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

5:1.  “Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,”

The victory was celebrated by a song of praise to God, but that victory is only a foreshadowing of Christ’s greater work.  We who have been redeemed by His precious blood surely must give thanks, praise, and worship to God for that victory won at such cost at Calvary when the Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself without spot to God, and by that offering bruised the serpent’s head.

Following their deliverance from Egypt, all Israel sang unto the Lord on the shores of the Red Sea, but Rossier notes that here the only singers mentioned are Deborah and Barak.  Undoubtedly all present joined in Deborah’s song of victory, but the omissions of Scripture are not to be ignored, and it is significant that indeed here only two singers are mentioned.  God would remind us of the low state to which Israel had sunk.  The victory was only local and temporary, not national and permanent.  Where there is little praise there is little victory.  It is significant that in chapter 1:2 Judah he shall be praised, was designated by God as the tribe that was to go up first against the Canaanites.

The general lack of ability to worship declares all too clearly the sorry state of the professing church today.  As we cease to remember with thanksgiving all that God has done for us, our spiritual power begins to diminish.  Praise and victory cannot be separated.  In Lk 7:36-50 the Lord reminds us that love is in proportion to the consciousness of the extent of indebtedness to grace, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”  That woman is the same who washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and broke the alabaster box of ointment to anoint His head and His feet Mt 26:7).

5:2.  “Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.”

Having cried out to God, and having been delivered, Israel’s offense is no longer mentioned.  All now focuses on the enemy who had been the instrument used of God to chastise His disobedient people.  God takes vengeance on those who had oppressed His people, even though that oppression was deserved.  When God forgives, He forgives completely.

It is to be noted, however, that the people offered themselves willingly to be God’s instruments for the overthrow of the enemy.  Once we are in a right relationship with God, the oppression of the enemy will not be tolerated.  True freedom is found only within the circle of God’s directive will.  The fact that the people offered themselves to be God’s instruments reminds us that He won’t do for us what He has enabled us to do for ourselves.  Knowledge is to be acted upon.

Two other renderings of “... when the people willingly offered themselves,” are, “When locks were worn loose in Israel,” and “... warriors in Israel unbound their hair.”  This is understood by some to indicate that Israel, now obedient to God, were spiritually in the place of Nazarites, their obedience guaranteeing them blessing.  The woman’s long hair is her glory, but for a man to have long hair is a shame (1 Co 11:14-15).  The long hair of the Nazarite speaks of willingness to suffer shame for Christ’s sake.  The Apostles and early disciples counted it an honor to suffer shame for His sake, (Ac 5:41).  One of the foundation stones of a conquering faith is the willingness to suffer shame for Christ’s sake.

5:3.  “Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.”

The speaker is Deborah; and as noted already, she represents that quiet submission which God values very highly.  He who walks in submissive obedience will never lack either reason, or ability to praise.

5:4.  “Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.”

Grant notes that, “Edom is specially noticed, because it was thence that the people emerged at the end of the wilderness career, to threaten the nations with their might - a might that was not their own: for the earth quaked, and the heavens dropped at the presence of Jehovah, Israel’s God.  Sinai, before this, had done so, where Israel had come into covenant with Him; and there the secret of their strength and the conditions of its continuance had been declared.”

Seir, meaning shaggy: hairy: goat-like, was the territory of Edom (Esau) red.  As a firstborn, he represents the flesh, so that God’s almighty power being manifested as Israel left Seir, reminds us that only when confidence in the flesh is renounced, will the  power of God be seen in our lives, and put forth on our behalf.

5:5.  “The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel.”

Sinai stands associated with the covenant between God and the people, so that the association of Sinai with Israel’s leaving Seir, reminds us that these two things cannot be separated.  God’s power was available to those who were in covenant relation with Him, but only as they renounced all confidence in the flesh.  So is it with us who are the beneficiaries of a better covenant.

5:6.  “In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.”

For the significance of Shamgar, see notes on 3:31.  Under the oppression of the enemy the highways in Israel were deserted, for the enemy watched them, and appropriated for himself the merchandise that any might have sought to transport from town to town.  Since, however, the commerce of Israel represents the “commerce” of the believer in spiritual things:  preaching the Gospel, teaching sound doctrine, shepherding God’s sheep, etc., the application to the professing church today is easily seen.  Here too the “highways are deserted” - few are concerned with God’s business.  Believers, allured by the world’s wealth, pleasure, fame, power, knowledge, ease, etc., are too busy with the affairs of earth to have time to engage in God’s business.

