|Posted on May 16, 2018 at 9:20 AM|
Jezreel Valley, taken from the vantage point of the Canaanite stronghold. Photo by Charlaine Martin. copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
Background of Megiddo
When we visited Tel Megiddo, a large hill with a flat-topped surface (Tel), layered with about 20 different levels of civilization spanning three millennia as a major strategic point. Armies could control the flow of traffic and commerce because they could literally see all major roads and traffic ways. The Via Maris, a major trade route now a highway, runs along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea the length of Israel through the Jezreel Valley to ancient Mesopotamia (Frazier, p.32) Think of this: I was literally standing on history that dates back to 4,000 BC! An amazing water system with a deep shaft with a cistern is located there that drew from a spring outside the walls built around 2800 BC. It was dug for the city as a safe means to have drinking water available within its walls. Ancient Canaanites once occupied this place as a worship center complete with an altar for sacrifices. Joshua killed the king of the city in Joshua 12:7, 21. King Solomon used it as a chariot city with stables for horses (1 Kings 9:19). Many battles were fought in the Jezreel Valley below. Eventually, Armageddon will be fought there according to Revelation 16:16. The story we will focus on happens just outside of Megiddo, the Song of Deborah, which mentions the waters of Megiddo at the Kishon River, in Judges 5. (Frazier 33-35, Zondervan, 918-920).
Read Judges 5
Deborah was a judge for Israel during the time of the Judges, before Israel eventually had a king. She was the first woman mentioned to hold such a position, the fourth of the great Judges. In Judges 4, you can read the account, but I will summarize it for you if you prefer:
The Lord told Deborah to have Barak, the military leader for Israel, to deploy his troops at Mount Tabor (see Mount Tabor and Deborah’s Battle on www.bibleplaces.com) because of the oppression they faced from the Canaanites. But Barak refused to go unless Deborah went with him. His mistake: to put his faith and trust in Deborah instead of God who directed her to give him God’s message. She was a prophetess, not a goddess. She told him that Israel would indeed have the victory, but he would not get the human credit because a woman would save Israel. My opinion is when men will not go when God calls them to go in His name, He will call and use the women to do His will. As she said would happen, a woman named Jael (Ya-el) killed the commander of the Canaanite army by driving a tent peg through his skull as he slept. Kill the leader, victory over the enemy. She nailed him to the ground. King Jabin of the Canaanites and his army were killed. Keep this account in mind when you read Judges 5.
In verses 1-9
Now, in this passage she sings a song of victory, deliverance of Israel from the oppression of the Canaanites. Deborah uses a storm as imagery for the Lord God fighting the battle for them. Israel was unwilling to fight against the enemy who held them captive until God raised up a judge, in this case it is Deborah in the days of Jael. This is the praise this woman, Jael, receives for delivering the army of Sisera, the Canaanite commander, into Israel’s hands. Sinai is symbolic for God, Yahweh. Israel was willing under Deborah’s divine appointment as judge to fight for Israel’s freedom. The villagers were the Israelites who had no fortified city walls like the Canaanites, did not lack in weapons for the battle that took place.
In verse 10
At this point, she warns the Canaanites, who in their luxury, flaunted their affluence by riding white donkeys with elaborate saddle blankets. Think of them riding through the streets on their version of a luxury limo! They didn’t pay attention to the victory songs of Israel as a warning to them. This song looks back at the oppressive state they were in with the battle in retrospect. It also bolstered Israel’s confidence in God. They would hear the songs of victory, this one being one of them. Just so you understand how this impacts Israel now, Israel has a communal mindset instead of an individualistic mindset like us in the United States. Even today, Israel makes sure the younger generations know of the wars and deliverances God has given them by taking them to Masada (also see Pharisees and Sadducees) to help them see what happens when Israel is taken over by a foreign invader, the Romans in this case. The tour guide told us that Israel believes they were too prideful and took credit for the victory of the 6 Day War. They almost didn’t win the Yom Kippur War against the Arab states. It wasn’t until the U.S. came to their aid, did the war turn around, for which they are ever grateful to the U.S, but more importantly to God. The very fact that Deborah confidently sings of God’s victory and remembering what God has done helps us understand the value of sharing with future generations what God has done for us already.
