Women of the Bible – Deborah

Her name means: “Honey Bee”

Her character: Her vision of the world was shaped not by the political
situation of her day but by her relationship with God. Though women in the
ancient world did not usually become political leaders, Deborah was just the
leader Israel needed—a prophetess who heard God and believed him and whose
courage aroused the people, enabling them to throw off foreign oppression. /
Her sorrow: That her people had sunk into despair because of their idolatry,
forgetting God’s promises and the faith of their ancestors. / Her joy: That
God turned the enemy’s strength on its head, bestowing power to the weak and
blessing the land with peace for forty years. / Key Scriptures: Judges 4-5

Her Story
Jericho, gateway to Canaan, had lain in ruins for two hundred years. From
there, the Israelites had swept across the country like a storm of locusts,
devouring everything in their path. But the native peoples had somehow managed
to survive, and like well-rooted weeds, their idolatry spread until it began
to strangle Israel’s faith.

Rahab and Joshua were the palest of memories now, and the
slaves-turned-warriors were once again underdogs, oppressed for twenty years
by a coalition of Canaanite rulers, whose chief warrior was Sisera. His nine
hundred iron-plated chariots terrified the ill-armed Israelite people,
threatening to sweep over them with invincible force. Small wonder no one
challenged him.

Sisera must have felt smugly secure, especially since Israel was now led by a
woman. But his military calculations failed to account for one key variable:
the strategic power of that woman’s faith. Deborah was a prophetess who held
court under a palm tree several miles northwest of Jericho. Though much of
Israel was divided and dispirited, she refused to lose heart. How could she
forget God’s faithfulness, living so close to ruined Jericho?

She summoned Barak, a Hebrew from the north, and told him plainly: “The Lord,
the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of
Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the
commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon
River and give him into your hands.’ ”

But, like every other man of Israel, Barak was terrified of Sisera, and he
refused to comply unless one condition was met: Deborah must accompany him in
battle. She would be his talisman in the fight. “Very well,” she replied, “I
will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor
will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.”

Hearing of the plot, Sisera led his troops and chariots to the Kishon Wadi, a
dry riverbed, determined to crush the uprising. But his very strength turned
against him as rain swelled the valley to floodtide. Suddenly, nine hundred
iron chariots became a huge liability. No matter how furiously the soldiers
flogged their horses, urging them onward, oozing mud held them. They became
easy targets for Barak’s troops sweeping down from Mount Tabor, putting every
man but Sisera to the sword.

Once again, God had heard his people’s cries and had sent a deliverer—this
time a woman whose faith stilled the nattering voices of doubt and timidity so
that the people could hear the one Voice that mattered. On their day of
victory, Deborah and Barak sang this song:

When the princes in Israel take the lead, / when the people willingly offer
themselves— / praise the Lord! / Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! / I
will sing to the Lord, I will sing; / I will make music to the Lord, the God
of Israel…. / Village life in Israel ceased, / ceased until I, Deborah, arose,
/ arose a mother in Israel. – Judges 5:2-3, 7

Indeed, a mother in Israel had arisen, a woman whose strong faith gave birth
to hope and freedom and a peace that lasted forty years. Never again would the
Canaanites join forces against Israel. Like an ancient Joan of Arc, Deborah
arose and called the people to battle, leading them out of idolatry and
restoring their dignity as God’s chosen ones.

Her Promise
Godly Deborah has been an encouragement to women throughout the centuries.
When women feel confined or mistreated, when they are unsure of what is right
or which way to proceed, when they are entering unknown territory, when they
feel overlooked or ignored—they gain stability and help from remembering
Deborah. Whatever Deborah had is available to you today. Her wisdom is
discovered in the Scriptures. Her confidence in God is found in a relationship
with him. Her bravery is achievable when you put your trust in God and his
promises. Her inner strength and calm leadership are characteristic of
confidence not in herself but in her God. All Deborah offered to Israel she
offers to you as an example of a woman willing to be used by God.

Today’s reading is a brief excerpt from Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. The book’s title must be included when sharing the above content on social media. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy in the Bible Gateway Store:

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