“... and the travellers walked through byways, literally ‘crooked ways.’”  This scarcely needs comment.  As then each man chose his own way, so also today do believers for the most part chose their own way, and any way not chosen for us by God is a “crooked way.”   Fear of the enemy dictates our way to a far greater extent than most of us are willing to admit.

5:7.  “The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.”

Village life in Israel had become virtually nonexistent, yet it is to be remembered that village life was the very backbone of Israel’s economy.  Fearing to dwell in the unwalled villages, the people had deserted them, and sought safety in the larger walled cities.  The application to the present condition of the professing church is inescapable.  God intended believers to dwell together in the spiritual equivalent of the unwalled villages, i.e., in small intimate fellowships.  Life in the village was simple and peaceful and rewarding.  The work of the people was connected with the land God had given them.  They raised flocks and herds, tilled the fields, tended the olive and vineyards, etc.  Far from the distractions of the cities, they dwelt in peace and quietness, but the enemy had brought an end to that kind of life, as he has also in the spiritual realm today. 

Confronted by the antagonistic might of an ungodly world, and of an equally ungodly professing but apostate church, believers have been driven to forsake the “villages,” the small Scriptural assemblies, and seek fellowship in the equivalent of the city, the large, imposing, organized, but unscriptural counterpart of the Scriptural assembly.

The result is the same in the spiritual realm as it was in the physical: the “flocks” perish from lack of those to care for them; neglected “fields and olive and vineyards” have brought spiritual famine to the Church.  Few today are willing to give to the work of shepherding God’s people the time that work requires.  Equally few are willing to spend time in the “fields and olive and vineyards” of the Word to produce food, first for their own souls, and then for the household of faith.

The supreme tragedy, however, is that spiritually blind eyes fail to see the devastation that has attended our neglect of God’s business, and the pursuit of the world’s baubles.      

Deliverance came only when “Deborah arose ... a mother in Israel.”  As noted already, none of the deliverances under the Judges were national.  We are deluding ourselves if we are looking for recovery in the Church at large.  What recovery may be found today will not be anything more than local, and then only where there is a man or a woman with a heart for God and His people, satisfied to be simply an instrument in His hand.

No love can compare with that of a mother for her child.  That is the kind of love that is needed today in the Church.  Only where there are men and women who care more about God’s people than they do about themselves, can we expect to see recovery.  The prayer of every believer should be that God will raise up such men and women.

“Inhabitants of the villages” is believed by some to mean “champions,” i.e., there was no one to stand up for Israel.  If this translation is correct the spiritual lesson is virtually the same: there are few today willing to stand up for the things of God.

5:8.  “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?”

The scarcity of weapons among the people was virtually the same as in the days of Saul, see 1 Sa 13:19-22, but inasmuch as Israel’s literal weapons are types of the written Word, the lesson is easily read: the Word was neglected, the ignorance of what God required resulting in disobedience and therefore chastisement instead of blessing.  The professing church has duplicated Israel’s folly, and with the same results.

Israel’s undoing was their turning to worship the gods of Canaan, and the present state of the professing church is because we have turned to worship the gods of the world: money, power, wisdom, fame, pleasure, to name but a few.

“Then was war in the gates.”  Obedience had ensured God’s protecting hand at their gates, but their confidence in false gods had caused that hand to be withdrawn, so that the enemy entered unopposed, for it is folly to believe that Israel in her own strength had ever repelled the enemy.  So has it been in the professing church.

The spiritual equivalents of the shield and spear are equally scarce in the Church.  (Eph 6:10-18 should be read here).  The exhortation of Eph 6:16 is little heeded today, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”  The shield of faith is as scarce in the professing church as was the literal shield in Israel in the days of the Judges.

The “spear” is equally scarce.  Believers today are largely Scripturally illiterate, and without the knowledge of God’s Word they are as defenseless spiritually as were the Israelites literally.  They can neither defend themselves, nor attack the enemy.

5:9.  “My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people.  Bless ye the Lord.”

