For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

4:1.  “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead.”

The reference to Ehud’s, rather than Shamgar’s death, may indicate that Shamgar perhaps was not a judge, but the matter is inconsequential.

The evil that followed the death of Ehud, however, has much to teach us.  Since he represents praise, the truth being taught is that which is confirmed by experience: when the spirit of praise dies, all kinds of evil come in.  Praise and obedience cannot be separated.  There has never been greater need to cultivate the same spirit of praise and worship that marked the Apostolic Church.

Animals have bodies and souls, but man has a body, a soul, and a spirit, and because he has a spirit, he must worship - if not God, then Satan, for all idolatry is in essence the worship of the prince of darkness (1 Co 8:4-7).  An apostate church engages in a ritual that it calls worship, and unfortunately true believers, become carnal, may still cling to the outward form  long after the spirit of worship has gone.  They may still sit around the Lord’s table, may sing hymns, pray, read Scripture, eat the bread and drink the wine - and all the while be engaging in a mere empty ritual, as displeasing to God as was the ritualistic worship of Israel, offered to Him while they also worshipped the Baals of Canaan.

4:2.  “And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.”

This foe had already been conquered about 130 years earlier by Joshua, so that Jabin may have been a title similar to that of the Pharaohs, rather than a name.  The lesson is that our spiritual foes, defeated in one battle, may return to fight with us again and again.  The conflict won’t be over until our earthly course is finished.

Jabin means he will understand; and Canaan, we have already learned, means a trafficker.  Hazor means to trumpet: enclosure; Sisera, a crane of seeing: swallow of seeing;  Harosheth, carving: devise evil secretly; and Gentiles is simply nations.

The type is easily read.  Jabin clearly represents the intellectualism which has always been the foe of faith, and never more so than today.  His being king of Canaan enlarges the typological picture, for inasmuch as Canaan rightly belonged to Israel, Jabin represents that particular form of intellectualism that has imposed itself upon the professing church, and trafficks in spiritual things.  Nothing has wrought greater havoc amongst God’s people than this very evil.

His reigning in Hazor to trumpet: enclosure, has also a message for us.  Since the trumpet was used in Israel to gather the people together for their solemn feasts, etc., and also to sound an alarm, it would speak of the ministry of the Word to believers, and of the preaching of the Gospel to the unconverted.  But enclosure, which in a good connotation, would speak of protection, here speaks rather of that exclusive “enclosure” occupied by the clergy, an enclosure from which the “layman” is excluded, a theological education being deemed essential to an understanding of Scripture, and also to the ability to minister the Word.  Lack of a theological education bars the “layman” from that exclusive enclosure, with the result that, since there is no opportunity to exercise the spiritual gifts given for the upbuilding of the Church, those gifts wither from lack of use.

One of the best safeguards against this enemy is to obey the injunction of Paul, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Tim 4:14); “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Tim 1:6).  It is gift neglected and not exercised that facilitates the replacement of God’s order with human schemes and methods, the most obvious being the presumptuous imposition of the clerical system by which spiritual gift is replaced with theological education, so that spiritual ministry is replaced with what is often pure intellectualism.

The captain of Jabin’s host was Sisera a crane of seeing: swallow of seeing, and significantly the only two times we find the crane and the swallow mentioned together in Scripture are Isa 38:14, when Hezekiah mourned as he faced death; and Jer 8:7, which records the mourning of Israel as she suffered the chastisement of God for her disobedience. 

The meaning of Sisera’s name confirms that the lesson being taught here has to do with intelligence, for in Scripture seeing is often used figuratively to represent knowing.  The intellectualism represented by Jabin is what is permitted by God to chastise His people, but unfortunately in many cases their spiritual insensitivity is so great that they don’t even recognize it as chastisement.  Eventually, however, that same intellectualism proves to be a tyrant under which believers are divided into clergy and laity, the former lording it over the latter, and arrogating the exclusive right to interpret Scripture.  That is the type of bondage that has ruled Christendom for almost two thousand years, and is the vassalage from which the assemblies but recently delivered, are quickly returning.

