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Hebrews Hall of Faith: Who was Barak?

barak jael death of sisera

Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter, highlights great acts of faith by many Old Testament characters. The first three verses say, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” The author then goes on to describe in detail some of the great acts of faith that were performed in Old Testament times.

When we come to verse 32-34 we read, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” We immediately recognize David, Samuel and Samson, but who is this Barak? And what did he do that was worth mentioning in the likes of these great pillars of faith?

If we look to the book of Judges, we will find the story he took part in chronicled in chapter four and then put to song by Deborah the prophetess in chapter five.

Prophecy Concerning Barak

Many attempts have been made to somehow tie the biblical Barak to the regime in Washington led by a modern-day Barack. There is much speculation on his political relationships with women. A lot of sensationalism has gone into most of these looks at prophecy, but if one will look closely, they will see it is more than likely motivated by profit rather than an inspired prophet.

Barak, The History

Chapter four of Judges unfortunately starts as far too many chapters in the Old Testament start, with the statement, “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Not to condemn Israel for their actions, since we follow the same pattern in our own lives. Nevertheless, they did evil and God sold them into captivity to Jabin King of Canaan. He was a strong king with 900 chariots (not counting support troops), and the Lord left them under his oppression for 20 years.

After the 20 years had passed, God lifted up Deborah the prophetess and had her send a message to Barak (whose name means lightning) the son of Abinoam. Deborah told Barak the Lord said to gather 10,000 men of the tribes Naphtali and Zebulun. He was to take them to mount Tabor where God would draw the Canaanite general Sisera and his 900 chariots to the river Kishon, where God would then deliver them into Barak’s hand.

At this point, Barak makes a mistake. He tells Deborah that he would go if she went with him, but if she would not go with him he wouldn’t go either. Deborah agrees to go with the army, but as a result she tells Barak that none of the glory of victory would fall to him; instead it would fall on a woman.

When the battle was joined below mount Tabor at the river Kishon, God went before the Israelites and routed Sisera and his army. The chariots fled with Barak and his soldiers in hot pursuit. God went before Barak, and chapter five tells us even the stars in heaven fought the Canaanites, and their bodies were washed away in the river.

There are several views of what this really means. The stars could literally represent stars falling to earth on Sisera’s army. Or stars could refer to the heavenly host of angels taking a personal hand in the fighting. Or it could refer to God sending a thunderstorm with heavy rain and lightning to turn the battlefield into a muddy mess where the powerful chariot army would be a useless milling mass, easily taken by 10,000 motivated troops. Whatever the actual agent God used, He routed the army and allowed Barak to defeat them.

When Sisera saw he was defeated, he fled on foot in a different direction than the chariots that Barak was chasing. He went to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite. He asked her for a drink and was so tired he immediately fell asleep after drinking the milk (curds, probably yogurt) she brought him. While he was sound asleep she took a tent stake and drove it through his temple, pinning him to the ground. Thus Jael received the glory for the death of Sisera.

Barak, The Timid, Weak Or Meek?

Looking at how Barak handled himself leading up to the battle we may be tempted to look on him as a timid and weak man who needed to hide behind the skirts of Deborah. Afraid to go to battle against such a powerful enemy on her word alone, he asked her to take part in the action she passed on from God.

Yes, it was a mistake to not trust in the word alone, but was it a fatal mistake? No. Look to Gideon, also mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. Gideon questioned God not once by putting out his fleece, but twice, just to be sure and no one calls him timid or weak. In fact, he is held up as a strong heroic figure.

Barak was a war leader, not a position for a timid man. When the fighting started, he was right in it leading his men. He pursued the fleeing host and wiped them out to a man, hardly the sign of a timid and weak man.

The proof of Barak’s humble meekness, I think, is shown in the song of Deborah in chapter five. Deborah and Barak sang this song. Verse 3 says “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.” They start off praising God, giving Him glory. All the opening verses point right to the Lord.

When we get to the battle itself we read, “The kings came and fought, Then the kings of Canaan fought In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; They took no spoils of silver. They fought from the heavens; The stars from their courses fought against Sisera. The torrent of Kishon swept them away, That ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon. O my soul, march on in strength!”  Not one mention of Barak in the battle (there is a mention earlier in vs 15) Glory is given directly to God, sung by the prophetess and the general who presided over the battle.

This, I submit, is why Barak was remembered in the great hall of faith. He was meek and gave glory to God when it would have been natural to want to seek his own fame as a result of a great military victory. Not only did he give the glory to God, but he stood meekly in front of Israel and sang a song with the prophetess assigning that glory where it belonged.

What We Can Learn From Barak

Like Barak, we will all make mistakes on a continuing basis. Like Barak, we must learn from our mistakes, accept the consequences and move on in our service to the Lord.

Like Barak, we must be prepared for God to do great works in our lives, and if we must, enlist the help of other believers to help us find the right path to fulfilling God’s will.

Like Barak, when God does a mighty work to us or through us we must not be afraid to point to the source of the great work.

And like Barak, we must not be afraid to glorify God in front of others. In Matthew 10 Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” We must not be ashamed of whom we serve.

Gideon, Samson and King David received acclaims for the deeds they did in their own time along with their eternal rewards. Barak waited patiently for his glory at the foot of the Father in heaven. Do we want our treasures now before men, or are we willing to store them up for eternity?

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