The name of Deborah means bee. “Science confirms the ancient belief that of all the animal kingdom, the bee ranks among the highest in intelligence. Deborah stands out as among the wisest of all the Old Testament.” (Mary Hallet)
The Bible does not tell us much about Deborah’s family. We know that she was married to a man named Lapidoth (Judges 4:4). They lived between Bethel and Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim. The palm tree under which Deborah sat as she judged for the children of Israel became a landmark known as “The Palm of Deborah” (Judges 4:5). She was referred to as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7), but there is no record of any children being born to Deborah and Lapidoth.
Deborah, having superior spiritual, mental and physical powers, was called by God to be a judge over the Israelites. God also gave her the task of delivering her people once again from captivity. A captivity brought on by their idolatry and trying to do what was right in their own eyes. She was one of the females called a prophetess in the Scriptures. Being a prophet or prophetess meant having the ability to speak for God. In other words, being a prophetess, she was able to be the mediator between God and the Israelites.
Deborah, however, did more than prophesy; she also gave her people the determination to free themselves from their bondage. As the people came out to hear her wisdom, she talked to them of their deliverance, with the help of the Lord, from their oppressors. After 20 years of oppression, Deborah became the deliverer of her people. After the victory over Sisera, she was judge over all Israel for 40 years. During this period Israel rested from war and captivity (Judges 5:31).
It was because Deborah believed God could and would do what He said that she sent for Barak, a trained man of war (Judges 4:6,7) and said to him, “Has not God commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you 10,000 men of the sons of Zebulun and against you I will draw Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand?’”
To Barak the task seemed hopeless. He did not appear to have as much faith as Deborah because his answer was, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, then I will not go.” (Judges 4:8) Maybe it was because Israel had been in slavery so long that it made Barak seem a little afraid.
Did Deborah hesitate? Not for an instant – she replied “I will surely go with you, nevertheless, there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedish. (Judges 4:9)
Sisera had 900 iron chariots and a multitude (100,000) of soldiers, and Barak had only 10,000 men plus God to fight for him. But in spite of the odds, Deborah’s faith in God did not waver. God was her ally. Even the “stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” (Judges 5:20) God sent a tremendous rain/hail storm that caused the river of Kishon to flood, rendered the chariots useless and overwhelmed the army of Sisera. The men with Barak were able to kill all the men of Sisera except Sisera. He left his chariot and fled. Barak pursued him but did not find him. Sisera went to Jael’s house. Here was the woman, Deborah had told Barak, “God would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)
Sisera met Jael in the road, and she invited him into her house to rest. “And he said to her, ‘Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.’ So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him. (Judges 4:19; 5:25) She covered him with a blanket, and when he was asleep she drove a tent peg through his temple in to the ground. (Judges 4:21, 5:26) She received the glory of killing Sisera as well as much criticism, but Deborah was known as the woman who, through her faith in God, rescued her people from their enemy.
Deborah could not only prophecy, arouse, rule and fight, but also write. After her victory over the Canaanites, she composed a song which is regarded as one of the finest specimens of ancient Hebrew poetry, being superior even to the celebrated song of Miriam. Deborah’s song in Judges 5 magnifies the Lord as being the one who enabled Israel’s leaders to defeat their enemies. No character in the Old Testament stands out in bolder relief than Deborah, prophetess, ruler, warrior and poetess. Her song is immortal because her life was dedicated to God, and her deeds heroic and sublime. (Dr. Lockyer) Her dedication and trust in God was her most valuable of all her talents.
Read Judges 5 carefully. The most important lesson we can learn from the study of the life of Deborah is that faith in God will give us courage to overcome. It was her unfailing faith in God that gave her the courage to deliver her people. (Judges 5:31)
From the study of the Old Testament we can learn how God dealt with His people and all He did for those who obeyed Him. If we only believe and obey, He will do for us all that He promised. Just as Deborah is remembered because she served God to the limit of her ability, we should also strive to serve Him in the same capacity.
The author of this article is Unknown
Originally printed in the Summer 2010 issue V3N3