Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.3. Third Declension: Under Jabin, Deborah, and Barak
1. Sold into the hand of Jabin (Judges 4:1-2)
2. The cry of the children of Israel (Judges 4:3)
3. Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:4-11)
4. The conflict and Jael’s deed (Judges 4:12-24)
Ehud the mighty instrument of Jehovah had died, and again the children of Israel lapsed into evil. Then the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, King of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor. His captain was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. A powerful oppressor he was, for this King had nine hundred chariots of iron and oppressed Israel twenty years. About one hundred and thirty years before Joshua had overcome Jabin, King of Hazor. “He took Hazor and smote the King thereof with the sword, for Hazor before him was the head of all these kingdoms.” All were slain and Hazor was burnt with fire. And now the Lord sold them into his hand. This Jabin is a successor of the one whom Joshua had killed. Hazor had been built again out of its ruins. We see, so to speak, a resurrection of an old enemy. It is significant too that this declension and captivity under Jabin is the third one. As mentioned in annotations on Genesis the number three stands everywhere in the Word for revival and resurrection. The former enemy enslaves Israel once more. How often has this been the case in the history of the church, and how true it is today. Satan knows how to revive old errors and evils and use them to bring God’s people into captivity. And is it not so in our individual experience? Some sin which overpowered us was through the grace and strength of Christ and of His Spirit mastered, and its power broken. But can that same sin not be revived? Is it forever gone? If there is neglect of prayer, no childlike dependence in true humility, no watchfulness, it will, like Jabin, return and domineer over us in even greater power than before. Jabin means “discerning”--”understanding.” This city Hazor, where he dwelt, means “enclosure.” This Jabin represents human intellect, the understanding of the natural man, which is corrupt and opposed to God and to His revelation. It is the wisdom of the world. Jabin is in his own “enclosure,” which rejects and excludes what God has given. The Christian believer is called upon to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. “Casting down imaginations (reasonings), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2Corinthians 10:5). Man’s own thoughts, his natural understanding, must be completely subjected to God’s Word. How much of this spirit of exaltation against the knowledge of God is about us and in the professing church! Higher criticism belongs here. All the errors in doctrine, affecting always the Person of our Lord, are the results of putting the thoughts of man above the Word of God. Then in connection with this we must think of the sects and parties, the works of the flesh, that is the natural man and his reasonings, which have divided the body of Christ. These divisions are “the enclosures” of Jabin.
“As the enemy of the people of God, it is the wisdom of the world with which we have here to do--a wisdom which reigns in its own ‘enclosure,’ shut up, as is the constant fashion, in cliques and parties and philosophies, by which it elevates itself over what is outside its boundary. The spirit of it is easily manifest as that of self: self-interest, self-assertion, self-satisfaction, the true ‘trader’ or Canaanite spirit, that of gain. The inroad of this into the Church was early indeed. ‘All seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ,’ was said, in the apostle’s days, of those at Rome (Philippians 2:21). Of the Ephesian elders it was prophesied, ‘Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’ (Acts 20:30). But already at Corinth the sects and parties produced by such attempts were being formed, as we know, and the true people of God were becoming subject to Jabin’s rule; and this has developed much more widely since, even until the Church of God has been broken up into various denominations, to the dishonor of the One Name which is upon us all” (F.W. Grant).
Then once more the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. Jabin’s mighty oppression and the humiliation connected with it had become so great that they turned to the Lord. How beautiful it is to see throughout these declensions, that the Lord seemed just to wait for this one thing, His people to cry to Him. As soon as they cried He answered. He is the same today. How willing and ready He is to break all the chains of His people and save them from the hands of all their enemies! True revivals always started in deep humiliation, in self-judgment, in prayer. But alas! the state of such, who have departed from the faith, who are the willing captives of Satan, who love this present evil age and who do not cry to the Lord! The Lord brought deliverance through a woman, Deborah, the prophetess. The weaker vessel is now summoned to judge. The name Deborah means “the Word.” It is the Word and the Word of God alone which can deliver from the wisdom of this world and from error and sin. But Deborah is married. She is the wife of Lapidoth. Lapidoth means “firebrands.” He is typical of the Holy Spirit. The Word, and the Spirit in the Word give the victory and deliver. And Deborah did not dwell in an “enclosure.” She dwelt under the palm tree between Ramah and Bethel. The palm tree typifies the spiritual prosperity of the believer. This we enjoy if we let the Word in the power of the Spirit judge us. Then we have our Ramah (heights) the blessed knowledge of our standing in Christ and Bethel (House of God) our fellowship with Him. That is where our palm tree, our spiritual blessing lies.
Deborah sent for Barak. Barak means “lightning.” Here we have judgment indicated. The Word calls for judgment and judgment will surely come, as it was executed through Barak upon Jabin and his host.
And so this age ends with the lightning flash of judgment, when the bundled up tares will be burned with fire. All the wisdom of this world, higher criticism, Christian Science, falsely so-called, and every other form of evil will then pass away. All error will end forever with the coming of our Lord. But there is a second woman mentioned in this chapter, Jael the wife of Heber. She slew Sisera, the wicked captain of Jabin, with the tent pin. Her deed is specially celebrated in song.