Journey Through The Scriptures

The Life of Five Righteous Women

Lesson 3: Deborah Distinguishes Herself as Israel's Judge

(Scripture to Read: Judges 4:1–10)

Perhaps as many as 300 years after Jochebed and Miriam, Israel entered the period of the judges – a dark era in the nation's history. The people of Israel would turn from the Lord and become subject to a foreign power. The people would cry out to God, who would send a deliverer. This cycle was repeated seven times in the book of Judges – and on one occasion, God raised up a remarkable woman named Deborah to lead Israel. She was obviously a skilled ruler in whom the people of Israel had great confidence.

Barak was evidently a military leader whose reaction to his commission from Deborah shows the high esteem in which Deborah was held. Barak should have been willing to fight Israel's enemies without her, since God told Barak through Deborah (who was also a "prophetess" like Miriam) that He would deliver the enemy into Barak's hands. Deborah agreed to go with Barak, but cautioned him that he would not receive the honor that would have been his if he had led the battle by himself.

Study Questions

  1. Several hundred years earlier, God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. How did the people's condition in Judges 4 contrast with their earlier freedom?
  2. What evidence does the writer of Judges give that the Canaanite army commanded by Sisera was an extremely powerful military force?
  3. Why do you think Barak refused to go into battle unless Deborah went with him?
  4. Since it was God who had commanded Barak to lead the battle (v. 6), what was Barak doing when he refused to accept his command without Deborah?

Something to Think About

Deborah was the second woman in the Bible to be called a prophetess, following Miriam (see the previous study), and the only woman to judge Israel. In these roles, she both represented the people before God and represented God before the people.

These roles brought Deborah well-deserved honor – just as we should honor our spiritual leaders today as they are faithful to their divine calling.