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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We here at “Word For Life Says” want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons. May God bless you!
“Judges: Deborah and Barak”
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. As always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Lesson Text: Judges 4:1-10
1) “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead.
2) And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3) And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
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 Bethel 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.
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 honour; 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.”
Albert Schweitz is quoted as saying, “Example is leadership.” People follow more what you do than what you say, therefore anyone who mimics your actions or journeys your path does so because they saw it in you first; they saw your example. They look to you as a leader whether you are one by title or not, whether male or female, rich or poor or not matter one’s ethnicity.
Good, godly leadership is paramount. When it is missing corruption tends to seep in and take over the thinking of the people who are living without it. Even today, we can readily see that we are in a world that seems so confused and we are dealing with a generation that seems so devoid of direction. In that, one must ask how this can be. There seems to be a generational lapse in learning of life causing the misdirection of many.
In a previous article, I wrote:
“Over and over again in the Bible we see the importance of passing the wonderful truths on that we have learned. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what your socioeconomic status is or what is your educational background, there are valuable experiences in you that come from living this life. Things worthy to be passed on, to enrich another’s life with what you have learned.
The cool thing about it is there are others who may not be in your family, but can still reap the rewards of what you have lived through. They can glean off of what you have personally gone through to gain a better understanding of the world we live in and the God we serve. You have something valuable to teach those all around you. Your life becomes the classroom.” (Be a Teacher/Word For Life Says)
If we dig a little bit in history, we will see the children of Israel were missing out on those examples that would teach them life lessons and pass on wisdom for maintaining a relationship with God. After the death of prominent leaders such as Joshua (see Judges 2:8-10), the people themselves fell into their own series of misdirection’s, much like the culture of today. The reason being, there was a gap in their spiritual learning. Good, godly leadership was lacking amongst them. Judges 2:10 tell us, “There arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works he had done for Israel.” In other words, it appears that lessons in their faith were not passed down. This is what happens when one generation fails to pass down to the next the spiritual truths in which we believe.
Every time, when they continued to travel out of the will of God, God would allow His people to experience a time of adversity. During this adverse period, the people would humble themselves before God and God would send a deliverer their way in the form of what we call “judges.” These leaders of the day would not only be conveyors of what God had to say to the people at that time, but they would also be the means God would use to orchestrate their deliverance and bring them out of whatever trouble they currently found themselves in due to their disobedience.
When the judge God used for a particular deliverance passed off the scene, the wayward hearts of the people usually found themselves entangled once again in idol worshiping and sin and suffered another set of adverse conditions until God allowed another judge rise and bring the people out once more.
The judges discussed in today’s lesson are Deborah and Barak.
The story of Deborah and Barak, as leaders of the day, open with verse 1 with the backdrop being, “The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.” “Ehud” is an interesting character of himself. He was the judge prior to this time, attaining that position when God used him to deliver his sinful people from the king of Moab. Being a left-handed warrior, he was able to sneak a dagger in the presence of this king, being attached to his right thigh (a place that would not be inspected for weapons), and to make a long story short, under the guise of having some private information for the king, Ehud embedded the whole dagger into this “very fat man,” (Judges 3:17), effectively killing him and bringing relief to the people of Israel (read Judges 3:12-30 for the whole story).
The word “again” in our opening verse of this lesson really stresses the sinfulness the children of Israel seemed to have a problem avoiding. As a matter of fact, before Ehud became a judge, almost the exact wording is seen at the beginning of his story (Judges 3:12) compared to the beginning here with the opening verse of Deborah and Barak’s story (Judges 4:1). The children of Israel found themselves in this repeating pattern of sinning, finding themselves in the consequences of those sins, crying out to God for help, and God sending help for deliverance through a spokesperson whom we recognize as a judge.
Seeing their habit of repetitiously being engulfed in sin, one would have to question just how true repentance in their hearts was. Were they really for God to be for God or only when a godly leader was on the scene? Did they put more stock into the people that God raised up than they did God Himself? Or, perhaps, the years spanning between each sin/deliverance episode was so great that those who kept coming after them never really had the chance to be exposed to right leadership and right relationship with God, especially if the principles of their faith weren’t properly passed down.
I just don’t know, but I do know that the Bible does not offer any excuses for the children of Israel to continually be in that sinful lifestyle pattern. Their decisions to sin led to the consequences they faced. It is only by the mercy of God that He chose to send a deliverer when the stress of what they were going through was becoming too hard to bear. In His time, He provided a way out.
