Let's delve into the background on this story, for it has a lot to do with Deborah, the villain Jabin, and her advice to Barak.
First, let's look at the location of our story, and then we'll look at the characters.
I love to check out commentaries and articles, to find out more about what we are studying. This time I had a real geography lesson. My kiddos were always super awesome at geography; me? Not so much. Our story, at least the battle portion of the drama, takes place on "the" great battlefield of the world. What do I mean? Well, that area in our story is called by many names, depending on the language and the culture you are coming from . . . the Plain of Esdraelon, the Plain of Jezreel, the plain before Megiddo . . . and from the Greek into the English, it is called Armageddon. Generations have fought their battles here, and one final battle will be waged in the future!
In all that area, the plain is as flat as it can be, and very large. On the southern side, running along the base of Mount Carmel, is a river called Kishon. Sometimes this river is more like a creek; sometimes it rages with lots of water. It will be important in our story, so remember it!
Now, let's meet our main character: Deborah. The fact that she is a leader of the people runs contrary to the customs of that day. We don't have that many women who are statesmen and lead wars even today; but it was even more unusual at that time. Deborah was a prophetess; she was a consecrated and godly woman who prayed and knew the Lord. She lived in Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel. Deborah was a wise woman: she heard God clearly, she had great faith, and she had a tremendous spirit. As she worked with and counseled her people, she saw the despair that was overtaking them. Why?
Let's meet our villain -- for it is he that is causing the people to despair. Jabin could be his name, but it is also (the scholars tell us) a title, similar to "pharaoh" or "emperor." Jabin oppressed Israel mightily for twenty years . . . he was helped in this by his nine hundred chariots of iron.
Yep, nine hundred of those bad boys. Probably decked out with all kinds of things that made them intimidating and menacing, too.
I guess it helps if we put ourselves in their shoes -- the people of Israel, I mean. Maybe the chariots don't sound so bad to us, but think about this . . . the people probably ran for the hills to seek shelter when the enemy armies came. So there they are, trying to eke out a living in the hills and the mountains. Now, a chariot wouldn't work well there; it wouldn't go over the gullies and ravines and such. But down there on the plain? Oh, yeah, those chariots could roll along and nine hundred of them would sure make the ground rumble!
Now, since he controlled the plain, Jabin had pretty much cut the country in pieces -- Dan and Asher were in the west, while Zebulon, Naphtali, and Issachar were in the north, and in the south were Ephraim, Benjamin, Judah, and Simeon. Since he controlled the plain, there was no way for them to communicate with each other. No way to travel to support or help defend each other. And the people peeked out and watched as the chariots rumbled around, and they lost heart. He seemed invincible. They began to despair that things would ever change.
But there was one thing that Jabin didn't count on. He probably strutted about and boasted, and felt like the little country of Israel was right under his thumb. But what he didn't realize was that the only reason he had any control over them at all, was that the Lord God allowed it. Israel had done evil in His sight, and the Lord gave Jabin of the Canaanites "free rein."
We'll continue our study of Deborah next time . . . join us, won't you?