The People of Israel kept right on doing evil in God’s sight. With Ehud dead, God sold them off to Jabin king of Canaan who ruled from Hazor. Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim, was the commander of his army. The People of Israel cried out to God because he had cruelly oppressed them with his nine hundred iron chariots for twenty years.
Deborah was a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth. She was judge over Israel at that time. She held court under Deborah’s Palm between Ramah and Bethel in the hills of Ephraim. The People of Israel went to her in matters of justice.
She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “It has become clear that God, the God of Israel, commands you: Go to Mount Tabor and prepare for battle. Take ten companies of soldiers from Naphtali and Zebulun. I’ll take care of getting Sisera, the leader of Jabin’s army, to the Kishon River with all his chariots and troops. And I’ll make sure you win the battle.”
Barak said, “If you go with me, I’ll go. But if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
She said, “Of course I’ll go with you. But understand that with an attitude like that, there’ll be no glory in it for you. God will use a woman’s hand to take care of Sisera.”
Deborah got ready and went with Barak to Kedesh. Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together at Kedesh. Ten companies of men followed him. And Deborah was with him.
It happened that Heber the Kenite had parted company with the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ in-law. He was now living at Zaanannim Oak near Kedesh. They told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. Sisera immediately called up all his chariots to the Kishon River—nine hundred iron chariots!—along with all his troops who were with him at Harosheth Haggoyim.
Deborah said to Barak, “Charge! This very day God has given you victory over Sisera. Isn’t God marching before you?”
Barak charged down the slopes of Mount Tabor, his ten companies following him.
God routed Sisera—all those chariots, all those troops!—before Barak. Sisera jumped out of his chariot and ran. Barak chased the chariots and troops all the way to Harosheth Haggoyim. Sisera’s entire fighting force was killed—not one man left.
Meanwhile Sisera, running for his life, headed for the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite. Jabin king of Hazor and Heber the Kenite were on good terms with one another. Jael stepped out to meet Sisera and said, “Come in, sir. Stay here with me. Don’t be afraid.”
So he went with her into her tent. She covered him with a blanket.
He said to her, “Please, a little water. I’m thirsty.”
She opened a bottle of milk, gave him a drink, and then covered him up again.
He then said, “Stand at the tent flap. If anyone comes by and asks you, ‘Is there anyone here?’ tell him, ‘No, not a soul.’”
Then while he was fast asleep from exhaustion, Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg and hammer, tiptoed toward him, and drove the tent peg through his temple and all the way into the ground. He convulsed and died.
Barak arrived in pursuit of Sisera. Jael went out to greet him. She said, “Come, I’ll show you the man you’re looking for.” He went with her and there he was—Sisera, stretched out, dead, with a tent peg through his temple.
On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the People of Israel. The People of Israel pressed harder and harder on Jabin king of Canaan until there was nothing left of him.
That day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
When they let down their hair in Israel,
they let it blow wild in the wind.
The people volunteered with abandon,
Hear O kings! Listen O princes!
To God, yes to God, I’ll sing,
Make music to God,
to the God of Israel.
God, when you left Seir,
marched across the fields of Edom,
Earth quaked, yes, the skies poured rain,
oh, the clouds made rivers.
Mountains leapt before God, the Sinai God,
before God, the God of Israel.
In the time of Shamgar son of Anath,
and in the time of Jael,
Public roads were abandoned,
travelers went by backroads.
Warriors became fat and sloppy,
no fight left in them.
Then you, Deborah, rose up;
you got up, a mother in Israel.
God chose new leaders,
who then fought at the gates.
And not a shield or spear to be seen
among the forty companies of Israel.
Lift your hearts high, O Israel,
with abandon, volunteering yourselves with the people—bless God!
You who ride on prize donkeys
comfortably mounted on blankets
And you who walk down the roads,
Gather at the town well
and listen to them sing,
Chanting the tale of God’s victories,
his victories accomplished in Israel.
Then the people of God
went down to the city gates.
Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, sing a song!
On your feet, Barak!
Take your prisoners, son of Abinoam!
Then the remnant went down to greet the brave ones.
The people of God joined the mighty ones.
The captains from Ephraim came to the valley,
behind you, Benjamin, with your troops.
Captains marched down from Makir,
from Zebulun high-ranking leaders came down.
Issachar’s princes rallied to Deborah,
Issachar stood fast with Barak,
backing him up on the field of battle.
But in Reuben’s divisions there was much second-guessing.
Why all those campfire discussions?
Diverted and distracted,
Reuben’s divisions couldn’t make up their minds.
Gilead played it safe across the Jordan,
and Dan, why did he go off sailing?
Asher kept his distance on the seacoast,
safe and secure in his harbors.
But Zebulun risked life and limb, defied death,
as did Naphtali on the battle heights.
The kings came, they fought,
the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach they fought, at Megiddo’s brook,
but they took no silver, no plunder.
The stars in the sky joined the fight,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The torrent Kishon swept them away,
the torrent attacked them, the torrent Kishon.
Oh, you’ll stomp on the necks of the strong!
Then the hoofs of the horses pounded,
charging, stampeding stallions.
“Curse Meroz,” says God’s angel.
“Curse, double curse, its people,
Because they didn’t come when God needed them,
didn’t rally to God’s side with valiant fighters.”
Most blessed of all women is Jael,
wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of homemaking women.
He asked for water,
she brought milk;
In a handsome bowl,
she offered cream.
She grabbed a tent peg in her left hand,
with her right hand she seized a hammer.
She hammered Sisera, she smashed his head,
she drove a hole through his temple.
He slumped at her feet. He fell. He sprawled.
He slumped at her feet. He fell.
Slumped. Fallen. Dead.
Sisera’s mother waited at the window,
a weary, anxious watch.
“What’s keeping his chariot?
What delays his chariot’s rumble?”
The wisest of her ladies-in-waiting answers
with calm, reassuring words,
“Don’t you think they’re busy at plunder,
dividing up the loot?
A girl, maybe two girls,
for each man,
And for Sisera a bright silk shirt,
a prize, fancy silk shirt!
And a colorful scarf—make it two scarves—
to grace the neck of the plunderer.”
Thus may all God’s enemies perish,
while his lovers be like the unclouded sun.
The land was quiet for forty years.