Judges 3-4: The Tent Peg in the Head of the Serpent

Judges 3:  God’s Wrath

1(A) Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. 2It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. 3These are the nations:(B) the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 4They were for(C) the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. 5So the people of Israel lived(D) among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 6(E) And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.

When we read the book of Judges, it is easy to read into it many assumptions which we take from being in a world which believes God is not good.  We must never forget that within the Trinity the Son had determined alongside the Father that He would be sent, and that all of man under the banner of Adam would be made in the image of Yeshua (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:29) – in the image of the Saviour who gave salvation.  That is testament enough to form our understanding of the coming chapters of the judges.  Though these are amazing men who relied much on the Spirit, they are nothing in comparison to the Christ who had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34).  These men indeed relied on the Spirit, but what was common to them was the universal disease of death which they could not defeat except in Christ alone.  The path between first birth and first death, being born-again in Spirit and finally in our renewed flesh is a rocky path littered with spiritual battles.  The typology of Israel, of the wars fought in these important books of the Old Testament, did not cease with the book of Joshua.  Indeed, the Israelites are to learn war, not because the LORD is a warmongering God of Marcion; rather, He is portraying an eschatological imagery of what would happen to those who are loyal to the true Husband, against the numbers of baalim (v.7), the number of adulterous husbands which we align ourselves to.

It is important that we understand the specific Hebrew word for baalim, for in these chapters we are speaking of men who have identified themselves as nations which worship other gods (v.6) – nations which attach themselves to other husbands (v.7; Judges2 :11; 3 :7, 12).  “Their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods” – a predicament which Melchizedek sought to prevent in Genesis 14 by pre-empting the king of Sodom.  Here also, is the implied meaning behind the intermingling of the nations.  Do we gain our blessings from God alone, as embodied in the High Priest Melchizedek?  Or do we gain our blessings from neighbouring nations, so that they are full of themselves and in turn delude us into believing that they received these blessings from their ‘gods’ or lack thereof?  Why else would these Israelites fall so easily, if they did not want to eat that forbidden fruit this present moment as opposed to look to New Creation as Abraham, Moses and many of the named judges in this book waited hopefully towards?

Furthermore, this is no “Old Testament teaching” when we speak of warfare – if anything, the nature of Paul’s exposition of the Old Testament is a thorough understanding of the true spiritual warfare which underpins many of the chronicles of these battles prior to Christ’s incarnation.  In Ephesians 6 we are made aware of the different body-pieces of armour; that our path of faith is called the “good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18); the passions of our flesh seen as warring with our soul (James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11); and above all Hebrews 11:34 which speaks of the Spirit and faith in Christ empowering them to be mighty in war, so to point towards the ultimate victory which Christ has won on the cross and physically and finally represented as in the prophecies of John in Revelation chapters 2 and 11-19.  We have already seen the failures of the people when they forget God; when they rely not on the Holy Spirit.  This new generation may not have tasted warfare, but every generation of Christians must taste true warfare, for it is not good in itself (1 Kings 5:3), but it is necessary (c.f. day two of creation which was not proclaimed as ‘good’ because it symbolised the death of Christ through the parting of the waters).  It is through these trials that their faith is more precious than the gold tested in the fire (1 Peter 1:7), and without these trials – without the temporary rain of judgment and pain – these spiritual babies would not grow to maturity; these spiritual saplings will not bear the fruit from the one Vine Whom they are attached to; and thus continually and with more greatness both look towards and typify the greatest light to shine when Christ is finally born.

