The Story Of Deborah In The Bible
BIBLE TEXT: JUDGES 4
Deborah, the wife of a man named Lapidoth, was a prophetess and a judge in Israel. The Israelites would always come to her house which was between Ramah and Bethel with their cases. She, sitting under a palm tree, would settle their disputes. She was a courageous warrior, minstrel and a mother in Israel. Reading through the book of Judges chapter 4, we see Deborah as one of the most influential women of the Bible. She is known for her wisdom and courage; and she is the only woman of the Old Testament who is known for her own faith and action, not because of her relationship to her husband or another man, but because of her personal relationship with God – she was a prophetess!
As a prophetess, Deborah was believed to hear God’s voice and share God’s Word with others. She was also a priestess, though she did not offer sacrifices, as the men did, but she did lead worship services and preach to the people who came to her for judgment.
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Deborah was one of the rulers of the Hebrew, who were called judges. Judges then sought guidance from the Lord by praying and meditating before pronouncing their judgment on a matter. Many of the judges were also regarded as prophets who articulated “a word from the Lord.”
DEBORAH: HER CHARACTER AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Deborah as a great woman and the only female judge in the whole of Bible history excelled in multiple areas. She was a wife, a prophetess, a judge, a fearless and courageous military leader, a songwriter, a poet and a minstrel.
The following are some character traits and the achievements of this great woman of renown.
- She was the only woman in the Bible who was a judge and a prophetess in Israel.
- She was a wife to a man called Lapidoth; despite her high position as a ruler in the land, she was still submissive to her husband to the point of being called “wife of Lapidoth.”
- She arose as a mother in Israel when the men were too afraid to stand up to their responsibilities.
- She sat outside under a palm tree to judge the people of Israel because it was inappropriate for a woman to stay alone in a house with a man who was not her husband. She upheld the prevailing law of the land. It also shows her fairness, openness and impartiality in passing her judgments.
- As a prophetess, she gave Barak messages from God that would help in conquering the army of Jabin. Barak insisted that he would not go to the battlefield without Deborah.
- Deborah agreed to go with Barak to the battle, but she told him that God would give the glory of the conquest of Sisera in the battle to a woman.
- Under her leadership, Barak conquered the armed forces of Sisera and delivered the Israelites from the oppression of King Jabin of Canaan.
- According to her prophecy, Sisera was eventually killed by a woman – Jael, who drove a tent peg into his temple while he was fast asleep.
- Deborah was also a minstrel, a songstress and a poet who worshipped God through her songs of victory.
- Another achievement of Deborah was how she was able to manage her home front with her role as a prophetess and a judge.
- She was one of the rulers of the Jewish tribe, and the only female leader in the Old Testament.
DEBORAH AS A GREAT WARRIOR AND NATIONAL LEADER
Leadership does not reside in gender but in character and gifting. The Israelites recognized Deborah’s abilities to lead them and therefore, they prospered under her tenure. It was at a time when the people sinned, learned from hardship, repented, and cried out to the Lord. The Lord responded with a plan of deliverance by giving them the gift of Deborah.
Her tenure started with the Lord’s judgment against Israel. The people did evil in the sight of God, and he sold them into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan. Deborah called for Barak from Kadesh in Naphtali, and gave him the word of the Lord to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Canaanites. However, Barak would not go to battle except Deborah went with him. As a mother in Israel, Deborah agreed to follow the army to the battle. But she told Barak that the Lord would give the victory to a woman.
They went to the battle, and the word of God came to pass. The Israeli army discomfited Sisera and his army. When he saw the battle going against them, he fled on foot and stopped at the tent of Jael, wife of Heber. She gave him milk to drink and made him comfortable. Thereafter, he drove a nail into his head and he died. She later sang a song of victory, just as a way of continuing the Israelites tradition of immortalizing their victories in songs.
Deborah’s leadership style favors a team approach; she willingly recognized those who joined and served. She not only praised others but also thereby encouraged them to ongoing service and development as leaders. Deborah was a worshiping warrior. She found encouragement and strength in worship to be obedient to everything the Lord was asking her to do.
DEBORAH AS A MOTHER IN ISRAEL
Of all the things Deborah could have rightly called herself—judge, prophetess, warrior, deliverer, minstrel, worshiper—she chose to call herself a mother. She was first and foremost a mother. This much seems clear. She was a mother in/over Israel. She saw and regarded all of Israel as her children, and she sincerely longed for their deliverance and peace. The Bible says no one in Israel would arise and fight, until Deborah arose as a mother. She was ready to take the risk for the safety of her children! Just like a mother would inspire her children to greatness, Deborah inspired and encouraged the Israelites. She used the place of trust and authority she had been given as a judge to inspire Barak to raise up an army.
The story of Deborah in the Bible shows us that the Lord calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things that can only be accomplished through the Spirit of God.
LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DEBORAH
There are several lessons to learn from the life of this extraordinary Bible character. Some of them are:
- Obedience – At times, what we feel God asking us to do may be terrifying, but if He is telling us to go somewhere or do something, then we should go! He has a plan that we can’t see nor understand. Lives may be at stake and our own life would be richly blessed by our obedience.
- Courage – Stepping out of our comfort zone in faith can be frightening. Has there ever been a time in our life when we were called to lead but didn’t feel qualified and adequately equipped? There is an old saying that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called”. If He has called you, He will equip you. Be courageous!
- Stand true in your faith – We don’t have to understand the how or why. We just need to understand that God will faithfully guide us.
- Listen before speaking – Judge Deborah listened under the palm tree. She took in all sides and then, with God speaking to her, passed her judgments. Before acting or speaking, it is very necessary to listen. Then ask God to reveal to you which direction you should go.