Wednesday Woman of Influence – Deborah

A few weeks ago I asked you all what woman from the Bible you would like to know more about.  One of the leading responses was Deborah, so I’ve done so more reading about her and wanted to share some of my thoughts and observations with you.

1) I am amazed at Deborah’s influence. Deborah was a prophetess and judge of Israel at a time when it was highly unusual for a woman to serve in such positions of leadership.  It makes me think she must have had some significant influence to have been appointed to these positions to begin with.  (If anyone knows how prophets were appointed during this part of Israel’s history, please let us know.)  It also seems as if Deborah had respect beyond just the positional power of her role.  For example when Deborah gives the directive to Barak to go battle Sisera, Barak insists that Deborah go with him.  Now maybe he was thinking “If this stupid woman is going to send me to my death, she’s at least going with me”, however I get the impression that Barak respected Deborah and felt like her presence would be valuable.

2) She displayed incredible strength. I can’t imagine living in the times that she lived in.  Not only were living conditions tough, Israel was weak, defenseless and far from God.  I suspect moral was low and hope was barely a flicker.  But Deborah had hope and a vision from God and out of this she summoned the strength to still the voices of doubt and timidity, and as one author describes, “called the people to battle, leading them out of idolatry and restoring their dignity as God’s chosen ones”.

3) Deborah was humble. Rather than describe herself as prophetess or judge which were incredibly influential positions, she describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).

4) She was close to God. God gave her the directive for the battle with Sisera and she didn’t lose sight of this even in the heat of it.  Judges 4:14 says “Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand.  Has not the Lord gone out before you?'”  After the battle was finished she and Barak sang a victory song in which they repeatedly thank God.

5) Deborah had style. 🙂 Judges 4:5 says she would sit under a palm tree in the mountains and the children of Israel came to her for judgment.  Seems to me the best office space in Israel would be under a palm tree in the mountains.  It’s funny to me that the Bible would give the specifics of where she operated as judge… doesn’t seem that consequential to the story, but it made me smile.  As strong of a woman and leader she was, she was still a ‘girl’ – environment was important to her.

Read Judges 4 & 5 and share some of your observations of Deborah with us too!

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  • janowen July 9, 2008  

    I have just recently studied this story as I find myself relating to Deborah alot. I am not sure why because I am obviously not a judge nor would I say I am a prophet. I think it’s because she operated in a position that was traditionally male and I can so identify with that. She did so with grace and I admire that. She led with confidence. I pray I will do that. But one thing that stood out most to me was that she did not grab leadership – as you say she was humble. I would almost call her a “reluctant leader” at least in the military situation. She was willing to serve but was also willing not to go. I’m explaining poorly, but I can relate to that. I am a “Reluctant leader” – I never dreamed I would do what I do. I actually enjoy following. I am uncomfortable making the final call and telling people what to do. But I have always, always been in positions of leadership. I do not know why.

    The other thing to note in this story is that although she was married and her husband is named, she led on her own – just her and God. I found that comforting since I’ve fought that battle that I must serve under my husband even in ministry – and he’s an engineer! I found comfort in the fact that she answered to God, she served God, she was led by God, she was called by God. period.

  • Tommy Sircy July 9, 2008  

    I am impressed with her leadership qualities. She knew how to work with and through others. She commanded respect but gave God the glory.

    It’s Jael I want to steer clear of, especially at naptime.

  • Jenni Catron July 9, 2008  

    @Jan – I too found it interesting that her husband is named but in the context of the story she is the leader. Made me want to know more about him too.

    @Tommy – Ha! Yes, I wouldn’t mess with Jael!

  • ncarnes July 9, 2008  

    I don’t like this blog anymore, you make us read the Bible 🙂
    Deborah definitely stood out as the true leader in the story. As Mr. Maxwell has always said, Leadership is influence. It is obvious that if the battle was left up to Barak, he would have not gone forward, but it was through Deborah’s leadership (influence) that he was “led” into the battle.

    I think in the same instance she was confident and courageous. She was confident in the message that the Lord gave her to deliver to Barak so much to the point that she was willing to take part in the battle to see it fulfilled, she was confident the Lord kept His promises. If she was not so confident, I think she would have stayed behind. I also think she was courageous whereas I think Barak was a coward. I don’t think Barak was as confident in God’s command as Deborah was. In the story she immediately jumped on board to go fight. The very next story in chapters 6 & 7 covers Gideon who took forever to answer God’s call, but people talk about him all the time, usually for his negatives, but his story always ends with the victory over the Midianites…Deborah on the other hand never flenched, but Barak did. It may have been out of respect for her, but I think it was because he was less corageous than her.

    I also think Deborah was a little sassy because I just see her taunting him by saying he (as the man) was not going to get credit for the victory, but it would come at the hand of a woman. After all, towards the end of the story in Chapter 4, it was Barak who fought the battle and led the troops but he is not credited with the win.

