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Men and Women of the Bible (Vol. II.), PLAN OF THE LESSON.
when They Are on God's Side. Margaret E. Sangster's Women of the I. THE STORY OF THREE JUDGES, Bible, Dr. W. H. P. Faunce in Women
Judges 3. of the Bible, Mrs. S. T. Martyn's Women
Othniel, nephew of Caleb. of the Bible, Broughton's Representative
Ehud the left-handed. Women of the Bible, Mackay's The
Shamgar and his ox-goad. Woman of Tact, Bishop Potter's Ser
II. A HEROINE AND A HERO IN ISRAEL, mons of the City.
The terrible Sisera.
together for good.
III. GOD GIVES VICTORY TO His FOR RESEARCH AND DISCUSSION.
PEOPLE, Judges 4 : 11-24.
The mighty host of evil. The special work of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar.
The triumph of God's children. Why the heathen tribes were not destroyed.
The power of a woman. The character of Deborah.
IV. DEBORAH'S HYMN OF VICTORY, The character of Barak. The character of Jael.
Judges 5. A study of Bible heroines.
Our victory over our enemies.
I. THE STORY OF THREE JUDGES, Judges 3. Through lack of faith and zeal the Israelites had failed to drive out from Canaan all the heathen tribes. Jehovah would not do this work for his people, since they should do it for themselves. He allowed the heathen tribes to remain in considerable numbers, as a spur to constant effort on the part of the Hebrews through many centuries. At least one good came out of this evil : the constant presence of enemies on their border kept the Israelites from degenerating into softness, and the necessity of frequent fighting stimulated their courage and resourcefulness. But these might have been stimulated in other and better ways.
The heathen nations that thus ever threatened the Hebrews were (Judg. 3:16): (1) the Philistines, a powerful confederacy of five cities in the southern part of the Mediterranean coast ; (2) the Canaanites, a general term for the original inhabitants, at that time occupying the west and southwest lowlands of Palestine; (3) the Zidonians or Phænicians, on the coast in the north, with Zidon (Sidon) as their chief city ; (4) the Hivites (probably the Hittites are here meant) of the Lebanon region still further north along the coast. Then follow the names of the heathen tribes remaining in the interior of the country, among whom the Israelites lived : (1) the Canaanites, or lowlanders, where the term is not used in general to designate all these nations ; (2) the Hittites, those in the neighborhood of Hebron, probably unrelated to the great northern nation of Hittites ; (3) the Amorites, or highlanders; (4) the Perizzites, either a definite tribe or dwellers in unwalled villages ; (5) the Hivites, who lived in central Palestine ; (6) the Jebusites, who lived in and around Jerusalem. With these heathen peoples the degenerate and faithless Israelites intermarried, and came even to worship their vile gods.
The result of this evil doing was sorrow, as it always is. A terrible king, Cushanrishathaim (just what ruler is meant has not yet been discovered), came down upon the Israelites from northern Syria west of the Euphrates, conquered the land, and held it in servitude for eight miserable years.
What this servitude meant may be learned from the sufferings of the Armenians from the Turks during the World War in this same general region. The unfortunate Armenians were driven from their homes, their goods were seized, the old folks and the sick were cruelly slain, the girls and women suffered all the horrible things that they could be made to endure. Thus the Israelites suffered, and the cry of their woe rose up to Jehovah. They had learned that Baal was unable to save them, and in their distress they gave the true God the worship which they had withheld in their prosperity. How often we of to-day do the same !
The First Judge. God heard the cry of his oppressed people, and raised up a deliverer, the first judge. As we might have expected, it was one of the family of Caleb, that old hero who with Joshua gave the brave advice that the land could be won in spite of its giants, and who forty years later chose for his portion no easy tract but the rocky region of Hebron. It was Othniel, Caleb's nephew, who had
already proved his valor (Judg. 1:12, 13). “ The spirit of the Lord came upon him," and in that power, available for all that will receive it, he conquered the invader from the north, drove him out, and won a forty-years' peace for his country.
THE SECOND JUDGE. As the Israelites again grew careless and fell into evil ways, God allowed them to be conquered in the south by the Moabites under Eglon. The Moabites lived east of the Dead Sea, and had for their allies the Amalekites southwest of the Dead Sea and the Ammonites to the northeast. Together they took Jericho," the city of palm-trees,” which was a serious loss to the Israelites.
But after eighteen years, in answer to the prayers of the oppressed people, God raised up a left-handed warrior, Ehud of the tribe of Benjamin, who got access to King Eglon. Ehud wore a short sword beneath his cloak on his right side, and no harm was suspected when he slipped his left hand in, for the right arm was the common sword-arm. Quick as a flash Ehud drew his sword, slew the Moabite king, and escaped. Under his leadership the intruders were slain, and the ensuing peace lasted eighty years.
Ehud is a good example of the power of originality. A man who does things differently from others, in his own fresh and independent way, has thereby gone far toward success.