Othniel

7(F) And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and(G) the Asheroth. 8Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel,(H) and he sold them into the hand of(I) Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. 9But when the people of Israel(J) cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a(K) deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them,(L) Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10(M) The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11(N) So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

And so v.7-11 begins the cycle of captivity which Israel will continually experience, which we will all continually experience, until the rescue of the one Anointed Judge who is given the Spirit without measure.  Othniel, the lion of God, the lion of Judah (for he hails from the tribe of Judah) comes as the first judge from the generation who has witnessed God’s miracles as Caleb’s younger brother, and is a rarity amongst the other Israelites who have not witnessed war.  He very much represents our Christ who understood the depravity of heresy, who foreknew the fall of Adam before he was made the steward of the garden in Eden, and who with the Spirit would rush into the world fully equipped to fulfil his given ministry.  As the True Lion of Judah, he would destroy the real father of Cushan-rishathaim, the real ‘double-wickedness’, the real ‘blackness’ who had enslaved Israel for eight years.  This is a number which E.W. Bullinger describes in Christian numerology as representing resurrection and regeneration, the true purpose behind circumcision behind performed on the eighth day (Genesis 17:2) because Christ was resurrected on the eighth day (the first day of the new week).  So here, Othniel the typological lion of Judah upon his resurrection, being filled with the Spirit defeats the true darkness, the true Satan.

Though these 8 years proved to be a time of trial (whereupon in its fullness of time Othniel came to rescue), the next forty years symbolically represents a period of probation (as similar to Israel in the wilderness, c.f. Deuteronomy 8:2-5; Psalm 95:10).  However, like the deaths of the earlier saints (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Miriam, Joshua), the people returned to their idolatry.  This intermission whereupon they had no symbolic ‘pope’ to represent them described very clearly their state of faith (or lack thereof) in Christ; and yet, ironically, that is the thrust of these stories in Judges.  The portrayal of idolatry upon the death of the judge is meant to enforce the utterly important significance of a judge, mediator, king, LORD, high priest who is eternally interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34), a Saviour who has not only defeated death which these judges could not defeat (thus bringing the Israelites beyond the forty year probation into the eternal jubilee), but a Saviour who lives on as our true Head.  Their trust in a Spirit-filled man will result in inevitable failures, for these Spirit-filled men are but Christians; but if Othniel experienced the indwelling and baptism of the Spirit prior to Christ’s incarnation, then also everyone else had the privilege to be like them and by the Spirit prevent such widespread heresies and idolatries in Israel.  Like Moses’ call for them to be near to the mountain of God, they were instead too afraid and trembled, standing far off (Exodus 20:18).  Moses was never intended to be the true Redeemer – and neither is Othniel, for they both saw that they had these strengths and performed such miracles for they are only emulating their true Mediator who also depended on the Spirit to perform such amazing feats, without measure.

Ehud

12(O) And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon(P) the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 13He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the(Q) Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of(R) the city of palms. 14And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

We now turn to an episode concerning Ehud the judge who assassinated Eglon, the king of Moab, after serving him for eighteen years.  The narrative is silent on the justification for such a murder, for such a blatant disregard for the Ten Words, but we will return to this issue of graphic violence by the end of the chapter. Meanwhile, we are to understand that the captivity of eighteen years is a direct result of Israel’s idolatry, hence the LORD mobilised Eglon against the Israelites in order that they may be further strengthened in faith in Christ.  How often do we attribute evils today as a positive influence from Yahweh, rather than a punishment without meaning?  How often do we conceive of God as emptying us of our pride when He can only act out of love for He is the very being of love in communion, in Trinity (c.f. John 17; 1 John 4-5)?

This humiliation of Israel is further enhanced by the understanding of the name of Eglon to be that of a little-calf, and that this little-calf had taken the city of palm (trees – as in the KJV and Hebrew) (v.13), the palm tree representing victory of new creation (1 Kings 6-7; Psalm 92:12; Ezekiel 40-41; John 12:13).  The imagery here should therefore not be lost on the Israelite who meditates on this story, knowing fully that we are to recognise here that Eglon has essentially taken new creation under captivity, though he be an enemy to be ridiculed in the face of a judge who would stand up for Israel.  For a full eighteen years no-one had taken on the calling to be anointed by the Spirit in destroying the enemy, and it begs to wonder where Israel’s true allegiance lies as it proves itself as once again a nation which had forgotten the saving works of Christ.

15Then the people of Israel(S) cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them(T) a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit[a] in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes.

