Deborah in the Bible is one of the better-known women of the Bible, but how much do we truly know of the life of Deborah and her role in the Bible? We find her story in the book in the Old Testament book of Judges chapter 4. Deborah is one of the few women in the Bible (especially in the Old Testament) mentioned by name, but she’s also one of the only women in the Bible to step into a leadership role over the people of Israel.
But who was this Deborah in the Bible? What makes her relevant to our lives today? And what impacts can she have on us? I’m so glad you asked.
Deborah In The Bible
The story of Deborah in the Bible comes against the backdrop of the people of Israel once again turning their backs on the Lord and living under the oppression of the hand of Jabin king of Canaan and the Canaanite army. They like their parents and grandparents once the judges of Israel passed away embraced the culture. For 20 years they have lived in bondage and captivity, it’s here in the ancient pages of the old testament chronicling the history of ancient Israel that we meet Deborah in the Bible.
Who Was Deborah In The Bible?
Deborah has long been one of my favorite women in the Bible, her story is filled with courage, and her faith could leave us all inspired. But who was Deborah in the Bible anyway and what were Deborah’s roles in the book of Judges? The meaning of Deborah in the Bible is bee.
- Deborah in the Bible was a prophet of God.
- She is the 4th judge mentioned in the book of Judges, and the only female judge mentioned in the Bible.
- She was a leader of Israel.
- Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth.
- She became a military leader.
- She was a songwriter and minstrel leading her people in worship after the victory had been won.
Sadly scripture doesn’t go into a lot of Deborah’s story, we aren’t told how she rose to these positions or her triumphs and struggles along the way. We simply step into Deborah’s story in Judges 4 and find her holding “court” beneath the palm tree of Deborah. This setting was a symbol of her fairness, and refusal to show partiality in her rulings. Scripture says that the people sought out Deborah’s judgment.
Deborah’s Role In The Bible
Deborah’s roles as judge, prophet, and leader were important, she played an important role in the spiritual leadership as well as guidance to her people. Her faithfulness not only to Israel but to God finds her stepping into the role of a military commander. Deborah’s courage and obedience to God’s call is an excellent example to Christian women.
Judge Deborah was a woman of God, that ruled with fairness, and wisdom. But she was also a prophet, her prophecies guiding the Israelites in the word of God.
Deborah was also a wife, which means she had to balance all of these roles- that makes her a pretty incredible woman in my book.
Perhaps the most striking verse in Judges 4 is verse 6, the Bible says that Deborah sends for a man called Barak. She doesn’t ask him to come, she doesn’t plead. She simply sends for him with authority. Her authority didn’t come from herself, her skill, her reputation, her job titles, but from the God she served.
Deborah Bible Verse
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. Judges 4:4 NIV
This is our introduction to Deborah in the Bible, straight and to the point.
She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. Judges 4:8-9 NIV
Her own faith shines through this passage, there is no fear of what others will think or do. She is confident in the Lord’s help, and the word of the Lord.
I love how as you read verse 6 you can almost feel the weight of authority in her words as she sends for Barak. The Bible says that she “sent word” and “summoned” him. Deborah tells him to gather men and prepare to go to war. Just like that she just appointed him a military leader and declared war on King Jabin and the Canaanite army that has been oppressing them.
Barak’s response however doesn’t share Deborah’s confidence. He has doubts. He’s afraid. The army of Sisera is big and mighty. His faith isn’t as strong as hers, and he hesitates.
What Is The Story Of Deborah And Barak?
Barak’s reaction to Deborah’s summons is so unusual, he doesn’t question her authority, her ability, her wisdom, or her knowledge. Doesn’t ask who she is to order him around. Doesn’t ask for the whole battle plan or why now. In fact, he doesn’t even ask why him.
Deborah just ordered him to take 10,000 men and go fight the king that’s been oppressing them for 20 years -a king that has 900 chariots and infantry-. And yet there is no “yeah right”, no snickers, no mocking questions, no “did you think this out all the way, no weighing the cost of these decisions. He only says one thing: “If you will go with me, I will go,”
See it’s still disobedience, God told him to do something. To take up the role of General Barak, military commander, and lead the army of Israelites. But he allows his fear and doubts to get in the way like we so often do. His faith isn’t strong enough, so he wanted this woman of faith to come with him, I think many times we are a little hard on this biblical figure when we are so prone to the same behavior.