We are told in our lesson text that the choice of punishment the people faced this time was through “Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor.” “Jabin” is often thought of more as a title than the actual name of the king of Canaan. This area was previously defeated by Joshua during his conquest (Joshua 1:1-12). During that encounter, God delivered Joshua and the people in a mighty way. It is quoted of that battle, “they smote them, until they left none of them remaining,” (Joshua 11:8), and “they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burn Hazor with fire,” (Joshua 11:11). This gives us pause to believe Jabin was, in fact, a title, comparable to the way the Egyptians use the name Pharaoh.
Somehow this area regained strength and became a force to be reckoned with. They increased in size. They rebuilt their army of “chariots” (in the previous battle we spoke of involving Joshua, all the chariots were destroyed – Joshua 11:9). And so, God used them; He “sold” His people into his [Jabin’s] hand as punishment. For “twenty years he [Jabin] mightily oppressed the children of Israel” under “the captain of whose host was Sisera.” He was the commanding general of this army.
It was during this time, there was an unusual woman in the land of Israel. She was not only a wife, being married to “Lapidoth,” but she was a judge, a leader, and considered a prophetess. Her name was “Deborah.”
Not much is known personally of Deborah outside of Judges 4-5. We are not exactly sure how she received her calling from God to step into the place of leadership we see in our lesson, but we do know that her ears and her heart were opened to God and He used her in a mighty way to not only bring about deliverance for the children of Israel but to also effectively lead them when they “came up to her for judgment.” She was liken in her and Barak’s song found in chapter 5, as a mother who arose in Israel (Judges 5:7); a woman who cared for her people and her God and believed through His leading and power they could do what God said they could do.
Thus, she “dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgement.” I wish we had just an inkling of Deborah’s age (Was she aged with wisdom, or was she young and spunky, or was she somewhere in the middle but not given to mediocrity?), but we are not even privileged with that information. Her story is not about statics or the status quo (of which she was not). Her story was of faith and longing to do right for God and man. By gender, she may not have been the typical deliverer for Israel, but by faith, her story shows that God doesn’t put limits on who He can use or not. Sometimes, He thinks outside of the box, and throws off the stereotypes, and uses the one whom we may least expect.
So, one day, as she was sitting there listening to and judging the cases for the people who came to her, this woman of God, “sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali.” It is noted in our lesson that Deborah’s location of judging is in the area of “Ephraim” near Judah, close to the tribe of Benjamin, which has a more southerly position in the land opposed to that of “Barak” who is from the region we are supposing to be Naphtali which lies further north. Thus, she probably would have sent some sort of messenger over the distant miles to relay the message of the Lord to him.
She said, “Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying.” First, we note, that as with all other true prophets of God, Deborah was careful to only relay His word; what God “commanded.” During times of adversity and when we are in need of true direction, it is God’s voice we need to hear. “There is so much noise and many voices speaking in our day that vies for our attention. In our information/communication era of modern technology, the amount of stuff we have to process and filter through our hearing and understanding every day is extraordinary. We need the tone of the unmistakable tongue of truth spoken from His Holy Spirit inspired Word to go before us; to lead the way for us to be closer to the Shepherd,” is what I wrote in a previous lesson titled, “Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Loves You!” found on Wordforlifesays.com.
The message she sent to Barak came with battle specifics and battle promises. Deborah instructed him to “Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? 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.” He was to prepare for battle and with that he was to gather men from the region nearest the enemy lines, nearest Hazor where Jabin reigned; the enemies headquarters, although the actual battle that would ensue would bring them down a little bit, somewhere around “mount Tabor” down into its surrounding plains (view available map links on site). He had the promise that God was with him and the victory over the battle was going to turn into Israel’s favor! Wow! What a word of encouragement against such forces! Time and again God has shown up to fight for His people, and deliver them from horrible evils and He promises, through Deborah, to Barak, that He will do it again.
This reminds me of the time when God spoke to His people, saying, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you,” (2 Chronicles 20:17). God didn’t tell Barak that he wouldn’t have to fight, but he had the same promise of victory. No matter what the battle would look like, God will show up victoriously and of their enemy, He speaks, “I will deliver him into thine hand.”
