Summary: After the death of Ehud, the Jewish people once again began to indulge in idol worship. Yavin, king of Canaan took control of the land oppressing the Jewish people. Deborah, a prophetess and judge of the people calls on Barak to lead the Jewish people to revolt against the Canaanites. During the battle, the Canaanite general, Sisera fled and hid in the tent of Yael who assassinated him. Deborah composes a song of victory, praising those who fought and criticising those who did not.

A deeper look: Two of the most inspiring women are mentioned in these two chapters of the Book of Judges. Deborah led the Jewish people and with the help of Barak spearheaded the victory against Sisera and his Canaanite army. She is described as an eishet lapidot (Judges 4:4). The word lapid in Hebrew means a torch and is similar to the word barak, meaning flash or lightning. Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (d. 1344) comments that this indicates that in a simple sense the moniker ‘eishet lapidot’ literally means that Deborah was the ‘wife of Barak.’ Its alternative meaning however, is that she was ‘a fiery woman’, a woman of strength, energetic and decisive in her manner and the first judge to receive prophecy (Ralbag loc. cit.).

After Barak’s men defeated most of the Canaanite army, their general Sisera fled the battlefield and took refuge in the tent of Yael the Kenite. While the Kenites were at peace with Canaan (Judges 4:17), Yael’s loyalties lay with the Jewish people for the Kenites were direct descendants of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses (see ‘Journeys with the Prophets’ part 11). Yael gave Sisera milk to drink which made him drowsy. While he slept she took a tent peg and drove it into his temple eliminating the Jewish people’s evil enemy.

During Deborah’s victory song, she praises Yael stating that she will be blessed through the ‘women of the tent’ (Judges 5:24) which the Midrash says alludes to our Matriarchs and the women who maintained our faith during the exodus from Egypt. This is what our sages meant when they commented that just as redemption has come about through the merit of the righteous women in each generation, so too our future redemption will be through them (Sotah 11b).