“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak… and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.” – Judges 4:4-9
Drama. War. Deception. Intrigue. The story of Deborah has all the makings of a blockbuster movie! And if you read all of Deborah’s story (Judges 4 and 5), you’ll see that it features two strong female leads. It would be an award winner for sure!
Of all the judges, Deborah’s story is my favorite. In part, this is because I am fascinated with its history. The Song of Deborah (Judges 5) is ancient; it’s one of the oldest writings in our scriptures. Scholars think it was probably written in the 12th or 11th century BCE. How amazing to have a glimpse of such an ancient story of our faith. How much more amazing that one of our oldest texts is about women saving the day!
Throughout her story, Deborah is described in a variety of ways and when you put them all together, it’s pretty amazing: Deborah was a prophet, a judge, a wife, and a mother. The text also gives us another clue as to who Deborah will be: it says she is the wife/woman (the ancient Hebrew word is the same) of Lappidoth. There is a play on words happening here. The word “Lappidoth” meant “torches. You could just as easily read that Deborah is a “woman of torches” or a “fiery woman.” And that is who she will be in the story: the torch that sets the general Barak (whose name means “lightning”) on fire and into action on God’s behalf.
Deborah was a woman who knew she was called. Because she had confidence in her call, she had confidence in herself! It is this trait that makes me admire Deborah so much. She knew the power of her voice, as well as the power of her presence, and she used both to inspire others to action. Her confidence and trust in God emboldened others to trust God, too.
There are some days when I feel like Deborah, when I feel certain that God is speaking and the Spirit is moving, and I feel inspired to use my gifts to help others! But there are other days when I feel uncertain and scared and full of doubt. I wonder if I’m doing the right thing or if God has called me at all. I imagine that most of us feel that way sometimes. In Deborah’s story, I find encouragement to trust my calling, even in the face of enormous obstacles. Her confidence gives me confidence to use my voice to support and encourage others, even when it’s out of my comfort zone. What would our community look like if we were all as full of fire as Deborah was?