Women of the Bible - Deborah and Jael Women Who Fought for God by Kathryn Capoccia Young Adults Sunday School Class All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. © Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. I. Introduction A. Prayer Requests B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse II. Character Profile: Deborah and Jael, Women who Fought for God A. WHO WERE THEY? (read JDG chps. 4 and 5). 1. Deborah a) When did she live? During the period of the Judges @1050-1000 B.C.. b) Where did she live? (JDG 4:5) In the hill country of Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel. c) What was her name? (JDG 4:4) Deborah, "a bee". d) What was her occupation? (JDG 4:4; 5:7) 1) prophetess (JDG 4:4) WHAT WAS A PROPHETESS? "nebiah", a spokesman or transmitter of God's word to others. a] a prophetess could have the office herself or b] a prophetess could only be married to a prophet (ISA 8:3). c] other prophetesses were: i] Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (EXO 15:20). ii] Huldah (2KI 22:14). iii] Noadiah (NEH 6:14). iv] Anna, the daughter of Phannuel (LUK 2:36). 2) wife of Lappidoth, "lightning flashes" or "torches" (JDG 4:4) 3) judge (JDG 4:4); she was the fifth "Judge" of the period: "shaphat", to judge or govern. 4) mother (JDG 5:7). There is no account of her children in the Bible which may mean: a] that she did have children but who they were had no bearing on the story in Judges chapter four so their names were omitted. b] that she was actually childless but that she was a spiritual mother to the nation. e) How old was she? Her age is not mentioned, but because she was a leader of her people, and apparently free to govern, it seems that she was not a young woman obligated to care for young children. f) Who were her people? (JDG 4:4) The Ephraimites: the Israelites. 2. Jael a) When did she live? @1050-1000 B.C. b) Where did she live? (JDG 4:11) By the great tree in Zaanannim, near Kedesh. *This site has been proposed in four areas: a place on the southern border of Naphthali (JOS 19:33); Khirbet Bessum, three mi. NE of Mt. Tabor; Lejjun, between Megiddo and Tell Abu Qedeis; and Khan et-Tujjar on the road between Beth-shean and Damascus (about four mi. SE of Adami). This information came from "The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol. 5, pg. 1025. *A clue to it's location may be JDG 4:6: JDG 4:6 "She [Deborah] sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali..." c) What was her name? (JDG 4:17,18,21) Jael, "wild or mountain goat" or "gazelle". d) What was her occupation? (JDG 4:17,21) She was a housewife. e) Who were her people? We do not know her ancestral background, but her loyalties were with the Israelites. 1) her husband was Heber the Kenite (JDG 4:11, 21). a] his name means "ally". b] the Kenites were a loosely knit clan of metalworkers (kenite means "metalworkers" or "smiths") living in Canaan. c] Kenites were descendants of Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses (*an alternate rendering would be the father-in-law of Moses), so they had close ties with Israel (JDG 4:11). 2) her husband had separated from the rest of the Kenites (JDG 4:11) and allied himself with Jabin king of Hazor (JDG 4:17). a] he may have done this because he was a metal worker and Jabin had 900 iron chariots. b] he may have done this because Jabin seemed to be the undisputed ruler of the area and Heber wanted to be on a winner's side. B. WHAT DID THEY DO? 1. Deborah Judged The People a) What Did Judges Do? 1) They tried difficult cases from the people. a] under Moses a judicial system was established upon the advise of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, to assist Moses in settling disputes on behalf of God: EXO 18:21,22 "... select capable men from all the people--men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves." EXO 18:25,26 "He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves." i] "judges and officers" were appointed for every town (DEU 16:18). ii] a judge with priests as assessors tried more important cases (DEU 17:8-13). b] a Judge had jurisdiction over the entire nation of Israel, some judging from a fixed location and some from a circuit (JDG 4:; 1SA 7:16,17). c] a Judge was "raised up" by God to that office (JDG 2:16). 2) They attempted to keep the nation from idolatry (EXO 18:20; JDG 2:17). JDG 2:17 "Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD'S commands." a] they taught the people God's word (EXO 18:20; JDG 2:17; 1SA 12:23). b] they prayed for the people (DEU 9:18-20,25-29; DEU 10:10; 1SA 12:23). 