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HISTORY OF DEBOR A H.
Than Jael Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly
unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: (for he was fast asleep, and weary) so he died. And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. Su God subdued on that day, Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. - JUDGES iv. 21—23.
When we consider how frequent, how the evening, a bleeding corpse, fallen ingla violent, and how sudden are the transitions riously by the hand of a woman. from condition to condition in human life, Deborah, the prophetess of Israel, having pride appears to be a mystery of folly, below transfused the patriotic ardour of her soul contempt. To behold a rational being as- into Barak, not only directs him what he suming consequence on an empty, unmean- should do, but offers herself as the companion ing title; or from the possession a little of the expedition which she had planned. wealth, that bird of passage, eternally on the With ten thousand men of the tribes of wing; or from beauty and strength, which Zebulun and Naphtali under his command, accident or disease inay blast in a moment, Barak takes possession of mount Tabor, and which the lapse of a very few years meaning to act only on the defensive, till certainly will impair; to behold a man put- Providence should point out an occasion of ting confidence in princes, or feeding on the acting to advantage. The rashness and imapplause of a multitude; to hear him saying petuosity of Sisera soon presented him with to himself, “Soul, take thy rest; thou hast such an opportunity. Enraged to think that much goods laid up for many years." "My an enemy so often discomfited, so long opmountain standeth strong; I shall never be pressed, so broken by calamity, should premoved." All this is calculated to excite sume to make head against their lordly derision, not resentment; and when reason masters, he collects the whole of his vast and experience ponder what the end may be, strength, and invests the mountain, deteranger sinks into pity. Not only is frail man mined to crush the puny insurrection at one every moment at the mercy of a Being, blow. almighty to save and to destroy; but the The sagacious judge, and divinely inspired proudest and mightiest is every moment in prophetess of Israel, observes the season to the power of the weakest and meanest of be favourable, observes that the unwieldy his fello:v-creatures. The tongue of the army of the Canaanites was ready to fall in wretch whom thou despisest, may ruin thy pieces by its own weight, that their vain reputation for ever. The crawling insect in confidence was destroying them, and that, thy path is armed with deadly poison against above all, Heaven was propitious. She gives thy life. That nodding wall threatens to the signal of attack, and lo, “one chases a crush thee to pieces. Arm thee at all points, thousand, and ten put ten thousand to flight.” as well as thou canst, malice or hatred, envy The cause was of God, and it prospers: or revenge will still find some part unguard- and the mighty hand and outstretched arm ed; and bleeding to death, thou shalt find of Jehovah, once more asserts Israel into thou were not invulnerable.
liberty. Those who are distinguished by their rank, Whatever praise is to be ascribed to the their abilities, or their virtues, attract the conduct of Barak on this occasion, and to the notice of many observers, and create to intrepidity of his little army, it is evident, themselves miny open
and many more secret from some expressions in the song of praise, enemies. The history of Sisera, the captain composed in celebration of the victory, that of the host of Jabin, king of Caraan, is a the defeat of the Canaanites was in part, at striking illustration of most of these remarks. least, miraculous. “They fought from heaIn him, we see a man rendered insolent by ven. “The stars in their courses," it is success, intoxicated with prosperity, betrayed said, " fought against Sisera." By " the into disgrace through confidence of victory, stars" some interpreters understand “the the dupe of confidence in his own strength, angels of God," who are sometimes designed and then the victim of confidence, equally by that name. Josephus takes the words in unwise, in the fidelity and attachment of a a different sense, and affirms, that an extrastranger. We behold him in the morning, ordinary storm of rain, mixed with hail, advancing to the unequal conflict at the head blinded the eyes of the Canaanites, and drove of a mighty, and hitherto invincible host; in back the darts upon their own heads. The
Rabbins, with still less appearance of proba- | that, on their settlement in Canaan, he, and bility, allege, that certain constellations ot'a his family, and descendants, should share in pestilential influence, consumed the army the fruits of victory, and obtain a portion in of Sisera, burnt them up with thirst, and the land promised to the children of Abrahanı. drove them for refreshment to the brook This accounts for our finding them establishKishon, where they were met in a languid, ed, at such a distance of time, in the border enfeebled state, by the troops of Deborah of Kedesh Naphtali. On the invasion of the and Barak, and put to the sword. The ex- country, however, by Jabin, king of Canaan, pedition from first to last, was without con we find them observing a strict neutrality. troversy conducted and crowned by the hand “ There was peace between Jabin the king of Providence. But the narration of the of Hazor, and the house of Heber the Kenite."* event, on the sacred page, is too general and in the confidence of this, Sisera betakes himconcise, to enable us to pronounce with con- self to the Kenite for protection; and is refidence, where the province of human saga- ceived by Jael, the wife of Heber, with every city and valour ended; and where the inter- mark of humanity and respect, due to a great position of Heaven began.
