We must understand that the book of Judges is not written with a perfectly linear timeline. Some of the wars and reigns of Judges overlap in time because different tribes of Israel were simultaneously at war with unique Canaanite peoples. That will help you make sense of the many years that seem to pass. In fact, if we do the math from our reading today, we would believe that our events cover 188 years, but this is not the case.

With that noted, I want reflect on the end of Deborah’s famous song. The narrative about Deborah and Jael is replete with male-female tensions. Deborah is a more godly and responsible leader than Barak, and the woman Jael defeats a Canaanite king when Barak could have received that honor. The irony of women being instrumental in the defeat of Sisera and the Canaanites is fleshed out in Deborah’s last words. At the end of her song, Deborah imagines Sisera’s mother waiting for her son to return from war (Judges 5:28-3) and declaring that his delay occurs because he is enjoying the spoils of war—meaning Israelite women.

Deborah’s ending shows the tyranny that women experienced at the hand of Canaanites, but it also recognizes that God has used the weak things of this world to shame the strong. Women were treated as little more than possessions in the Canaanite world, even by other women. Judges does not idealize the fact that Jael was placed in position to kill Sisera, for Barak could have been the one to gain victory with proper trust in God. Still, God does delight in confounding the powers of that day through those mistreated like the women of our story.