The name Deborah means ‘a bee’, and in view of the intelligent and hard-working reputation of the bee, Deborah was a fitting name for the fifth judge in Israel. Married to a man named Lapidoth, it is not known if Deborah and her husband ever bore children.
Deborah was prophetess and judge in Israel during the time when Jabin, king of Canaan, terrorized the Hebrews with his military power. In spite of this, year after year Deborah sat under a palm tree near Bethel and the people flocked to her to for judgments and wisdom.
One day she summoned Barak, a Hebrew from Naphtali, and challenged him to lead an army against the Canaanites. He agreed to do it only if Deborah herself would accompany him to battle. She agreed but warned him that the honor for destroying the Canaanite general would then go to a woman.
The tiny Israeli force routed the Canaanites that day. Piecing together details from Deborah’s famous song of victory, evidently a terrific rainstorm bogged down the enemy’s heavy iron chariots of war, and the swollen river of Kishon further threw them into chaos. In panic, the Canaanites retreated. The exhausted Canaanite commander stopped to rest during his retreat. There he was killed by a woman as he slept in her tent.
Deborah fascinates us. In an age when women were largely subordinate to men, it undoubtedly took a remarkable woman to win the respect and admiration of so many. Deborah must have been a very strong and reassuring presence for Barak to demand her company as he went into battle. She must have possessed profound wisdom to draw Hebrews from all over Israel for her judgments. Even her song of victory reflects greatness—it is considered by many as one of the finest specimens of ancient Hebrew poetry in existence. Though translation mars the poetry’s beauty, below is a portion of Deborah’s Song:
My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel
Who offered themselves willingly among the people;
Bless the Lord!
Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys,
You who sit on rich carpets,
And you who walk by the way.
Hear the sound of musicians at the oases,
There they repeat the triumphs of the Lord,
The triumphs of his peasantry in Israel.
What can we learn from Deborah?
God is not prejudiced regarding gender, age or race. He will accomplish His purposes through men, women, or even children. Deborah made herself available to God and God used her to achieve great things. Christendom is not to be characterized by gender wars and dog-eat-dog ambition. Simply offer your abilities to God and, as He did with Deborah, He will give you a mission to accomplish whether you are male or female, young or old, one race or another.
Bible Verses about Deborah
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Deborah in the Bible?
- Who was the female judge in the Old Testament?
- What was the role of women in the Old Testament?
- How does Deborah impact the role of women in the Church?
- What did Deborah do?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis