Deborah/D’vorah – Wife, Judge and Commander over Israel’s Armies
By Debra Brandt
As we begin our Study about D’Vorah, here are what some of the Bible Commentaries have to say about her.
DEBORAH/D’VORAH (Dehb' aw rah) Personal name meaning, "bee." Deborah is the name of two women in the Bible, Rebekah's nurse (Gen. 35:8; 24:59) and a leader of pre-monarchic Israel (Judg. 4-5).
2. Deborah, the leader of Israel, is identified as a prophetess, a judge, and the wife of Lapidoth (Judg. 4:4). She probably lived about 1200 B.C. or slightly later during a period of Canaanite oppression. Deborah is described in Judg. 5:7 as "a mother in Israel" because of her role in delivering God's people. After Moses, only Samuel filled the same combination of offices: prophet, judge, and military leader.
Deborah served regularly as a judge, hearing and deciding cases brought to her by the people of Israel. She held court at "the palm tree of Deborah," in the southern part of the territory of Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel (Judg. 4:4-5). Nothing is said about the procedures at her court or about the extent of her jurisdiction.
As a prophet, Deborah summoned Barak and delivered an oracle giving him God's instructions for a battle in the Jezreel Valley against the Canaanite army commanded by Sisera (Judg. 4:6-9; compare Samuel in 1 Sam. 15:2-3 and the unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 20:13-15). Barak obeyed, and the Israelites won the battle. Some scholars believe that Deborah as prophet also composed the victory poem she and Barak sang in Judges 5. Deborah's authority under God was evidenced by Barak's desire to have her present with him in the army camp (Judg. 4:8,14) and by the testimony to her leadership in the song (Judg. 5:7,12,15).
Pamela J. Scalise
"Deborah, Say Your Song": Female Prophecy in Talmudic Tradition
Many of the women of the Bible are recorded in connection with traditional female roles as daughter, wife, mother, and even harlot. A few characters break the mold and emerge as women of independent power. The ambivalence of rabbinic literature in its treatment of these figures is most revealing.
A definitive statement in the Talmud declares there to have been seven female prophetesses:
Our rabbis taught: "Forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses prophesied to Israel. . . . Seven prophetesses. Who were these?--Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther." 2
The female prophetesses are enumerated by name, but surprisingly, the names of the forty-eight male prophets are not given. The only other female figures to whom the prophetic spirit is attributed by the rabbis are the matriarchs, of whom only Sarah appears in the previous list. 3 In the Hebrew Bible itself, the word nevi'ah ("prophetess") is applied to five specific women, three of whom--Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah--appear on the sages' list. Nodiah, the false prophetess of Nehemiah's day ( Neh. 6:14), and the anonymous prophetess in Isaiah 8:3 are the two omitted from the rabbinic list.
The primary attribute of a prophet in the Jewish tradition is to serve as a channel of communication between the human and YHWH.
Jdg 4:4 - And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth,.... Deborah was a name common to women with the eastern people, see Gen_35:8; as Melissa, which is of the same signification with the Greeks, and both signify a "bee"; and to which Deborah answered in her industry, sagacity, and sweetness of temper to her friends, and sharpness to her enemies: she was a "prophetess", and foretold things to come, as the drawing of Sisera and his army to a certain place named by her, the victory that should be gained over him, and the delivery of him into the hands of a woman. Who Lapidoth was, or what is meant by the name, is not certain; most take it to be the name of her husband, which seems best, but who he was is not known; the Jews will have him to be the same with Barak, there being, as they think, some agreement in the names, Barak signifying lightning, and Lapidoth, lamps; but the whole context shows the contrary, that he was not her husband. Some render the words, "a woman of Lapidoth", taking it for the name of her native place on habitation; but where there was a place of this name no account can be given: some say she was so called from her employment before she was a prophetess and judge, making wicks for the lamps in the sanctuary, as Jarchi relates; and others take it to be expressive of her excellencies and virtues, which shone in her as lamps; the first sense is best:
she judged Israel at that time; toward the close of the twenty years' oppression under Jabin, being raised up of God as other judges were, and eminently endowed with gifts and grace; she endeavoured to convince the people of their sins, exhorted them to repentance, and was a means of reforming them, and administering justice and judgment in all cases brought before her; and which Jabin might admit of, connive at, or take no notice of, she being a woman, of whose growing power and interest he had no jealousy.