The speaker is Deborah, and literally she is declaring her sympathy with, and approval of, those leaders who had given themselves so willingly to the Lord’s work.  Such men are to be highly valued today.  We should be faithful to uphold them in prayer.  It is to be noted also that she was careful to thank God for them.  So should we.

5:10.  “Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.”

Those who “ride on white asses” and who “sit in judgment” are the leaders, while those who “walk by the way” are the people.  Since the ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature, its being saddled speaks of the restraints kept upon fleshly lusts, and the asses being white speaks of the need of purity in the lives of believers, especially those who rule.

“Speak” is literally meditate, so that the exhortation is for leaders and people together to think, not only upon the willingness of some of the leaders to give themselves to the work, even at the risk of their lives, but for all of them to think upon what God has wrought in giving this victory.  There is no better way to preserve a grateful obedient spirit than to meditate frequently on what God has wrought for us at Calvary.

5:11.  “They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates.”

Translators are disagreed as to the meaning of this verse, some maintaining that it has reference to the returned victors rehearsing details of the victory to the women gathered at the wells, while others claim that the reference is to those who have been delivered from the enemy archers.  The point is of little consequence, for certainly both have occasion to praise God for this great victory.  The places of drawing water (the wells) represent the Word.  It is around the Word that the believer hears the good news.

Since the wells represent the Word of God, and the woman represents the spirit of obedient submission, the lesson here isn’t difficult to read.  It is as we gather in obedient submission around the well of the Word that we are encouraged and cheered by hearing again and again the details of the great victory won at Calvary.

It is significant that the emphasis is upon the victory on behalf of the inhabitants of the villages.  As noted already, the enemy had caused the villages to be all but abandoned.  But the villages represent the local assemblies, so that the lesson is in keeping with what has been noted already: the deliverance was not national.  Recovery for the professing church at large is not to be expected.  Any recovery will be in “the villages” - it will be local, not general.

“... then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates” is also of uncertain meaning, but since the gate was the place of government, the place where disputes were settled, and covenants witnessed, it would seem to speak of the fact that when the intellectualism represented by Jabin and Sisera is banished, and God’s Word is accepted as the sole authority for what we do as individuals and as local assemblies, then and only then will there be blessing.  In short, their going down to the gates, speaks of submission to God’s government.

5:12.  “Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.”

The repeated “awake, awake” is as needful today as then, for nothing robs the soul of power like the lethargy of indifference to what God has done for us.

By way of explanation before continuing, it is necessary to remember something relative to those individuals who are types of Christ.  With a very few rare exceptions such as Joseph of whom no sin is recorded (though he sinned, for as it is written, “There is no man that sinneth not,” 1 Ki 8:46), imperfection marked all of them.  David, for example, is clearly a type of Christ, but not in all that he did.  His sin in connection with Bath-sheba, for example, has no counterpart in the life of Christ.

We have noted already that the deliverers raised up during the era of the Judges are types of Christ, their deliverances being but foreshadowings of His.  This truth will be missed, however, if we focus on their weaknesses, but God would have us fix our eyes on that which clearly speaks of Christ, and even though as individuals many of them exhibit much of weakness and failure, there can still be detected that which portrays the perfections of Christ, even in such a man as Barak who refused to go to the battle unless Deborah went with him.

That he is such a type is disclosed in the command given him, “... arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive....”  This phrase is found in Ps 68:18, and again in Ep 4:8, where clearly the reference is to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nor need we concern ourselves with whether the meaning is that He led away a multitude of captives, or led out of captivity those who had been held in bondage.  In the case of Barak, and of Christ, both meanings apply.  Each led the enemy captive, and at the same time delivered those who had been themselves captives.

5:13.  “Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty.”

“... him that remaineth” is literally “the remnant,” and would appear to be those who went to the battle, but it isn’t clear whether “the nobles” are the rulers of the other tribes, or the rulers from among the enemy, though the former appears the more likely.  In any case it is interesting to find that the reward is similar to that promised us: we shall reign with Christ, and Scripture makes it clear that our position in that government will be in proportion to the faithfulness of our stewardship here on earth, see for example, Mt 25:14-23; Lk 19:12-27.

It is instructive to note that those, who before the battle, had been held in low esteem, were regarded very differently when it was over.  There is encouragement in this for those whose appointed service keeps them in obscurity, neither they nor their work being considered of much value.  The Lord, however, esteems faithfulness very highly, and on that day when we stand before His judgment seat, the faithful service rendered in obscurity will be publicly acknowledged, and the servant promoted over many who on earth were esteemed more highly by men who wrongly judged according to the sight of the eyes only.