3) They led their people in war against their enemies: a] Othniel, son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, fought Aram Naharaim, or Northwest Mesopotamia, to free Israel (JDG 3:7-11). JDG 3:10,11 "The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died." b] Ehud, the son of Gera the Benjamite, slew Eglon king of Moab and mustered an army of Ephraimites to kill 10,000 Moabites and deliver Israel from their oppression (JDG 3:12-30). JDG 3:30 "That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years." c] Shamgar, son of Anath, slew 600 Philistines and delivered Israel (JDG 3:31). JDG 3:31 "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel." d] Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, led Israel against Jabin king of Hazor and delivered them from the hands of the Canaanite king (JDG 4:1-24). JDG 4:23,24 "On that day God subdued Jabin, the Canaanite king, before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him." JDG 5:31 "Then the land had peace forty years." e] Gideon, son of Joash the Abiezrite, led an army of 300 Abiezrites (from the tribe of Manasseh), and later Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh and Ephraim, to drive out a combined army of Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples (JDG 6:33) from Israel (JDG 6,7 and 8:1-28). JDG 8:28 "Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon's lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years." f] Tola, son of Puah, the son of Dodo "rose to save Israel" (JDG 10:1,2). JDG 10:2 "He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir." g] Jephthah the Gileadite led Israel against the Ammonites, devastating twenty towns and freeing Israel from subjugation to Ammon (JDG 11). JDG 11:33 "He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon." h] Samson, son of Manoah, from the clan of Dan, fought the Philistines (JDG 15:4-19; 16:29,30). JDG 15:20 "Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines." b) What Were Other Titles For Judges? 1) "Savior" or "deliverer" (JDG 3:9,15). JDG 3:9 "But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer..." JDG 3:15 "Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer..." 2) "gods" (PSA 82:1,6), because of their divinely appointed office. JOH 10:35 "If he called them 'gods' to whom the word of God came..." c) Who Were Judges? 1) God Himself (GEN 18:25), the Righteous Judge of both individuals and nations. 2) Patriarchal heads of households (GEN 21:22,27). 3) Moses (EXO 18:13-27). 4) "Judges and officers in every town" (EXO 16:18), i.e. those appointed to administrate local justice by dint of their character and wisdom. 5) Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jepthah, Samson (the major Judges), Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Izban, Elon, and Abdon (the minor Judges). 6) Samuel (1SA 7:15). 7) The king of Israel (2SA 15:2), during the monarchy. 8) Magistrates and judges (EZR 7:25), after the exile. d) How Did Deborah Judge? 1) She was "leading Israel" (JDG 4:4). a] Israel needed leadership. i] Israel was without a strong leader with the death of Joshua (JDG 2:8). ii] Israel was without strong spiritual advisors after the elders of Joshua's generation died. b] Israel "had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (JDG 21:25), i.e. the people did not acknowledge God as their King and were disloyal to Him and His rule (JDG 3:7). i] Israel "did evil" after Joshua's generation died (JDG 2:10) and served the Canaanite gods (JDG 3:7). ii] Israel began a pattern of cycles of apostasy, oppression, crying out for relief, and divine deliverance after Joshua's generation died. 2) She judged Israel a] She "held court" at a fixed location, the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim (JDG 4:5). b] She settled disputes for all the Israelites who came to her (JDG 4:5). 3) She aroused Israel a] Israel had been oppressed i] Northern Israel (Zebulon, Naphtali, W. Manasseh, Issachar, and Asher) had been cruelly oppressed for twenty yrs. under Jabin, a Canaanite king from northern Israel, who probably headed a coalition of Canaanite forces trying to restore their rule to northern Israel (JDG 4:1-3). *"Jabin" may have been a title or perhaps a family name since Joshua slew a Canaanite king of the same name earlier in Israel's history (JOS 11:10). -- Jabin had 900 iron chariots in his arsenal (JDG 4:3), too many for a single city to have (Pharaoh Thutmose III, in the 15th century B.C., had 924 Egyptian chariots for the nation): this probably represented a combined Canaanite army of 100,000. -- Jabin's royal city was Hazor which had been decimated and burned by the Israelites under Joshua (JOS 11:10). ii] Sisera, Jabin's army commander, had led the Canaanite forces, including the 900 iron chariots, against Israel for twenty yrs. (JDG 4:2,3). b] Israel had been demoralized JDG 4:3 "Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help." *without God's blessing the Israelites were defenseless and helpless. i] life in Israel was hazardous- it was not even safe to travel roads: travelers took to "winding paths" to avoid enemy troops and marauders (JDG 5:6). ii] "village life had ceased" (JDG 5:7)- it was unsafe to live in open villages so everyone fled to walled towns for protection. iii] Israel had few weapons and could not throw off their oppressors (JDG 5:8). -- perhaps this was because Israel had voluntarily disarmed because of a peace agreement between themselves and the Canaanites. -- perhaps this was because Israel had been stripped of her weapons