Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 4: Devorah & Barak

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Chapter 4: Devorah & Barak

1. Sisra rules over the Jewish people:

  • The Jewish people return to sinful behavior: The Jewish people continued to perpetrate evil in the eyes of G-d, following[1] the death of Eihud.
  • The Jewish people fall under the reign of Yavin and Sisra: Hashem [as a punishment] had the Jewish people sold [i.e. placed under the government] of Yavin the king of Canaan who was the king of Chatzor [prior to its destruction[2]]. His general was Sisra. He lived in the city called Charoshes Hagoyim.
  • The suffering and army of Sisra: The Jewish people cried to Hashem in desperation of their suffering [under the hand of Sisra], as he had 900 metal chariots [of war] and used it to oppress the Jewish people.

2. Devorah the Prophetess and Judge:

  • Who was Devorah? Devorah, the prophetess, who was the wife of Lapidos [whose real name was Barak Ben Avinoma[3], but was called the above name as he would make wicks for the Mikdash[4]], was the Judge of the Jewish people at that time.
  • Her location: he was located by her date palm trees [in Jericho[5]], and between the cities of Rama and Beis Eil [in which she owned vineyards and olive orchards[6]], on the mountains of Ephraim, and the Jewish people came to seek her judgment in that area.

3. The Jewish people prepare to battle Sisra:

  • Devorah instructs Barak to gather an army: Devorah sent for [her husband] Barak Ben Avinoam from the city of Kedesh Naftali and told him that the G-d of Israel has instructed him to gather 10,000 soldiers from the tribes of Naftali and Zevulon, and bring them to Mount Tabor [to wage war against Sisra[7]]. [Hashem stated that] He will draw Sisra and his army to the Kishon river, and there they will fall into your hands.
  • The reply of Balak: Barak replied to Devorah that if she goes with him [to wage war[8]] then he too will go, and if not then he will not go [as they will have Divine intervention to help them win the war ifs he comes[9]].
  • Devorah agrees to join the battle: Devorah replied to Barak that she agrees to join him in battle, although Barak should not boast of his victory over Sisra, as in truth Sisra will be handed over to the hand of a woman [i.e. Devorah, and some say Yael[10]]. Devorah then went ahead with Barak to the city of Kedsha.
  • Barak galvanizes troops: Barak called on the tribes of Zevulun and Naftali in Kedsha, and gathered an army of 10,000 men. Devorah went together with them.
  • The encampment of Chever the Kini: Chever the Kini separated from [the encampment in the Judean desert[11] of] Kayin the son of Choveiv, the father in-law of Moshe. He encamped in Eilon Tzananim which is in Kedesh.

4. Sisra prepares for battle:

  • Sisra was informed that Balak the son of Avinoma has gone up to Mount Tabor [to wage war against them]. Sisra then recruited all of his 900 iron chariots and all of his nations [soldiers] who were with him, and they went from Charoshes Hagoyin to the Kishon river.

5. Barak attacks:

  • Devorah told Barak that he should go forward in battle as on this day Hashem has handed them Sisra into their hands, and Hashem will lead them in battle. Barak proceeded to descend the mountain of Tabor with his 10,000 men.
  • Hashem sowed confusion amongst Sisra and his army, and they were smitten by the sword of Barak. Sisra went off his chariot and fled on foot. Barak chased after the chariot of Sisra, and after his army, until Chershas Kohen. They smote the entire army of Sisra with the sword, and not one soldier remained.

6. Sisra seeks refuge in the tent of Ya’al and is killed:

  • Sisra ran by foot to the tent of Ya’al the wife of Cheverthe Kini. There were peaceful relations between Yavin the king of Chatzor and between Chever the Kini.
  • Sisra settles in Ya’al’s tent: Ya’al went forward to greet Sisra and told him that he should enter her tent, and that he should not fear. He went to her tent and she covered him with a [large wool[12]] sheet. Sisra asked Ya’al to be given a little bit of water to drink, as he is very thirsty. Ya’el thus opened the canteen of milk and gave him to drink, and covered him [with intent that he fall asleep[13]]. Sisra asked Ya’al to stand guard in front of the tent, and if anyone comes and asks her if any man is in the tent, she should say that it is empty.
  • Ya’al kills Sisra: Ya’el the wife of Chaver took the peg of the tent and placed the chisel in her hand, and she approached Sisra cautiously and discreetly. She went ahead and hammered the peg into his face, by its side, and he fell to the ground dead. [She hammered the peg through his entire head, from one ear through the other, until it penetrated the ground.[14]] Since he was exhausted and sleeping, he died right away.[15]
  • Barak finds Sisra dead: Barak was chasing Sisra and Ya’el went out to greet him and said to him, that he should follow her and she will show him the person he is searching for. He entered her tent and saw Sisra dead in a fallen position with the peg through his skull.

7. Yavin the king of Canaan is decimated:

  • G-d subdued on that day Yavin the king of Canaan, before the Jewish people. The hand of the Jewish people was string on Yavin the king of Canaan until he was annihilated.


[1] See Metzudos David 4:1 and Radak 4:1

[2] See Radak 4:2 and Metzudos David 4:2

[3] Radak 4:4

[4] Rashi 4:4

[5] Rashi 4:5

[6] Rashi 4:5

[7] Metzudos David 4:6

[8] Metzudos David 4:8

[9] Ralbag 4:8

[10] See Metzudos David 4:9; Radak 4:9

[11] Radak 4:11; Metzudos David 4:11

[12] See Radak 4:18

[13] Rashi 4:19

[14] Pirush Rav Yeshaya 4:21

[15] See Metzudos David 4:21

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