the hammer gave blow after blow, driving it into his
brain and through his head until it went into the
ground underneath. After a moment's struggle Sisera
was dead, and she left his body upon the ground.
In a little time Jael saw Barak, the chief of the
Israelite army, coming toward the tent. She went out
to meet him, and said, "Come with me, and I will
show you the man whom you are seeking."
She lifted the curtain of the tent, and led Barak
within; and there he saw lying dead upon the ground
the mighty Sisera, who only the day before had led
the army of the Canaanites.
That was a terrible deed which Jael did. We should
call it treachery and murder; but such was the
bitter hate between Israelite and Canaanite at that
time that all the people gave great honor to Jael on
account of it, for by that act she had set the
people free from the king who had been oppressing
Israel. After this the land had rest for many years.
Deborah, the judge, wrote a great song about this
victory. Here are some verses from it:
the elders took the lead in Israel,
Because the people offered themselves willingly,
Bless ye the Lord.
Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes;
I, even I will sing unto the Lord;
I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.
. . . . . . . .
The kings came and fought.
Then fought the kings of Canaan,
In Taanach by the waters of Meggido.
They took no gain of money.
They fought from heaven,
The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
The river Kishon swept them away,
That ancient river, the river Kishon.
O my soul, march on with strength;
. . . . . . . .
Blessed among women shall Jael be,
The wife of Heber the Kenite,
Blessed shall she be among women in the tent.
He asked water, and she gave him milk,
She brought him butter in a lordly dish.
. . . . . . . .
At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay;
At her feet he bowed, he fell.
Where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
Through the window a woman looked forth and cried,
The mother of Sisera cried through the lattice,
Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the wheels of his chariot?
. . . . . . . .
So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord;
But let them that love him be as the sun,
When he goeth forth in his might.