31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Deborah
In yesterday’s post on Rahab, I shared the following – it goes along with today’s post and tomorrow’s on Ruth as well.
An excerpt from “Lessons from a Harlot, a Prophet Judge, and Young Widow” from To Be a Handmaid of the Lord:
Did you know that the world teaches that God teaches a degrading view of women? You don’t have to look very far to see that many believe that God’s story in the Bible puts women into a subservient position, that it glorifies MEN over WOMEN, and that God wants women to be nothing more than baby machines. If you haven’t noticed it so far, I do believe this is one lesson that can prove that point absolutely FALSE! God holds women up – not higher than men, but equal with them. All men AND women in scripture are shown to have faults (excepting Jesus, of course) and strengths – some more than others. “Then Peter opened his mouth and said; ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality’” (Acts 10:34 NKJV). You are your own person with your own mind – do not take my word for it. Read GOD’S WORD and understand what the TRUTH is.
As I mentioned yesterday, I did not want our daughters to have the same struggles that I did. If it was in my power to save our girls from a few years of that distress, I wanted to give that to them. I just knew they needed to hear it in a context that was not their mother saying it. So, putting it into a study where they answered the questions and applied it to themselves was the direction I went. Rahab, Deborah, and Ruth were the real clincher to the points, for me, when I compiled the book. The girls seem to be impressed with them as well. Today, I share Deborah with you.
The book of Judges deals with the time of Israel after Joshua dies. Israel falls into a sad, regular pattern. The people would sin, they would suffer at the hands of another nation until they finally cried out to God, and then God would send salvation through a judge. Judges 4:1 reads, “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died.”
God allows them to fall into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan. We are told Sisera is his commander. Jabin has been oppressing Israel for twenty years. Enter Deborah.
In Judges 4:4 we learn three things about Deborah. She is a prophetess, she is a wife, and she is Israel’s judge. In Judges 5:7 we also learn that she is a mother. We learned in our look at Miriam that a prophetess is one who was chosen by God to reveal the words He gives to her. Deborah has been chosen for this same role. She has also been chosen to be a judge to deliver Israel from the “hands of those who plundered them” (Judg. 2:16).
We see the other judges, all men, going out to war like Othniel in Judges 3:10. Ehud was sent as emissary to Eglon the king of Moab and proceeded to kill the king (Judg. 3:15-23). Gideon is sent to “defeat Midian as one man” (Judg. 6:16). Jephthah was sent to fight the sons of Ammon (Judg. 11:15).
Deborah administered differently. There was a place known as “the palm tree of Deborah” where she would sit and the people of Israel came to her for judgment (Judg. 4:5). She also did not lead the army to war, she chose a man Barak, to be the commander as God dictated (Judg. 4:6). Barak said that he will not go to war if Deborah would not go with him. She agrees to go, but she warns him that the honor of this fight will not go to him, it will go to a woman (Judg. 4:8-10).
Sisera, the commander of king Jabin’s troops, hears that Barak has gone out to war and so prepares to meet him. Judges 4:15 says, “The Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot.” Barak pursues and all of Sisera’s army falls – not one was left.
Meanwhile, Sisera flees the battle. He comes to the tent of Jael who is the wife of Heber the Kenite, an ally of the king of Canaan. Jael meets him at the door, tells him to not be afraid and to come inside. She offers him a place to lie down and gives him something to drink. Sisera falls into a deep sleep because he is exhausted. While he sleeps, Jael drives a tent-peg through his temple all the way into the ground!
Barak was in pursuit and arrives at her tent. Jael comes out to meet him and then takes him to see Sisera lying there dead. Judges 4:23 says, “So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the sons of Israel.”
Deborah’s prophecy came true! Even though Barak led the army and they were victorious against Jabin’s army, Jael is held up as having made the land safe (Judg. 5:6, 24-27). After this, the land was undisturbed for forty years (Judg. 5:31).
What a story! There may be stretches of scripture that are difficult to read – genealogies, lists of names of people counted, numbers of animals brought for sacrifice – but more of scripture is filled with stories such as this. There is no better action thriller drama written!
This story actually gives us two women to learn from:
Deborah teaches us, again, that God most certainly sees women as capable of leading, making judgments between men and their property, and being spiritual teachers. What we also see though, is that she did NOT do these things the same way that a man did. She stayed at home and the people brought their problems to her. She did not put herself forth as the commander of the army but allowed a man to have that charge. She only went to war at Barak’s request! Nowhere is she mentioned in the battle, in the chase, or the dealings with Sisera and his army. God gave instructions for her to give to Barak.
She teaches us to recognize those who help, and those who do not. In the song found in Judges 5, she points out who showed their love for the Lord and their brethren by helping in the fight and who did not. Judges 5:14-15 says that Ephraim, Zebulun, Naphtali, Benjamin and Issachar came down as warriors. Judges 5:15-18 says that Reuben “had great resolves of heart” and “great searching of heart” while sitting among the sheep. Gilead stayed home, Dan stayed on their ships, and Asher sat on the seashore all while Zebulun and Naphtali “despised their lives even to death”. In verse 23, the city of Meroz is cursed because they did not come to the help of the Lord. She gave praise to the warriors who died for the cause of the Lord. This woman had no trouble handing out the praise OR the criticism.
Jael – wow, oh to be as confident as she seemed to be! Jael knew her house was considered a place of refuge for Jabin’s men. She did not deceive Sisera. She gave him what he expected. He felt comfortable enough to allow his exhaustion to overtake him. Jael was wise. She did not meet him at the door refusing to let him in because he was the enemy of the Lord. She did not take him on in hand to hand fighting. She used the tools she had to accomplish what needed to be done. She recognized the opportunity for what it was and took it. The quick thought and calm nerves it would take to put this man at ease, fix him something to drink, and to prepare him a place to sleep astounds me. She even covered him up with a blanket! I do not know that I could remain so cool.
Her submission to her husband, Heber, obviously did not mean that she agreed with his political views. How many times over the twenty years of Jabin’s tormenting of Israel did she feed and house his men as part of the peace that existed between her house and the king’s? The timing was God’s, and Jael was prepared to act when it arrived at her door.
I encourage you to be confident in your abilities like Deborah and seize opportunities like Jael. Follow them in recognizing God’s authority and submitting to it. These women were not made less because of their submission – they were HONORED and HERALDED through the ages because of it. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Amen!