The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
THE THIRD APOSTASY & SERVITUDE
- When I started this series a few weeks ago I quoted from the notes in the Scofield Study Bible, “The book records seven apostasies, seven servitudes to seven heathen nations, seven deliverances.”
- The first apostasy is seen in Judges 3:5-8. God raised up Othniel, the first judge, and he delivered Israel from Chusan-rishathaim, the king of Mesopotamia (3:9-11).
- The second apostasy is found in Judges 3:12-14, and then God raised up Ehud, the left-handed judge, who killed King Eglon, and delivered Israel from the Moabites (3:15-30).
- Only one verse is recorded about the third judge, Shamgar, who slew 600 Philistines with an ox goad (3:31).
- You would expect Judges 4:1 to refer to the death of Shamgar, but instead it refers to the death of Ehud, the second judge. This is probably because Shamgar was a local judge, whereas Ehud exercised authority over all the land of Israel.
- So in Judges 4:1 we are told that, “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.”
- This brings us now to the third apostasy and servitude (4:1-3). The wheel was turning again – rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration.
THE BACKGROUND (4:1-3).
- Because of Israel’s sin, “the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan” (4:2; cf. 2:14; 3:8).
- There was a different Jabin, king of Hazor, defeated by Joshua back in Joshua 11. “He illustrates that old foes can be resurrected in new forms to vex and enslave the LORD’s people who lapse into former sinful ways” (Merrill Unger).
- Jabin’s commander-in-chief was Sisera, a powerful general with 900 chariots of iron (4:2, 3; cf. 1:19).
- The Philistines and the Canaanites were advanced in smelting iron, an important trade the Israelites did not learn till the days of King Saul.
- As we study this chapter we notice that Jabin was not the real threat to Israel. It was Sisera. “And twenty years he (Sisera) mightily oppressed the children of Israel” (4:3b).
- Interestingly, Jabin is not mentioned at all in Deborah’s song in Judges 5.
- Note that after Israel’s first apostasy, their servitude lasted 8 years (3:8). Then their second servitude was for 18 years (3:14). But now their third servitude was for 20 years (4:3).
DEBORAH, THE FOURTH JUDGE (4:4-14).
- The days of the judges were days of declension. Israel was so weak that there were few men qualified for leadership. Deborah was a “prophetess” and a judge because apparently there were no man capable of doing the Lord’s work.
- God raised up Deborah because most of the men were weaklings. Even Barak, the Israelite general, was cowardly. He would only go into battle if Deborah went first (4:6-8). It is a very sad situation indeed when women have to lead the men.
- When I started this series on the book of Judges I said that the situation back then was very similar to what we are seeing today (cf. Judges 21:25; 17:6).
- Back in the days of Judges the men were a bunch of slackers, lazy loafers, and cowards. Isn’t it that way today? Look around your average church and count the men, and then count the women.
- Pastors tell me they cannot find men to serve as deacons, trustees, and ushers because there are none available. I know a Baptist church that had no deacons. Because they were incorporated they were required to have three trustees so they had three women serve as trustees. I went there with a few members of our church one night for a special meeting and the pastor asked if he could borrow a few of our men to serve as ushers. I felt sorry for him.
- It should not surprise you when I tell you that eventually that church had to close down. And this is happening all over America. You cannot build a strong church without strong men.
- We have many ladies in our church with unsaved husbands and often I go and try to talk to them. Sometimes they won’t even talk to me. Sometimes they will smile and nod their head and tell me they will see me in church.
- When? At their funeral?
- Many husbands think that church is only for women and children. Then they wonder why their children grow up to be ungodly. Christian mothers with unsaved husbands can raise their children for God (think of Timothy’s mother Eunice), but it is very difficult without the husband’s help.
- Let me make this practical. I am opposed to lady preachers and lady deacons. First Timothy 2:11and 12 says, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
- First Corinthians 14:34 says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.” Paul goes on to say in the next verse, “And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
- But how can women ask their husbands if their husbands are lost? Or perhaps they are saved but they are always skipping church and they never study the Bible and so they know very little Bible truth.
- Let me challenge you to pray fervently for the salvation of the unsaved husbands in our church. Let us also pray for those who may be saved but give little evidence of salvation.
- I am opposed to ladies running a church but I understand how it happens. Men will not lead so women feel obligated to step up.
- Deborah was a courageous woman and I thank God for strong, godly women. Her name means, “Honeybee.” The fact that she was the judge was a reminder that the men in those days were weak. Israel was a patriarchal society, not a matriarchal society.
- Missionaries tell us that some cultures are matriarchal and it is difficult to build churches in those kinds of countries. But Israel was not supposed to be matriarchal. Deborah led them because they were backslidden.
- Before moving on let me point out that Barak was a believer. He is referred to as a man of faith in Hebrews 11:32. It is possible to be saved and still be weak and ineffectual (4:7-9).
JAEL, THE WOMAN WHO GAVE SISERA A SPLITTING HEADACHE (4:10-24).
- Deborah is not the only strong woman in our story. There is also Jael, a Gentile woman, married to a man named Heber the Kenite, a man who was at peace with Jabin, the king of Hazor (4:17; cf. 4:11, 12).
- Heber apparently tried to remain neutral in this conflict. Whatever his motive in tipping off Sisera, it was all part of God’s plan to trap Sisera and his army (4:12-16).
- Sisera got away on foot to the tent of Heber’s wife Jael, where she offered him some hospitality (4:17-20).
- As Sisera snoozed off into dreamland, Jael picked up a hammer and a nail (probably a tent peg) and went to work. She nailed his head to the floor, killing him instantly (4:21, 22).
- In Jeremiah 23:29, the Lord says His Word is “like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.”
- In those days it was humiliating and disgraceful for a soldier to be killed by a woman (cf. 9:53, 54). This was a humiliating defeat for the Canaanites and now Israel prevailed over them (4:23, 24).
- Some people are offended by the way Jael deceived Sisera and by the way she killed him while he was sleeping. But Israel was under bondage because of Sisera and his wicked King Jabin.
- This was a time of war and Jael was used by God to deliver Israel. Her victory over Sisera was a fulfillment of prophecy (cf. 4:9). Deborah memorialized Jael in Judges 5:24-31.