man, and a friend, in distress. She brings However it were, the victory was complete; him milk to quench his thirst, covers him the enemy was totally routed and put to the carefully up in her own tent to repose himedge of the sword; the commander in chief self from the vexation and fatigue of that alone escapes the universal carnage of the disastrous day, and to conceal him from the field; and he, who a little before had nine pursuit of Barak. She promises inviolably hundred chariots of iron at his disposal, sees to keep secret the place of his concealment; himself stripped of all, and is constrained to and relying on that promise, weary and worn consult his safety by flight. A prince with out, he falls into a profound sleep. Jael out subjects, and a general without an army, avails herself of his defenceless situation, shrink into poor, wretched, solitary individu- and seizing such arms as were at hand, a als, the more to be pitied, from the giddy hammer and one of the pins or nails used in height whence they have fallen.
stretching out the tent, she transfixes the The history drops the myriads which com- head of the unhappy sleeper as he lay along, posed the army of Sisera, into a silent grave; and with redoubled blows fastens the bleedand pursues the sad tale of the unhappy man ing temples to the ground. himself up to his tragical death. Seeing his Such was the inglorious end of a man, on army slaughtered and put to flight, and him- whom that morning's sun had risen with a self in danger of falling into the hands of smiling aspect; who awoke from sleep in the triumphant Israel, he alights from his chariot, possession of all that royal favour could beand flees away on foot. “How are the stow, all that sovereign power could compel, mighty fallen, and the weapons of war pe- all that flattering hope could promise. Of rished.” What a sad reverse, within the the motives which could impel Jael to such a compass of one short day! And to such re- deed of horror, we have no information. Her verses, human life is eternally liable. The conduct, we know, is celebrated in the song greatest of uninspired bards has put this pas- of Deborah in terms of the strongest approsionate exclamation in the mouth of a de- bation; which obliges us to conclude, that throned monarch of our own country, address there are circumstances in the story, which ing himself to his few wretched attendants, the Spirit of God has not thought proper to the poor remains of his departed state: disclose. The great Jehovah needs not a
vindication of his conduct, from the labour Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood With solemn reverence; throw away respect,
and ingenuity of a wretched, ignorant mortal. Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,
He has but to discover a few little particuFor you have but mistook me all this while: I live on bread like you, feel want, taste grief,
lars, which are as yet hid from our eyes; and Need friends : Subjected thus,
then, what now confounds and overwhelms How can you say to me--I am a king?
our understanding, becomes clear and inSAAKSPEARE. King Richard II.
telligible to the meanest capacity. Instead, Behold the mighty Sisera weary and faint therefore, of vainly and presumptuously atwith thirst, without one, of so many thou- tempting to reconcile this action of Jael with sands, to assist or comfort his flight, seeking the laws of morality, which, by the glimmerrefuge from his pursuers in the tents of an ing light we have, is impossible, we shall allied power, Heber the Kenite.
make a few observations on the history, of a By looking back to the book of Numbers, general and practical nature. And chap. x, we find that Hobab, the son of I. We repeat, what has been already sugRaguel or Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, gested, “that human reason is a very inhad left his native residence, to attend the competent judge of divine proceeding.” We camp of Israel as their guide through the know so little, so very little of the system of wilderness, and had been persuaded by nature; our own constitution is such an inMoses, his brother-in-law, to cast in his lot explicable mystery to ourselves; we meut among that people, upon a solemn assurance,
* Judges iv. 17.
