“And the Sons of Israel cried out to Yahweh for he had 900 chariots of iron and he forcefully oppressed the Sons of Israel for twenty years.”
Twenty years of oppression. We have no sense of longevity and the big picture anymore. If something does not begin and end in a period of days or weeks, in our minds it lasts forever and we become bored with what we face. Imagine the 430 years of slavery that the people spent in Egypt; that is nearly twice as long as the United States have existed as a country.
We have already discussed the presence of chariots in Canaan (see Judges 1:19), but it is worth remembering the significance of the iron chariot as a weapon of war. Chariots themselves were a fairly new invention at this point in history, but later they would reinforce the basket and wheels with iron plates to protect the riders and the vehicle. These chariots were often drawn by as many as 4 horses and presented a formidable opponent to foot soldiers so long as the chariot had room to maneuver and build momentum. In many ways, these iron chariots were some of the earliest light-armored vehicles in military history. And Sisera did not simply have a few of such weapons; he had 900. That’s enough to devastate any military front line.
So, the people cry out in their distress with the implied notion that after 20 years of oppression, the people are repenting of their sins and turning back to the God of Israel. How sad it is that it so often takes us so long as well to repent of our idolatry before we submit to the God of Heaven.