1 The Israelites went back to their bad ways again after Ehud died. 2 So the Lord punished them. King Jabin, a Canaanite from Hazor, made them his servants. The captain of his army was called Sisera. He lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 He had 900 chariots of iron. He made the lives of the Israelites very painful for 20 years. They cried to the Lord for help.
4 Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was then leading Israel. She was a lady prophet. 5 She sat under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel. This was in the hill country of Ephraim. Here she judged the people. When the Israelites argued with each other, they came to her. Deborah decided who was right. 6 Deborah told Barak, son of Abinoam to come to her. He came from Kedesh in Naphtali. She gave him a message from the Lord God. The Lord told Barak, ‘Go to Mount Tabor. Take with you 10,000 men of the tribes of Naphtali and Benjamin. 7 I will make Sisera (captain of Jabin's army) go to the Kishon river. He will bring the army and their chariots with him. You will beat them all’.
8 Barak said to Deborah, ‘I will go if you will come with me. I will not go unless you come with me’. 9 Deborah said, ‘Yes, I will go with you. But the Lord will give power to kill Sisera to a woman. This is because you have been slow to obey him. You will not look very big’.
So Deborah went with Barak to Kadesh. 10 Barak told the men from Zebulun and Naphtali to come to him. He led 10,000 men. And Deborah went with him.
11 Heber, the Kenite, did not live with the other Kenites. They were cousins of Moses' family. Heber lived in a tent by a big tree in Zaanannim in Kedesh.
12 They told Sisera that Barak (the son of Abinoam) had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 Sisera and all his soldiers were at Harosheth Haggoyim. They went with 900 iron chariots to the Kishon river. 14 Then Deborah told Barak, ‘Go! This day the Lord has given you power over Sisera. The Lord has gone before you!’
So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with his soldiers. 15 When they came near to Sisera, the Lord fought for Israel. Israel beat Sisera and all his army. Sisera left his chariot and ran away. All his soldiers ran away. 16 Barak and his men ran after Sisera, his soldiers and his chariots. They followed them to Harosheth Haggoyim. They killed all Sisera's soldiers. They did not leave one.
4:16Hazor was in the north of Canaan. Jabin was an important king. The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and Issachar had their land there. Hazor was a big city. Joshua had burnt it. But the Canaanites had built it again. Mount Tabor was where the lands of Zebulun, Naphtali and Issachar joined each other.
4:16The Kishon valley was wet in winter and spring. The soft ground held the iron chariots. The Israelite soldiers could not fight iron chariots. But the Lord God stopped the chariots. Even Sisera had to get out and run.
4:16‘Kadesh’ was a common name. It means ‘safe place’.
17 Sisera ran to Jael's tent. She was the wife of Heber, the Kenite. King Jabin and Heber's family were friends. 18 Jael came out. She asked Sisera to come into the tent. She said, ‘Do not be afraid’. So he went in, and she covered him up. 19 Sisera asked her for some water. She gave him a drink of milk, and covered him again. 20 Sisera said, ‘Stand in front of the door. If someone asks if anyone is here, say, “No” ’.
21 But Jael took a sharp stick and a hammer. She hit the stick right through Sisera's head while he was asleep. It went into the ground and he died. 22 Barak came running after Sisera. Jael went out to meet him. She said, ‘Come and I will show you the man you are looking for’.
He went with her into the tent. He saw Sisera there, and he was dead. He saw the stick that was through Sisera's head. 23 On that day God made Jabin (the Canaanite king) weak. 24 The Israelites became stronger and stronger. Then they ruled Jabin's people.
4:24We do not know if Jael was a bad woman, who killed a visitor to her tent. Perhaps Sisera was a bad man who should not have gone into a woman's tent. But we do know that God was helping the Israelites to kill their enemies. Deborah called Jael ‘blessed’ because God had used her to kill his people's enemy.