On that day many who had occupied seats of honor amongst God’s people on earth, will be compelled, with shame, to occupy a lower place (Lk 14:7-11).

5:14.  “Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.”

This begins the commendation of those who came to the battle, and while the exact meaning of “Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek,” is obscure, it is generally thought to mean simply that Ephraim occupied territory formerly won from the Amalekites, though this is open to question, since the territory of Judah lay between Ephraim and the Amalek-i­tes  It isn’t surprising to find at the top of the list the tribe that speaks of fruitfulness, for an indispensable part of spiritual fruitfulness is the courage to oppose the enemy.  His having dispossessed Amalek, who represents the flesh, reminds us that the old nature within us is the first enemy to be overcome if we are to see any work done for God.

Benjamin son of the right hand, comes next, reminding us that victory is assured to those who abide in the true Benjamin, the Lord Jesus Christ, for we have the assurance from Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Php 4:13).

Manasseh comes next, for Machir salesman was one of the families of Manasseh, see Nu 26:39.  This tribe had a possession on both sides of the Jordan, and it isn’t indicated whether those who came to the battle were from only one side, or whether both were represented, though verse 17 would indicate that those east of Jordan did not come, for Gilead was one of the families of Manasseh.  Inasmuch as Manasseh causing to forget represents that spirit, which with its eyes on the mark for the prize of the high calling of God, is willing to forget the things that are behind (Php 3:13), we are being reminded that all who would do exploits for God must be imbued with that same spirit.  Nothing is more harmful to victorious Christian living than an occupation with the past - either its failures or its victories, for occupation with the failures will discourage us, while occupation with the victories (real or imagined) tends to generate pride.

Zebulun dwelling comes next, reminding us that only as we dwell in the center of God’s directive will, can we claim His presence and power.

The description of the Zebulunites as being “they that handle the pen of the writer,” isn’t difficult to interpret, for one writes to convey information, so that this declares the necessity of being so well acquainted with the Word of God that we too can “handle the pen of the writer,” i.e., impart to others, both saved and unsaved, the knowledge of God.  The crying need of the present day is for evangelists, elders, and teachers willing to devote themselves with a whole heart to the exercise of the spiritual gift with which God has endowed them.

5:15.  “And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley.  For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.”

Issachar means he will be hired: there is reward: he will bring reward.  He represents service, and his presence at the battle testifies to the truth that he was willing to serve even at the risk of his life.  Such was the character of Christ’s service, and if anything is to be done for God today, such must be the character of ours also.

His being sent “on foot into the valley,” i.e., into the battle, declares that though the enemy had nine hundred iron chariots and horses, Issachar went simply in the confidence that since God had sent him to this conflict there could be no failure, no matter how great the power of the enemy.  It was a similar spirit that led David to discard the armor offered by Saul, and to enter the valley of Elah armed only with a sling, even though the enemy was Goliath whose very appearance terrified the whole army of Israel.

These, however, are but types of Him Who went alone into the valley of death to engage an enemy which none but He could vanquish.  Issachar had nothing that could be counted a weapon (see verse 8), nor did David, but in this God would teach us that the only weapon we need is perfect obedience to His will.   Christ’s only weapon was that same spirit of obedience, but with it He conquered Satan, Death and hell.  With that same weapon we too can vanquish every foe.

It is to be remembered that God gave the victory by sending torrential rain which caused the Kishon to overflow its banks and sweep away the enemy chariots and horses.  Those waters also endangered Barak and his forces, but God protected them.  Metaphorically speaking, waters were also involved in the mighty victory won at Calvary, see the references to Christ’s being overcome by waterfloods, e.g., Ps 42:7; 69:1,2,14,15; 88:6,7,16-18.  Barak saw the waters, but was preserved from them.  It was by entering into the waters of God’s wrath against sin that Christ conquered death, arising victoriously on the third day.

It was very different, however, with Reuben.  There was much debate and discussion, but no Reubenite went to the battle.  While they talked, others fought and won a great victory in which Reuben could claim no part.  So is it today.  There is much talk among many professed believers, but few are willing to act for God.  Nor should we be surprised to find Reuben condemned rather than commended, for as Jacob’s firstborn he represents what every firstborn represents: the flesh, the old nature.  The flesh can never be anything but an impediment to spiritual work.