    Thanks for the Bible study today 🙂

  • Tommy Sircy July 9, 2008  

    Back to how the prophets were appointed. The prophets were appointed directly by God. Some like Jeremiah were appointed before birth. But, since they were not influenced by a nominating committee, or a board of trust, their message was free of human intervention. That makes Deborah’s choice as the first and only female judge very interesting. Was God teaching us something we seem to have forgotten?

    I agree with Nick. You’re making us think too hard. I’m going to go back to Pete’s blog on lottery tickets, for now.

  • Pete Wilson July 9, 2008  

    Great post Jenni. I’m always amazed at just how much insight the Bible gives us into Godly leadership and influence! Some very cool nuggets in this story.

  • Monique Armstrong November 7, 2008  

    This is Debra’s story. Let her tell it. It was God who initiated the battle. It was Deborah who called the warriors to fight. It was Deborah who started the battle.

    We are told that she was both a Prophet (one who speaks with divine authority) and a Judge. She was a Lapidot‑woman, which could be translated “wife of Lapidot,” or “woman of torches.” Since Lapidot also means “torches,” more than likely it means that Deborah was a woman of fire or light!

    Lapidot is a very odd Jewish name and the word (name) doesn’t even have the standard patronymic beginning as other names, i.e., “son of.” And you know that Jewish names back then started with “Son of ___.” So I’d go with — woman of passion, power, light, fiery woman – a very powerful woman, as opposed to it meaning “wife of Lapidot. I am not arguing that she wasn’t married. Most women were maried back then. Certainly not as it is in these times.

    And, of course, another point to support my argument …. we do see that Deborah was a woman of fire…a torch lighter. See how demanding/fiery she was in demandin that General Barack carry out God’s commands that she apparently gave to him. Barack had to be called for to get his act together. How long had he waited, avoided her, shied away from the assignment? Who knows. We do know that he had waited too long for Deborah’s satsifaction. We see that Deborah had a desire for God’s command to be carried out!

    We also see that Deborah did not care how many thousands of men they had to fight! Nor was she moved by anything else. She already knew the outcome! And how did she know that! God told her. She was a REAL prophetess….not like those who “Call Themselves” that name.

    She may or may not have been married. We must also keep in mind that Deborah is the one whose torch ignites General Barak. By the way, Barak means “lightning”. So the terminology “Woman – Lapidot” more than likely was not her husband’s last name.

    In those days, Israel’s judges were the charismatic leaders—they were the royals – no monarchy. It is pretty much common biblical knowledge that the judges commonly got their positions by winning great battles, which was true also for some kings. It is reasonable therefore to believe that this wasn’t the first battle that Deborah had led and won, or she could have gotten her position by being a mediator between the people and the Lord about battles. We don’t know.

    Yet Deborah tells us a great deal in her “Song.” She tells us that Israel was out of power, that Israel had “fallen,” and there had been a total breakdown of order. It was a dangerous place to live, and there was no help “until [I] arose, Deborah, a mother in Israel (Judges 5:7) – not a Mother of Israel, but a Mother IN Israel. I believe she was simply a mother. But we can see how she would be called a mother OF Israel as well.

    We are not told what she did, but we know she was responsible for bringing peace to Israel! She was not just a judge, she was a ruler. Their silence on such important matters is a reminder that neither the story nor the Song was framed as a record of Deborah’s life. Most of her role can be gleaned from the story. For example, she sent for the General Barack. Apparently, she had previously gave him a message from God that he had not carried out. “She said to him, ‘Did not Yaweh command: “Go and pull toward Mount Tabor and take with you ten thousand men from the men of Naphtali and Zebulun.

    I will draw Sisera the head of Yavin’s army and his chariotry and masses to Wadi Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.” Barak told her he would do it, obey God, IF she went with him! A woman!! He was obviously afraid, but believed in her so much that he’d go if she went! So this coming from a general of an army says a lot about who Deborah was in Israel! Deborah’s response tells us her attitude about Barak’s failure to follow the Lord’s original instructions. She told him she would go, and especially because she knew he, the General—would not get any glory out of it and this pleased her.

    As the story tells us, she was not pleased with those who did not come to Israel’s aid to fight this battle. How did Deborah know this?! She knew because the Lord had told her. She said… for into the hand of a woman the Lord will deliver Sisera.” Later we find Deborah scolding the cities who cowarded-out of joining the battle. She scolds cities—their leaders! So who was this woman?

    She was one of the rulers of Israel. A woman of great power and influence. Her power clearly came from her God-given office as Phophetess. As a photess she was able to guide the people as a judge being advised by God. Barak is engerized by this woman’s decision to go with him to battle. He believed if she went he and his army would be victorious. How can one woman have that much esteem in the eyes of a general and his army?! Perhaps if the other cities had known she was riding with them leading the army, they too would have joined in the battle.

    Historically, it was not uncommon for there to be female prophets or Women at War as they were called. This was not some strange occurrence. Most of the Assyrian prophets were women, and reports from ancient and even more recent biblical times showed a consistent pattern of women involved inspiring armies and taunting their enemy. Although most of the stories and experiences of these women were not included in the Bible, they existed. Certainly, Deborah was not the only prophetess or judge who helped rule Isarael.

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