Day 91 (April 1): Deborah leads victory, Jael kills Sisera, Song of Deborah, Gideon becomes new judge

Judges Deborah served as a judge for Israel. She orchestrated a raid on Sisera with Barak.
Credit: Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Judges 3:31-6:40
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 4:4-5): I am confused.  These stories seem to come as a little of a surprise.  Up to now, they have all been linked — except for Job.  Where did the judges come from?  We have never heard of Deborah.  And, if God handed over the Israelites to King Jabin, why were there judges around who still followed God and judged according to His laws?

A. Your confusion is understandable.  Basically, Judges is the book that covers the time period between Moses/Joshua’s leadership, and Saul/David/Solomon as the first monarchs or Israel.  During this time, there is no one united leader: the Lord calls into service particular individuals, who are otherwise of no importance, to fulfill His desires.  Basically, this story exists in its own timeframe: while the judges are mentioned from time to time, they are basically a more minor part of the history of Israel — they are the transition from a period of one leader, Moses, to another, David.

Don’t worry if you haven’t “met” any of these characters before, the narrative is telling us everything we need to know about them: what tribe they come from.  For His own glory, God is raising up people who have served Him faithfully to either personally carry out His will — as with Ehud killing the king — or by giving someone like Deborah, the only female judge, a prophecy about how Israel can be victorious in battle.  This trend will continue: you won’t have heard of any of these judges before their part in the story. That’s just the way the narrative is set up right now.  It will be this way until Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel (Ruth takes place during this same period).

Keep in mind that when we use the word “judge” in this story, we don’t necessarily envision a person who interprets the law as a judge does today (though in Deborah’s case this is accurate).  We mean a tribal leader or warlord — someone who can bring the tribes together for the purpose of winning in battle.  In Deborah’s story (she’s from the tribe of Issachar according to Jewish tradition, the story didn’t say explicitly), she united the warriors from the clans of Zebulun and Naphtali to gain victory over the evil king, using the warrior Barak as her “general.”  I hope that helps clear up what Judges is about.

Q. (4:14-16): I notice that when the Israelites defeat their challengers, it is by no strength of their own, it is by God’s power that they are victorious.  Believing in someone so much that you know they will fight and win for you is awesome.  But, how about their self-esteem?  It’s kind of like having someone fight your battles for you, you rely on them instead of getting stronger yourself.  Does this sound like something God wants from us?  In verse 23, we see that Israel was on the side of God and get a feeling that God is pleased.

A. Don’t forget, God’s response in each of these situations is a response to the people crying out for deliverance, and God acts.  How He chooses to do so is up to Him.  But, ultimately, that was the deal He set up with the people: if they trusted Him, and did what He ordered, He would make them victorious.  These battles still have to be won by His people, but God is providing assurance that it will be, often by “tilting” the battle in Israel’s favor as He did here (4:15).

Q. (5:7): We haven’t really seen God use a woman as a leader or have a major role — except for the smaller roles of Sarah and Miriam.  Any reason why He chose to now?  Here she is called the “Mother of Israel.”

A. Nothing that I am aware of.  She was the right person at the right time, but only God knows the reason He chose her.  There will not be many strong female leaders in Israel, but Deborah is one of the strongest of ALL Israel’s leaders: even the mighty King David didn’t manage to keep peace in his kingdom for 40 years.

O. (5:11): I feel an underlying calling here from the poor and meek.  It feels almost like God is talking to them and they know more than the well-to-doers.

Q. (5:15-23): Deborah and Barak are coming down on the named tribes, but I only thought they requested certain tribes to come.  Who are the people of Meroz in verse 23?

A. Apparently it was a town somewhere near the battle that refused to participate in the war effort.  We don’t know anything else about it, including which tribal territory it was in.

Q. (5:31): This verse is saying that all of God’s followers should obey Him so much that they will not hesitate to fight for Him.  If so, God will give them all the power in the world?

A. No, I don’t think that’s right.  Deborah is using the imagery of the rising sun to connect with the increasing power of the nation as they ascend through victory.  But there is no reason to assume she means that this power will be infinite.

Q. (6:1-6): I am amazed that the number of times that the Israelites turn away from God and yet they still call out to Him when they are desperate.  And, God delivers them again and again.  Can we apply this to our lives today?

A. I think you just did.

O. Gideon sounds similar to a choice God has made before — Moses.  And, I know there will be more like this.  Although, I am not saying that all of God’s choices are meek.  I am not trying to say that God is predictable.  I’m just saying that he has chosen another person with little self-pride.  On the flipside, He did choose Joseph who was a little egotistical, being the favored son of His father and bragging about his dreams.  Like every human, no two leaders are the same.

Q. (6:36-40): God is putting up with Gideon doubting Him.  He caters to his requests.  Gideon has already seen the angel of God consume his offering by fire.  Why does he ask for more proof?  We have seen that even his father worshipped Baal.  So, is it that the Israelites have been devoid of God for so long that the current generation barely knows of His existence, and thus fuels their disbelief?

A. That’s a good question, and a reasonable assumption, but honestly I do not know.  I would say that it is equally likely that Gideon is a man who is haunted by self-doubt.  He characterizes himself as the weakest member of the weakest family of the weakest tribe, so I think that at least part of what’s going on here is that Gideon is so fearful that he refuses to follow God’s instructions until he is ABSOLUTELY certain that God is calling him.  Gideon, unlike later judges like Samson, will actually put on display the full ability of God to use literally anyone, even a person who is racked with self-doubt.  For once he clears these hurdles of doubt, we will see Gideon act bravely and faithfully to bring Israel great victory.  Come check it out tomorrow!

For further study: A chart of the judges, their rein and important events.

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Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 7:1-9:21

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