Left Hand

Literally speaking according to the Hebrew, Ehud is a man with an impeded right hand, and thus the translation states that he is left-handed by implication.  Adam Clarke looks at the LXX translations for the same verse (v.15):

“The Septuagint render it ανδρα αμφοτεροδεξιον, an ambidexter, a man who could use both hands alike. The Vulgate, qui utraque manu pro dextera utebatur, a man who could use either hand as a right hand, or to whom right and left were equally ready. This is not the sense of the original, but it is the sense in which most interpreters understand it. It is well known that to be an ambidexter was in high repute among the ancients…

…In Jdg_20:16 of this book we have an account of seven hundred men of Benjamin, each of whom was אטר יד ימינו  itter yad yemino, lame of his right hand, and yet slinging stones to a hair’s breadth without missing: these are generally thought to be ambidexters.”

What is interesting is that in Judges 20:16, the chosen 700 left-handed men were also from the tribe of Benjamin.  Is there any reason to focus more on them having an ‘impeded right hand’ compared to the LXX reading of them being ambidextrous?

In Genesis 48:13 we see that the blessings are symbolized through the right hand (by implication, the son under the left hand is ‘inferior’); in Exodus 15:6, we see the power of Yahweh’s right hand representing Christ at His right hand; and in Leviticus 8:23 we see the blood of the sacrifice being smeared onto the right ear, right hand and right foot of the High Priest. It is thus clear that the right hand implies legitimated power.  Only in Leviticus 14 do we see a lengthened focus on the movements of the right and left hands, the left being the palm covered in oil, and the right being the one which takes the oil from the left hand.

What is interesting is how the High Priest is a representation of many things – the simplest of these representations being Christ the High Priest.  As it is with Christ in Whom meet the Father, the right hand and the left hand can possibly be attributed to (equally) the analogy of the left and right hand of the Father.  From Leviticus 14 and from Exodus 15, it would seem that the right hand smeared with blood and oil is representative of Christ at the right hand of the Father in the typological High Priest; and the left hand covered in oil is representative of the Spirit Who both the Father and the Son depends on for their magnificent work of recapitulation (in Irenaeus’ use of the term) and new creation.

If we were therefore to understand this, then perhaps this could be connected with the focus on the left hand for the tribe of Benjamin – to exemplify their total reliance on the Spirit – these one-handed people from the youngest tribe of the 12 tribes, weakest of the weak both physically and in familial status, yet they are brought to glory by the gifting of the Spirit in these wars.

The Word of God – A double-edged sword/dagger

17And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19But he himself turned back(U) at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. 20And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his(V) cool roof chamber.(W) And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23Then Ehud went out into the porch[b] and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him(X) and locked them.

What is interesting is that there is an implied exposition of this passage in Hebrews 4:12, where the Word of God is referred to as a ‘two-edged sword’ (c.f. Mike Reeves in his “Word of God” series part 1).  If we were to follow the truth of which this story of Ehud is revealing to the crowd who is engaging with the Word, then we’ll find that the literal understanding is Ehud (the name meaning “united”), with the power of the Spirit Who unites the Church, is directly attacking Eglon the head of all idols in Gilgal by the Word of God like a double-edged sword until Eglon is revealed for what he is full of: dung (v.22).

So also the Word of God in our lives should have similar effect when we are embalmed and indwelled with the Spirit to perform similar ministries in spiritual warfare, and know that by the Spirit the Word of God pierces through our enemies and reveals them for what they are (c.f. Mark 5:6-9): lies, deceit, literally dung in the eyes of our LORD.

24When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought,(Y) “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” 25And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor.

26Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond(Z) the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27When he arrived,(AA) he sounded the trumpet in(AB) the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. 28And he said to them, “Follow after me,(AC) for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized(AD) the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. 29And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. 30So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel.(AE) And the land had rest for eighty years.

