Who was Deborah the Judge?

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

Deborah is a godly, anointed, gifted, and courageous leader serving the Lord faithfully in numerous spiritual and political roles. Deborah appears along with other notable women in the book of Judges. As we have established in the previous chapter, this was a very dark period in the history of God’s people. 

A Bible dictionary says, “The role of women in Judges is an area of scholarly interest; there are at least 22 individuals or groups of women, at least 10 of whom have speaking parts. These women include:

1.     Achsah (1:10–16);

2.     Deborah (chs. 4–5);

3.     Jael (chs. 4–5);

4.     Jephthah’s sacrificed daughter (11:1–12:7);

5.     Samson’s mother (13:1–16:31);

6.     Micah’s mother (17:1–4);

7.     the Levite’s concubine (ch. 19);

8.     the women of Jabesh-Gilead (ch. 21);

9.     the dancing daughters of Shiloh (ch. 21).

Some women in Judges step in to fill the breach that weak men create through their fear and inaction. For example:

·      Jael is a traitor to her husband’s endeavors and uses her seductive powers to murder Sisera (chs. 4–5).

·      Achsah shoves her husband into the background to gain an advantage by sweet-talking and cajoling her father (1:10–16).

·      Samson’s mother recognizes and listens to God’s voice, but then runs to get her husband (11:1–12:7).” (1)

Unlike priests who were selected by their family origins (Exodus 28:1, Leviticus 21-22), prophets had only the call of God to legitimize their ministry. Their call was not predicated upon prior ministry testing or ability (Amos 7:14). Their call included not merely a new vocation but an entirely new way of life with new values and perspective. Their eyes were opened to see a new reality, their ears were opened to hear the voice of God, and their mouths were opened to say what they heard and saw. The prophetic call was essential for their ministry since, in the face of opposition from the religious establishment, the prophets needed dramatic certainty that God had indeed selected them to speak.

A few terms are used to identify the Old Testament prophet. The title “man of God” refers to the exemplary character and passionate devotion the prophet had for their God (Deuteronomy 33:1, 1 Samuel 9:6, II Kings 4:9). The titles “seer” and “visionary” tend to refer to the prophetic experience of receiving a message from God, either by special insight or visions and dreams (1 Samuel 9:9, Amos 7:12, Isaiah 30:10). The title “prophet” refers to the office of the person chosen by God to both receive from and communicate for Him (1 Samuel 3:20, 1 Kings 18:36, 2 Kings 6:12, Haggai 1:1, Zechariah 1:1). The title “servant of the Lord” indicates the intimate relationship between God and His prophets (2 Kings 9:7, 17:13, Jeremiah 7:25, Ezekiel 38:17, Zechariah 1:6). The title “messenger of the Lord” refers to the duty of the prophet to speak for God (2 Chronicles 36:15-16, Isaiah 44:26, Haggai 1:13).

In summary, the prophetic calling was the combination of two ministries. First, they received specific revelation directly from God. The Scriptures are clear that the prophetic message was not the result of human speculation, research, or opinion but was a completely miraculous revelation from the heart of God into the mouth of His prophets. Second, they spoke that revealed Word to the people God had called them to. The prophets were also painfully aware of the weightiness of their call since they consciously knew that they were the very mouth of almighty God and spoke for Him. For example, this is clearly seen in Moses (Exodus 4:16, 7:1-2), Isaiah (Isaiah 1:20), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:7), Amos (Amos 3:8, 7:16), and Zechariah (Zechariah 7:12).

What makes Deborah unique is that she is referred to as a prophetess, or female prophet, and judge. Over the next few weeks, we will examine these leadership roles to help understand her incredibly fruitful service to God. 

What do you know about Deborah prior to this devo and what do you hope to learn from this godly female leader? 

(1)   Trent C. Butler and Amy L. Balogh, “Judges, Book of,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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