5:16.  “Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks?  For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.”

Since his flocks were the measure of a man’s wealth, this reference to Reuben’s abiding among the sheepfolds speaks of occupation with earthly things.  It is similar occupation that keeps many a man today from accomplishing anything for God.  He is a wise man who heeds the exhortation, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness....” (Mt 6:33).

The repetition of the scathing reference to the great discussions among the Reubenites declares the attitude of God towards the similar empty talk that fritters away precious time amongst Christians today.  There is more to the Christian life than mere talk.  There is work to be done; there are battles to be won.

5:17.  “Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships?  Asher continued on the sea shore and abode in his breaches (creeks).”

Gilead heap of witness: rolling for ever was one of the families of Manasseh causing to forget, and it is unclear whether it was just this branch of the tribe that refused to come, or whether the reference is to all Manasseh settled east of Jordan.  That point however, is unimportant.  God here speaks specifically of Gilead.  The place Gilead represents Calvary.  It is the “heap of witness” to God’s love and man’s ruin, and it is a witness that will “roll” (continue) for ever.  But the person Gilead is no different, for every believer is a Gileadite.  For all eternity we will stand displayed as the witness to the love of God that lifted the beggar from the dunghill and set him among princes (1 Sa 2:8).  It is God’s intention that that witness should begin here on earth, no small part of that witness being the willingness of every believer to do battle with all that opposes God.  Sadly, however, all too many have followed the cowardly course of their OT counterpart.

Since ships appear to be symbols of local assemblies sailing on their way home to heaven, over the sea of unconverted humanity, fishing for souls as they go, the reference to Dan’s remaining in ships may be meant to have us see in him a picture of those assemblies which have turned in upon themselves to such an extent that they are unwilling to go out with the Gospel, for the fearless proclamation of the Gospel brings us inevitably into conflict with the enemy, particularly the world’s wisdom.  This is the more lamentable in view of the meaning of his name judging: a judge.  He who should have been most capable of making a right judgment, was guilty of grievous error on this occasion.  The local assembly is the place where we are to worship, have our souls fed, our zeal rekindled, our courage strengthened - and from which we are to go out to serve.

As believers we too are spiritual Danites called upon to make judgments relative to earthly and heavenly things.  Regrettably, many of us all too often follow Dan’s erring footsteps.  We refuse to undertake anything for God.  That wrong judgment will cause us incalculable loss on that day, surely not far off, when we shall all stand at the judgment seat of Christ.

Inasmuch as the sea represents the unconverted masses of humanity (Isa 57:20), Asher’s (happy) continuing “on the sea shore” and taking no part in the battle, appears to represent that spirit of world bordering which is fatal to spiritual happiness and to the accomplishment of anything for God.  As noted in 4:7, the river Kishon where the battle was fought, was in Asher’s territory, yet he went not up to the aid of the tribes who were risking their lives to secure a victory whose blessings he would share.  

Again, this is a condition all too prevalent among Christians  today.  Many are content to live so close to the world that it is difficult to distinguish believer from unbeliever, and however near the conflict with the enemy may be, they are unwilling to render any aid to those who are willing to engage in the warfare, even though they themselves, like Asher, share in the blessings secured by the victories won.

His abiding in “his breaches (creeks or bays)” may speak of that tendency of the world-bordering believer to live within his own little selfish sphere, happy to enjoy the blessings secured by the sacrifice of others, but unwilling to raise his finger to aid the cause of Christ.

Those breaches or bays, by which the sea penetrates the land, furnish a very fitting picture of the intrusion of the world into the life of the world-bordering believer.

5:18.  “Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.”

Very different is the conduct of these two tribes from those we have just been considering; nor is their faithfulness any more than is to be expected considering that Zebulun means dwelling; and Naphtali, my wrestling: my tortuosity.   He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, and who wrestles against all that is not of God, is unlikely to be found anywhere other than in the forefront of the conflict with the enemy.  Unfortunately the spiritual counterparts of these two tribes are discouragingly few today.