Sisera’s dwelling at Harosheth carving: devise evil secretly of the Gentiles, is easily interpreted since wood is the material most often carved, and wood in Scripture represents humanity.  Harosheth speaks of the evil molding or shaping of men’s minds both by the intellectualism of the clergy and of the world in general.

The location of Harosheth is uncertain, but thought to have been in the south of Asher, indicating perhaps that there was a enemy enclave there.  What they had been allowed to occupy was what God had given to Asher, and Asher shouldn’t have given it up.  There are many “Harosheths” marring the happiness of God’s people today, and as in Israel, the enemy remains because we have failed to drive him out.  As they robbed Asher of territory, so will the enemy rob us of the happiness which Asher represents.

4:3.  “And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.” 

The iron chariots speak of the strength of the enemy.  The power of intellectualism is not to be underrated.  He who controls a man’s mind controls that man more effectively than if he held him in a cage.

Since nine is the number of resurrection (3 x 3), this seems to speak of intellectualism imposing itself upon those who stand on resurrection ground, i.e., true believers.  Such has been the case for most of the Church’s history, for the foremost representatives of religious intellectualism are the clergy, and they have ruled the professing church since shortly after the end of the Apostolic age; and as noted already, the assemblies, which but recently escaped from that tyranny, are being lured back into it today, the work of the enemy being facilitated by the indolence of believers who are so busy with the things of this passing world that they have no time for the things that belong to the kingdom of God.  Spiritual gift that should be stirred up and exercised for the upbuilding of the Church, lies neglected, the place of the gifted evangelists, elders, and teachers being taken by a theologically educated, but spiritually ungifted clergy.

The duration of the tyranny was twenty years.  Twenty has two sets of factors: 2 x 10, and 4 x 5.  Two is the number of witness or testimony; and ten, of Divine government.  Jabin’s oppression of Israel was nothing less than the witness to the fact that their disobedience had resulted in God’s using the enemy to chastise them.  Four is the number of earth and testing, while five is the number of responsibility, the two combining to remind us that testing had simply revealed their failure to meet their responsibility to walk in obedience before God, a walk that would have secured blessing rather than chastisement.

The principles are as applicable to the Church as to Israel.

That this was no light affliction is revealed in the words of Scripture, “... he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.”  No tyranny is greater than that which seeks to control men’s minds, yet this is the nature of the tyranny imposed on the Church by a clerical class which has arrogated the sole right to understand Scripture, and to teach.  A spiritually blind Christendom, however, long accustomed to the system, never having known anything else, fails to see that it is in bondage to that system.

4:4.  “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.”

Israel’s low spiritual state is declared in that this judge was a woman, for in the OT as well as the New, the woman’s place is one of subjection, not rule, see, e.g., 1 Pe 3:5-6.  Note also what is written in Isa 3:12 concerning Israel again under the chastisement of God, “... children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.”

Her name means a bee: her speaking, with the idea of orderly motion as an underlying thought; and Lapidoth means torches: lamp: flame: to shine: with unto the calamities suggested as a secondary meaning.  The general thought connected with the meanings of Deborah are related to the idea of orderly or wise speech, as the life of the bee is orderly and productive of good.

Connected with the first four meanings of Lapidoth is the idea of light, and inasmuch as he was Deborah’s husband, and therefore her head, the truth being declared is that light, the light of Divine revelation, was the authority behind her words. 

The second meaning of Lapidoth’s name unto the calamities yields no readily discernible meaning, unless it is that in the present context his wife’s words would be the pronouncement of calamity to the enemy.

