Deborah (c.1268BC - c.1208BC)
Judg 4:1-2 After Ehud dies, the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor defeats Israel with his nine hundred iron chariots and rules for twenty years (see 4 on Map 50). His commander, Sisera, lives at Harosheth Haggoyim ('Harosheth of the nations' or 'Harosheth of the gentiles').
Judg 4:4-5 Deborah – a prophetess and leader of the Israelites - dispenses justice and wisdom under a palm tree between Ramah (‘a high place’) and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim (see Map 50).
Judg 4:6-9 In c.1250BC, she sends for Barak from Kadesh in Naphtali and tells him to take ten thousand men to Mt Tabor and defeat Sisera at the River Kishon (see 4 on Map 50).
Looking across the Vale of Jezreel towards Mount Tabor (Eliot)
Mount Tabor stands alone as a prominent summit rising some 1350 feet / 410 m above the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, about 11 miles / 17 km west of the Sea of Galilee. Alluding to its striking prominence above the surrounding plain, the prophet Jeremiah uses the image of Mount Tabor as a symbol of outstanding majesty (see Jeremiah 46:18). In a similar paean of praise, the Psalmist refers to songs of joy reaching the heavens from the highest peaks of Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon (see Psalm 89:12).
Mount Tabor was the site of a famous battle between the Israelites and the Canaanites during the time of the ‘Judges’. Deborah, the leader of the Israelites, urged ten thousand Israelites under the command of Barak to take advantage of their elevated position on Mount Tabor to defeat the forces of the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor on the plain below. When the Canaanite chariots were bogged down due to heavy rainfall, they became sitting targets for the hordes of Israelites charging down the mountainside (see Judges 4:4-24). Later, Gideon’s defeat of the Midianite kings Zebah and Zalmunna was prompted by their slaughter of Gideon’s brothers at Mount Tabor (see Judges 8:18-21).
Today, the summit of Mount Tabor is dominated by the Basilica of the Transfiguration, erected in 1924 by Franciscans on the site of an early Byzantine church and a later Crusader church. The building of a Christian church and monastery occurred after Origen, and other early Christian leaders, identified Mount Tabor (rather than Mount Hermon) as the isolated site of Jesus’s transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-13). Unfortunately, this identification is rather unlikely, as Mount Tabor was not a lonely spot and had a Roman military fort on its summit in Jesus’s day.
Mount Tabor rises above the Kishon Valley (Eliot)
Judg 4:10-11 Deborah and Barak assemble the Israelite troops at Kadesh and line them up on the lower slopes of Mt Tabor.
Judg 4:12-24 Sisera attacks but his 900 iron chariots are bogged down when heavy rain falls on the low-lying land beneath the steep slopes, and they are swept away by the swollen River Kishon.
The defeated soldiers are pursued to Harosheth Haggoyim. Sisera takes refuge in the tent of Heber the Kenite, but is killed by Heber's wife Jael, who hammers a tent peg through his head as he sleeps.
Judg 5:1-31 Deborah and Barak rejoice in victory. Israel is at peace for almost forty years.