Barak the son of Avinoam does not have much in common with Barack Obama, who is now being inscribed in the pages of history as the forty-fourth president of the United States. While Barack Obama has written several memoirs, there is, in fact, little known about the Biblical Barak.

Barak ben Avinoam was summoned by the Prophet and Judge, Deborah, to lead the armies of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun against Sisera, a Canaanite general whose nation had oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Deborah told Barak of the prophecy that she had received, predicting the people’s victory over Sisera.

Barak, however, felt himself unworthy of meriting such a victory, and insisted: “If you will go with me, then I will go” (Judges 4:8), thereby acknowledging the need for the spiritual inspiration that Deborah would bring to the army. Deborah agreed, but warned him that while the Israelite army will vanquish its enemy, the final victory will be regarded by all as having been achieved by a woman.

Barak was not concerned with glory. He only wanted to free the people from the Canaanite oppression.

When Sisera’s army scattered before the sudden Israelite attacks, the wicked general fled. He attempted to take refuge in the tent of Yael, the wife of Hever the Kenite. Yael feigned friendship and then, while Sisera slept, smashed his head with a tent-peg. Not long after, Barak passed Yael’s tent in search of the enemy. Yael beckoned to him to show him the dead general’s body. Thus, the ultimate victory, as predicted in the prophecy, was at the hand of a woman.

Great praise is given to Barak for his leadership in war and for his ability to humble himself for the greater cause.