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12th March

Judges 4-5; Psalm 71

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
12th March

Judges 4-5; Psalm 71

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Judges, we've read through the introduction that sets the cycle for the rest of the book. The Israelites failed to remove the other nations from the land completely when they conquered it. Because of this, these other nations led the Israelites to turn away from God.

This created a cycle. The Israelites would turn away from God and his protection. God would allow a foreign nation to come and oppress his people. The Israelites would then realise their mistake and turn back to God. God would send judges, tribal leaders, to rescue the people and the lead them back to him. The people would live in peace for a while, before getting complacent and turning away from God again.

We then read through the first few iterations of this cycle with the judges, Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar. Each led the Israelites to defeat the enemies that oppressed them and then live in an extended period of peace. But for each, after they died, the Israelites once again turned away from God and back to their own desires.

Judges 4-5

We continue on in this cycle of judges with Deborah and Barack. Interestingly, we get the same story twice, once as a story and once as a poem.

The cycle is the same as before. The Israelites turn from God and begin to live sinful lives, so God sends the Canaanites to attack and oppress them. The Israelites then cry out to God and so God sends Deborah as a judge, who helps deliver the people.

Interestingly, at the point we jump into the story, Deborah has already been a judge for a while. She’s also described as a prophetess, and is the second prophet to be mentioned in the Bible. This first being Moses.

She encourages a man named Barack to go up and fight Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, reminding him that God will go into battle before him. Barack agrees, but only if she goes with him. Deborah tells him she will go but because of his lack of faith, the ultimate victory will be given to someone else, a woman.

So Barack goes out, leading the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and beats the superior army of Sisera, who begins to flee. A woman called Jael convinces him to hide in her tent, gives him milk to drink and gets him to sleep. Then she takes a tent peg and smashes it through his skull.

Let’s draw on some imagery that we’ve not looked at in a while. Serpent imagery. Back in Genesis 3, we saw two different roles set. There were humans who would play the role of ‘descendants of the woman’ who image God, and then others who play the role of ‘descendants of the serpent’ who pursue chaos, death, and destruction.

At different times, we saw people play the role of the serpent. For example, in Genesis 12, Abraham lied to the Egyptians, telling them Sarah was his sister, so that they saw Sarah was beautiful and took her to be their wife.

Here, Sisera plays the role of a serpent. He’s an agent of chaos who seeks to undermine God’s plan by oppressing the Israelites. This serpent was drawn out, because the people had been like serpents behave wickedly and doing their own thing.

But this serpent is defeated by a two women, who are obedient and loyal to God, and ultimately end up crushing the head of Sisera. When descendants of the serpent rise up and cause chaos, God will always rise up descendants of the woman who will defeat that chaos.

Back to Judges, this story is the opposite way round to the story of Ehud. Ehud first assassinated the leader of their enemy, then encouraged the people to wage war on their enemy. Deborah and Barack first waged war on their enemy and then, as their leader fled, he was assassinated by Jael.

We then read as Deborah and Barack sing a song of their victory. As we've seen with songs before, they are a great way to remind ourselves of what God has done. The hope is that as Israel sings this song to themselves, they will remember all that God does for them and stay faithful.

The song frames the battle in light of God’s role. God is the one who went out to defeat their enemies, and the ones that saw victory ‘offered themselves willingly’ to the Lord.

The song also condemns the tribes that didn’t come to help when the people went out to fight. The Israelites were meant to support one another and work towards the benefit of the entire nation. If one part of them was oppressed, they were to all stand up and help.

Psalm 71

This psalm doesn’t have a title attributing it to anyone. This has caused some to assume it is to be read along with Psalm 70 as one psalm. This psalm falls into the category of lament psalm.

Psalm 71:1-4 - The request

Psalm 71:5-9 - Declaration of trust

Psalm 71:10-11 - The complaint

Psalm 71:12-13 - The request

Psalm 71:14-24 - Declaration of trust

The psalmist opens with their request. They ask God to rescue them and be their security. This is followed by a declaration of trust. God has looked after and cared for them ever since they were young. They have a whole lifetime of praise and joy to tell others about.

But then the complaint comes. They have enemies who claim God has abandoned the psalmist, and no one will stop them if they use this as an opportunity to defeat them.

And so the psalmist asks God to not forsake them, like their enemies claim. Instead, may their enemies be put to shame for their wickedness.

At that, the psalmist turns back to praise for the rest of the psalm. The psalmist will tell others of all God has done for them. Again, the psalmist praises God, for he has been good to them since their youth up to their old age.

He is a righteous God, and while he has allowed the psalmist to see difficult times, he will restore the psalmist and strengthen them. All this means that the psalmist with sing God’s praises and tells everyone of God’s righteousness.

The psalmist shows us the wisdom that comes with old age. While they might be suffering now, they have a whole lifetime of stories and memories to draw on that God is good and he will rescue his people.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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