We know our faith isn’t strong enough, so instead of allowing the situation to grow us, we rely on the faith of those around us to get us through.
Perhaps Barak wanted someone near that believed in God’s word so that when his faith wavered she was there to stoke the fire of faith once more. Maybe he wanted her to remind him of where his authority came when the hard days came, and people doubted their mission, and in the dark hours when he found himself wagging silent battles. To remind himself of the strength of the Lord God of Israel.
There are always consequences to disobedience, and so the same is true in the story of Deborah and Barak in the Bible. The victory wasn’t his, the honor and fame of defeating General Sisera will no longer be his. Here we meet Jael, and the fulfillment of Deborah’s prophecy. Jael’s actions ensure victory for the Israelite army and she is remembered for this. Even Deborah sings of her actions.
Want to go deeper into the story of Deborah in the Bible? Try our Bible Study printable!
Characteristics Of Deborah In The Bible
- Deborah in the Bible is a woman with great wisdom.
- Deborah is a woman of strong faith.
- Deborah in the Bible has great leadership skills.
- Deborah is just.
- Deborah in the Bible balanced the many roles she played from prophet, to judge, to leader and wife.
- Deborah was humble and sought God’s guidance.
- Deborah in the Bible was a woman of authority.
- Deborah was a woman of worship, praising God when He brings victory.
What Can We Learn From Deborah In The Bible?
Deborah in the Bible has so much to teach us, from lessons in walking in the authority He has given us. To stand strong in our faith. Let’s take a quick look at some of the things she can teach us:
God’s plan is better than ours
When God calls you to something, when He lays something on your heart it doesn’t matter what people think, it doesn’t matter if you have the perfect skill set or the words to say. Your authority comes from God. By yourself, you may not be able to do what God has called you to, but with Him, you can do all things, you don’t have to be enough because He is.
God equips you for the role He has for you
Have you ever found yourself in a daunting situation? A role that you felt ill-equipped to step into? You know you heard God’s voice drawing you here, but that little voice still whispers doubt to your heart. You pour your all, out day after day, and yet it still feels like nothing. It’s never enough, never good enough, what gives you the authority to step out, to lead, to be an example?
Don’t let your fear stop you from following God
Fear and doubt wrestle against God’s voice trying to hold you back and keep you from stepping into your calling and choke out your faith. It’s amazing how fast the devil pulls out our scars when we are trying to step into our calling. He pulls out all of the stops, dragging our insecurities, and past out from where we thought we’d left them buried.
I don’t know about you, but those feelings are all too familiar. Doubt and fear are old companions of my faith, ready to jump at any time to try and send me retreating to my comfort zone. Perhaps this is why Deborah in the Bible stands out so much to me. As a woman born at a time when being a woman didn’t give her any advantages, living in captivity, she steps through the pages of history without fanfare like the other judges in the Bible and steps to the front of the stage as a leader for God’s people
Don’t let your past hold you captive
What are we being oppressed by, that we should be taking authority over? Maybe we aren’t physically at war, but spiritually and emotionally we are waging a war that we feel like we just can’t win. Your authority comes from God, the attacks from the enemy are coming from a retreating army that has already lost the war. Your victory has already been won. Trust your God, adjust your mindset, and step into the authority God has given you.
So often we doubt the call on our lives because we fear that people won’t listen, that when it comes down to it we will fail, and that we don’t know enough, and aren’t equipped for the role. Doubt and fear whisper in our ears crumbling what God is trying to do, and sending us retreating back in the shadows of our comfort zone. We allow our feelings of qualification to keep us from stepping into the role God has for us.
The Story Of Deborah
Deborah in the Bible doesn’t question God’s voice or wonder what others will say or think she simply has the faith to do what God tells her. Whether people follow or not is not her concern. Her only concern is doing what the Lord has called her to, and not letting anything get in the way of that. We need this kind of Faith. The kind of faith that lets us trust in God’s plan, wisdom, and timing.
Deborah is a wonderful example of what it’s like to trust God with our whole heart and not on our own understanding.
What stands out to you about the story of Deborah in the Bible?
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