THE THIRD JUDGE. The next oppression that seized the Hebrews was from the west, from the Philistines, who occupied the five important cities in the coast district opposite Judah. Shamgar, probably a man of Judah, led the Israelites against them, armed only with an ox-goad. This instrument, as used in Syria to-day, is a long stick with a blade at one end for cleaning the ploughshare, and often a spike at the other for pricking the animal drawing the plough.' New Century Bible. We know nothing about Shamgar except that with this primitive weapon he slew six hundred of the Philistines, an exploit akin to that of Samson with the jaw-bone of an ass (Judg. 15:15).
The soldier of Jehovah will not be anxious about his weapon. It is the spirit of the Lord that is his true weapon. For material means he will snatch up whatever comes to hand. Thus many of the world's greatest victories have been won by slight means and in the most unexpected way. The telephone, for example, was discovered through the accidental vibration of an instrument with which Bell was experimenting, a vibration which his ear was quick to catch and his mind quick to interpret.
II. A HEROINE AND A HERO IN ISRAEL, Judg. 4:1-10. Nothing is so monotonous as wickedness ; it is virtue which brings interesting novelties into life. Here again we learn of the backsliding of the Israelites after their success under Ehud (the exploit of Shamgar seems to have been a side episode). No sooner had that judge passed away than the people returned to their idolatry, and forsook their
God who had saved them.
2. As a punishment Jehovah sold them into the hand of Jabin. Jabin was a chief of the Canaanites, the ancient inhabitants of the land, having his seat of government at Hazor, in the land assigned to the tribe of Naphtali, in the extreme north of the country. His general was Sisera, probably a foreigner, who lived in Harosheth-of-theForeigners,
on the north side of the Kishon, not far from Mt. Carmel, where Elijah in later years was to win his great triumph over the prophets of Baal. General Sisera's headquarters were thus on the edge of the Plain of Esdraelon, by far the largest stretch of level country in Palestine, the plain over which the armies of Egypt and Assyria, of Greece and Rome, of the Crusaders and recently the British forces in the Great War,
4. And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7. And I will draw unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots, and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
have fought some of the world's greatest battles. Sisera possessed nine hundred iron-bound chariots - low wooden vehicles, open behind, in which the warriors stood. These crude forerunners of the modern tank could be well operated in the Plain of Esdraelon. They constituted a sort of movable fort ; and as they were drawn rapidly across the field, the warriors in them were measurably protected from attack, and could shoot their arrows and hurl their spears with terrible effect. It was not till the time of Solomon that the Hebrews themselves began to use chariots, and at the time of the judges the possession of these iron-shod chariots constituted the Canaanites a formidable foe. For two decades Sisera and his troops were able to lord it over the Israelites.
4. Deborah means “ a bee." She is called a prophetess as Miriam was (Ex. 15 : 20) because God inspired her utterances. Huldah 2 Kings 22 : 14 ; 2 Chron. 34 : 22) and Noahdiah (Neh. 6 : 14) were others of the prophetesses. She judged Israel. She was not a judge in the sense of deliverer ; Barak was technically the “ judge of his time. But she was a judge in the legal sense ; her wisdom was so great and the respect paid her was so widespread, that disputes were brought to her to settle, and public opinion enforced her decisions. There were no law courts in Deborah's day, but such a custom made a very good substitute while there was a Deborah at hand !
5. She dwelt (margin, sat") under the palm tree of Deborah. Judges sat under trees in country places, and at the gate in cities, in each case for obvious motives of convenience. Deborah's palm tree was between Ramah (now called er-Ram), five miles north of Jerusalem, and Beth-el, about six miles north of Ramah. Rebekah's nurse Deborah was buried under an oak not far away (Gen. 35:8). In the hill-country of Ephraim, the Samaria of Christ's time.
6. And she sent and called Barak. This hero lived at the northern extremity of the country, at Kedesh in the region assigned to the tribe of Naphtali. The town is now called Kades, and it is about four miles from the upper waters of the Jordan. Deborah must have had considerable authority to summon Barak from such a distance. Hath not Jehovah, the God of Israel, commanded ? Deborah did not issue her commands in her own name. “ The powers that be are ordained of God.” Harmony with the will of God is the source of all true authority. Go and draw unto Mount Tabor. Tabor is a conical hill at the northeast end of the Plain of Esdraelon, southwest of the Sea of Galilee. Its flat top is 1843 feet above sea-level. North of Mt. Tabor the tribes of Naphtali and of Zebulun had settled, and they were to supply Barak with an army of 10,000 men ; but Issachar, to whom had been assigned the territory south of Mt. Tabor, is not mentioned as having part in the levy, though the leaders of Issachar were with Deborah (Judg. 5:15). Perhaps this is becaụse Issachar was not strong enough to seize its territory from the Canaanites, and so that tribe had become amalgamated with Naphtali and Zebulun.
7. I will draw unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera. The Kishon“ is the second river in Palestine, and from the furthest of its sources to the sea is thirty-five miles long. With its tributary streams, which are small but numerous, it drains the Plain of Esdraelon and the sides near it of the hills surrounding. As a rule it is not deep nor wide, and is impassable in only one or two places. In the summer, parts of it are quite dry. The mouth is usually blocked by a sand-bar, which is only broken through when the stream receives the violent rain which falls at certain seasons. In the
8. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
10. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
II. Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
12. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to Mount Tabor.
winter, and even more in the spring, the sudden rains convert an insignificant stream into a torrent and the surrounding land into a marsh. This was the river Kishon that swept them away.'”.- New Century Bible. I will deliver him into thy hand. Deborah is not making this bold promise, but Jehovah whose command she is repeating. Whoever speaks for God can speak with confidence, though in his own strength he would be most timid.
