Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
Information about Deborah is found in the Book of Judges, Chapters 4 and 5. There were twelve judges in all, but Deborah was the only woman judge. Information about some of the judges is contained in one or two verses. The scripture reads, "This judge did what was good in the sight of the Lord" or "This judge did what was evil in the sight of the Lord." However, there is much more information about Deborah. Details about her cover two chapters.
God had raised Deborah up to be the fourth judge of Israel during a time when the other judges did evil in the sight of the Lord. It was at a time when Israel had been under severe oppression for twenty years. It was a time of chaos and unrest. It was definitely a time that strong leadership was needed.
In the middle of the oppression, "Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time" (Judges 4:4). People might wonder why God chose Deborah to judge during the long oppression when the male judges failed at their job.
Deborah: A Prophetess, a Judge and a Military Leader
It was unusual for women to have a major position in the Old Testament. Leadership positions were usually held by men. However, God equipped Deborah to do what the male judges failed to do. Not only did she take on those cases, but she also solved them and offered spiritual advice. She was respected by all of Israel.
Deborah's name means "honey bee." There are two major characteristics of a honey bee. A honey bee can make something sweet, and a honey bee can sting. Deborah knew when to sweeten something, and she knew when to sting something. She could do both to get the job done.
Deborah held important positions. She was a prophetess, a judge, and a military leader. All the other judges held just one position. Most prophets were just prophets. Most military leaders were just that and nothing more.
Deborah: A Wife
Deborah was the wife of Lapidoth. She knew how to balance her life as a wife as well as a prophetess, judge, and military leader. She was able to do all of her jobs successfully because God had ordained her to do so.
While most wives were home cooking, cleaning, weaving, and raising their children, Deborah was working in the Kingdom of God.
Patm Tree of Deborah
Deborah had a special place to judge. She held court in her own yard under the Palm tree of Deborah, named after her. Deborah's palm tree was a great landmark because there was only one tree of its kind in the area.
It is no coincidence that Deborah held court under a palm tree instead of a sycamore tree like Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus. It was not a fig tree like Jesus cursed for not bearing fruit even though it had leaves. It was not a strong tree like the cedars of Lebanon. However, the palm tree was symbolic of the work that Deborah did. It represented peace, justice, righteousness, and victory.
Deborah's Historical Case
Even though Deborah could prophesy and judge, she was also a strong military leader. God sent a man named Barak to assist her in her military duties. Deborah gave Barak the order to go into battle against Jabin, king of Canaan, and his commander Sisera. Then Barak said, "If you will go with me, I'll go, but if you will not go with me I will not go" (Judges 4:8). So, Deborah went with Barak.
Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh (Judges 4:9).
Deborah prophesied that Sisera would be completely defeated by a woman. Readers might initially think Deborah is talking about herself until they read later that it is someone else.
Barack did defeat the large army as Deborah had prophesied. All men were killed except Sisera who escaped on foot and went to the tent of Jael thinking he was safe. He asked for a drink and she gave him milk to relax him. He fell asleep on the ground of the tent. Jael used a hammer to drive a tent peg through his temple. After that incident, Israel enjoyed peace for the next 40 years (Judges 5:31).
Deborah's Story Recorded Twice
Deborah's story stands out in the Bible because it is told twice. Judges 4 tells her story in prose form mostly about herself. Judges 5 contains "The Song of Deborah" which gives details about how the battle was won.