Barak Character Bible Study Background and Lessons
Meaning of name: Lightning
Ancestry and family life: His father was Abinoam. He was descended from the tribe of Naphtali. This wasn’t one of the well known, powerful, or famous tribes. This was the Northernmost tribe in Israel and much of bordered on the Sea of Galilee.
When and where he lived: Barak lived during the time of Deborah, who judged Israel after Ehud died. This was very early on in the time of the judges. The people of Israel had turned away from God. They followed God while Ehud lived, but when his influence was gone, they felt free to rebel against God again. This is a recurring theme throughout the book of Judges. God consistently disciplined them for their evil/rebellion. In this case He gave them over to a king called Jabin. He is titled as the “king of Canaan.” This leads me to believe that this king perhaps because of his powerful army had united many of the various tribes and cities of Canaan under his banner. His army commander was Sisera. Their army possessed 900 iron chariots. It was fairly rare for armies at that time to have iron chariots, much less 900. This put their army heads and shoulders above the others in the area. But remember that it was not because of their army that they dominated the Israelites. It was because God gave them over to Sisera/Jabin to discipline them for their sin.
When things got tough, the Israelites often called to God for help. This time was no exception. After being oppressed for 20 years (and likely wasting many of those years calling out to idols), the people were finally sufficiently humbled to call out to God for help.
God was faithful. He was ready and willing to forgive them and deliver them if they would acknowledge Him and repent. During this time, there was no king in Israel. God selected judges, who for the most part had a lot of faith, to unite some of the Israelites and deliver His people through a military victory.
Events surrounding birth: No info.
Training and occupation: No info. Since the Israelites were subjected to the army of Sisera, they didn’t have any real weapons (see Judges 5:8). This shows that Barak was almost certainly not a career soldier. Israel generally didn’t have a standing army at that time anyway. His occupation could have been farmer, trader, fisherman, shepherd, etc.
Place in history: Barak is mentioned in the “honorable mentions” section of the hall of the faithful in Hebrews 11. He faithfully led an army against great odds and helped to deliver his people from under the hand of oppression.
Special traits: NA.
Questions for Discussion:
1. The only clear weakness we can see is in 4:6-8. Deborah was a prophetess. She was acting on God’s behalf and told him that God commanded him to lead the army against Sisera. What should Barak have done? Barak should have obeyed with question, but he was hesitant. He said if she would go, he would too, but only if she went. Why did he ask this? This shows that at least this point he had a lack of faith. Perhaps he superstitiously believed that Deborah as a prophetess would be something like a good luck charm. He might have thought that her presence would guarantee victory. If so, he was looking at her as a leader for hope and victory instead of to God. Proverbs 21:31. No person, no army, no weapons, no plan could assure victory. Only God could guarantee it. He should have realized that whether or not Deborah was with them, God was with them. Exodus 14:14, 2 Chronicles 20:17, Proverbs 15:3, Isaiah 43:2
a) What was the result of Barak’s lack of faith? It appears from Deborah’s answer in 4:9 that God decided to give the honor to someone else (a woman) because he hesitated to obey. Notice that God still brought about the victory. God still delivered them. Our disobedience or slow obedience primarily hurts ourselves. God’s plans will not be affected.
2. Lack of leadership – Judges 4-5 are most famous not for Barak, but for Deborah. Feminists point out that Deborah was the leader of Israel, a judge and a prophetess. They use this as an argument for women pastors/teachers in the church. Is this a valid argument? Does the case of Deborah show that women should take the role of pastor/teacher in the church? Remember that one of the most basic rules of Biblical interpretation is to interpret narrative passages in light of didactic (teaching) passages and not the other way around. See 1 Timothy 2:12-15. The New Testament is clear that pastors/elders (see Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3) should be men. In the church God has given different roles to different people for the same common goal (1 Corinthians 12). Just like the account of Rahab’s lies do not tell us that lying is OK, the account of Deborah’s life as a leader/judge does not tell us that this is God’s ideal, especially in the time of the church (Deborah was not a Christian and was not under New Testament teachings or principles about the church).
