The Battle of Mount Tabor

Stand for Israel  |  April 14, 2021

Mount Tabor, where biblical story of battle won by Deborah and Barak occurred
COLOR PHOTO OF MOUNT TABOR TAKEN IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY BY FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER, BONFILS. צילום צבע מסוף המאה ה19 של הצלם הצרפתי בונפיס אשר תעד במצלמתו את נופי ארץ ישראל ותושביה. בצילום, הר התבור.

The biblical story of Deborah, one of the Israelite judges in the Book of Judges, tells the story of a great battle in the Holy Land. And, like so many biblical stories, they come alive when we realize they happened on spots we still see today, spots we call Holy Land Digs.

‘If You Go with Me, I Will Go’

In Judges 4, Deborah summoned Barak, her military commander, saying:

“The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men… and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands” (vv. 6-7).

Barak’s confidence in the Israelite leader shined through in his reply: “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go” (v. 8).

The Battle of Mount Tabor

And go with her soldiers, Deborah did. To Mount Tabor, the mountain seen above, and which one can still see in the Holy Land.

The Defeat of Sisera (biblical battle with Deborah and Barak), Luca Giordano, c. 1692
The Defeat of Sisera, Luca Giordano, c. 1692

When Sisera, the leader of the Israelites’ Canaanite enemies, heard this, he readied his own forces. Sisera led 900 men in iron chariots. While the Israelites outnumbered the Canaanites, the Canaanite technology was far superior. Their iron chariots against Israelite men would have been like tanks against infantry soldiers today, hardly a fair fight.

But God also went with Barak and Deborah to Mount Tabor. And He made sure the fight went in Israel’s favor.

In Judges 5, we hear “The Song of Deborah,” a ballad which tells the story of the Israelite victory. As Sisera’s heavily armed chariots arrived for battle, God opened up the heavens:

“From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.”
(vv. 20-21)

Kishon River, as in story of Deborah
Kishon River, as in story of Deborah

This is the Kishon River, as mentioned in Scripture. God sent a rainstorm that overflowed the Kishon and turned the ground around Mount Tabor to mud. Sisera’s heavy chariots became stuck. The Bible tells us that “At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot” (Judges 4:15).

The Fate of Sisera

And we know that the Canaanite commander fled to the tent of Yael, the wife of a Kenite tribe leader. There, Yael gave Sisera something to drink and a place to rest. And then “The Song of Deborah” tells us:

“Her hand reached for the tent peg,
he right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.”
(Judges 5:26)

And all of this, this beloved biblical story of Deborah’s leadership, Barak and Yael’s heroism, and most importantly, God’s providence for His people, began at the foot of Mount Tabor, the Holy Land site we can still see today.

Mount Tabor, biblical site of story of Deborah and Barak, seen today