“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.” It’s that “if” that gets many people in trouble. “If” can be a hindrance causing over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful, wherever God is leading. And, this is the position that Barak finds himself in. He seems, at the time, to put more trust in God’s plan coming to fruition with Deborah in tow, than without her. He readily agreed to face down the enemy, but not alone. We are not given specifics on his insistence of her being there, but he was not willing to make a move without her. If she accompanies him, “then,” he said, “I will go.”
Deborah agreed, but offered him this insight: “I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour.” Barak would go to battle, but the honor will not go to him because of the way he chose to go to battle. All honor for every victory we get to experience will always go to God, but He rewards those who faithfully follow Him in full trust. But Barak, it seems, needed a crutch, for whatever reason.
A crutch is something we use in our modern terminology to describe something we lean on. As Christians, the only thing, or I should say, the only Person who could ever be deemed as an unfailing, reliable source for every battle we face is God. Our reliance is to be totally centered upon Him and Him alone. Barak, for reasons the Bible does not give us, insisted Deborah go with him. Was he using her as a crutch? Again, we don’t know.
But we must be careful in how we make assumptions about the situation since there are no definitive notes written to verify one way or the other. We do know, however, that “Barak” is found listed with other leaders in Hebrews 11 as men, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,” (Hebrews 11:32-33). Thus, any shortcomings we may want to attribute to him in his response to Deborah’s call to arms, we must remember God still respected the work he did in commanding the army and made a point of noting it here.
Deborah continued to tell him, “for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” This mighty man that, most men were afraid of; this leader with nine hundred chariots of iron would face his doom by the hand of a woman, and that woman’s name is Jael. With her name meaning “a wild or mountain goat,” she had no trouble taking the initiative in taking Sisera down when given the opportunity.
Venturing past the verses in our printed text, she comes on the scene when Sisera fled after the Israelites gained the victory over the battle Deborah and Barak led their countrymen into in Judges 4:14-16 (not in today’s text). Coming unto the tent of Jael he thought he found a safe haven but, after refreshing himself with a drink and lying down, her hand moved against him. While sleeping, Jael took a tent peg and a hammer and “smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground,” (Judges 4:21; not in today’s text). In chapter 5 of the book of Judges, it notes of her, “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent,” (Judges 5:24).
Back to our printed text, after Deborah prophesied to Barak of what would happen, she “arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.” Unlike Barak, she was not a hesitant leader. Rather, she was courageous, sure, confident, and decisive and she literally “arose” to the occasion. She was a spiritual champion. I don’t believe she would wield a sword, but she sure wielded her faith. She had no qualms about going where God already told them they would have the victory. She could readily agree with the psalmist, saying, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalms 118:6).
Her confidence in God showed through her decisions, leadership, judging, and prophecies. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe,” (Psalms 29:25; see also Psalms 118:8). She may have been a woman, but she was not a wavering woman. She stood flat footed and held on to the word of God.
With that, “Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.” As referred to earlier, what followed the gathering of this army of “ten thousand” was a battle. That battle would lead to the Israelites victory and the downfall of not only Sisera, but the king of Canaan himself, Jabin (see Judges 4:23-24).
Following that comes forth a victory song. Judges 5 offers praise to God as the song from Deborah and Barak recounts the events that transpired before them. The last verse concerning the song of these two tell of God’s triumphs over their enemies and the rest that entered into the land for forty years (see Judges 5:31; not in today’s text).
As leaders, Deborah had “mothered” the generation of her people, influencing them and helping them draw nearer to God, and Barak led them to battle. May we have more Deborah’s and Barak’s who will rise to the occasion of being godly leaders whom people can find a righteous example through.
Standard Print PDF: Judges: Deborah and Barak Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Large Print PDF: Judges: Deborah and Barak Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print
Map Links to support the lesson:
“Judges 4 – Deborah and Barak’s Defeat of Jabin and Sisera” (Click on picture to enlarge it)
“Judges 4-5 Hall of Fame Faith in the Face of Fear” (click on map picture to enlarge)
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Coloring Page Provided by Christiancliparts.net (click link to print):
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“God delivers Israel through Deborah and Barak” (Also has a link to coloring book that may be too graphic for younger students. Enjoy!)
“Handprint Palm Tree Craft” (Deborah sat under the palm tree to judge the people. Your students can even draw a picture of Deborah sitting under the tree. Enjoy!)