Given the graphic imagery of the Word of God, inspired by the Spirit, both penetrating the heart of idolatry which is the head of the Moabites, soon thereafter the Moabites were massacred.  Similarly, when Satan was defeated after the victorious work of the cross of Christ, his prophesied condemnation from Genesis 3 has finally come to fruition, and the Christians throughout all the ages need only preach the same thing that Ehud has preached:  “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies… into your hand”.  Indeed, if only we really believe that victory is already ours, waiting to be realised on the Resurrection Day, the Spirit given as a deposit that the full materialisation of this victory if imminent.  Only then will our ministries be as effective as Ehud, as glorious, as violent but as successful that all the enemies of God, the rebellious unbelievers and the rebellious angels shall all fall at our acknowledgment of the victory won by the initial announcement of the trumpet (v.27).  Hence, twofold forty years is the reward (v.11), though again we should be reminded that these rests are temporary, however many decades or hundreds of years they last, for the enemy is still prowling the land waiting to devour the Christian  (1 Peter 5:8).

Shamgar

31After him was(AF) Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines(AG) with an oxgoad, and he also(AH) saved Israel.

The key words in these verses are: “also saved”.  The only judge in the book to not have an introduction or conclusion of sorts, Shamgar’s actions are surrounded with mystery – however, what we do know is that his acts can be attributed to Ehud’s act of salvation – for what Shamgar did was seen also as an act of salvation for Israel.  Perhaps the lesson taught in the last part of chapter 3 is the bloody nature of salvation; the placing of Shamgar the killer of 600 Philistines with an oxgoad, a violent ancient weapon, alongside Ehud the assassin of Eglon and leading to the massacre of the Moabites.

Though most possibly multi-faceted in meaning, we surely must not forget the context of Judges 3.  We must remember that Israel has been idolatrous, whoring herself after the Baalim.  This is a result of the compromises they had made by the end of the book of Joshua for failing to politically, spiritually and geographically displace the foreigners, and instead made truces and made them slaves without also destroying their idols.  As such, the violent imagery of chapter 3 is very suitable in our understanding of hell today – a topic much neglected.

John 3:16-18 is a helpful passage, unfortunately commonly short-quoted for its focus on v.16 rather than v.17-18, whereupon the latter verses describe how man is already condemned through Adam’s disobedience.  Similarly, the neighbours of Israel in Canaan are thriving in the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the seed of Adam rather than living as newborn of God through Christ’s work.  There is thus an immediate urgency for Israel to fulfill their calling as light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6), which they have spectacularly failed to do, and furthermore failed to discern truly (Proverbs 14:8; Isaiah 44:18).  What Shamgar and Ehud has effectively done is display the reality of spiritual warfare once again, a type and shadow of the spiritual and physical warfare of the Resurrection Day when the neighbouring unsaved nations will be absolutely destroyed.  As Israel was intended to be a national typological model of New Creation, it is only fitting that Shamgar and Ehud are placed side by side to display the destructive but necessary nature of the just God and the just Christ, both Father and Son by the power of the Spirit disposing all opposition into the lake of fire.  It is from His wrath that we should fear, and yet in chapter 3 we see Israel, Moab and the Philistines all failing to understand the extent of God’s wrath, as displayed through the judges.

It is therefore important that through Ehud and Shamgar, both representing the sword of the Word of God by the inspiration and power of the Spirit (for the name Shamgar in Hebrew means ‘sword’), we need to understand judgment as synonymous to salvation; hell synonymous to new creation – both from the angle that one cannot exist without the other, for if there are saved then there are those who are not saved and remain condemned.  Yet Israel seemed to have forgotten the wrath of God, the depth of their sin, and lived lives of post-modernity, where everyone did as they pleased and worshipped whomever they pleased and had sexual relations with whatever they pleased.  God’s anger at the sin and the sinner should shake us into awesome fear, for his anger is so great as to pour it all upon His beloved firstborn Son Jesus Christ.  To deny His wrath is to deny the work of the cross – and that is the sin which Israel was saved from; that is the type of salvation offered to them, through the medium of understanding why God’s wrath had to be shown in such a violent, bloody and graphic form as in Judges 3, for our Christ was bloodied and died a violent, torturous and gruesome death both spiritually and physically.

Judges 4:  The Spirit anointing the Bride

Deborah and Barak

1(AI) And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died. 2And the LORD(AJ) sold them into the hand of(AK) Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in(AL) Hazor. The commander of his army was(AM) Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. 3Then the people of Israel(AN) cried out to the LORD for help, for he had(AO) 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.

