Deborah is one of the most extraordinary characters in the Old Testament.
She’s an unusual example of a woman in leadership during Israel’s history.
But here’s why she was so much more than that!
These two chapters are brief, but they’re packed with insight into Deborah’s life and her important role in the history of Israel.
At the time when Deborah was alive, Israel had fallen into sin. Consequently, “the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan” (Judges 4:2). This king oppressed the people of God, driving them to cry out in repentance and ask for God’s help.
At this point in the story, we find out that Deborah – a woman – “was leading Israel” (Judges 4:4). This was incredibly unusual, but before long, we see why God placed her in this position.
She had surrendered to God’s will for her life and was willing to take on any role He gave her.
1. A Prophet
Deborah is first described as a prophet. She’s one of only a few women listed as a prophet throughout the Old Testament.
This was unusual for her time. But when we read her story, we can understand why she had this role in Israel.
In Judges 4, Deborah’s only recorded words to the people of Israel are prophecies. She didn’t speak her own opinions – she only offered the truths that God had spoken to her.
When Barak, the man God had chosen to deliver Israel from King Jabin, came to her, Deborah didn’t offer him her own advice or counsel. She shared God’s commands (Judges 4:6-7) without remarking about her own opinions on the situation.
When Barak was afraid of the coming battle, Deborah again encouraged him with God’s words, not her own. “This is the day the Lord has given [the Canaanites] into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” (Judges 4:14)
Deborah is a stunning example of someone so devoted to God that she only spoke what He would have her say!
2. A Judge
Deborah was also the judge of Israel. “She held court under the Palm of Deborah…and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided” (Judges 4:5).
Again, this was an unusual role for a woman in ancient Israel, but God had raised Deborah up for this unique time in Israelite history.
Deborah was well-suited for this role because, as we can see in these brief chapters, she was only interested in God’s glory, not her own. Instead of abusing the power that came with being a judge of Israel, she used it to honor God.
When Barak pleaded with Deborah to come with him to the battle as the leader of Israel (Judges 4:8), Deborah agreed, since she knew it would further God’s cause.
But she didn’t go to seek glory for herself. In fact, she immediately prophesied that someone else—another woman—would receive the honor for defeating King Jabin and his generals (Judges 4:9).
In her brief appearance in the Bible, Deborah is recorded as a humble person devoted to God’s glory at the cost of her own.
3. A Worshiper
Judges 5 records Deborah’s response to the events of the battle against King Jabin: an intricate song that extols the Lord for His power and provision.
We can truly see Deborah’s heart in these verses.
After the battle was finished, Deborah celebrated all that the Lord had done. “I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song” (Judges 5:3).
And this wasn’t a moment that she kept to herself! Deborah invited Barak to worship along with her (Judges 5:1), pointing him back to the God Who helped him battle the Canaanites.
Deborah’s song shows us that this woman was first and foremost a worshiper of the One True God. “When you, Lord, went out…the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai…” (Judges 5:4-5)
Not merely a prophet or a judge, Deborah was a daughter of God who stood in awe of His work!
Throughout these two chapters of Judges, Deborah is shown to be an example for all of God’s followers. We may not all be able to serve as prophets or judges, but we can surrender our words, our desires, and our lives to God’s control like Deborah did.