every where so many difficulties, contradic- other openly defied him. The rod which he tions, defects, redundancies; at least we take condescendeth to use, for the chastisement upon us to think and call them so, as must of disobedient and gainsaying children, when lead us to this conclusion, that, either the their reformation is accomplished, he often work of God is imperfect; or that we cannot breaks and dashes on the ground. Every find out him and his work unto perfection. instrument he employs must necessarily parNow the little reason we have cannot hesi- take of human imperfection; but it follows tate an instant in choosing its side of this not that he is pleased with imperfection, alternative. And if we confessedly are un- The devices of Satan himself shall in the jualified to judge of that which is less, dare issue redound to the glory of God, as "the we presume to pronounce concerning that wrath of man must praise him ;" but that which is greater. If the volume of nature, wrath is hateful to his nature, and those spread open to the perusal at once of our devices his wisdom counteracts, and his jussenses and our reason, present many things tice condemns. We are not therefore to not only hard, but impossible to be under- mistake the patriotic ardour of a female stood, can we deem ourselves qualified, or Israelitish bard, for the calm, the merited apentitled to explain, to justify, or to arraign plause of the God of mercy and truth. I can the more dark and mysterious ways of Provi- easily conceive the person, whom national dence ? And which is the greater pride and partiality, resentment, or gratitude would presumption, that which is for ever“ charging celebrate in strains of admiration, to be reGod foolishly," or that which sets itself up garded with abhorrence by the Father of as the bold interpreter and assistant of eternal mercies, the avenger of falsehood, the refuge wisdom and justice? Observe
of the miserable. And while Israelitish II. An obvious reason, why these difficul- Deborah, in the heat of her zeal, makes the ties are permitted in the frame of nature, the eulogium of a woman so unlike herself, and conduct of Providence, and the revelation of styles Jael, the wife of Heber, who murderthe grace of God. It is, to form us to sub- ed her sleeping guest, “ blessed above mission, to exercise our patience, to fix our woinen," why may not a Christian Dorcas, & attention, to whet our industry, to repress woman of mercy and humanity, "a woman our boldness, to increase and confirm our full of good works, and almsdeeds,” under confidence in God. It is a mark of respect the mild and gentle influence of that religion to superior wisdom and virtue, not always to which she believes, feels, and practices, rerequire an explanation, but to repose implicit probate the cruel and perfidious act, and its trust in known goodness and integrity. A author, in terms of the severest indignation ? wise man in the consciousness of his own Indeed, the conduct of Jael, considered by rectitude, disdains to acknowledge the obliga. itself, is a horrid complication of all that is tion of clearing up his conduct to every prat- base and detestable in human nature ; an ing meddler, who may think proper to call infamous violation of sacred truth ; a daring him to account; and who has neither a right, infringement of the law of nature and nations; nor a capacity to judge of his motives. And a flagrant breach of the laws of hospitality, shall we withhold from our Maker that de- which the most savage natures and nations cent respect which we so cheerfully pay to have respected as sacred; the vilest degradaa fallible, imperfect fellow-creature? Shall tion of her character as a woman; the most we refuse to take the God of truth upon his barbarous exhibition of a little mind, enjoy. word? Shall we think it much if in some ing the triumph over unsuspecting credulity, cases he exact belief, without his vouchsaf- and defenceless misery. “ Cursed be her ing to assign a reason? “Why dost thou anger, for it was fierce, and her wrath for it strive against him? He giveth not account was cruel.” Observe, of any of his matters."* Our sacred bard IV. Into what dreadful extremes we imhas sublimely expressed this noble sentiment, petuously rush, when the radical principles drawn from the volume of inspiration. Con- of our nature are once subdued. Time must sidering the divine providence under the have been, that the idea of shedding the image of a vast sealed-up book, chained to blood of another, would have chilled the the eternal throne, containing the character, blood in Jael's veins. What must it have the revolutions, the destination of angels and cost her, to overcome the timidity, the tenmen, but closed to the inspection of every derness, the compassion of her sex! But created eye. We observe,
being overcome, lo, each gentle, feminine III. That it is doing the grossest injustice passion is lullea asleep; and frantic zeal, or to the wise and righteous Governor of the demoniac revenge alone is awake. Ah me, world, to suppose him in every point approv- what beast of prey so savage and unrelenting, ing the person, or the conduct by which he as a human being destitute of pity! Ah me, carries on his great designs. Cyrus and how easily the best things degenerate into Nebuchadnezzar are styled the servants of the worst! Of what importance is it, to guard God, though the one knew him not. and the against the first deviation from the simple * Job xxxiii. 13.