8. Barak's unwillingness to go unless Deborah went with him did him honor. It was not a refusal of God's command, but a reliance upon it. Deborah represented to him the spirit of Jehovah, and he meant that with that spirit attending him he would undertake the great task, though in his own strength he felt absolutely unequal to it. This is the feeling with which all true heroes attempt their heroic deeds.
9. Barak's obedience to God's command was made doubly honorable by Deborah's prophecy that it should not redound to his honor : a woman was to take from him the glory of victory. The true hero never does his deed for the sake of the glory, but for the sake of the deed. He is seized by an ideal ; in Barak's case, it was patriotism. For that ideal he will dare all and sacrifice all, heedless of men's thought of him.
Illustration. Thus General Pershing, that the cause of the Allies in the Great War might succeed, cheerfully placed his troops at the orders of General Foch, and even allowed them to be brigaded with the French troops. He would have magnified his own importance if he had kept himself at the head of an independent army ; but he was entirely willing that his glory should go to another, so that a united control might more speedily win the war. Thus also Washington, in the Revolution, constantly fought losing battles and allowed his generals to get great glory by their victories. All he cared for was that his country should be victorious.
10. There went up ten thousand men. We learn from v. 12 that they went to Mt. Tabor, as Deborah had ordered. There they lay in hiding in the hills until the time came for the onset. At his feet. On foot, a weak force of infantry to oppose Sisera's nine hundred chariots and his great host of warriors. And Deborah went with him. The working together of Deborah and Barak is a capital example of cooperation. This principle was firmly implanted by Jesus in the Christian church. Peter added something to the band of disciples that even John could not have contributed, and Thomas and Philip, Matthew and Andrew, James and Nathanael, each did his share which the others could not do. Stephen, later, added his contribution ; so did Paul ; so did Mark, Luke, Apollo, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Lydia, Phæbe, and a host of others. Through all the ages the church has grown by the Deborah-Barak principle of coöperation. The women in their mission circles and the “ Ladies' Aid,” the boys and girls in their Christian Endeavor societies, Epworth Leagues, and Baptist Unions, reënforce the work of the men. All have a share in the building of the walls of the New Jerusalem.
III. GOD GIVES VICTORY TO HIS PEOPLE, Judg. 4:11-24. The battle of the Kishon was evidently a very important battle, judging from the numbers of troops on both sides, and the decisive results of the fighting ; yet few definite details are given us. We read that Sisera learned of the concentration of the Israelites at 13. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
14. And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand : is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
15. And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.
16. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
Mt. Tabor, and rapidly brought up his army with the nine hundred iron chariots, drawing it from a wide range reaching from the Jordan to the Kishon and Mt. Carmel.
14. Up; for this is the day. “ Der Tag,” “ the Day," was the time eagerly anticipated by the German army officers for their advance against France. They had been making preparations for a generation, and were longing to try them out. That was an evil day ; but in a good sense every Christian should anticipate with great desire the day of his embarking on some notable service for the Master. If it is the work God has marked out for him, the day fixed for it will be the day of triumphant realization and of noble reward. He may be as sure as Barak that all diffculties will vanish before him, and that God will deliver into his hand all enemies that oppose God's will. Is not Jehovah gone out before thee? Jehovah goes before all the forces that he sends forth, to clear obstacles out of their path, to beat down their enemies, to prepare their triumph. All obedient souls realize that they are in the sweep of the divine victories. So Barak went down from mount Tabor, to give battle, on the Plain of Esdraelon below, to Sisera and his hosts.
15. Jehovah discomfited Sisera. The Hebrew verb means to fill with sudden terror and confusion. Josephus says that a hail-storm unstrung the bows and slings of the Canaanites and benumbed them with cold. In the most famous passage of Deborah's hymn (Judg. 5 : 20–22) a hint is given of the way in which God won the victory for his people :
From heaven fought the stars,
The ancients believed that the heavenly bodies, the stars and planets and moon, controlled the weather. The Lord, through the stars, sent the rain, as Deborah sang. The rain flooded the Kishon, and the warriors of Sisera, who would have escaped from the plain into the hills, were caught by the swollen stream and swept away. This was the last battle of the Canaanites against the Israelites.
Illustration. Thus it was in the Great War, when the Austrians and Germans came down from the Alps into the plains of northern Italy, and were rushing on toward Venice in terrible force. They were repulsed, and in their retreat were caught by the sudden flood of the river Piave, and many thousands were swept away by the angry current.
Sisera alighted from his chariot, which could not travel except in the plain. He and his routed army plunged away through the highlands northward, closely followed by the triumphant Israelites.
Dr. John Finley, president of the University of the State of New York, was in Palestine during the battle of the British against the Turks on the Plain of Esdraelon,