Deborah in the Bible: What We Can Learn from Her About Courage And Faith

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As we continue our look at women of the Bible (see this post on Rahab or this one on Ruth), we would be remiss if we didn’t include Deborah in the Bible.

Judge Deborah ranks among the most famous women of the Bible. Deborah stands out not only for her wisdom, but, also for her courage. She is the only woman of the Old Testament who is known for her own faith and action, not because of her relationship to any man.

image of gavel with text overlay Deborah in the Bible: What we can learn from her about courage and faith

Who was Deborah in the Bible?

 

With an impressive resume of judge, military strategist, poet and prophet, she was also a singer and songwriter.

Judge Deborah was only one of five women described as a prophet in the Old Testament (the others are: Miriam (Exodus. 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and “the prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3). As a prophet, judge Deborah was said to hear God’s voice and share the Word with others. As a priestess, she did not offer sacrifices, as the men did, but she did lead worship services and preach.

The only other person who was a combination prophet and judge was Samuel. (Now that’s some impressive company!)

According to the Book of Judges, Deborah was a prophetess and the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. Many texts also believe that she was also a wife. The same word is used in Hebrew for “woman” and “wife,” so we don’t know for sure if Deborah was a “woman of Lappidoth” (a place) or “wife of Lappidoth” (a person)

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. – Judges 4:4 

In Old Testament times, a woman could be only three things:a virgin, a married woman, or widowed. Deciding to live single was not on a young woman’s list of options unless her husband had died and she had a big enough dowry to support herself.

Some Biblical scholars have suggested that “lappidot” was not the name of Deborah’s husband or region, but rather the phrase “eshet lappidot” means quite literally “woman of torches”, a reference to Deborah’s fiery nature.

We know that Deborah was a “mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7). Yet we don’t know for certain if that means she was a mother to children. More likely “mother in Israel” is a title indicating that the nation looked to Deborah for leadership as the nation’s mother similarly to how the childless George Washington could be called “the father or our nation” of the United States.

In Judges 5, we read judge Deborah’s story again, but this time in poetic form. This passage, often called The Song of Deborah, is believed to date as early as the 12th century BC and is possibly the earliest example of Hebrew poetry. This poem celebrates her victory over the Canaanites. Deborah’s courage and wisdom in calling up an army to break Hazor’s control gave the Israelites 40 years of peace.

judge Deborah in the Bible

 

Deborah was Wise and a Trusted Counselor

Judge Deborah was one of the rulers of the Israelites prior to the monarchy period that began with Saul (around 1047 BC). These rulers were called mishpat—”judges,”—an office that traced back to a time when Moses appointed assistants to help him resolve disputes among the Hebrews (Exodus 18). Their practice was to seek guidance from God through prayer and meditation before making a ruling. Therefore, many of the judges also were considered prophets who spoke “a word from the Lord.”

She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites would approach her for judgment.

This location, “between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim,” places Deborah and the Hebrews in an area controlled by King Jabin of Hazor, who had oppressed the Israelites for 20 years, according to the Bible. The reference to Jabin of Hazor is confusing since the Book of Joshua says that it was Joshua who conquered Jabin and burned Hazor, one of the main Canaanite city-states, to the ground a century earlier. Several theories have been put forth to try to solve this detail, but none have been satisfactory thus far. The most common theory is that Deborah’s King Jabin was a descendant of Joshua’s defeated enemy and that Hazor had been rebuilt during intervening years.

Judge Deborah was a Warrior 

Having received instruction from God, Deborah called forth an Israelite warrior named Barak. Barak was Deborah’s junior, her next in command. (The name Barak means lightning but he would not strike until he was given instruction by judge Deborah.) She told him to take 10,000 troops up to Mount Tabor to confront Jabin’s general, Sisera, who led an army made up of 900 iron chariots.

The Jewish Virtual Library suggests that Barak’s response to Deborah “shows the high esteem in which this ancient prophetess was held.” Other interpreters have said insisted that Barak’s response actually shows his discomfort at being ordered into battle by a woman, even if she was the ruling judge at the time. Barak said: “If you will go with me, I will go; if not I will not go” (Judges 4:8). In the next verse, Deborah agreed to go into battle with the troops but told him: “However, there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman” (Judges 4:9).

Hazor’s general, Sisera, immediately responded to the news of the Israelite revolt by bringing his chariots to Mount Tabor. 

Deborah women of the Bible

 

Judge Deborah’s Receives Prophecy 

The Israelite warriors won the battle and General Sisera escaped to the camp of the Kenites. Sisera asked for sanctuary in the tent of Jael (or Yael), wife of the clan leader. Thirsty, he asked for water, but she gave him milk and curds, a heavy meal that caused him to fall asleep. Seizing her opportunity, Jael tiptoed into the tent and drove a tent peg through Sisera’s head with a mallet. Thus Jael gained fame for killing Sisera, which diminished Barak’s fame for his victory over King Jabin’s army, as Deborah had prophesied.