4:5.  “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”

Ramah means the height; Bethel, house of God; and Ephraim, double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful.  All of these meanings have a good connotation, for the palm tree is one of the symbols of righteousness, e.g., Ps 92:12; while the height here seems to imply the high ground of separation from the world, rather than as sometimes, the high place occupied by pride.  The house of God speaks for itself, and as we have noted already, Ephraim speaks of fruitfulness.  Everything would combine to teach the lesson that even in the midst of apostasy, faithful submissive obedience (of which the virtuous woman speaks) may flourish, as in the case of this obviously godly woman.  In a day of departure her house was the center to which exercised hearts turned for guidance.  There is encouragement in this.  Conditions in the professing church today are exactly as foreshadowed in the condition of Israel during the era of the Judges.  There is still opportunity, in a professing church largely apostate, for submissive obedience on the part of individuals, so that they may be to others what Deborah was to Israel in days of deep declension.

We have seen that every judge is a type of Christ, and Deborah, though a woman, is no exception  .  Several other women, in fact, are types of Christ, and in each case it is the meek submissiveness (which the godly woman portrays) of Christ that is being emphasized.

4:6.  “And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?”

Barak means lightning; Abinoam, father of pleasantness; Kedesh, a sanctuary; Naphtali, my wrestling: my tortuosity; Tabor, thou wilt purge: broken; and Zebulun, dwelling.

It was Deborah, not Barak, who took the initiative.  God’s will had been revealed first to her, reminding us that He delights to share His counsels with the submissive obedience which Deborah represents.  They who take the same humble place of waiting at God’s feet, are they who are in a position to instruct others in spiritual things.

Since lightning is one of the agents of destruction employed by God, Barak stands forth as the instrument in the hand of God for the destruction of the oppressor, but since Abinoam means father of pleasantness, the implication would be that his son Barak would represent pleasantness as well as lightning.  Keeping in mind that each deliverer of Israel is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see how apt the description is.  He is the One into Whose hand all judgment has been committed (Jn 5:22).  He is, as it were, the “lightning” of God against evil, yet He is the very Embodiment of pleasantness to those who trust Him as Savior, and walk in obedience.

The place from which Barak is called has also much to teach us: it was from the place that means literally the sanctuary of the wrestler.  Many have taken this to be indicative of wrestling with God in prayer - a view I find difficult to accept.  We do not have to wrestle with God for blessing.  He delights to bless, and so far from having to wrestle with Him, as though He were reluctant to give, we read that we have simply to ask, “Ask, and it shall be given you....” (Mt 7:7).  I believe we are closer to the truth relative to wrestling when we see it as a struggle against evil, against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  It is the wrestler against evil who knows what it is to dwell in the sanctuary.

“Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded....?”  Israel means he shall be prince of God: God’s fighter.  It speaks of obedience, for they who obey are His “princes” and His soldiers or fighters.  God commands that this foe be driven out.  He is as anxious that the Church drive out intellectualism as He was that Israel drive out Jabin and his host. 

The “ten thousand” speaks of Divine government.  This enemy was to learn that in opposing Israel, he was opposing God.  It is the same with the Church.  “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mt 25:40).  The men to go against the foe were to be from the tribes that speak of wrestling, and of dwelling.  They remind us that if there is to be victory, then there must be wrestling against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and there must be that dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High” - there must be time reserved to be alone with God each day.

4:7.  “And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.”

Kishon, meaning ensnarer, lay in the territory of Asher happy.  Sisera’s coming to this place would imply that Asher was under his dominion, or at least, was powerless to resist him.  In either case, the truth being declared is that the intellectualism which Jabin and Sisera represent, would lord it over the believer’s happiness, but inasmuch as he was being drawn there by God, though he knew it not, we learn that the enemy can do nothing apart from God’s permission.  And though he came “with his chariots and his multitude” he was already a defeated foe, for God declared, “and I will deliver him into thine hand.”  How needless are the fears of those who walk obediently before God!

The spiritual significance of Kishon, ensnarer, is not easily discerned, though at least one thought suggests itself.  Proud intellectualism, undertaking to meddle with truth, is simply ensnaring itself, for all the wisdom of the world is foolishness compared to the wisdom which comes from God (1 Co 1:25).