and direct path! Who can proinise for
himself, that he shall stop, return, and regain, than all the incense of flattery, than all the the right road, when he pleases. Observe, sonnets of a thousand poetic swains. In the
V. That the rarity of the instances, the history of our own country, the reigns of peculiarity of the situations, and the singu- two female sovereigns shine with conspicularity of the spirit and conduct, apparent in ous lustre. They were periods of great the female characters here brought into pub- national prosperity and glory. But the lic view, fo, bid, by more than a positive law, weakest of women would not surely thence female interference in matters of business infer, that the sceptre ought always to be and of government. Believe me, my fair committed to female hands. With all due friends, it is not stripping you of your just deference to the memory of an Elizabeth and importance, it is increasing and securing it, an Anne, and the general felicity which their to say, the shade is your native, your proper administration diffused over the land, Great station : it is there you shine, it is there you Britain can look with pride and exultation to are useful, it is there you are respectable. a Queen, whose personal glory and virtues Your heart and your understanding assent far exceed theirs. Not a sovereign indeed, to the truth of it. Is there a woman among but a partner of the throne: who shines in you, who would not prefer in obscurity, the reason's eye, because she affects not to shine; affection of her husband, the attachment and reigns over willing hearts, because she disgratitude of her children, the estimation and claims all rule; is great and blessed among respect of her friends, to all the public women, because she nobly sinks the princess splendour of Deborah's magisterial power, in the woman, the wife, the mother, and the and prophetic spirit; to all the blushing, em-friend. purpled honours of Jael's more than mascu We encroach no farther on your patience, line resentment? It is not your want of by extending our observations on the subject. talents for government we dispute; it is the And the rather, as a review of the song of suitableness of governments to your talents, Deborah, composed on this memorable occayour natural dispositions, your real honour sion, will, if God permit, bring it again beand happiness. "A wise and good woman fore us, and place female genius in our eye, never can desire to become the object of in a new, and not unpleasing point of light; universal admiration, nor the subject of every uniting poetic and musical skill to fervent one's discourse. If you aim at so much, de- devotion, heroic intrepidity, and prophetic pend upon it, you will lose something of inspiration. A combination how rare, how what you have, and what is infinitely better instructive, how respectable !
HISTORY OF DEBORAH.
fhen sang Deborah, and Barak, the son of Abinoam, on that day, saying, Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, o ye kings; give ear, O ye princes. I, even I will sing unto the Lord:I
will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel. Lord, when thon wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the beavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel.-JUDGES v. 1-5.
To some it is the gift of Heaven, to per- spicuous than monuments of brass and mar. form actions worthy of being recorded; to ble, is an universal and a perpetual blessing others it is given, to preserve the memory to mankind : conveying to distant nations of illustrious actions, in writings worthy of and latest posterity harmless pleasure blendbeing read. To both, the world is under ed with wholesome instruction. great obligations, and gratefully permits the On a favoured few has been conferred the historian or the poet, to divide the palm with combined glory of acting nobly, and writing the hero, or the sage whom they celebrate. well; of serving their own day and generaTo the writer, perhaps, the more ample share tion with credit to themselves and advantage of the praise is due. The achievements of to their country, and of transmitting usefư! valour and strength are local and temporaryinformation to regions remote and generaThey benefit but a few, and quickly spend tions unborn. On the list of those iilustrious their force. But the historic and poetic page, few, stands with distinguished honour, the more durable, more diffused, and more con- name of Deborah, the judge, the prophetess,
the sweet singer of Israel ; and it is 'with lity, with the relations of social life, those of exultation we observe the most dignified, wife, mother, and friend. arduous, and important stations of human Adam might exist a little while in Paralife filled with reputation by a woman: a dise, before Eve was formed, but nature, and woman, who first, with resolution and intre- reason, and religion, all seem to declare, pidity, saved her country in the hour of dan- that woman can neither comfortably nor ger and distress, and ruled it with wisdom reputably subsist, separated from that side and equity; and then recorded her own whence she was originally taken. Who will achievements in strains which must be held deny that the superiority in point of discrein admiration, so long as good taste and the tion and understanding is frequently on the love of virtue exist in the world.