Matthew Henry describes eloquently the state of Israel after being in peace for eighty years:

“…The common ill effects of a long peace. The land had rest eighty years, which should have confirmed them in their religion; but, on the contrary, it made them secure and wanton, and indulgent of those lusts which the worship of the false gods was calculated for the gratification of. Thus the prosperity of fools destroys them. Jeshurun waxeth fat and kicketh…The great loss which a people sustains by the death of good governors. The did evil, because Ehud was dead. So it may be read. He kept a strict eye upon them, restrained and punished every thing that looked towards idolatry, and kept them close to God’s service. But, when he was gone, they revolted, fearing him more than God.”

Now, peace is not so much the issue than that of the Israelites becoming easily sluggish and complacent.  Though New Creation is a place of complete peace, of everlasting Jubilee and Sabbath, it is where we inherit renewed flesh and live lives of purity surrounding the light of the Lamb.  Yet, Israel is but a shadow; a type; and like Adam who is but a type of Christ the true image in Whom Adam was made, Adam is thus but an innocent infant making his infancy more concretised by disobeying God and eating the fruit from the tree of good and evil (c.f. Irenaeus in his “Against Heresies”).  So we also see Israel restored to ‘innocence’ again and again, typologically replaying that story of the fall whenever they chose to follow other idols again, unsurprising for we are all descendants of Adam by nature and can only escape that nature by having redeemed spirit and flesh in Christ the true image of the Father (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1).

4Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in(AP) the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6She sent and summoned(AQ) Barak the son of Abinoam from(AR) Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount(AS) Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. 7And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by(AT) the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops,(AU) and I will give him into your hand’?” 8Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will(AV) sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10And Barak called out(AW) Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him.

Now, Deborah, the first female judge, was sitting between Ramah (hill) and Bethel (the House of God) in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment (v.5).  Where she sat is of importance, for we understand that only Christ can ascend the holy hill (Deuteronomy 30:12; Psalm 24:3), and thus Deborah fulfils her typology by sitting on the very area between the hill and the House of God, the true tabernacle in heaven, for Christ bridges that path for us as well.  This imagery does not stop here for she also sits under the palm tree of Deborah (presumably named after her), in harmony with the understanding of ‘palm trees’ from our scrutiny of Judges 3 for the city of palms.

It is undoubted that Deborah here also relies on the Spirit of the Father and Christ to give the instructions between v.6-9 – from the choice of Barak (called “lightning/lightning flash”) to the particular locations like Mount Tabor (“broken region”), and river Kishon (“winding”, presumably a winding river).  From the wisdom of Issachar’s geography, it would seem the named terrain is of great difficulty for Sisera’s chariots.  For Israel to pursue such wisdom and advice from a weaker vessel, from a woman, is to focus on the greatness of the Spirit working through Deborah, so much that Barak – supposedly a fierce army leader given a name of such power, voluntarily submits himself not to Deborah as v.8 suggests, but to the Wisdom on Whom she relies on.  Adam Clarke notes this, as well as points out an interesting addition to the LXX of the same verse:

“The Septuagint made a remarkable addition to the speech of Barak: “If thou wilt go with me I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, I will not go; Ὁτι ουκ οιδα την ἡμεραν εν ῃ ευοδοι Κυριος τον αγγελον μετ’ εμου, because I know not the day in which the Lord will send his angel to give me success.” By which he appears to mean, that although he was certain of a Divine call to this work, yet, as he knew not the time in which it would be proper for him to make the attack, he wishes that Deborah, on whom the Divine Spirit constantly rested, would accompany him to let him know when to strike that blow, which he knew would be decisive. This was quite natural, and quite reasonable, and is no impeachment whatever of Barak’s faith. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine have the same reading; but it is found in no MS. nor in any other of the versions.”

If the LXX addition is another Christological focus of Barak’s faith and reliance, then this chapter teaches us firmly that whether the judge be male or female, the true justice comes through the Spirit of God.  Despite the might of Ehud and Shamgar in the previous chapter, their might can be equally shown through Deborah and the woman who is prophesied to destroy Sisera (v.9).  Thus chapter 4 humbles the inner chauvinist, for we must remember that the gospel means equality for all (Galatians 3:28), though certain gender roles must be performed (Ephesians 5 and 6) to display this very gospel which gives inherited glory to all equally.

