When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron. Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot. Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’ ” But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead. On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. – Judges 4:12-24
Warning this passage contains content not suitable for some children (and adults!). Wow…welcome to the book of Judges! Tent pegs through temples and all. The end of the book of Joshua and the beginning of the book of Judges describe the death and burial of Joshua…the last of the leaders who crossed the Jordan into the promised land. Israel is now being led by Judges and prophets who apparently come and go and provide some connection to the covenant of Moses and Aaron. The Israelites seem to be somewhat preoccupied by alternating between chasing, and being chased by their neighbors in the promised land. The main connection to water in this passage is where the battle takes place, the Kishon River, and an interesting bit of forensics involving water toward the end of the passage.
Deborah is ruling the region where Joshua lived and was buried. She has enlisted Barak to help her beat an enemy army, led by Sisera, and Barak has agreed, but only if Deborah comes along to help lead the troops. The decisive battle takes place at a river, the Kishon River. A river is now the site of a massive battle rather than a miracle. Deborah gives credit to God, although it is not clear whether Barak does so.
Sisera loses in a rout and escapes his chariot on foot to hide out in the tent of what he believes is an ally, Jael. He asks for water, she gives him milk and tucks him in only to drive a tent peg through his head while he sleeps.
My wife and I were discussing this odd and violent passage and she pointed out that a warrior would probably be a light sleeper and it was unlikely that Jael could have crept up on him while he was sleeping. We both agree it is more likely that she drugged him first. As I was thinking about this it occurred to me that Sisera asked for water and Jael gave him something from a skin of milk then tucked him in…I bet there was something in that “milk” that made him sleep really well. Beware when someone gives you milk when you ask for water!
As I have read through the bible up to this point there seems to be a steady diminution of God’s role in the life of the Israelites. God seems to be given only a cameo appearance in His own play! He seems to be increasingly relegated to footnote status. As I have pondered this progression of forgetting about God I realized that something similar has happened in the Christian church since the time of Christ.
When Jesus was on earth with the disciples God had superstar status and he was center stage, but since that time there has been a slow fade of the Christian church and many Christians — to the point where some who claim to be Christians will not even acknowledge the divinity of Christ.
Prayer: God, I pray that You will always play the lead role in my life.