Jdg 4:4 - And Deborah, a prophetess--A woman of extraordinary knowledge, wisdom, and piety, instructed in divine knowledge by the Spirit and accustomed to interpret His will; who acquired an extensive influence, and was held in universal respect, insomuch that she became the animating spirit of the government and discharged all the special duties of a judge, except that of military leader.
the wife of Lapidoth--rendered by some, "a woman of splendors."
Jdg 4:4-5 -
At that time the Israelites were judged by Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, who dwelt under the Deborah-palm between Ramah (er Râm: see at Jos_18:25) and Bethel (Beitin: see at Jos_7:2) in the tribe of Benjamin, upon the mountains of Ephraim. Deborah is called נמיאה אשּׁה on account of her prophetic gift, like Miriam in Exo_15:20, and Hulda the wife of Shallum in 2Ki_22:14. This gift qualified her to judge the nation (the participle שׁפטה expresses the permanence of the act of judging), i.e., first of all to settle such disputes among the people themselves as the lower courts were unable to decide, and which ought therefore, according to Deu_17:8, to be referred to the supreme judge of the whole nation. The palm where she sat in judgment (cf. Psa_9:5) was called after her the Deborah-palm. The Israelites went up to her there to obtain justice. The expression “came up” is applied here, as in Deu_17:8, to the place of justice, as a spiritual height, independently of the fact that the place referred to here really stood upon an eminence.
(associated with Barak in Judging Israel)
1. General References to
Jdg 4:4 Now Devorah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidot, she judged Yisra'el at that time.
Here are some other references to woman who were prophetesses in the Bible and that YHWH anointed for that purpose. He will anoint who He wants to anoint whether they are male or female. The office of a Prophet is one of the five fold ministry gifts.
Eph 4:10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.
Eph 4:11 He gave some to be emissaries; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers;
Eph 4:12 for the perfecting of the holy ones, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Messiah;
1Co 12:5 There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord.
1Co 12:6 There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all.
1Co 12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all.
1Co 12:8 For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;
1Co 12:9 to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit;
1Co 12:10 and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages.
1Co 12:11 But the one and the same Spirit works all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires.
PROPH'ETESS, n. A female prophet; a woman who foretells future events, as Miriam, Huldah, Anna, &c. Exo 15. Judg 4. Luke 2.
Feminine of H5030; a prophetess or (generally) inspired woman; by implication a poetess; by association a prophet's wife: - prophetess.
H5031-Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew definitions
1a) ancient type endowed with gift of song (Miriam)
1b) later type consulted for a word (Huldah)
1c) false prophetess (Noadiah)
1d) wife of Isaiah the prophet
Part of Speech: noun feminine
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H5030
Same Word by TWOT Number: 1277c
Jdg 4:4 -
am 2719, bc 1285, An, Ex, Is, 206, Exo_15:20; 2Ki_22:14; Neh_6:14; Joe_2:28, Joe_2:29; Mic_6:4; Luk_2:36; Act_21:9; 1Co_11:5; Gal_3:28
Act 21:8 On the next day, we, who were Sha'ul's companions, departed, and came to Caesarea. We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
Act 21:9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
1Co 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
1Co 11:5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved.
G4395 – Greek Strongs Prophesying
From G4396; to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, exercise the prophetic office: - prophesy.
It does not say – Woman can not prophesy, it says their head should be covered when they do.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were immersed into Messiah have put on Messiah.
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
Gal 3:29 If you are Messiah's, then you are Avraham's seed and heirs according to promise.
The Story of Deborah/D’vorah – She simply did what YHWH anointed her to do and Barak and other leaders recognized that anointing upon her.
Jdg 4:1 The children of Yisra'el again did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
Jdg 4:2 The LORD sold them into the hand of Yavin king of Kena`an, who reigned in Chatzor; the captain of whose army was Sisera, who lived in Charoshet of the Gentiles.
Jdg 4:3 The children of Yisra'el cried to the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Yisra'el.
Jdg 4:4 Now Devorah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidot, she judged Yisra'el at that time.
Jdg 4:5 She lived under the palm tree of Devorah between Ramah and Beit-El in the hill country of Efrayim: and the children of Yisra'el came up to her for judgment.