4:8.  “And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”

This was pure disobedience, and continues to indicate the same lack of faith as marked Judah in 1:3, but here, as there, God in His grace gave victory in spite of Barak’s lack of faith.  Godly woman though she was, Deborah, like Barak, was nothing more than an instrument in the hand of God.  Whether she went or not made no difference.  The victory lay with God, and while He condescends to use human instruments, He has no need of them.  As with Moses and the assistants chosen at Jethro’s wrong suggestion, there was no more power available to Moses than formerly.  The power remained the same, though spread over several instruments rather than one.

When God bids us go alone, it is folly to seek aid from man.  Such lack of faith is far more likely to diminish the power available to us, for man can add nothing to that power.

4:9.  “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.  And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.”

Deborah apparently understood what Barak didn’t: her presence was not only unnecessary, but would result in Barak’s losing honor which God would have bestowed upon him.  The Bema will reveal how often our lack of faith has robbed us of honor.  Did we but grasp what an honor it is to be called by God to some special task, where He alone is our Companion, we would be less anxious to seek the aid of men.

Clearly, the death of Sisera by the hand of a woman, was viewed by God as less desirable than had it been at the hand of a man, and an obvious question is, Why?

The answer lies in the fact that the man represents activity of the will; the woman, passivity.  God is better pleased by those victories won as a result of our activity rather than passivity.  For example, it is certainly a victory when I personally refuse to be brought under the control of the world’s intellectualism, but it is a far greater victory when I actively seek to destroy that intellectualism so that others will also be delivered from its power. 

Since Kedesh, as we have seen, means sanctuary, Deborah’s going “with Barak to Kedesh” before the encounter with Sisera, would teach us the necessity of spending time in the sanctuary before engaging in any conflict with the foe, or undertaking any spiritual work.

4:10.  “And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.”

Barak’s calling Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh (sanctuary), continues to emphasize the truth that it is not just the elders who are to spend time in the sanctuary - every believer, from the youngest to the oldest, has the same need, and the same responsibility.

4:11.  “Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.”

Heber means a company: enchantment; Kenite, a smith: a fabricator; and Hobab, loving: a lover.  Interpreters are divided in their understanding of the spiritual significance of this particular Kenite.  As has been noted already, the Kenites appear to represent something of the world dwelling in the midst of God’s people, but not joined to them.  Some have discerned in them those who come amongst God’s people for the advantages to be derived from such an association, but who remain unbelievers, and therefore the enemies of the things of God.  Heber had separated himself from the other Kenites, leading some to see in him the symbol of good, but others have pointed out that there is nothing to indicate that he had joined himself to Israel.  It is possible to separate oneself from the world without being joined to God, such separation being mere asceticism, and it is significant that “there was peace between Jabin ... and the house of Heber the Kenite (v.17).”  This does not suggest good, for the Word of God teaches that there can be no peace with a world at enmity with Christ.

“... and he pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim wanderings, which is by Kedesh sanctuary,” in the territory of Naphtali my wrestling: my tortuosity.  Wanderings are associated with sin, rather than the purposeful path of the pilgrim, e.g., the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness after their refusal to enter Canaan.  His being in the vicinity of Kedesh seems to confirm the view that he represents the unbeliever drawing near, but remaining an unbeliever.  On the whole, the evidence seems to be against his being representative of good.

4:12.  “And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.”

Expositors are not agreed as to whether it was Heber, or others who informed Sisera of Barak’s movements, and the point isn’t important.  The truth is that there are all too many very willing to keep the enemy informed.  Since God had promised that He would draw Sisera to the river Kishon (v.7), it may well be that it was He Who had used the human instrument to inform Sisera, and thus accomplish His Own purpose.

4:13.  “And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.”

Since, as noted already, Harosheth carving: devise evil secretly, appears to represent that shaping of men’s minds by the intellectualism of the clergy and/or mere worldly wisdom, Sisera’s gathering of the people from Harosheth to fight against Barak, speaks of what is all too evident: the world, with its imagined intellectual superiority, is ever ready to mass its forces in opposition to God and His people.

What they didn’t know, however, was that it was God Who was drawing them to Kishon ensnarer, for their destruction; nor do the men of the world, proud of their imagined intellectual superiority, realize that that very worldly knowledge they prize so highly, will bring them also to destruction.