There is special significance to its being said that they risked their lives “in the high places of the field,” for it was on those uplands, beyond reach of the flood waters of the Kishon river, that the enemy could best use his horses and iron chariots.  Only those of the spiritual character portrayed by Zebulun and Naphtali are capable of engaging the enemy as represented by the hosts of Jabin, on those elevations.

As noted already, however, those high places also represent the times when we draw aside from the world, and are lifted far above its distractions, to commune with God, have our souls refreshed, and our strength renewed.  Constant warfare is needed to keep the enemy from occupying those “high places.”  He has a thousand subtle devices to rob us of the time needed to go up to the “high places.”

5:19.  “The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.”

The kings who came and fought were the enemy, and since they, albeit unwittingly, fought against God, it is little wonder that “they took no gain of money,” but rather suffered an ignominious defeat.  As noted already, their being Canaanites traffickers, points to them as representing all who “traffic” in spiritual things for mere earthly gain.  They are a very numerous breed today. 

Taanach means she will afflict thee; and Megiddo, invading: gathering for cutting (self): his cutting place.  Inasmuch as the “affliction” of the enemy was to come at the hand of a woman, and the woman represents submission, either the genuine submission of faith, or the feigned submission of the great harlot system calling itself the church, the lesson of Taanach is easily read.  Those who walk in submission to God’s will, are they who in the final outcome, will prove to be indeed “affliction” to the enemy.   And those who own allegiance to the harlot system will find that she herself is the instrument of their affliction, for all who are found in her must share her eternal torment.  And Megiddo would remind us that however much the enemy may dare to “invade” the sphere given by God to His own, that intrusion will make the very place which the enemy hoped to possess, the self-chosen place of his own destruction.  It will prove to be God’s “cutting place.”  “The waters of Megiddo” are the Kishon and its tributaries.

5:20.  “They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” 

“They” are the stars, and it is generally recognized that this is simply a poetic way of saying that God fought for His people.  As we walk in obedience, we too have the assurance that God fights for us, and “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Ro 8:31).  Note for example, the experience recorded in 2 Ki 6.  Elisha’s servant, seeing the city surrounded by the Syrian host, said, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?”  But Elisha assured him, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them,” and in response to Elisha’s prayer, the young man was shown that, “Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  The extended day of Joshua 10 is another example of God’s intervention on behalf of His own.  So is it with us.  The unseen hosts of heaven are on our side.

5:21.  “The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon.  O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.”

God never fails to honor faith.  Those who though they had no weapon worthy of the name, see verse 8, had been willing to obey Him by coming to the place He had designated, to engage the enemy in battle, found their faith justified.  God fought for them, and the weapon He used was rain that turned the Kishon into a raging flood that swept the enemy away. 

It is interesting to notice other times when God used water on behalf of His people, e.g., He divided the Red Sea to afford them safe passage out of Egypt, and then returned those same waters to their former state to slay the Egyptians.  And again, as they prepared to enter Canaan, He divided the flooding Jordan, so that they crossed on dry ground.  God never lacks the means to deliver His own; and obedience is all that is needed to make those means available to us.

“O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength,” is clearly not a claim that they themselves had defeated the foe, but rather, the acknowledgement that their faith had brought God to their aid.

It should surprise no one to find that in the conflict here described God is giving us a preview of Calvary.  The name of every tribe of Israel directs our attention to some special attribute of the Lord Jesus Christ, so here in Zebulun dwelling we are reminded that He is the One Who ever dwelt in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1:18); and in Naphtali my wrestling: my tortuosity He is presented as the One Who wrestled against the powers of darkness throughout His earthly life, culminating that wrestling with His mighty victory over them at Calvary.  The men of Zebulun and Naphtali risked their lives: Christ gave His!

“ the high places,” i.e., the high ground beyond the reach of the flood waters, where the enemy could best use his iron chariots.  Christ fulfilled the type at Calvary.  By allowing Himself to be nailed to the cross He exposed Himself to Satan’s most terrible weapon: Death.

The gathering of the Canaanite kings against Israel points to the gathering of the infernal forces of darkness against the Lord at Calvary. 

Taanach she will afflict thee reminds us that the evil apostate religious system headed up by the high priest and his minions was the forerunner of the great false church, the inveterate foe of God and His people.  It was that evil travesty that afflicted Christ during His public ministry, and at the end handed him over to the tender mercies of the Romans, whose abuse of Him in the judgment hall culminated in their crucifying Him at Calvary, while they themselves, the priests, mocked His dying agony.  He is the One Who was afflicted as none other ever had been or ever will be, as the prophet has written, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa 53:4).

