Who Was Barak in the Bible?

Meet the obscure warrior whose name means 'lightening'

Barak Bible
Jael Shows to Barak, Sisera Lying Dead, from The Old Testament, c. 1896-1902. Public Domain

While many Bible readers are unfamiliar with Barak, he was another of those mighty Hebrew warriors who answered the call of God despite overwhelming odds. His name means "lightning."

Once again in the time of the judges, Israel had drifted away from God, and the Canaanites oppressed them for 20 years. God called up Deborah, a wise and holy woman, to be a judge and prophetess over the Jews, the only female among the 12 judges.

Deborah summoned Barak, telling him God had commanded him to gather the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and go to Mount Tabor. Barak hesitated, saying he would go only if Deborah went with him. Deborah agreed, but because of Barak's lack of faith in God, she told him credit for the victory would not go to him, but to a woman.

Barak led a force of 10,000 men, but Sisera, commander of King Jabin's Canaanite army, had the advantage because Sisera had 900 iron chariots. In ancient warfare, chariots were like tanks: swift, intimidating and deadly.

Deborah told Barak to advance because the Lord had gone before him. Barak and his men raced down Mount Tabor. God brought a massive rainstorm. The ground turned to mud, bogging down Sisera's chariots. The stream Kishon overflowed, sweeping many of the Canaanites away. The Bible says Barak and his men pursued. Not one of Israel's enemies was left alive.

Sisera, however, managed to escape. He ran to the tent of Jael, a Kenite woman. She took him in, gave him milk to drink, and had him lie down on a mat. When he slept, she took a tent stake and a hammer and drove the stake through Sisera's temples, killing him.

Barak arrived. Jael showed him Sisera's corpse.

Barak and the army eventually destroyed Jabin, king of the Canaanites. There was peace in Israel for 40 years.

Accomplishments of Barak in the Bible

Barak defeated the Canaanite oppressor. He united the tribes of Israel for greater strength, commanding them with skill and daring. Barak is mentioned in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith.

Strengths

Barak recognized that Deborah's authority had been given to her by God, so he obeyed a woman, something rare in ancient times. He was a man of great courage and had faith that God would intervene on Israel's behalf.

Weaknesses

When Barak told Deborah he would not lead unless she accompanied him, he put faith in her instead of God. Deborah demonstrated greater faith in God than Barak. She told him this doubt would cause Barak to lose credit for the victory to a woman, which came to pass.

Life Lessons

Barak’s hesitancy to go without Deborah wasn't cowardice but reflected a lack of faith. Faith in God is necessary for any worthwhile task, and the bigger the task, the more faith is required. God uses whom he wishes, whether a woman like Deborah or an unknown man like Barak. God will use each of us if we put our faith in him, obey, and follow where he leads.

Hometown

Kedesh in Naphtali, just south of the Sea of Galilee, in ancient Israel.

References to Barak in the Bible

Barak's story is told in Judges 4 and 5. He is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32.

Occupation

Warrior and army commander.

Family Tree

Father - Abinoam

Key Barak Bible Verses

Judges 4:8-9
Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." "Certainly I will go with you," said Deborah. "But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. (NIV)

Judges 4:14-16
Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.

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. Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera's troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. (NIV)

Key Takeaways

  • Barak was Son of Abinoam of Kedesh in Naphtali.
  • He was a contemporary and associate of the prophetess and judge Deborah.
  • Barak led an Israelite army against Sisera, commander of King Jabin's Canaanite army.
  • Sisera had the advantage with 900 iron chariots, but Barak defeated the Canaanite oppressor despite overwhelming odds.
  • Because he put his faith in a human (Deborah) and not God, Barak lost credit for the victory over Sisera to a woman, Jael.
  • Yet, Barak is one of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11.