4:14.  “And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee?  So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.”

With God as their Vanguard they could go with confidence, and so can we.

4:15.  “And the Lord discomfited Sisera and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.”

It was the Lord Who destroyed the enemy.  Barak and his ten thousand were but instruments in the hand of the Almighty.  Would we be successful in our conflicts with the enemy?  Let us be but instruments in God’s hand, and the victory is assured.  The weapon with which they were slain was the sword, which is itself a symbol of the Word of God.  It is the only weapon we need, and the sorry plight of the professing church is due in large measure to the fact that we are little skilled in the use of that all-powerful weapon.  A neglected Bible is the cause of virtually all our defeats.

Chapter 5:4,21 makes it clear that the victory was secured by God’s sending heavy rain which first rendered the chariots useless in the mud, and then swept them away as the swollen Kishon overflowed its banks.  The rain and the overflowing river both speak of the Word of God being used, not sparingly but liberally.  There is no more effective weapon against the world’s intellectualism.  Were we more familiar with Scripture there would be fewer victories for the enemy.

The chariots may represent all the different phases of the world’s wisdom (here rendered useless by the Word).  Sisera’s abandoning his chariot therefore speaks of the abandonment of some form of intellectualism, its worthlessness having been exposed by the Word of God.  I can’t read the significance of his fleeing on his feet, unless it represents the withdrawal of the enemy, so that he may return at a later date having as his weapon another form of worldly wisdom.  The expressions of the world’s wisdom change with the times, but the evil principle never changes.

4:16.  “But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.”

Barak’s pursuit of the chariots and fleeing men, and his destruction of all of them, is to teach us that the enemy is not to be spared, for if he is, he will return.  Every vestige of the world’s intellectualism in our lives and in our assemblies, is to be destroyed.  The world’s wisdom has no place in the spiritual realm. 

Harosheth appears to have been the point where the pursuit ended, and the significance of this will be understood as we realize what Harosheth represents - see comments on verse 2.  The world’s wisdom shapes the mind of the natural man, but the believer whose mind is shaped by God, is the place where the power of worldly wisdom ends.  The obedient believer doesn’t allow that so-called wisdom to mold his mind.

4:17.  “Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.”

Jael means ibex (a mountain goat), and it is to be remembered that the goat was the animal used for the sin offering.  The identification of this woman with the goat may indicate that she represents one not yet converted, but foreknown by God as one who would be.  As the offerer’s sins were laid upon the goat of the sin offering, so were Jael’s sins still upon her.  For the significance of Sisera’s fleeing away on his feet,  see comments on verse 15.

Since, as noted already, Heber seems to represent those who associate themselves with Christians, but without becoming believers themselves, Sisera’s fleeing to Heber’s tent may portray the flight of intellectualism, routed by Scripture, finding a hiding place in the company of those who associate themselves with believers, but without ever having been born again.  There is almost invariably “peace” between the religious professor and the world’s intellectualism.

4:18.  “And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not.  And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.”

There is good reason to see in her slaying of Sisera the figure of the conversion of one who had formerly “been at peace” with intellectualism, one whose knowledge of God had been of the head only, and not of the heart.  But Jael, seeing Sisera for the pathetic thing he was, realized perhaps, that whatever previous relationship her house had had with Jabin, it was foolish to continue that relationship in view of his defeat at the hand of Israel.  Clearly, her best interests were to be served by severing that relationship, and forming one with the victor. 

This is the essence of conversion.  The sinner, realizing the folly of his allegiance to Satan, breaks it, and allies himself with God.

Her covering him with a mantle (rug) speaks of covering up intellectualism, in the sense of putting it away.  This is precisely what happens at conversion.  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are  saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Co 1:18-19).  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pr 9:10).

4:19.  “And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.  And she opened a bottle (skin) of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.”

His thirst is indicative of the spiritual “thirst” that must always be experienced by the man who has nothing but the world’s wisdom.  Water and milk are both types of the Word: water, the Word for refreshment and cleansing; milk, as the food of the spiritual babe, the immature. 

