22 October 2009

Barak and God massacre the Canaanites

This is just another variation of the same stupid story. So if you've been following along, you can predict what's going to happen.

1. The Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord.
The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. Judges 4.1
 2. So God sells them into slavery.
The LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin … the captain of whose host was Sisera. 4.2 
3. The Israelites cry out to the Lord.
The children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron. 4.3 
4. God slaughtered the people that he sold the Israelites to.
The LORD discomfited Sisera [the captain of King Jabin’s army], and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword … and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left. 4.15-16
This story is more interesting that most, though, because one of the characters is named Barak. (Although Barack Obama's first name is not derived from this biblical character, believers sometimes like to pretend otherwise.)

Here are the details about Barak.

After Ehud dies, a woman becomes the leader of the Israelites. Her name is Deborah and she is called a prophetess and judge. She sat under a palm tree and everyone "came up to her for judgment."
Deborah, a prophetess … judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah … and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Judges 4.4-5
One day she summoned Barak and told him to take 10,000 soldiers and fight Sisera.
She sent and called Barak … and said unto him … the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying … take with thee ten thousand men … to … Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. 4.6-7
Barak, who was a bit of a chicken shit, said:
Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. 4.8
Deborah said she'd go with him and they'd defeat Jabin's army (even though he had 900 iron chariots), and that God would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.
She said, I will surely go with thee … for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak. 4.9
So Deborah and Barak go off to fight in God's holy war. Guess what happens.
The LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword ... and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left. 4.15-16
But Sisera somehow got away. Don't worry, though. God will take care of him in his next killing.
(Since the Bible doesn’t say how many were killed, I gave it the usual 1000.)

God's next killing: Jael pounds a tent stake through a sleeping man’s skull


Brucker said...

Hmm, I thought I had commented when I covered this chapter during last year's primary season that it was funny that there was a period in Israel's history when there was a power struggle (of sorts) betwen a woman and a guy named Barak.

Something I asked in that post--but never got cleared up, so I'll ask here--is the lack of marking this passage with the "Women" icon. I think it's significant that the army of Israel was led by a woman at this time. Is the "Women" icon only for marking negative aspects of women's issues in the Bible then?

Steve Wells said...

Good point, Brucker.

I tend to throw all the "good stuff" into that category even when it may also fall in another. I'm not sure that that's a good or fair way of doing things, but that's what I've done up to now.

I tend to agree, though, that having a women lead the Israelites is a good thing (even though Deborah seems just as warlike as the other judges), so I probably should make a comment of some sort. Maybe this is the first (and only?) good thing in Judges.

Matthew Blanchette said...

How can you "discomfit" a person with the edge of a sword? It's like getting poked in the ass by a scimitar...

Also, I wish you would cover some of the Catholic Biblical books; Judith is especially positive for women (or so I was taught), despite the fact that she decapitates a man while he's lying drunk in his tent.

Steve Wells said...


Yeah, that "dsicomfitting" thing is a bit odd. But other versions translate it this way, "And the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and all his army into a panic." (NRSV)

It's a tactic that God often used. He messed with peoples' minds and forced them to kill each other. (See Judges 7:22 for a more explicit example.)

To me that is about as disgusting as anything can get. A god forcing people to kill each other. But it doesn't seem to bother believers very much. In fact, they seem to like the idea.

As for the books in the Catholic Bible -- well, as an ex-catholic, I'd like to get to them. And I will, if I live long enough!

Matthew Blanchette said...

Let's hope; I'm eager to see what you make of the wonderful Book of Tobit, where a man goes blind from bird droppings in his eyes and a demon is repelled by burning fish guts...