Deborah - H1683 – Strongs
דּברה / דּבורה
debôrâh / debôrâh
Deborah = “bee”
Jdg 4:6 She sent and called Barak the son of Avino`am out of Kedesh-Naftali, and said to him, Hasn't the LORD, the God of Yisra'el, commanded, [saying], Go and draw to Mount Tavor, and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naftali and of the children of Zevulun?
Barak - H1301
Barak = “lightning” or “lightning flash”
Jdg 4:7 I will draw to you, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Yavin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into your hand.
Jdg 4:8 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.
Jdg 4:9 She said, I will surely go with you: notwithstanding, the journey that you take shall not be for your honor; for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Devorah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Jdg 4:10 Barak called Zevulun and Naftali together to Kedesh; and there went up ten thousand men at his feet: and Devorah went up with him.
Jdg 4:11 Now Chever the Keni had separated himself from the Kinim, even from the children of Chovav the brother-in-law of Moshe, and had pitched his tent as far as the oak in Tza`anannim, which is by Kedesh.
Jdg 4:12 They told Sisera that Barak the son of Avino`am was gone up to Mount Tavor.
Jdg 4:13 Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Charoshet of the Gentiles, to the river Kishon.
Jdg 4:14 Devorah said to Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand; hasn't the LORD gone out before you? So Barak went down from Mount Tavor, and ten thousand men after him.
Jdg 4:15 The LORD confused Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his army, with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot, and fled away on his feet.
Jdg 4:16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the army, to Charoshet of the Gentiles: and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; there was not a man left.
Jdg 4:17 However Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Ya`el the wife of Chever the Keni; for there was shalom between Yavin the king of Chatzor and the house of Chever the Keni.
Another Woman YHWH used to deliver Israel at this time is Jael
Jdg 4:18 Ya`el went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; don't be afraid. He came in to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug.
Jdg 4:19 He said to her, Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. She opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
Jdg 4:20 He said to her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man does come and inquire of you, and say, Is there any man here? that you shall say, No.
Jdg 4:21 Then Ya`el Chever's wife took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him, and struck the pin into his temples, and it pierced through into the ground; for he was in a deep sleep; so he swooned and died.
Jdg 4:22 Behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Ya`el came out to meet him, and said to him, Come, and I will show you the man whom you seek. He came to her; and behold, Sisera lay dead, and the tent peg was in his temples.
Jdg 4:23 So God subdued on that day Yavin the king of Kena`an before the children of Yisra'el.
Jdg 4:24 The hand of the children of Yisra'el prevailed more and more against Yavin the king of Kena`an, until they had destroyed Yavin king of Kena`an.
Jdg 5:1 Then Devorah and Barak the son of Avino`am sang on that day, saying,
Jdg 5:2 Because the leaders took the lead in Yisra'el, because the people offered themselves willingly, be blessed, the LORD!
Victory came BECAUSE:
1. Because the leaders took the lead in Israel
2. Because the people offered themselves willingly
Jdg 5:3 Hear, you kings! Give ear, you princes! I, [even] I, will sing to the LORD. I will sing praise to the LORD, the God of Yisra'el.
Jdg 5:4 LORD, when you went forth out of Se`ir, when you marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the sky also dropped. Yes, the clouds dropped water.
Jdg 5:5 The mountains quaked at the presence of the LORD, even Sinai, at the presence of the LORD, the God of Yisra'el.
Jdg 5:6 In the days of Shamgar the son of `Anat, in the days of Ya`el, the highways were unoccupied. The travelers walked through byways.
Jdg 5:7 The rulers ceased in Yisra'el. They ceased until I, Devorah, arose; Until I arose a mother in Yisra'el.
Rulers ceased ruling in Israel, until Devorah arose and was willing to walk in the anointing YHWH place upon her life in humility and submission to Divine order.
Jdg 5:8 They chose new gods. Then war was in the gates. Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Yisra'el?
Jdg 5:9 My heart is toward the governors of Yisra'el, who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the LORD!
Jdg 5:10 Tell [of it], you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets, and you who walk by the way.
Jdg 5:11 Far from the noise of archers, in the places of drawing water, there they will rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, [Even] the righteous acts of his rule in Yisra'el. Then the people of the LORD went down to the gates.
Jdg 5:12 Awake, awake, Devorah! Awake, awake, utter a song! Arise, Barak, and lead away your captives, you son of Avino`am.