“ the waters of Megiddo invading: gathering for cutting (self): his cutting place.”  There were waters also at Calvary, metaphorically speaking.  See, e.g., Ps 42:7; 69:1,14-15; 88:6-7,16-18.  Waters are used frequently in Scripture to portray the outpouring of God’s judgmental wrath.

The first meaning of Megiddo invading reminds us that contrary to what the natural eye perceived at Calvary, the Lord, even as He hung on the cross, was invading and conquering Satan’s kingdom.

The second meaning gathering for cutting (self) reminds us that the gathering of Satan’s legions was to cut off Christ, but it proved to be the place where they themselves were “cut.”  It was there that Satan received his death wound.  But the third meaning his cutting place reminds us that Calvary was God’s cutting place.  There He dealt with sin, and with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Sin-bearer.  There Christ was “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isa 53:8).  There “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5).

“...they took no gain of money.”  Those Canaanite kings carried away no spoil.  They were destroyed there, as were Satan and his evil hordes at Calvary.

As the forces of heaven were on Israel’s side that day in the valley of the Kishon, so were they on our side at Calvary.  The Lord Jesus Christ was fighting for us!

It was water that swept the enemy away, but water is a type of the Word.  Christ is the Word, see John chapter 1.  It was He Who through His perfect obedience to the written Word won that mighty victory.  The Kishon is described as the “ancient river.”  Christ is coequal and coeternal with the Ancient of Days, see Daniel chapter 7. 

5:22.  “Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.”

The horse is one of the Biblical symbols of strength, but that strength was of no avail against the waters sent by God.  Those hoofs which had been intended by the foe to trample down the Israelites, scrambled frantically to extricate themselves from the flood waters that swept them, the chariots, and the riders down to death.

Waters are one of the symbols of the Word of God, and the times when God used them to destroy the enemy should remind us of what is written concerning that same Word, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Jn 12:48).

5:23.  “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”

The location of Meroz, meaning waxing lean: enduring: cedar worker: is unknown, nor do these meanings furnish any spiritual lesson that is readily  deciphered, though the context indicates that the leanness is that condition of soul which is the invariable accompaniment of disobedience, and clearly the inhabitants were disobedient, for they refused to render any aid to their countrymen who fought against the enemy.

The second meaning enduring may perhaps indicate that they represent an enduring or permanent principle: disobedience produces leanness of soul.  And since the cedar represents that which is greatest in humanity, as the hyssop represents that which is least, their being cedar workers may imply pride - a tendency to associate themselves with those they considered great, while despising the poor.  If this is correct, then it is little wonder that God Himself pronounced a curse upon them.  He hates pride in any form.  Note that pride heads the list of seven things which God hates (Pr 6:16-17), and He must surely have a special hatred of that pride on the part of believers which would account the rich, powerful, influential unbeliever as of greater worth than the poor of their own believing brethren, and there is no question that the inhabitants of Meroz were Israelites.

Their refusal to come to “the help of the Lord” may not be taken, of course, to imply that God needed their help.  He doesn’t need the help of any man, but their refusal to stand with their brethren in this conflict was tantamount to refusal to stand on God’s side.  His reaction to their refusal ought to warn us against being guilty of similar refusal.

5:24.  “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.”

In stark contrast with the curse pronounced upon Meroz is the blessing proclaimed upon Jael, and since the tent is always associated with the pilgrim walk, the reference to the tent reminds us that God values highly those who are willing to be pilgrims and strangers on the earth.

For the significance of Heber see comments on 4:17.

5:25.  “He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish (a bowl fit for a nobleman).”

For the significance of her giving him milk instead of water, see comments on 4:19.  It is significant that here the milk is said to have been butter (curds), but curds are produced by churning the milk, churning being symbolic of meditation on the Word.  There must be meditation as well as reading.  As noted already, the simplest form of the Word, used in faith by the youngest believer, has no less power than that used by the most mature believer, for while milk represents the Word as food for the new-born Christian, butter portrays it as the food of the mature.  In 4:19 there is no mention of the vessel into which she poured the milk, but here it is described as “a lordly vessel.”  That vessel may well represent the Holy Spirit, the pouring of the milk into that vessel symbolizing the committal of the Word to Him for His use, for it is He Who has the power to use the simplest form of the Word used in faith by the youngest believer, to defeat all the purposes of the enemy.

