As I noted in my post about God’s call, prophets, other leaders and free will, a major theme of the Old Testament is the failures and foibles of those God has called. So many of them had mixed legacies. But Deborah stands out.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, “Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun.
As Chabad puts it, leading up to Deborah (noting that traditional Jewish usage reverances the holy name by leaving out the vowels:
The fourth of the judges who ruled over the Jewish people after the death of Joshua, was not a man, but a woman, one of the most famous of all times, the Prophetess Deborah. Before her were Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar, the latter only for a short time.
After Ehud’s death the Jews forsook the ways of the Torah and adopted many of the idols of the people about them. As a consequence G‑d delivered them into the hands of the King of Canaan, Jabin, whose royal residence was the city of Hazor. His cruel general Sisera oppressed the Jews for twenty years. Sisera possessed a well-trained army of cavalry. He also had iron chariots that were the “tanks” of those days. The Jews suffered terribly under the cruel rule of Sisera, and in great despair cried unto G‑d.
It was then that G‑d sent them Deborah the Prophetess. She was one of the seven women prophetesses whose prophecies are recorded in the Bible.
It is interesting that when Deborah sent the word of God to Barak, his response was that he was unwilling to go without her. She warned him that if he did not go without her, he would not get full credit. He wanted her anyways, preferring results to getting credit for them.
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.” 9She 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.”
As the Chabad goes on to state:
In Eastern countries, in the days of old, and even nowadays among backward peoples, women are usually looked down upon by men, and they are often treated not much better than servants or even slaves.
For twenty years the Jews lived in peace under the wise guardianship of Deborah and Barak. It proves what a great woman Deborah must have been to command so much respect and admiration.
Throughout the centuries of history, there have been women who have been praised for excellence in one thing or another. One of the greatest has been the Jewish prophetess Deborah, who was steadfast and loyal to G‑d’s word, and who inspired her people to victory in battle and guided them to live in faith and peace.
With the lesson on Deborah coming up, it is good to remember one of the seven female prophets quoted in the Bible and one of the few prophets whose ministry is unblemished by a catastrophe, one of the few judges who did not lapse in wisdom.
May we be more like Deborah.
- How many of you have read Judges chapters 4 and 5?
- How many of you have considered being like Deborah?
- Is there any significance that the only judge to be an unabashed success was also a prophet and also a woman?
- What is your takeaway from the story of Deborah?
Images from Wikimedia Commons.
Note that the Religion News Service has an article on the upcoming gospel doctrine lesson we have on Deborah. [Link] Bottom line, there is a good reason Elder Uchtdorf was charged with updating the curriculum.