There must be some significance connected with his asking for water, and his being given milk instead, as there must be also in its being emphasized that she “opened a bottle (lit. skin) of milk.”  The principle of worldly wisdom which Sisera represents, can neither be refreshed nor cleansed by the Word, hence her refusal to give him water.  Her giving him milk, however, speaks of the feebleness of new found faith using the milk of the Word to refute the wisdom of the world.  That simple form of truth, however, is despised by the men of the world, for they can’t comprehend the power that lies in it.  That disregard of it is portrayed in his lying down to sleep, confident that he had nothing to fear from this woman.  His confidence was ill founded, for she, having given him that milk, proceeded next to slay him.  The simplest form of the Word, used in faith, is sufficient to slay the world’s wisdom, no matter how formidable it may appear to be.

It is significant that she drew the milk out of a skin, for that skin represents a slain animal, and speaks of death.  It is a double figure: first, of the Lord Jesus Christ, slain, and becoming thereby the source of the Word as “milk” for the new born believer, but having, even in that simple form, the power to overcome all the might of the world’s wisdom.  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pe 2:2).  It is, however, also a figure of the believer, for he too has been slain “crucified with Christ,” and there is in him also the “sincere milk of the Word,” having the same power to overcome the world’s wisdom.

4:20.  “Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.”

This is the symbolic declaration of the truth that intellectualism, suffering defeat, will deny that it even exists, so that it may have opportunity to recover itself and continue its nefarious work.

4:21.  “Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary.  So he died.”

The very fact of her smiting him in the head, the seat of the intellect, confirms that he does indeed represent worldly wisdom; and her killing him declares the necessity of every believer’s doing the same thing to the world’s intellectualism.  The wisdom of the world has no place in the spiritual realm.

Two things were used to slay Sisera: a tent peg and a hammer. The tent is generally recognized as the symbol of the pilgrim life, and since the nail or peg is that which helps to support the tent, Jael’s using a tent peg is the symbolic assurance that the most effective weapon against the world’s wisdom is the determination to pass through this world as a pilgrim and stranger governed only by the written Word.  But see also Ec 12:11 “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.”   Jer 23:29 interprets the symbol of the hammer: it represents the Word of God.  Putting the two together we have the truth that the pilgrim walk and the Word of God are that which will preserve us from dependence on the world’s wisdom.  They furnish the nail or peg upon which we can confidently hang our faith that in spite of what circumstances may seem to indicate to the contrary, the ultimate victory is ours.  The believer who would enjoy blessing must put the world’s wisdom to death.

Its being said that she “fastened it into the ground” reminds us that that is exactly were the world’s wisdom belongs. It is of the earth, the two belong together, and as an earthy thing, it is to have no part in the believer’s life.  Regarding that same wisdom, James declares, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas 3:15).

“So he died.”  There are to be no half measures in dealing with anything of the world that would seek control of our lives.  It is to be put to death.

4:22.  “And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest.  And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.”

Since the man speaks of activity of the will, and the woman of passivity, it may be that in its being a woman who slew this foe, God would have us learn that humble submission to Him is the surest way to gain the victory over this very powerful enemy.  He who lives in submission to God will not be found submitting to mere worldly wisdom.

It would be well if all who come into our “tent” were to find the world’s wisdom lying dead, nailed to the ground with the “tent peg” of the pilgrim mind.  Few things have wrought greater havoc in the Church than the world’s wisdom.

Since Barak lightning represents the judgment of God, her going out to meet him to tell of the death of the enemy, is the assurance that everyone, who by faith slays the world’s wisdom, and trusts in Christ, can rest in the assurance that he and the judgment of God are as one.  They face a common foe, and he who puts the world’s wisdom to death proves himself on God’s side.

4:23.  “So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.”

Barak and Jael were the human instruments, but it was God Who defeated the enemy, and the principle still applies.  The “instrument,” out of God’s hand, can accomplish nothing.  It was Sisera who was slain, but God says it was Jabin who was subdued.  Whatever victories we win are ultimately against the one represented by Jabin: Satan.