You can find everything that you are looking for about Women of the Bible: Unintentional Mentors, in this post as well as in-depth studies on each of the 8 women we cover (Deborah, Elizabeth, Miriam, Rahab, Sarah and more) but you may also wish to purchase the ebook for your convenience. No ads, no pop ups and you’ll have it forever to refer to when fasting. It includes tons of videos and additional downloads. The best part – it’s only $7 for 137 pages! Your choice, read it here or have it forever.

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So What Can we Learn from Judge Deborah

Judge Deborah’s story has often been discussed regarding how God uses women to serve His Kingdom.

Reading the story of Judge Deborah in the Bible, we learn (at least) four things:

Be Obedient – What you feel God asking you to do may be terrifying, but if He is telling you to go somewhere or do something – Go! He has a plan that we can’t fathom. Hearts and lives may be at stake and your own life could be richly blessed by your obedience.

Be courageous – stepping out in faith can be frightening. Have you ever had a time in your life when you were called to lead but didn’t feel equipped? The old saying is that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called”. He will equip you. Be bold, sister!

Stand true in your faith – We don’t have to understand the how or why. We just need to understand that God will faithfully guide us.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land – 2 Chronicle 7:14 

Listen before speaking – Judge Deborah listened under the palm tree. She took in all sides and then, with God speaking to her, made her decrees. Before acting or speaking, listen. Then ask God to reveal to you which direction you should go.

I encourage you to read Judges 4 and 5. Take in Judge Deborah’s story. Pray about it. Ask God to reveal to you the lessons He would have you learn.

For more on Judge Deborah, consider these recommended resources:

I love this one. It’s children’s book but clearly explains the life and mission of Judge Deborah in the Bible.

This one is a collection of stories about courageous women of the Bible including judge Deborah. You can find the review here.  I loved this one as a reminder to be bold for Christ.

What lesson or lessons have you learned by reading about judge Deborah in the Bible? I’d love to hear from you!

Because He Lives,

Sue

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Susan is a writer, speaker and the creator of Women of Noble Character ministries. She is passionate about helping Christian women deepen their walk with God through Bible study and creative worship and strengthen their marriages.

She lives in rural North Central Missouri with her handsome and hilarious husband and a myriad of dogs, cats and chickens.

Susan runs on Jesus, coffee and not enough sleep.

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22 Comments

    1. Yes! It all begins with faith and obedience – that can be harder to do than say, right? I’ll pray for you to stay obedient to Him in this (and all) seasons of your life! Thank you for stopping by!

      1. This was extremely informative! I’m going to read Judges 4 and 5 and ask God to reveal to me lessons he wants me to learn. I was told I’m like Deborah from last year and I kept putting off researching her. I often step back from my talents as it’s heavy to carry but I told God this time I won’t draw back I’m standing on his word that he’ll equip me for anything He tells me to do. May God continue to bless you immensely!

    2. very informative with great insight on how women required to remain faithful to god by seeking his guidance in our life in order to achieve God’s purpose. Thanks a lot .

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article, I am in the middle of my Army Chaplain Training at Ft Jackson and continue to battle a part of my mind that tells me , I am not supposed to be here. Although, I know God called me and that is why I am here. Blessings to you

    1. Amanda, thank you for your servant’s heart. May God be your strength and refuge as you continue your training. Thank you for stopping by and sharing. God bless.

  2. God is faithful, it’s been a time of refreshing learning about Judge Deborah’s confidence and courage in God. God bless you for the insight.

    1. You are very welcome! God is so good and so faithful and we can learn so much from those who have come before us. Thanks for stopping by and may God bless you!

      1. Always want to be a true woman of God as i read tjis article i see where my calling can be fulfilled

  3. I am very much interested to join the Deborah women internationally ? Cause of the boldness and courage Deborah has..

    1. Hi, Connie – I’m not aware of an international Deborah women’s group, but agree that she had courage and boldness that is inspiring. Thank you for writing and stopping by!

  4. Hi Courageous Women of God. I always loved reading this story of Deborah and Barak. In this era I see Deborah as a Woman with a 20/20 Vision. Way before we were called to stand and be counted for God, Christ stood and was counted for us.

  5. I’m Deborah. Several years ago I was studying the bible and what jumped out was how God changed the names of those to do his work. So I checked out Deborah. I have always stood up for what is right.And reached out to help others. But I want to be that Deborah of the bible.
    And pray for the wisdom, knowledge, courage and leadership that made her the woman she was. Thank you for this story.

    1. You are very welcome. I so glad that you enjoyed it. Deborah was an amazing woman and there’s so much we can learn from her. Have a blessed day and thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hello, Deborah Sue! In addition to the post, I share some resources at the bottom. let me know if I can further direct you. Have a beautiful and blessed day!

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