Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died.
And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. (Judges 4:1-2 NASB)
Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, “Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. ‘I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.'” (Judges 4:6-7 NASB)
Then they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor.
Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. (Judges 4:12-13 NASB)
The LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot.
But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not even one was left. (Judges 4:15-16 NASB)
Okay, that’s a lot of the chapter, but there is something here that is probably obvious to those in “Iron Age II” Israel which completely escapes us. As has been pointed out in previous entries, these accounts of the Judges of Israel take place in the late bronze age, right on the cusp of the Iron Age. But as with all technological advances, iron wasn’t achieved by everyone at once. It was used by large “empires” but not by small city states, at least generally speaking.
With Sisera though, there may be something to the 900 iron chariots. The clue is in the name of the city in which he lives and in which his army is garrisoned, Harosheth. The name is literally “Craftsmen of the Nations”. You have to admit, that’s a weird name. The word for “craftsmen” can refer to anyone working anything, wood, metal, fabric, pottery, and so on. Since it also includes “blacksmiths”, it’s fair to say that they could have had people who could work iron.
Here’s the problem though. In order to work iron, there would need to be some familiar with it, and those people were typically found in large empires, and the skills and people carefully guarded (see 1 Samuel 13:19-22 for a biblical reference to this historical tidbit). If you keep this in mind, then what was done was more likely taking existing material and fixing or adapting it. So, the craftsmen of the nations collected and maintained the various chariots gathered from the battlefields of the major kings and Pharaohs.
How familiar they were with these weapons they “inherited” becomes clear when we see they tried to take them through the river Kishon. Heavy, horse-drawn carts, made heavier by plating them with iron, will not go through mud very well. Every river will have some mud (some, like the Mississippi, even more so). How does a seasoned charioteer not know their heavy vehicle will not handle mud well? Perhaps all mud is not equal? In any case, they tried, and failed, to move 900 chariots through a river, and were massacred by foot soldiers.
The point I gain is this: just because the problem, or person, or situation, I face looks intimidating, if my Master has led to the fight, I’ve already won. How was Barak to know Sisera didn’t know chariots don’t float? How am I to know what whatever opposes my work for my Master does or doesn’t know, have, can or can’t do, or whatever? I don’t. So, my Master calls me to trust that He knows. Just because my opponent has 900 iron chariots (or the modern equivalent thereof) doesn’t mean my Master doesn’t know something about this opponent I don’t know. What I see is not what my Master sees.
This means that I can fearlessly tackle my calling. That’s not typically my way, but it can be. It really should be, because I know the stories, I’ve read about the people, and I know their circumstances were pretty much like mine. So, it’s time to act. Time to make a list, and begin accomplishing the things I’m called to accomplish by my Master. No opponent can oppose such a calling nor the work to accomplish it. I’ve already won.
What’s your view of God through your knothole?