Jdg 5:13 Then a remnant of the nobles [and] the people came down. The LORD came down for me against the mighty.
Jdg 5:14 Those whose root is in `Amalek came out of Efrayim, after you, Binyamin, among your peoples. Governors come down out of Makhir. Those who handle the marshal's staff came out of Zevulun.
Jdg 5:15 The princes of Yissakhar were with Devorah. As was Yissakhar, so was Barak. They rushed into the valley at his feet. By the watercourses of Re'uven, there were great resolves of heart.
The princes of Issachar were with D’vorah – The tribe of Issschar were the Torah Scholars in Israel, when in the wilderness they were camped with Judah and Zebulan. They were known as the Tribe of Torah. (Numbers 2:3-5) They were known for setting up Torah Tents (Schools) in Israel.
even Issachar: not the princes only, but the whole tribe also; so the Targum paraphrases it,"the rest of the tribe of Issachar:”
as Issachar, so Barak; he was sent, &c. the one as the other, with equal readiness and cheerfulness, courage and intrepidity, descended the mountain, at the order of Deborah, and took the field in the open plain, to engage with Sisera and his numerous host:
Genesis 49:14 – “Yissaker is a strong donkey lying between two burdens. And he saw that a resting place ws good and that the land was pleasant and he inclined his shoulder to bear a burden and become a subject to slave labor. “Moshe Rabainu; Duet 33:18 “To your tents” Also; 1 Chronicles 12:32 “And of the children of Issachar, men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do , the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment’
There was great resolve in their hearts – They were determined to
Jdg 5:16 Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, To hear the whistling for the flocks? At the watercourses of Re'uven There were great searchings of heart.
Jdg 5:17 Gil`ad lived beyond the Yarden. Why did Dan remain in ships? Asher sat still at the haven of the sea, and lived by his creeks.
Jdg 5:18 Zevulun was a people that jeopardized their lives to the deaths; Naftali also, on the high places of the field.
In this strophe Deborah first of all mentions the tribes which took no part in the conflict (Jdg_5:15-17), and then returns in Jdg_5:18 to the Zebulunites, who staked their life along with Naphtali for the deliverance of Israel from the yoke of the enemy. The enumeration of the tribes who remained at a distance from the conflict commences with Reuben (Jdg_5:15 and Jdg_5:16). In this tribe there did arise a lively sympathy with the national elevation. They held meetings, passed great resolutions, but it led to no practical result; and at length they preferred to remain quietly at home in their own comfortable pastoral life.
Jdg 5:19 The kings came and fought, then the kings of Kena`an fought at Ta`nakh by the waters of Megiddo. They took no plunder of silver.
Jdg 5:20 From the sky the stars fought. From their courses, they fought against Sisera.
Jdg 5:21 The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. My soul, march on with strength.
Jdg 5:22 Then the horse hoofs stamped because of the prancings, the prancings of their strong ones.
Jdg 5:23 Curse Meroz, said the angel of the LORD. Curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they didn't come to help the LORD, to help the LORD against the mighty.
Jdg 5:24 Ya`el shall be blessed above women, the wife of Chever the Keni; blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
Here is a mention of another woman, who arose during this battle and is called “blessed above woman” - Jael
H1288 – Strongs - Blessed
1) to bless, kneel
1a1) to kneel
1a2) to bless
1b) (Niphal) to be blessed, bless oneself
1c) (Piel) to bless
1d) (Pual) to be blessed, be adored
1e) (Hiphil) to cause to kneel
1f) (Hithpael) to bless oneself
2) (TWOT) to praise, salute, curse
Part of Speech: verb
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
Same Word by TWOT Number: 285
Jdg 5:24 -
Jael behaved altogether differently, although she was not an Israelite, but a woman of the tribe of the Kenites, which was only allied with Israel (see Jdg_4:11, Jdg_4:17.). For her heroic deed she was to be blessed before women (מן as in Gen_3:14, literally removed away from women). The “women in the tent” are dwellers in tents, or shepherdesses. This heroic act is poetically commemorated in the strophe which follows in Jdg_5:25-27.
What Jael did
Jdg 5:25 He asked for water. She gave him milk. She brought him butter in a lordly dish.
Jdg 5:26 She put her hand to the tent peg, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer. With the hammer she struck Sisera. She struck through his head. Yes, she pierced and struck through his temples.
