Deborah, An Old Testament Prophet

The Story

Judges 4-5 Common English Bible (CEB)

Deborah, Barak, and Jael

4 After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lordsaw as evil. 2 So the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, and he was stationed in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3 The Israelites cried out to theLord because Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years.

4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was a leader of Israel at that time. 5 She would sit under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the Ephraim highlands, and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes. 6 She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. 7 I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.’”

8 Barak replied to her, “If you’ll go with me, I’ll go; but if not, I won’t go.”

9 Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 He summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men marched out behind him. Deborah marched out with him too.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had moved away from the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law, and had settled as far away as Elon-bezaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

12 When it was reported to Sisera that Barak, Abinoam’s son, had marched up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned all of his nine hundred iron chariots and all of the soldiers who were with him from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Kishon River. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get up! This is the day that the Lord has handed Sisera over to you. Hasn’t the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men behind him. 15 The Lordthrew Sisera and all the chariots and army into a panic before Barak; Sisera himself got down from his chariot and fled on foot.16 Barak pursued the chariots and the army all the way back to Harosheth-ha-goiim, killing Sisera’s entire army with the sword. No one survived.

17 Meanwhile, Sisera had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between Hazor’s King Jabin and the family of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, sir, come in here. Don’t be afraid.” So he went with her into the tent, and she hid him under a blanket.

19 Sisera said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I’m thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and hid him again. 20 Then he said to her, “Stand at the entrance to the tent. That way, if someone comes and asks you, ‘Is there a man here?’ you can say, ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent stake and a hammer. While Sisera was sound asleep from exhaustion, she tiptoed to him. She drove the stake through his head and down into the ground, and he died. 22 Just then, Barak arrived after chasing Sisera. Jael went out to meet him and said, “Come and I’ll show you the man you’re after.” So he went in with her, and there was Sisera, lying dead, with the stake through his head.

23 So on that day God brought down Canaan’s King Jabin before the Israelites. 24 And the power of the Israelites grew greater and greater over Canaan’s King Jabin until they defeated him completely.

Deborah’s song

5 At that time, Deborah and Barak, Abinoam’s son, sang:

2 When hair is long in Israel,
    when people willingly offer themselves—bless the Lord!

3 Hear, kings!
    Listen, rulers!
I, to the Lord,
    I will sing.
I will make music to the Lord,
    Israel’s God.

4 Lord, when you set out from Seir,
    when you marched out from Edom’s fields, the land shook,
    the sky poured down,
    the clouds poured down water.
5 The mountains quaked
    before the Lord, the one from Sinai,
    before the Lord, the God of Israel.

6 In the days of Shamgar, Anath’s son,
    in the days of Jael, caravans ceased.
Those traveling by road
    kept to the backroads.
7 Villagers disappeared;
    they disappeared in Israel,
        until you, Deborah, arose,
        until you arose as a mother in Israel.
8 When they chose new gods,
    then war came to the city gates.
Yet there wasn’t a shield or spear to be seen
    among forty thousand in Israel!
9 My heart is with Israel’s commanders,
    who willingly offered themselves among the people—bless the Lord!

10 You who ride white donkeys,
    who sit on saddle blankets,
    who walk along the road: tell of it.
11 To the sound of instruments at the watering places,
    there they repeat the Lord’s victories,
        his villagers’ victories in Israel.
Then the Lord’s people marched down to the city gates.
12     “Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
    Wake up, wake up, sing a song!
Arise, Barak!
    Capture your prisoners,
        Abinoam’s son!”
13 Then those who remained marched down against royalty;
    the Lord’s people marched down against warriors.
14 From Ephraim they set out into the valley,
    after you, Benjamin, with your people!
From Machir commanders marched down,
    and from Zebulun those carrying the official’s staff.
15 The leaders of Issachar came along with Deborah;
    Issachar was attached to Barak,
    and was sent into the valley behind him.
Among the clans of Reuben
    there was deep soul-searching.
16 “Why did you stay back among the sheep pens,
    listening to the music for the flocks?”
For the clans of Reuben
    there was deep soul-searching.
17 Gilead stayed on the other side of the Jordan,
    and Dan, why did he remain with the ships?
Asher stayed by the seacoast,
    camping at his harbors.
18 Zebulun is a people that readily risked death;
    Naphtali too in the high countryside.

19 Kings came and made war;
    the kings of Canaan fought
        at Taanach by Megiddo’s waters,
        but they captured no spoils of silver.
20 The stars fought from the sky;
    from their orbits they fought against Sisera.
21 The Kishon River swept them away;
    the advancing river, the Kishon River.
    March on, my life, with might!

22 Then the horses’ hooves pounded
    with the galloping, galloping of their stallions.
23 “Curse Meroz,” says the Lord’s messenger,
    “curse its inhabitants bitterly,
    because they didn’t come to the Lord’s aid,
    to the Lord’s aid against the warriors.”

24 May Jael be blessed above all women;
    may the wife of Heber the Kenite
    be blessed above all tent-dwelling women.
25 He asked for water, and she provided milk;
    she presented him cream in a majestic bowl.
26 She reached out her hand for the stake,
    her strong hand for the worker’s hammer.
She struck Sisera;
    she crushed his head;
    she shattered and pierced his skull.
27 At her feet he sank, fell, and lay flat;
    at her feet he sank, he fell;
    where he sank, there he fell—dead.

28 Through the window she watched,
    Sisera’s mother looked longingly through the lattice.
“Why is his chariot taking so long to come?
    Why are the hoofbeats of his chariot horses delayed?”
29 Her wisest attendants answer;
    indeed, she replies to herself:
30 “Wouldn’t they be finding and dividing the loot?
    A girl or two for each warrior;
    loot of colored cloths for Sisera;
    loot of colored, embroidered cloths;
    two colored, embroidered cloths
    as loot for every neck.”

31 May all your enemies perish like this, Lord!
    But may your allies be like the sun, rising in its strength.

And the land was peaceful for forty years.

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