Deborah, Woman Judge of Israel

Judges 4-5  Review Activities for this Lesson

Last week we talked about what happened after the Israelites got into the land of Canaan. You remember they were faithful as long as men like Joshua, Caleb and Eleazar were alive. They had believed in God because they had seen His great miracles. But when they died, the new generation of boys and girls grew up without knowing God and His power. All the wonderful miracles happened before they were born and their parents and teachers failed to teach them about Him.

Those adults failed another way, too. They did not carry out God’s command to get rid of the nations in Canaan who worshipped idols and to tear down their altars. Soon God’s own people were worshipping idols, too.

The Israelites had to learn the hard way to appreciate God’s help and blessings. When they sinned, the Lord used the people of the land to punish them. He would not fight their battles for them anymore, so their enemies began to capture them. God’s own people ended up being slaves again.

But God did not forget the Israelites. When their suffering got so bad, they would cry out to God and He would raise up judges to deliver them. We have already talked about two of them, men named Othneil and Ehud. And this week we will talk about a woman named Deborah who became judge over her people Israel.

God raised up Deborah to be judge after the people had been treated harshly by King Jabin of Hazor. God spoke to Deborah under her palm tree between Bethel and Ramah. She was to send for a man named Barak in Naphtali and tell him to take ten thousand soldiers to Mount Tabor. There he would fight against King Jabin’s army.

When Deborah told Barak to lead God’s army, he refused to go by himself. “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go,” he said. Barak seemed to be afraid of King Jabin’s army. It had nine hundred chariots of iron and was commanded by a strong leader named Sisera. Maybe Barak wondered how the Israelites could fight off swift iron chariots with their swords.

Barak should not have been afraid. If God had called him to fight, he should have known that God was ready to deliver them.

Deborah agreed to go with Barak, but there would be no glory for him in the battle. Instead God would let a woman kill Sisera.

Barak gathered the ten thousand Israelite soldiers together on Mt. Tabor and Deborah went with him. Down below in Kishon Valley was Sisera, with all his chariots and men. No doubt Sisera thought he would finish off the Israelites quickly.

When everything was ready, Deborah gave the signal, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” Then Barak charged down the mountain, followed by his soldiers.

When they reached Sisera’s army below, God had thrown them into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them easily with their swords. Sisera saw what was happening, and jumped out of his chariot to escape on foot. He got as far as a nearby tent, where a woman named Jael lived with her husband Heber.

Jael recognized the heathen commander and got him to come into her tent. And while he slept, she drove a tent peg through his head so that he died. Now he could plague Israel no more! So God kept His word in giving the glory of the battle to a woman.

Deborah had a song for the people that day praising Jael whom the Lord used to overcome the enemy of His people. And the land had rest for forty years.

Talking it Over:

1. In the memory verse, Deborah does not mean there were no people alive in the village of Israel. How could their captivity have taken all the “Liveliness” away?
2. Talk about Deborah as a judge. Why did God get a man to lead his army instead? Who is to lead God’s people in the church? Who is to be head of the family? Talk about some ways women serve God without being leaders.
3. Talk about how the warfare of God’s people today is different from their warfare in Old Testament times.

Memory Verse:
“Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel.” Judges 5:7
How was Deborah like a mother to the Israelites?

Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times. Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce for use, but not for publication.