Jdg 5:26-27 -
“Her hand,” i.e., the left hand, as is shown by the antithesis, “her right hand,” which follows. On the form תּשׁלחנה, the third pers. fem. sing. with נה attached, to distinguish it the more clearly from the second pers., see the remarks on Exo_1:10. עמלים הלמוּת, hammer or mallet of the hard workers, is a large heavy hammer. For the purpose of depicting the boldness and greatness of the deed, the words are crowded together in the second hemistich: הלם, to hammer, or smite with the hammer; מחק, ἁπ. λεγ., to smite in pieces, smite through; מחץ, to smite or dash in pieces; חלף, to pierce or bore through. The heaping up of the words in Jdg_5:27 answers the same purpose. They do not “express the delight of a satisfied thirst for revenge,” but simply bring out the thought that Sisera, who was for years the terror of Israel, was now struck dead with a single blow. כּרע בּאשׁר, at the place where he bowed, there he fell שׁדוּד, overpowered and destroyed. In conclusion, the singer refers once more in the last strophe (Jdg_5:28-30) to the mother of Sisera, as she waited impatiently for the return of her son, and foreboded his death, whilst the prudent princesses who surrounded her sought to cheer her with the prospect of a rich arrival of booty.
Jdg 5:27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay. At her feet he bowed, he fell. Where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
Jdg 5:28 Through the window she looked out, and cried: Sisera's mother looked through the lattice. Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why do the wheels of his chariots wait?
Jdg 5:29 Her wise ladies answered her, Yes, she returned answer to herself,
Jdg 5:30 Have they not found, have they not divided the spoil? A lady, two ladies to every man; to Sisera a spoil of dyed garments, A spoil of dyed garments embroidered, Of dyed garments embroidered on both sides, on the necks of the spoil?
Jdg 5:31 So let all your enemies perish, LORD, but let those who love him be as the sun when it rises forth in its strength. The land had rest forty years.
Under Deborah’s leadership the land of Israel had rest – peace for 40 years.
Here is what Rav Holisa Alewine of Isarelnet.TV says of Deborah/D’Vorah from an article she wrote on “Woman in Ministry”
“The first Tanakh picture of a woman anointed as a judge and military leader is contained in Judges 4:4-5:31. D’vorah is raised up to be a hero in Israel among the likes of judges such as Gideon, Sampson and Joshua. To view her according to the pattern, we see her in Scriptures in this order; a wife, a judge over Israel, a co-commander of Israel’s army. Once her marriage relationship to Lappidot is established, the next role is that of a judge over Israel, a role corresponding to an elder. In order to judge, D’vorah must have studied, applied, lived and taught Torah, for no judge is to apply Adonai’s rulings in judgment without a thorough knowledge of Torah. Since there is no mention of corruption during her tenure, we cannot assume that she is one of the many unrighteous judges of that epoch who applied the Torah with partiality. Also noted is that she sought after for her judgments, so the Israelites must have been willing to accept her authority and Torah scholarship regardless of any cultural norms.
Men and woman are created to function in spiritual submission to one another, fulfilling the purposes of YHVH in unity. D’Vorah submits the leadership of the physical battle to Barak, Barak in turn submits to D’vorah’s tactical instructions and leadership gift endowed by YHWH. We can learn from her wisdom in handling the issue of gender that woman should be sensitive to community perception of her roles. Her response to her anointing is not arrogance or an attempt to domineer over Barak, but willingness to share the mission and its blessings according to the Edenic pattern. Although sensitive to cultural norms, she does not, however, refuse the mission because of gender issues. She recognizes God’s calling as higher than that of her cultural role. In this example of a man and woman answering the higher call, we have an excellent Biblical picture of the example we should follow; a woman submitted to her husband or male covering, allowed and encouraged to operate in her anointing. There is mutual submission, just as Paul encouraged husbands and wives to do.
 From “Woman in the Bible Books”
 Understanding a woman’s role in spiritual leadership must be built on the Tanakh foundation. Holy Scriptures clearly define God’s rules of female leadership. Leadership roles in the believing community should be aligned with Biblical patterns. While the Biblical pattern clearly shows male predominance in leadership, it also clearly shows female participation. Many woman have been anointed by the Holy Spirit/Ruach HaKodesh to fill leadership roles.