Sunday, July 18, 2010



Judges 5:6-7 (NASB-U) "In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath,
In the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, And travelers went by roundabout ways.
[7] "The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel,
Until I, Deborah, arose, Until I arose, a mother in Israel.

JUDGES 4 & 5

The issue, from a Biblical perspective, is not whether women can be used greatly by God. Of course they can. Deborah certainly affirms that. The question Deborah raises is, was her role as Judge exercised from a place of authority over men?

Deborah is called the following in Scripture;
-Prophetess (Judges 4:4)
-Judge (Judges 4:4) *a shaphat. to judge, govern:— acting like a judge
-‘Mother of Israel’ (Judges 5:7)

It is not surprising that God would raise up a woman to be a prophetess, the Bible makes it clear that God grants the gift of prophecy to women also. But they are to practice prophecy while exhibiting submission to authority; 1 Cor. 11:5 (NASB-U) But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

The Bible tells us of other prophetesses in both the Old and New Testaments: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and Philip's four daughters (Acts 21:8-9)

Nor is it difficult to see Deborah as ‘the mother of Israel’. That paints a picture of influence that is powerful and significant. In the context of authority, the New Testament carries a similar picture, 1 Tim. 5:1-2 (NIV) Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, [2] older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

It is unexpected that God would raise up a woman to be a Judge, especially with authority over men. I think we must look carefully at the unique exercise of influence that Deborah wielded as a Judge.
Her activities in judging disputes for others create for many the greatest question in all Scripture about gender authority. However, I do not believe that one, very debatable question overrides numerous commands and examples of practice in the rest of Scripture!

It is clearly understood that during this time God intended to be the authority over Israel. In difficult times He raised up individuals to communicate his will and lead armies. It is uniquely noted that Deborah judged in private. Nor does she ever lead an army. In fact, not only does she decline the opportunity to lead the army, the general who demanded her to, is disciplined because he simply requested she come with him! These are key differences compared to all the other Judges!

The key event is when Deborah calls Barak with a message from God. Note that Deborah does not see herself as the deliverer called by God for Israel, distinct from the other Judges. It would also seem logical for her to lead if gender authority were not present. Instead a man name Barak in chosen by God.

Barak will only lead if Deborah accompanies him. Because of this demand by Barak, he is disciplined by not being the one allowed to personally defeat Sisera, the commander to Jabin's army. Instead, a woman will, but not Deborah! To me, this has gender authority written every which way, otherwise it makes no sense at all!

Judges 4:8-9 (NASB-U) Then Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go." [9] She said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman." Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Because of Barak’s request, God rebukes him by allowing a woman to accomplish the ultimate victory! Is it not similar to Moses accompanying Joshua, except for gender?

It is similar to the judgment Isaiah pronounces with the implication that, this is not the way it should be;

Isaiah 3:12 ( NIV ) Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.

Why is the punishment a woman doing what God called him to do, if gender authority is not in place at the time?

We also would have expected that the woman to defeat Sisera (verse 9) would be Deborah. However, with Barak’s discipline, God used someone else - and the woman, Jael was not even an Israelite, but a Kenite.

Why didn’t God use Deborah if she was in authority, and God ended up using a woman anyway?

Why is Barak referenced in the New Testament and not Deborah?

Hebrews 11:32-34 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, [33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Deborah illustrates an essential truth. Even in a male-oriented society, godly women can serve God with incredible effectiveness and influence. The respect in which Deborah was held is reflected in Barak and his unwillingness to face the enemy unless she was present. Deborah reminds us that what qualifies an individual to serve God is not his or her sex, but his or her relationship with God, and call by Him to ministry. All these things can be accomplished without a position of authority!


If we interpret the book of Deborah as allowing female leadership, it creates tremendous problems with specific commands in the Old and New Testament. But more so, it bases a conclusion on a position that even Deborah herself did not claim! It also makes the judgment of Barak extremely confusing. I think the individual variety of the Judges and the unique characteristics of Deborah’s ministry support male authority, while at the same time exposing the ability of God to use women in significant and marvelous ways. Of great importance, I think it also shows God’s ability to use any gender outside the formal structure of authority in powerful ways.

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