11Now Heber(AX) the Kenite had separated from the Kenites, the descendants of(AY) Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in(AZ) Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

This theme of God using women is continued even in v.11.  We see here Heber, the husband of the prophesied woman Jael who is to be glorified by her foreseen act upon Sisera.  Heber is not someone to praise – he severed himself from Reuel, Jethro, Hobab – the father of Moses who introduced Moses to the Christian faith.  It is therefore clear that Heber is anything but a follower of Yahweh (v.17); yet Jael, the submissive wife, still holds true to the original faith of their forefather Hobab.  This will become clear in later verses.

12When Sisera was told that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13Sisera called out all his chariots,(BA) 900 chariots of iron, and all the men who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. 14And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which(BB) the LORD has given Sisera into your hand.(BC) Does not the LORD go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. 15(BD) And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.

So it is also important to see that Deborah does not commit violence herself; she leaves the work to Barak.  In many ways, this is a reflection of the story of Moses and Joshua – Moses spreading his arms into the shape of the cross (as according to Justin Martyr’s exposition of Exodus), and Deborah being the type of Christ on the holy hill sitting under the tree of peace; whereas Barak and Joshua are both doing the work of God by relying on the arm of the judge, the prophet.  Where Moses is weak as an old man, so also Deborah is a woman – and the strength of God comes through the men.  This should reveal much about warfare being led primarily by men, though support can come from weaker vessels, the wiser older men, and women who are similarly reliant on the Spirit.

17But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened(BE) a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. 20And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.'” 21But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. 22And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.

So chapter 4 ends on the initiative and support of women – and that rightfully they deserve the glory for relying on the Spirit.  So Jael is seen as the church in Revelation, using the tent peg who is Christ (Zechariah 10:4), nailing it straight into the head of Satan the father of all enemies with the help of the hammer (Jeremiah 51:20), with the help of God in destroying he who does not belong to the tent, the household of God (Hebrews 8:5; Revelation 15:5; Isaiah 54:2) – and so the ejecting of Sisera is violently accomplished as Satan is equally displaced from the world which he deserves not to inherit, but only the meek and humble – the Christians.

23(BF) So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. 24And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

And so, in Judges 5 we will see a full exposition in poetic form of the events of chapter 4.

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Judges 3-4: The Tent Peg in the Head of the Serpent

3 thoughts on “Judges 3-4: The Tent Peg in the Head of the Serpent

  1. Thanks for the connection between Jael’s use of the tent peg and Zechariah’s prophecy in 10:4 that out of Judah will come the “tent peg”. Brilliant 🙂

    I’m preaching on Deborah, Jael and Barak in January in Perth, Western Australia.

    Thanks!! 🙂

  2. The Rev. Canon Dr. Duke Vipperman says:

    So far you seem to be the only other person on the web who like me, sees Deborah as a type of Christ. Jonathan Edwards. et., al, saw her as a type of the church – I guess because she was female. That totally misses the point.

    Like Jesus she is in charge, a prophet speaking God’s word to a corrupt generation, gathering people, as you so eloquently put it, “on the holy hill sitting under the tree of peace”. Jesus like Deborah is our judge, resolving disputes, uniting people in his person, calling them to action & mourning when they hold back (5:15a-17), “O Jerusalem Jerusalem how I would have gathered you under my wings like a hen gathers her chicks but you would not: – waging spiritual warfare, organizing us, with a grand vision for the reconstruction of the world, going with us, seeing us through crises all the way to the glorious end of our story, living to glorify God. Deborah is indeed a type of Christ.

  3. Jacky says:

    Welcome to the blog Dr. Vipperman – indeed, I can’t see it any other way. I think we lose sight of typology of Christ where we immediately equate women to the church, although of course I can see the reasons why many make that presumption.

    Having said that, isn’t the body of Christ also a type of Christ in herself? 🙂

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