Who was Deborah in the Bible?

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    What do you know about Deborah in the Bible?


    Deborah was a prophet and one of the female judges of Israel, she is known for leading the people of God to fight against the Canaanites.
    Here’s the story,
    After Ehud died, Israel once again sinned against God. So the Lord sold them to a Canaanite king.
    This king ruled over them for twenty years. He was harsh and cruel. His army had 900 iron chariots, and his commander’s name was Sisera.
    The person who judged Israel at the time was a prophet named Deborah. When the people had problems among themselves, they went to a place called the “Palm Tree of Deborah.” She would sit there and hear their complaints and then settle their disagreements.
    One day she called for a man named Barak and said to him, “The Lord has a message for you. He says, ‘Take 10,000 men and go to Mount Tabor. I’ll cause Sisera to come to you with his chariots and his army. He’ll come to fight you,
    but I’ll give him to you.’ ”
    Barak said to Deborah, “I’ll go and do as the Lord says, but only if you go with me. If you don’t go, I won’t go.”
    She said, “I’ll go with you, but if I do, you won’t get the credit for killing Sisera. The Lord will give that honor to a woman.” Barak agreed, so Deborah went with him.
    Barak gathered 10,000 men and went up
    Mount Tabor. Sisera heard about this, so he took his 900 chariots and his army and headed toward Mount Tabor. Deborah said to Barak, “Now’s the
    time! Take your men and attack Sisera.”
    So Barak moved his men down the mountain and attacked the Canaanite army. The Lord was with him, and caused Sisera’s men to be confused. They turned and ran. When Sisera saw this, he left his chariot and tried to escape
    on foot. Barak chased the army until every man was killed.
    Sisera ran until he came to the tent of Jael.
    Her husband was in alliance with the Canaanite king. She saw Sisera coming, so she went out and said, “Come in here, and you’ll be safe.”
    He went in and she hid him under a rug. He said, “Please, give me water to drink.” She gave him milk, and he sat up and drank it. He said, “Stand at the door of the tent. If anyone asks if there is a man in here, tell them ‘No.’”
    She then covered him again, and since he was exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep.
    Jael went and got a tent peg and a hammer.
    She quietly knelt down next to Sisera and put the tent peg on the temple of his head. Then with solid blows, she nailed it through his head and into the ground.
    Soon Barak came by her tent in search of Sisera. She went out and said, “Come and I’ll show you the man you’re looking for.” Barak went into her tent and saw Sisera lying dead on the floor with a tent peg through his temple.
    Israel continued to fight the Canaanite king until they were victorious. Then they lived in peace for forty years.


    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.


    Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth, but he was a nonentity and we hear no more about him. She had many gifts and roles. First she was a prophetess. She was by no means the only woman prophet. We hear also of Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14) and in New Testament times Anna (Luke 2:36).
    But Deborah was also a judge, indeed the only one of the judges who is actually described as exercising judicial functions. “It was her custom,” we are told, “to sit beneath the Palm Tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephrahim, and the Israelites went up to her for justice.” This arcadian scene recalls Moses as judge, and evidently when this book of the Bible was edited, over two hundred years later, the tree was still in existence, and revered, and known by her name. Her evident repute and prestige as a judge reveals that she was learned, knowing all the regulations later described, not only in the Pentateuch but in Deuteronomy and Numbers, and much case law too. People came to her because her rulings were respected and took effect. When Sisera’s terrify￾ing force of iron chariots threatened the settled land, “the Israelites cried out for help” but they turned to Deborah for advice and deci￾sions. Her ruling was prompt. She could decide, from her wisdom, the nature of the campaign to be fought against Sisera, and the general strategy. But, being a woman (and probably an old one), it was unbecoming for her to direct detailed, tactical operations on the battlefield. For that a professional soldier was needed. “So she sent for Barak, son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali,” and issued to him God’s commands, she acting as prophetic spokeswoman for the Deity: “Go and recruit ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun, and bring them with you to Mount Tabor. I will entice Sisera to the torrent of Koshon with all his chariots and his horse, and there I will deliver them into your hands.”
    General Barak’s willingness to obey Deborah’s summons testifies to her authority, and he accepted her plan moreover. But the reply with which he qualified his submission is still more telling:

    “If you go with me [into battle], I will go. but if you will not go, neither will I.” That was blunt: her morale-boosting presence on the battlefield was essential to victory, in his view. And he, as battle commander, needed her physical reassurance, and advice on tactics too. So it had been with Moses. She assented with a grim feminist note: “Certainly I will go with you, but this action will bring you no glory, because the Lord will leave Sisera to fall into the hands of a woman.”

    So Deborah went with Barak at the head of his ten thousand men. When Sisera heard of Barak’s movement, he took his entire force to the bottom of Mount Tabor. That was exactly what Deborah had hoped for. Torrential rains, pouring down the slopes, had turned the plain below Mount Tabor into a quagmire. She woke the sleeping Barak: “‘Up! This day the Lord gives Sisera into your hands! Already the Lord has gone out to battle before you.’ By this
    she meant the rain.” So Barak came charging down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand infantry at his back. Sisera’s huge force of chariots became useless in the rapidly forming marsh, sticking
    in the mud. Their spearmen had to dismount, and were picked off one by one. They tried to flee, but the Israelite foot soldiers pursued them, and killed all.
    Sisera too abandoned his bogged-down chariot and “fled on foot.” It is always a poignant moment when the commander of a powerful and triumphant cavalry force miscalculates, sees his squadrons distintegrate and suddenly finds himself alone, without even a horse. Some hours elapsed, and many weary miles. The proud commander, now muddy, frightened and exhausted, came across a group of tents of a tribe he believed friendly to King Jabin. He approached a woman’s tent, for safety, and Jael came out to meet him and said: “Come in here, my lord, come in do not be afraid.” He went in, and she covered him with a rug. It was, of course, against all etiquette for a man, especially a fugitive, to violate the sanctity of a woman’s tent. And Sisera, in his distress, went on to commit two further breaches of social laws. He asked for refreshment without waiting for an invitation. He said to Jael: “Give me some water to drink I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin full of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up again. Thus emboldened, he tried to take charge of the woman. He said to her: “Stand at the tent entrance, and if anybody comes and asks if someone is here, say No.”
    This was too much. Jael, whose husband was Heber the Kenite (another nonentity), affronted and angered, waited till Sisera was asleep, then “took a tent-peg, picked up a mallet, crept up to him and drove the peg into his skull as he slept. His brains oozed out into the ground, his limbs twitched, and he died.”
    In due course Barak arrived in pursuit, and Jael went out to him and said, “Come, I will show you the man you are looking for.” Barak went in, found the wretched corpse, and remembered Deborah’s prophecy.


    Deborah was a prophetess and judge in Israel. She was a woman who knew what needed to be done and wasn’t afraid to tell people. And apparently it was obvious to everyone else that she knew what she was talking about, because they listened.

    We first read about Deborah, who was married to a man named Lappidoth, when she was leading the Israelites as a prophetess. She had set up her court in the hill country of Ephraim, roughly in the middle of the nation, and people came to her to have their disputes settled (Judges 4:4–5).

    At some point, the Lord made it clear to Deborah that a man named Barak in the northern part of Israel was supposed to lead the Israelites to fight against the Canaanites who lived near him. When she told Barak, he must have gotten cold feet—but he trusted Deborah, because he refused to go into battle unless she went with him (Judges 4:7–8).

    Deborah agreed to go, but she warned Barak that, as a result, he would forfeit the glory for the victory. In the end, Deborah and Barak won a great victory over the Canaanites, and they celebrated by singing a victory song together. The hill country of Ephraim, where Deborah set up her court, was home to several other early leaders of Israel. The judge Ehud lived there (Judges 3), as did the judge/prophet Samuel (I Samuel 7:15– 17) and the first king, Saul (I Samuel 9:1–4).

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