Save the Day, Beat the Bad Guy, Get the Girl…Nope, Girl Gets the Glory
Deborah sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?”
Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”
And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.
And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him.
This is a pretty odd setup. Deborah, leading Israel in a mostly patriarchal society calls on Barak to do a job. He says he’ll only go if she goes with him, and then she says in an almost negative way, that the glory of his obedience to God and victory over their enemies will go to a woman. It’s hard to not read it negatively.
I’m going to give Barak some credit here, though. Go with me on this thought experiment. You have to credit him for not flat out running away when Deborah confirmed what God had called him to do. It’s not like he was Jonah and fled from God. He was more like Gideon, waiting until he got an extra boost to follow God.
Next, he assembled 10,000 men from Zebulun and Naphtali. Those were two tribes of Israel. He was from the tribe of Naphtali and Zebulun which shared a border to the south. Kedesh was in the northern end of Naphtali so he brought those guys a long way from home.
They are marching to fight against Sisera’s 900 chariots and the rest of his army. 10,000 against 900 chariots might not sound so bad. But remember, these are just 10,000 guys. This isn’t an organized army. The most organization they have is probably by village or family. There is no consistency of training, equipment, skill, or bravery.
Iron chariots are the top technology of their day. They are high speed, heavy, and practically invincible to a bunch of guys with clubs and knives. If the horse trampling didn’t kill you, the crush of the wheels or the sharp adornments on the sides would. They could carry 4-5 soldiers into a battle scene to fight without needing to march.
Finally, Barak is now going into this fight with full knowledge that he isn’t going to get any glory for the fight. There are a lot of people that would take this final opportunity to bail out and go home. Why else lead such an army if not for glory?!
Needless to say, Barak did it. He obeyed God and led that army. Glory or not, following God’s calling was all he would do from here on out.