a) Why was Deborah a judge when God’s normal model is for male leadership? This is a tough question because in this historical account we are not given all of the information. Another question is, “why do so many house churches in rural China have female pastors?” The answer to both could be that men are not stepping up to take the leadership as they should. In the void of proper, biblical leadership, ladies step in. During the time of Deborah, it was a dark spiritual time for Israel. Judges 5:15-17 shows us that even when Barak went to war, many of the tribes refused to help. There were a lot of cowards. There were a lot of wimps. There were a lot of men who were not acting like men. They refused to go to war. And they refused to be leaders. In the modern day era, this often happens. Men are scared or lazy to be the leaders that God has called them to be. So women step in. Then because women are doing it, it gives the guys another excuse not to. And so the problem intensifies and bad habits are reinforced. What is the solution? What should the women do? What about if the guys really aren’t as mature as the women? Sometimes breaking bad habits requires an awkward adjustment period. For example:
i. Sometimes in a group of believers, for whatever reason, many do not want to pray aloud. Perhaps it is shyness. Perhaps it is a feeling of inadequacy. Perhaps it is an empathetic heart that doesn’t care about praying. Perhaps it is an “I hope they will pray so I don’t have to” attitude. The leader can see that no one is praying and jump in to avoid the awkward silence. If he does, the participants are conditioned to sit back in silence the next time. Or he can allow the awkward silence to continue as long as necessary until people begin to pray.
ii. The same principle applies to asking a question to a group. Sometimes no one answers. Should the leader just answer his own question? That is the easiest way, but not necessarily the best way.
iii. A teacher can solve the math problem for a student or patiently wait as long as it takes until he figures it out for himself. What will the student learn in each case?
iv. A parent can hold their child and carry them off the top of a playground or patiently wait until the child figures out how to climb down himself. What will the child learn in the two cases?
As Barak and especially the rest of the men in Israel seem to have deferred a bit too much in leadership. Let’s spend a few minutes discussing two questions.
1. What is Biblical leadership?
a) Servant – Mark 10:45, 1 Peter 5:1-7
b) Sacrificial – Mark 10:45, 1 Corinthians 9:12,18
c) Loving – Ephesians 5
d) Visionary – Proverbs 29:18
e) An example – 1 Timothy 4:12
f) Not dictatorial – Matthew 20:25
g) Listens – James 1:19
h) Rooted in God’s Word – Psalms 1:1-2
i) Stands firm for what is right – Exodus 23:2
2. What are some things you can do right now as a guy to prepare you to be a godly leader? How can you lead right now? Begin leading by:
a) Setting an example
b) Lead conversations to meaningful discussion instead of passively responding
c) Serve faithfully in church/fellowship
d) Serve your families when you return home by doing chores and helping around the house
e) Be a man of conviction
f) Study the Bible and pray faithfully
g) Learn how to treat women with kindness, gentleness, and respect
h) Learn to communicate clearly, truthfully, and with love
i) Put others’ needs above your own
1. Faith – It is interesting that this can be both a weakness and a strength at the same time. Can it? I believe it can. We have seen this with many biblical characters. Hebrews 11 lists Barak as one of the faithful. Why? It did require a great amount of faith to go up in battle face to face with 900 iron chariots. 10,000 men against 900 chariots (plus an army of infantry) was almost impossible from the world’s perspective. If betting odds were put on it, Barak would have been a HUGE underdog. Even worse, many of the tribes were unwilling to help. Why did Barak do it? God commanded him to. He had some doubts, questions, and struggles on the way, but finally he did it. See Matthew 21:28-32. Barak could have done better. He could have had stronger faith. But he obeyed God when most people wouldn’t have, and that counts for something. This account shows the emotional roller coaster that most believers go through. There are very very few believers that never have any doubts. No one has perfect faith all the time. But true believers will persevere in their faith. True believers will choose to obey God over man when it counts.
2. Bold – It requires a lot of boldness to do what he did and take on an army that powerful. Deuteronomy 20:1-4
3. Persistent (Judges 4:16) – He didn’t stop pursuing after achieving a small victory. He wanted a crushing victory.
4. Gave the glory to God – Judges 5:2-5. Deborah and Barak attributed the victory to God’s power, not to themselves.
Important acts and events:
1. Delivering Israel from Jabin/Sisera
How he died: Unknown
Lessons from his life:
1. God never forgets His people
2. God is ready to forgive and receive His people back again
3. God disciplines those who rebel against Him. This discipline is corrective and not punitive.
4. God can give victory no matter how difficult it looks
5. Faith is up and down, but the truly faithful will persevere
6. Leaders need to lead! (Judges 5:2)
E-book – If you found this character study helpful, get our Character Studies E-book, with this and 8 different practical lessons on important Bible heroes of the faith.