4:24.  “And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”

This would indicate that the victory at Kishon was not the only one involving this enemy, but that there were in fact others.  This reminds us, that however many battles we may win here on earth, the war won’t be over for us personally until we are home in heaven.  The destruction of Jabin, however, assures us that the ultimate victory is ours.

Before closing our study of this chapter it is necessary to note that many of the Bible’s symbolic pictures have more than one application, e.g., in Ge 22 Isaac on the altar is a type of Christ the obedient Son dying as man’s Substitute, but as the one whose place was taken by the ram, he then becomes a type of the sinner saved by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ represented by the ram.  Jael’s slaying Sisera is also a double type, the second being of Christ’s defeat of Satan at Calvary.

In order to bring that second typological picture into focus, it is necessary to recognize that the Lord is typically represented by Deborah a bee; her speaking.  This second meaning points to Christ as described in Jn 1:1-14: the Word made flesh, and dwelling among us.  Since the woman speaks of submission, Deborah portrays Christ as the One Whose will was always subject to the Father’s.

Barak, the man, portrays the activity of the Lord’s will, that activity permitting nothing to hinder His doing the Father’s will.  The meaning of his name lightning (symbol of God’s judgmental wrath), reminds us that He Who came to bear the wrath and judgment due to us, will return in glory to execute judgment.  His being “the son of Abinoam father of pleasantness,” and his being of Kedesh sanctuary, points to Christ as the Son coming out of the true sanctuary, heaven.

In Barak’s fear, expressed in verse 8, we have the foreshadowing of Christ’s fear revealed in His agony and prayer in Gethsemane.  Barak’s willingness to go, however, in spite of his fear, if accompanied by Deborah, portrays the Lord’s willingness to go to Calvary accompanied by the same submission as expressed in the closing words of His prayer, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).

The Lord, however, is portrayed here by yet another woman: Jael ibex (a mountain goat).  Her being a woman continues to portray the Lord’s perfect submission to the Father’s will, but the meaning of her name adds the further detail to the symbolic picture, as expressed in 2 Co 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us ... that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  The goat was the animal frequently used for the Sin offering.  Jael therefore portrays the Lord, not only in perfect submission to His Father’s will, but also as our perfect Sin offering.

The symbolic picture is still further enhanced by consideration of a few verses related to the nail or tent peg.  The first is Zec 10:4.  “Out of him (Judah) came forth the corner (cornerstone), out of him the nail (tent peg), out of him the battle bow.... “

The “nail” was a large peg or beam built into the wall of a house, upon which to hang utensils, etc.  It was immovable.  This is Christ the Cornerstone, the “Nail” upon which the believer hangs all his trust and hope.

Next we must look again at the verse we have already considered, Jg 4:21.  “Then Jael ibex (a mountain goat) ... took a nail of the tent, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary.  So he died.”  Christ is here represented by Jael and by the nail with which she slew Sisera.  As the ibex or mountain goat she portrays Christ as the Sin offering, and as a woman she represents His perfect submission to the Father, while her being a wife continues to emphasize the place of submission which the Lord took to do redemption’s work.

He is, however, also portrayed by the nail, so that in Jael and the nail we have a symbolic picture of Christ (Jael) offering Himself (the nail) without spot to God (Heb 9:14).  The nail driven into the enemy’s head shows us the symbolic fulfillment of Ge 3:15, the Seed of the woman crushing Satan’s head.  But the nail was also driven into the ground after passing through Sisera’s head, and this speaks of Christ in the tomb after defeating Satan.

The third reference to the nail is in Ezr 9:8.  “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.”

The “nail” here is Christ in resurrection, our Representative in heaven while we are down here on earth. 

The fourth reference is in Isa 22:22-24.  “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.  And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.  And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house....”

This is Christ in millennial glory.  All our hopes hang on Him, and so does God’s glory.  His death was first to glorify the Father, and secondly to redeem our souls.

[Judges 5]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough