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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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DEBORAH AND BARAK

[101] THE Israelites continued, however, to be indolent and fond of pleasure. Forgetting what God had said to them, they made friends with the Canaanites, and married among them, the men of Israel taking wives from among the heathens, and the daughters of Israel marrying heathen men. Some even forsook their own forms of worship and sacrificed to the heathen idols, and assisted in other evil doings that were common among the Canaanites. God therefore was angry with them, and He allowed Chushan, the king of the Assyrians, to conquer them and take their cities and make them his servants. For eight years they lived in bondage, and then God took pity on their prayers. There was a man among the Israelites called Othniel, who was strong and courageous, and God told him that the time had now come when He would deliver the Israelites from bondage. So, with a few other brave men, he attacked one of the garrisons that the king of the Assyrians had set over the people, and slew them. And when the Israelites saw that he had been successful in his first attempt, they flocked around him in great numbers, and soon defeated all the armies of the Assyrians and drove them out of the country. Thereupon Othniel was chosen the ruler of the people, with the name of Judge, and he ruled them for forty years.

But after the death of Othniel the affairs of the Israelites again fell into disorder. They neither paid to God the honor that was due to Him nor obeyed the laws, and they were [102] therefore conquered again by Eglon, the king of the Moabites. He built himself a royal palace at Jericho, and did all he could to oppress the people, so that for eighteen years they were reduced to poverty. And again the Israelites repented of their sins and returned to God, and God forgave them.

There was a young man of the tribe of Benjamin whose name was Ehud, and God appointed him to be the liberator of his race. This man became familiar with the king of the Moabites, and was beloved not only by hiim but by all his attendants. One day Ehud took a dagger and hid it under his garments. He went to the house of the king, carrying presents to him, as he had often done before. Being admitted into the provate chamber of Eglon, the king bade his servants that attended him to leave them, because he had a mind to talk with Ehud. He was sitting on is throne, and fear seized upon Ehud lest he should miss his stroke and not give him a deadly wound. So he raised himself up and said he had a dream to impart to the king by the command of God. And when the king leaped off his throne to hear the dream, Ehud smote him to the heart. Then, leaving his dagger in the body, he went out and shut the door after him. Now the attendants of Eglon, hearing no sound in his room, thought he was sleeping, and durst not disturb him. But towards evening, fearing some uncommon accident had happened, they entered the room. When they found the king dead, they were in great disorder and knew not what to do. Before the guards could be got together, an army of Israelites, whom Ehud had collected, attacked the palace and slew a great number of the Moabites, and the rest made their escape across the Jordan. So the Israelites were freed from their persecutors, and they appointed Ehud their judge. And when he died, a man named Shamgar was made judge in his place, but he ruled only a short time.

Again the Israelites sinned, and the Lord punished them. [103] Jabin, the king of the Canaanites, came against them with an army of three hundred thousand men, and he had with him a great captain, named Sisera. The Israelites were sorely beaten and condemned to slavery. For twenty years they endured great hardships. And when at length they had become penitent and were so wise as to learn that their misfortunes arose from their contempt of the laws, they went to a prophetess named Deborah and besought her to pray to God that He would take pity on them. And God listened to the prayers of Deborah, and told her that the people of Israel were to take for their general a man named Barak, who was of the tribe of Naphthali.

So Deborah sent for Barak, and bade him choose out ten thousand young men to go against the enemy, for God had said that that number was sufficient, and He would give them the victory. But Barak was afraid, and said he would not go as a general unless Deborah would also go as a general with him. Then she was angry, and replied,—

"Thou, Barak, dost meanly deliver up that authority which God hath given thee into the hands of a woman; and I do not reject it. But thou shalt lose all the glory thou mightest have won, for a woman also shall kill Sisera."

And Barak and Deborah collected together ten thousand men and went out against Sisera. But when Sisera came to meet them, the number of his army affrighted the Israelites, and Barak with them, so that they were ready to flee before them. But Deborah withheld them, and commanded them to fight that very day, for God had assured them the victory.

So the battle began. And when they had come to a close fight there arose a great storm of rain and hail. And the wind blew the rain in the face of the Canaanites, and so blinded them that their arrows and slings were of no advantage, and they found it difficult even to use their swords. But the storm incommoded the Israelites very little, for it blew on their backs. Moreover, they took courage, believing [104] that God was assisting them, and fought the more bravely. And, after a great number of the Canaanites had been slain, the rest, seeing they were beaten, began to flee. And Sisera fled also, and came to the tent of a wooman called Jael, who was a friend to the children of Israel. He asked her to conceal him, and she let him come into her tent. And when he asked for something to drink she gave him sour milk, of which he drank so immoderately that he fell asleep. When he was asleep Jael took an iron nail, and drove it through his temples, with a hammer, into the floor. And when Barak came a little while afterwards she showed him Sisera, nailed to the floor. And thus was Sisera killed by the hand of a woman, as Deborah had foretold. Barak was made judge, and ruled over Israel for forty years.


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