5:26.  “She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.”

Since she put her right hand to the hammer, the implication is that she put her left hand to the nail, and in this we learn a valuable lesson.  As noted already, the “nail” is used in Scripture as a figure or type of Christ, e.g., Isa 22:23; Zec 10:4; and the “hammer,” as a type of the Word of God (Jer 23:29).  The left hand likewise has symbolic meaning, for it speaks of weakness and dependence, whereas the right hand speaks of power.  Her left hand on the nail, and her right on the hammer therefore declare the necessity of our abiding in Christ, laying hold of Him as the source of power, and the written Word as the instrument directing that power against the enemy.

As also noted already, the nail driven through his head, and into the ground (4:21) is the symbolic picture of Christ overcoming the enemy by being Himself “driven into the ground,” that is, by dying and being laid in the tomb.  That same “Nail,” however, is seen again in resurrection in Isa 22:23, “And I will fasten him (Christ) 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....”  The Lord Jesus Christ was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification, Ro 4:25.

Literally, in the erection of a tent, the first peg or pin driven into the ground, determines the positions of all the other pins, so that the tent may be said to “hang” on that first pin.  So is it with Christ.  During her pilgrimage through the desert of this world on her way home to heaven, the Church “hangs” on the Christ Who was “driven into the ground” at Calvary, but in eternity she will “hang upon” Him as the Nail resurrected, and “fastened” eternally in the Father’s house, He being not only her sure Support, but also the Nail upon which all other things “hang” or depend.

5:27.  “At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.”

These verses merely add details omitted from the account in chapter four.  Some have imagined a contradiction connected with its being said that “he fell,” when in fact he was lying asleep when she slew him.  There is no contradiction.  His falling means simply that he died, not that he literally fell from a standing position.

5:28.  “The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?”

There must be some special significance attached to the fact that women figure so prominently in this narrative, but I regret being unable to read the lesson which undoubtedly is there.  In the case of this woman, as the mother of the man who was captain of Jabin’s forces, she may represent the great false church, and  her disappointed expectation may foreshadow the far more terrible disappointment that awaits her and her deluded dupes in a lost eternity.

Since a window is the means by which light enters, her looking out at a window points to the truth that the light of mere earthly wisdom is in reality utter darkness.  There is no light in the place or in the man whose only light is that of intellectualism.  In his delusion, such a man deems faith in Christ to be the darkness of primitive superstition, he himself being ignorant of the fact that what he mistakes for light is that in regard to which God says, “If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Mt 6:23).

5:29.  “Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself.”

Here we find the fatal optimism that marks all who live in subjection to the world’s wisdom.  So great is their confidence in it that they despise the wisdom of God, and refuse to entertain even the idea that they could be wrong.

5:30.  “Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colors, a prey of divers colors of needlework, of divers colors of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?”

Foolishly, she attributed the delay to the time needed to divide the spoil, unaware of the fact that her son was a corpse, and his army defeated.  Her ignorance of her son’s state reflects the ignorance of all who trust in worldly wisdom: they know not that they are dead men, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), and unless awakened and saved, will die the second death, which is to be consigned to the eternal torment of the lake of fire (Re 20:14).

Since garments represent righteousness, either the righteousness of Christ which clothes the believer, or the filthy rags of our own self-righteousness, the threefold reference (number of resurrection) to the garment which she envisaged as being part of the spoil, may speak of the expectation of the man whose trust is in the world’s wisdom.  He is convinced that he has all the righteousness he needs both for time and eternity.

5:31.  “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.  And the land had rest forty years.”

The sun is a symbol of Christ, and we are assured that we shall be like Him.  But the emphasis is upon Christ in His role as mighty Conqueror.  We too are more than conquerors through Him, and in a soon coming day we shall reign with Him.

In concluding our study of this fifth chapter we should note that the praise and rebuke which are mingled with the song of thanksgiving, mark it as being also a typological foreshadowing of the judgment seat of Christ.  There too there will be commendation and rebuke.  It behooves us therefore to live our lives in the light of the knowledge that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Co 5:10).

  [Judges 6]



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