by her oppressors. c] Israel was called to freedom i] God gave a message to Deborah HOW DID DEBORAH GET THIS MESSAGE? Scripture does not specifically say, but after Moses and Joshua God spoke to men in visions: HOS 12:10 "I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables through them." HEB 1:1 "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways..." JOE 2:28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." ii] God gave a promise of deliverance to Israel JDG 4:7 "I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands." 2. Deborah, Barak, And Jael Saved The People a) Deborah Commissioned Barak And Prophesied Honor For A Woman 1) Barak "thunderbolt," son of Abinoam, was summoned to Deborah (JDG 4:6). a] he was from Kedesh in Naphtali (JDG 4:6) b] he is included in the "heroes of faith" in HEB 11:32 2) Barak was commissioned to fight Sisera, Jabin's army commander and his army (Jdg 4:6,7). a] he was commanded to muster an army of 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun (JDG 4:6). b] he was commanded to meet Sisera's army (which was headquartered at nearby Harosheth Haggoyim JDG 4:13) at Mt. Tabor (JDG 4:7). i] Mt. Tabor: -- a hill in the valley of Jezreel about ten mi. SW of the Sea of Galilee. -- the elevation of Mt. Tabor is about 1,300 ft. (1,843 ft. above sea level), and the hill is located northeast of the battle site. -- it has been identified as modern day Jebel et-Tur (mount of the height). It is a steep, somewhat symmetrical promontory with a rounded top and affords an unobstructed view in every direction. -- Tabor is thought to be the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. -- the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar shared borders at Tabor. *this information came from "The NIV Study Bible", pg. 335, and "The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.4, pg. 302. ii] Sisera's army, including his chariots and troops would be "lured" to the Kishon River by the LORD (JDG 4:7). -- The Kishon River: I. Kishon River " curving" is about twenty five mi. in length, originating in the northern hills of Samaria (Biblical En-gannin JOS 15:34;19:21; 21:29) and ending at the Mediterranean Sea, by Mt. Carmel. II. The Kishon River roughly follows the outline of the Carmel ridge, passing through the Valley of Jezreel (Esdraelon Valley), a flat marshy area in Biblical times, as a torrent in times of heavy run-off or as a brook or dry bed late in the year. III. In times of storm the Kishon River floods the Valley of Jezreel making it virtually impassable. *this information came from "The NIV Study Bible", pg. 335, and "The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.3, pg.830. -- the Valley of Jezreel I. it is in the SE part of the larger valley that separates Samaria (S) from Galilee (N). II. the Valley of Megiddo is the northwestern part of it. III. the borders of the valley are: A. on the W, Gilboa and Moreh B. on the E by the Jordan River IV. it is part of the only natural E-W pass across Pal., so it has always been heavily traveled. *this information came from "The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.3, pgs. 590,591. -- God "lured" Sisera to the Valley of Jezreel by: I. having Barak encamp his troops on Mt. Tabor (JDG 4:12). II. allowing Sisera to learn of their location and intent (JDG 4:12). III. making the Valley of Jezreel appear ideal to Sisera for the deployment of his chariots. *the flooded Kishon River in the Valley of Jezreel would later help Napoleon gain victory over a Turkish army in April, 1799 ("The NIV Study Bible", pg. 335). 3) Barak was chastened (JDG 4:9). a] Barak was reluctant to trust God (JDG 4:8) JDG 4:8 Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." *He had faith that God would ensure victory if Deborah went along but did not believe that it would occur without her. i] it may be that he thought of Deborah as a kind of "good luck charm" as the Israelites would later regard the ark of the covenant to be (1SA 4:3), i.e. that Deborah had some power to effect victory. ii] it may be that he did not trust God's evaluation of his abilities and therefore wanted help. b] Barak was rebuked for his lack of faith (JDG 4:9). JDG 4:9 "'Very well,' Deborah said, 'I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.'" b) Deborah And Barak Led The Forces To Victory 1) The trap was set a] Deborah and Barak went to Kedesh where Barak summoned 10,000 men of Zebulun and Naphtali (JDG 4:9,10). b] Deborah and Barak and the army went to Mt. Tabor and camped there (JDG 4:10,12). c] word was brought to Sisera that Israel's army had gone up to Mt. Tabor (JDG 4:12). d] Sisera, his 900 chariots and his army, assembled in the Valley of Jezreel (JDG 4:13). 