side of the female? But a woman forfeits Having with veneration and respect at all pretersion to that very superiority, the tended to the equitable decisions, and the moment she assumes or boasts of it. Wheoracles of truth which flowed from the lips ther, therefore, it were Deborah's own good of the female seer and sage, who sat under sense, and female modesty, which preferred the palm-tree in mount Ephraim; and ac- appearing in a connected, to appearing in a companied the undaunted heroine to the top solitary state, though more flattering to of mount Tabor, and the ensanguined plains vanity: or whether the Spirit of God, in rewashed by the river of Kishon; let us listen presenting the most elevated of female gewith wonder and delight to the lofty strains niuses in the most elevated of situations, of the female bard, and join our voices in the thought proper to point her out as connected burden of her song.
and dependent; the same lesson of moderaThis sublime poem is the most ancient tion, diffidence, delicacy, and condescension that exists, two excepted, namely, that which is powerfully inculcated: and her sex is incelebrates the miraculous passage through structed where their true dignity, safety, the Red Sea ; and the sweetly swelling notes honour, and comfort lie. of the dying swain of Israel. It is two hun The time is marked, when this triumphdred and thirty-four years later than the ant anthem was first composed and sung. former, and one hundred and ninety-four “ On that day.” It had been a day of danyears than the latter of these sacred compo- ger, anxiety, and fatigue: a day of vensitions; but it is four hundred and ten years geance upon the insulting foe, a day of older than Homer, the great father of heathen mutual congratulation and rejoicing; but ill poesy. From its high antiquity, therefore, had Israel deserved such a victory, and were there nothing else to recommend it to shamefully had Deborah improved it, if notice, it is most respectable ; but from its either the emotions of joy or of revenge had antiquity, and the very nature of poetical excluded those of gratitude and love. The composition, it must of necessity be, in some tongue of Deborah, like the pen of a ready respects, involved in difficulty and obscurity. writer, dictates “acceptable words” to the This we pretend not wholly to clear up or thousands of her people; she cannot think remove. Instead then of making an attempt of repose, till the evening sacrifice of praise in which we should probably, perhaps cer- be offered up, and from the abundance of the tainly fail, we shall satisfy ourselves with heart, the mouth speaketh. The day which pointing out a few of the more obvious and the arm of Omnipotence had distinguished striking beauties of a piece, which all will by wonders of mercy, must not be concluded allow to contain many and shining excel- without songs of deliverance. From the lencies.
“confused noise of the warrior, and garThe inscription of this hymn of praise, ments rolled in blood,” the soul turns with first challenges our notice. " Then sang holy joy, to the acknowledgment of that Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam, on right hand and holy arm which had gotten that day, saying."* In exhibiting the cha- them the victory :” and in one solemn racter and conduct of this truly estimable "praise ye the Lord" bursting at once from woman, the feminine delicacy and reserve every tongue, every redeemed Israelite calls are never dropped. As a ruler and a pro- upon himself and upon his fellow to give phetess she is introduced, under her relative unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name. character of the wife of Lapidoth. As the Here the song naturally begins, by this it leader of armies to battle, and leader in the must be supported, and in this it must termimusical choir which celebrated the victories nate. All creatures, all events point out of her country, she is represented as the “ Him first, Him last, Him midst, and withcompanion and coadjutrix of Barak, the son out end." "Praise ye the Lord.” uf Abinoam. She was undoubtedly the first But, religion is "a reasonable service." woman of her own, perhaps of any age; but The divine essence we do not, we cannot her consequence, in place of being dimi-know; "the invisible things of God,” even nished, is increased and supported by the “his eternal power and deity," are to be disblending of private personal worth and abi- covered only '" by the things which he has * Judges iv. 1.
made,” and the things which he doth.