Deborah’s story is found in the book of Judges which recounts a troubled period in Israel’s history. From the time of the elders, who outlived Joshua, until the time of the monarchy, God raised up a series of leaders for His people. They came from different tribes, and each leader was unique in their own way. Deborah was the only woman chosen, and an unusual woman even by today’s standards. What can we learn from the characteristics of Deborah in the Bible to apply to our lives today?
Who Was Deborah in the Bible?
In the Biblical book of Judges, we can see a pattern of behavior from the people of Israel. A period of peace and prosperity would lead to the nation turning away from God. Then when they were oppressed by the surrounding nations, as divine chastening, they would eventually cry out to God for deliverance. God would raise up a leader, a Judge, to save His people from their enemies.
The first Judges were Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar – men who were mighty warriors. These were men who fought the Canaanites and took cities in battle, who carried out dangerous solo missions and impressive feats of personal bravery.
Deborah is the fourth account of a Judge and leader of Israel. She led during a period when they had been cruelly oppressed by Jabin king of Canaan for twenty years. A whole generation of Israelites had been brought up living under oppression, with the fear of attack. It is here in this description that we find out who was Deborah in the Bible:
“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”Judges 4:4
Deborah – HoneyBee in Hebrew
The name Deborah means ‘honeybee’ in Hebrew – the small but significant insect. Bees are hardworking, industrious, and essential in food production. They pollinate crops, and provide food for so many but also produce a sweetness of their own…
Deborah the Prophetess
Deborah is the only Judge to be described as a prophet. The role of the prophet was to be the mouth of God – to speak God’s word to His people. This was to ‘forthtell’ to speak God’s word for today and to ‘foretell’ to speak God’s word for the future. The test of a true prophet was the fulfillment of their words.
Deborah Wife of Lappidoth
Deborah was married to Lappidoth – although we have no further information about her husband. They lived in the hill country of Ephraim, so he may have been from that tribe. There is no specific mention of children, although Deborah described herself as a ‘mother in Israel.’ That may have been a literal description because she had children of her own, or poetic. Deborah may have used the phrase to describe her role as a leader to nurture and care for the people of Israel.
Deborah the Judge
God raised up leaders for Israel during the period of the Judges. Scripture does not specify when or how God called Deborah to this role – it appears that her gifts made way for her calling.
“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.”Judges 4:5
Traditionally, disputes and decisions would have been made by the elders of a city assembling at the town gate. (Compare Ruth 4:1-10) But significantly Deborah holds court between two cities, at a place of her choosing. Although this would not have been so convenient for people, it appears they made the effort to go out and seek Deborah’s advice and accepted her decisions.
From just two verses of Scripture, in a very concise way, we have been given a picture of who was Deborah. But her story has so much more to tell – the characteristics of Deborah in the Bible reveal a remarkable woman of God!
3 Characteristics of Deborah in the Bible
There are many characteristics that we can draw out from the story of an inspirational woman like Deborah. But I have chosen three main characteristics of Deborah in the Bible to reflect on.
Committed to God – first and foremost.
Deborah is described as a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, and a leader in Israel – in that order. Her gifting reveals that her relationship with God is her first priority, then her relationship with her husband, and finally her service to and for the people.
Why Did God Choose Deborah?
Through the book of Judges, we can see that God raises up as leaders those who will be fully committed to Him. Our relationship with God should always come first, and from that position of commitment, everything else will flow.
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”2 Chronicles 16:9
Collaborator – discerning the need to work with others.
After twenty years of living under oppression, from an enemy within their borders, the people of Israel turned to God for help. When they cried out to God, He answered through Deborah, His prophet. The word of the LORD came to Deborah, and she sent for Barak from the tribe of Naphtali.
The message from God for Barak was that he was to go and raise an army to lure Sisera, the commander of king Jabin’s army, to the Kishon River. The promise was that God would bring victory to Israel over the enemy.
What Did Deborah Do in the Bible?
Deborah was a Prophetess, a Judge, a Warrior, and a Worship leader! She showed discernment to work with others within the restraints of her culture. Deborah made herself available by setting up a court under a date palm tree, where people could come and find her. Her reputation as a woman of God, and the voice of God, brought people to seek out her advice and settle their disputes.
Deborah was obedient to God’s word and called on Barak to raise an army to go against their enemy. The men of Israel needed to be inspired by another man. Sometimes there are things that other people can do better than us! But when summoned for this task Barak showed a lack of trust in God – and he wanted Deborah to go with him into battle:
“Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”Judges 4:8
Deborah and Barak each had their own part to play, but they needed each other to fulfill this God-given task.
Related Post: Deborah and Barak Working Together
Courageous Service – Warrior, and Worship Leader.
Barak raised an army from the surrounding tribes in Israel, particularly from those who were affected by king Jabin’s attacks. And Deborah went with him into battle, with faith that God would fulfill His word, and bring victory to Israel.
Deborah the Warrior
Deborah showed courage in being willing to go into battle, fearlessly placing her trust in God. Our trust in God grows through times of hardship and difficulty and Deborah had risen to leadership in Israel through a time of oppression. I’m sure she would have experienced God’s faithfulness through those years, strengthening her faith and building her trust in God.
Although Deborah may not have physically fought in the battle that followed, she was a warrior. She was willing to contend for God, to stand and declare the truth of His word. More than that, Deborah was also willing to lead from the front, and step out with obedient faith, believing that God would accomplish what He had promised.
“Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song!” Judges 5:12Judges 5:12
In this battle Deborah told Barak that the honor of victory, which should have been his, would go to a woman for the glory of God! Maybe Barak thought that would be Deborah, but God included the inconsequential the one so many overlooked and dismissed!
Related Post: Who was Jael in the Bible?
Character Traits of Deborah
The characteristics of Deborah in the Bible reveal an inspirational woman who was fully committed to God. She was not self-serving but willing to work with others to see God’s word fulfilled. Deborah lived with courageous faith, inspiring God’s people to praise and worship!
God does not change, He is consistent and true, and He looks for those who are willing to be committed to Him. God does not look at our gender, nationality or status, He looks at our heart, for those who are willing to serve.
We are all called to be warriors and to contend for our faith, to persevere in prayer and not give up. A key to keeping our hope and expectancy alive in the faithfulness of God is through worship. As we lift our hearts and voices to God in praise there is a shift in the spiritual atmosphere – singing praise to God makes a declaration in the heavenlies!
“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies to silence the foe and the avenger.”Psalm 8:1-2
The characteristics of Deborah in the Bible challenge us all, not just for defining moments, but for day-to-day living!