In verses 12-18
Deborah recounts the key points of the battle. She names people and places. This is important in victory songs. She also shares which parts of Israel took part and which ones did not. Isaachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Naphtali (with the exception of the town Meroz), volunteering to leave the comforts of home, came to take part in helping this portion of Israel under Barak’s military command. She laments that several were not to be bothered: the tribe of Reuben stuck to their daily life imagined with sheep herding, Gilead stayed home comfortable in their district, Asher stayed on the coast of the Mediterranean, and Dan stayed with their ships for fishing. They all remained in safety while the other districts came in support of their brothers and sisters who waged war on the Canaanites.
In verses 19-23
She recounts the victorious moment when Israel won. By the waters of Megiddo the army of the enemy were swept away in the River Kishon. Just north of Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, the Kishon River flows as a tributary from the Mediterranean Sea that flows down toward Mt. Gilboa. The waters of Megiddo were fed by this river. In verse 21, the stars mentioned bring an imagry of God’s activity in the battle. It is thought that the rain helped Israel in the victory. He brought heavy rains that caused the Kishon River to swell. They took no plunder; instead, the spoils of war gave them were the bodies of their enemies swept in a raging current of this river, possibly at flood stage due to heavy rains. They could have taken plunder, but what most victors in battle take are connected to the priestly activity in the worship of the foreign invaders. As a result of their faithfulness and obedience, they were spared the snare of taking such plunder, but were given freedom instead. Still she laments at the lack of support of those districts (tribes assigned territory in the Promised Land) who did not come to their aid. She actually curses them by saying the Angel of the Lord cursed them because they did not come to help the Lord, i.e. they were disobedient, a reflection of their complacency.
In verses 24-31
Ja-el and all the women related to her are blessed as a result of her action to help save her people. She was very courageous to kill this valiant military leader of the enemy as he slept. It was her quick thinking that led to the demise of the Canaanites. This act is part of the song as well as the lament of Sisera’s mother whose son died in the war. Israel knew too well of the pain of loss and she sang gladly that it was them, not Israel. God will have victory!
So, imagine watching the battle from the Tel of Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, pouring rain. You can seriously see that far. The Israelite army is not as far advanced as the Canaanite army, but little by little the enemy bodies go down as the life blood flowed from Sisera’s skull. As they fall, the raging waters haul away the bodies down river, protecting Israel from the stench and disease of their decay. Only God can pull of such a feat!
Timeless Truths of this passage: When we trust and obey God in the answers to our prayers, He blesses us. When we trust in people instead of Him, the human recognition will go to another instead of you. If you remain complacent in your daily life, not following God’s lead, you will not be blessed.
Read Hebrews 11:6 NIV ” And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Questions for Reflection
1. Think of a time when you felt led by God to do something which seemed impossible for you to do. How did you respond?
2. If you followed through with what He asked you to do, what were the results of your faithful obedience?
3. Were there others you asked for help to accomplish this call? Who helped and who did not? What were the results for them? How were you blessed with the help you received? Were you able to forgive those who did not help?
4. If you did not, what happened with the situation in which you chose to not respond?
5. Is God calling you to do something big for Him right now? If so, write it down and pray over it. Ask Him who you should ask for aid and support in this endeavor. I would love to hear what God wants you to do and how this task turns out. I would also love to pray for you. Feel free to email me at [email protected].
Study Resources from Biblegateway.com:
NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Copyright © 2016 by Zondervan.
NIV Study Bible Notes NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV) Copyright 1997 by Word Publishing, A division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN.
Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, Revised by Moises Silva. Copyright 1987, 2011 by Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI. p.p. 817-818, 918-920.
Walking Where Jesus Walked by Gary Frazier. Copyright 2017 by Gary Frazier. Used for Discovery Cruises and Tours. p. 35.
Jewish History www.jewishhistory.org
Bible Atlas. org bibleatlas.org/kishon_river.htm