Recently I’ve been reading a lot of material that delves into giving even more of a voice to the women in the Bible. I’ve read about Rahab (Joshua 6), whose reputation for all things in the city made officials put their trust in her. How her illicit past attempted to satisfy what only God could satisfy and how in the end, she hid two Israelites in her home therefore saving her entire family and bloodline from being annihilated. I’ve read about Esther and her boldness to step into spaces that did not fully welcome her and how her heart grieved for the Jews to be saved. I’ve read about women that weren’t even mentioned by name in the Bible, the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20), who forsook her own dignity to grab her healing from Jesus’ by clutching onto His robe and finally the woman at the well (John 4) whose brought shame and hurt with her to the well expecting water only to find healing and freedom in its place. Her past, although never hidden from Jesus, was messy but Jesus met her where she was at.
I read their stories, I felt their pain and I yearned to learn more than the pages would allow. Most recently I read about Deborah after listening to a sermon by Bianca Olthoff entitled “You are Called” at The Father’s House Orange County (highly recommend this one you guys!).
Setting the scene…
To set the scene in Judges 4, Jabin is on the throne as King of Canaan, he reigned in a place called Hazor. Now his commander is a ruthless, intimidating powerful guy called Sisera who is claimed to have nine-hundred chariots fitted with iron to his name (Judges 4:2). Dude’s not messing about. His power and reign involved human trafficking, debauchery and pillaging. The Israelites have been oppressed under his reign for twenty years. For more context about the book of Judges see the video below:
Enter Deborah whose described as a wife, a judge and a prophetess and the only female judge and prophet named in the Bible.
Let’s just pause for a moment and appreciate how ahead of her time Deborah was. According to the Library of Congress website, all links of the first female judges, globally, happened 1900’s and onwards. In Indonesia, it was the 1950’s, in Japan it was 1949, in Pakistan it was 2013. And so on and so forth. Deborah’s title was unique but in the words of Kamala Harris she will not be the last.
So Deborah’s, a pioneer and prophet, held in the same regard as that of prophets Aaron and Samuel were too. At this time she is leading Israel (Judges 4:4), holding court under a palm tree where she settled disputes and queries of her people and no doubt being a boss wife at the same time. She appears as one that hears directly from God, sending people to fetch Barak and tell him that the Lord will give Sisera and Jabin to the Israelites whom will have victory over their oppressors.
Healthy partnerships + obedience to God
What I love about what happens next is the beautifully healthy partnership that both Barak and Deborah unite in. Completely platonic, (she’s wifed up, remember?) He says 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). What a beautiful example of respecting women in leadership amidst a society that would’ve viewed women as second-class citizens. His respect for her spiritual authority, maturity and reverence at how closely she walked with the Lord made him absolutely refuse to go without her. Now, I love how God is gracious with us even though He (definitely) knows what’s best. Because of Barak’s request the condition was now this “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” (Judges 4:9).
In preparation for battle, Barak gathered Zebulun and Naphtali along with 10,000 men and Deborah. When Sisera learnt of this he himself summons 900 chariots filled with iron. On Deborah’s order she proclaims “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” (Judges 4:14). What assurance Deborah has in God to proclaim to 10,000 men with God-confidence that victory is already His. I want to walk everyday with that assurance. That in all things, at all times, God has ALREADY WON! So why then, do we oftentimes walk around as if we’re defeated?
The battle begins
After Deborah’s command Barak follows after Sisera with his troops and “the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword.” In this highway, high speed instalment of OT reality tv Sisera flees on foot right into the tent of Jael, Heber the Kenite’s wife.
NOW this is where it really goes down.
“Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’” But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.Judges 4:18-22
Yes, you read that right she drove a tent peg through Sisera’s skull thus freeing the oppressed from his tyrannical reign and thus fulfilling Deborah’s prophecy given by God – that victory would be in the hands of a woman.
So much love for this tale
There are so many things that I love about this story. The fact that it’s in the old testament, that our protagonist is a woman, wife, judge, prophetess and that victory was due to the hands of a stay-at-home mum that knew what was up. Throughout the whole story we learn about Deborah’s intimacy with the Father. People had mad respect for her. They understood that she really heard from God and Barak wouldn’t go to battle without her. There is such purpose in the times we spend with Jesus. There are people waiting on the other side of our obedience. It’s our job to listen to God and then move into action. If you happen to be in a place where you’re doubting the season God’s placed you in, I preach to myself more than anything, keep pressing in sis, it’s not over until God says it over. If you’re still breathing, He’s still working!
Pray this prayer:
Lord, may I be filled with Your Holy Spirit. May it strengthen me. Fill me with courage. Fill me with boldness. Help me live a life surrendered to You, obedient to You. I understand that there are people waiting on the other side of my obedience to You. Let me not become complacent, let me not become lukewarm. Help me, Father – I can’t do anything without You.
- bianca olthoff’s sermon “You are Called” at TFHOC
- a lineage of grace by francine rivers for £10.45
- hermanas (deepening our identity and growing our influence) by natalia kohn, noemi bega quinones, kirsty garza robinson for £10.99
- The Bible Project’s Overview of Judges video
- Women in History Lawyers and Judges article
- Kamala Harris “I will not be the last” video
- Header photo by @EyeForEbony