Deborah was one of the female judges in the Bible.
She was the one who prophesied and led Israel’s victory (along with Barak) over the Canaanites army.
Women were prized too for their wisdom, tenderness, passion, and at times heroic ruthlessness. This is brought out with great force in the story of Deborah, which is told in Judges chapters 4 and 5. It is told twice over, first in prose, then in verse, and the Hebrew is superb.
As with all the stories in Judges the scene is set by Israelite sinfulness that is, their relaxing of racial apartheid and their mingling with the pagans, including observing their religious and cultural rites, what the Bible calls “doing what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord.”
When this happens Yahweh selects an instrument for the castigation of his people, in this case “Jabez the Canaanite king, who ruled in Hazor.” The account says that Jabez had a general, Sisera,
“who lived in Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles,” and that he oppressed the Israelites “for twenty years” (i.e., a long time, though not a very long time, which would have been “forty years”).
Sisera was a mercenary, and probably a Philistine or a commander of Philistine
mercenaries, who we surmise set himself up as a king in his own right. Sisera, we are told, had “nine hundred chariots of iron” and the Israelites had no mobile armor at all. But they had Deborah, and her wisdom and power of command.
This enchanting woman provides one of the most satisfying biblical portraits.