2) The trap was sprung a] God "went before Israel" (JDG 4:14). i] the powers of heaven, i.e. rain and floods, fought for Israel in the Valley of Jezreel (JDG 5:20,21). ii] the Kishon River swept away some of Sisera's army (JDG 5:21). b] Barak routed Sisera's army i] Deborah urged Barak and his army to advance upon the Canaanites whose superior numbers and equipment were nullified by their inability to maneuver in the flooded condition of the valley floor (JDG 4:14). *There is disagreement about the location of the battle but it is generally thought that the battle occurred in the western end of the Valley of Jezreel, towards the camp of the Canaanites. ii] the Canaanite army was "routed by the sword", i.e. panicked, and fled before the Israelites (JDG 4:15). iii] Barak's army pursued, overtook, and slew the remainder of the Canaanite army, even going as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, the camp of the Canaanite army (JDG 4:16). iv] Sisera escaped on foot and fled to the camp of Heber the Kenite, which was near Kedesh (JDG 4:17). *if both references to Kedesh refer to the same place in Naphtali, the distance to there from the battlefield could have been as great as forty miles. A man on foot probably could not have made it in less than two days. c) Jael killed Sisera 1) Sisera sought sanctuary a] he came to the camp of an ally, Heber the Kenite (JDG 4:17). i] there were friendly relations between Heber the Kenite and Jabin (JDG 4:17). ii] Heber the Kenite may have been the informant who notified Sisera of Israel's activities (implied from JDG 4:11,12). *He expected to receive "hospitality" from Heber, a Middle Eastern custom which promises shelter, food, and protection (even to one's enemies for up to three days under normal circumstances). b] he came to the tent of Jael, Heber's wife (JDG 4:17). *the tents of women, in Near Eastern customs, were off-limits to any men other than their husbands. Sisera believed he would be safe from discovery from the pursuing Israelites there ("The NIV Study Bible" notes, pg.335). i] he asked for protection- hospitality JDG 4:20 "Stand in the doorway of the tent," he told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.'" ii] he sought refreshment-hospitality *To be invited to come into someone's home and to receive water was to be acknowledged as a guest and entitled to the benefits of the custom of "hospitality". -- he laid down in the tent with a covering over him (JDG 4:18). -- he asked for water (JDG 4:19). 2) Jael planned to kill Sisera a] Jael deceived Sisera i] she invited him into the concealment of her tent (JDG 4:18). ii] she assured him of safety (JDG 4:18). JDG 4:18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come, my lord, come right in. Don't be afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him. b] Jael "drugged" Sisera i] she gave him milk to drink because he was thirsty (JDG 4:19) ii] she gave him milk to drink because he was exhausted (JDG 4:19,21). *this was probably goat's milk. WHY DID SHE GIVE HIM MILK AND NOT WATER? It would have been as easy for her to have given him the water he asked for as to give him milk, but only milk would have acted as a natural sedative on an exhausted man. (Perhaps a subconscious reason she gave him milk was because she did not really want to offer "hospitality" to him, which an offer of water usually guaranteed). c] Jael dispensed with Sisera i] she gathered her weapons and approached her enemy: JDG 4:21 "But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted." *As a housewife Jael was very familiar with the tools of tenting, pegs and hammers, and because she was a housewife and not as strong as Sisera she used the only weapons she had in the only plan that seemed possible: ii] she used them to kill him JDG 4:21 "She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died." 3) Jael was credited with killing Sisera a] she exhibited his body to Barak (JDG 4:22). JDG 4:22 "Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. 'Come,' she said, 'I will show you the man you're looking for.' So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple--dead." b] she was extolled by Deborah in song (JDG 5:24-27). *WHY WOULD JAEL KILL SISERA? 1) she knew about the battle that had just occurred because: a] Barak's summons had gone out in the land (JDG 4:10). b] If Heber was the informant to Sisera Jael would have learned of the impending battle. c] Jael knew that Barak was searching for Sisera (JDG 4:22). 2) she was obviously on Israel's side and regarded Sisera as an enemy. 3) she was acting in accordance with God's will that a woman would kill Sisera (JDG 4:9). *WAS SHE RIGHT IN DOING WHAT SHE DID? WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHAT WAS THE FINAL OUTCOME OF THEIR STRUGGLE? JDG 4:23,24 "On that day God subdued Jabin, the Canaanite king, before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him." C. WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THEM? 1. God hears and answers the prayers of the penitent and delivers them out of their troubles (JDG 4:3). 2. God chastens those who are disobedient, as Barak was (JDG 4:9). 3. God is not a respecter of persons- women are as useful to Him as men are (GAL 3:28). III. What Fruits of the Spirit Can You See in Them? IV. Memory Verse: COL 3:23,24 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
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