First there was Moses to lead the Israelites. Then there was Joshua. After Joshua died, however, “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (1) The Israelites “abandoned the Lord, the God of their Fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them.” (2) “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them.” (3) “And they were in terrible distress.” (4) “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” (5)
There appears to be a total of 12-15 judges—depending on whom you read 😕—before Saul would be crowned as the first king. Some of the judges were good and some were evil but they all acted as rulers of their nation, even while living under the reign of pagan kings. The judges of Israel settled disputes, offered advice, led in military battles, and the godly ones guided them spiritually as well.
Enter Deborah—the only female judge, and one who was also a prophetess—one of 7-10 female prophets, depending on whom you read 😕. She was a renaissance woman: wife, prophet, judge, warrior, singer, songwriter. I imagine her life as something like this. She rose early to walk her cat and dog and spend time reading scripture and praying, returned to fix breakfast for her husband Lappidoth and tidied up the house a bit before leaving for the office, which was located at the palm of Deborah. There she spent hours settling disputes, counseling families, and handling civic affairs. Later in the afternoon, she met with her military advisors. Then around sunset, she returned home to cook the evening meal and spend time with Lappidoth. After that, she probably studied scripture, wrote poetry and songs and played her guitar. 😬 Well . . . probably not a guitar but maybe the lute or harp or tambourine. On the Sabbath as the Israelites gathered for worship, she proclaimed God’s message to the people, exhorting and correcting them on important matters. And on Tuesdays she took sword lessons. (How else would she know how to lead in that sword battle?) 😏
Granted, that’s all speculation on my part, but that’s how I envision her. I like her. How can you not like Deborah? 🤗 Deborah, whose name I share—though I’m pretty sure it was not intentional on my parents’ part—is my new hero. She was a godly woman. She helped people in their troubles. She fought battles for people. She boldly proclaimed God’s word to the Israelites, and she led music at the outdoor temple! After the Israelite victory over the Canannites, Barak and Deborah sang a duet: “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the Lord I will sing; I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (6)
Deborah, whose life is recorded in 55 verses (Judges 4 and 5), was truly a gifted woman: strong and courageous, patient and wise. But my favorite line in her brief biography is her response to Barak’s request that she fight with him. She replied, “I will surely go with you.” (7) There is no better way to lead than to serve. My conclusion about Deborah is this: She encouraged people.
While Deborah was prophet and judge and worship leader of Israel, “the land had rest for forty years.” (8) The Israelites were at rest. How delightful! How pleasant! How pleased God must have been with them. And immediately after Deborah’s reign, we read this: “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord . . .” (9) Oh well. 🙄 Here we go again!
(1) Judges 2:11 (2) Judges 2:12 (3) Judges 2:14 (4) Judges 2:15 (5) Judges 2:16 (6) Judges 5:3 (7) Judges 4:9 (8) Judges 5:31 (9) Judges 6:1