Deborah means bee in Hebrew. She appears to have been a homemaker at the time she was selected for service to her country. She had no noble or blue-blooded ancestors, and is identified simply as “the wife of Lapidoth.” Yet Deborah was the only woman in Scripture who was elevated to a position of high political power simply by the common consent of her peers. Though her homemaking responsibilities may well have taken a back seat during her service to her country, she described herself as “a mother in Israel” before whe became a judge. – Judges 5:7 “The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.” Whether this was a reference to her own offspring or an expression of her spiritual motherhood toward every son and daughter of Israel is of no importance.
Israel’s spirituality was dried up at the time, and characterized by rejection of God and by a determination among the people for each to do things his/her own way – Judges 17:6; 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes…In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Deborah was first a counselor, as she displayed her leadership under a large palm tree near her home by discussing and suggesting solutions to people with problems. The civil court system at the time was incompetent; the military was too weak to defend national borders; the priesthood of what had been a theocracy was corrupt and ineffective. Normal life was no longer possible, and so Deborah became a judge and finally a deliverer of her people in a time of war.
At the time, the despised King Jabin was harassing the Israelites, so Deborah called in Barak, from the tribe of Naphtali on the northern border, and ordered him to recruit an army of 10,000 men from his own tribe and the neighboring tribe of Zebulun. I mean, that is what most women might do; call the men to stand and fight. But the cowardly Barak wavered, insisting that Deborah accompany him for the task – Judges 4:8 “And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” She not only joined the drive to raise an army, but she also gave them a strategy. God had spoken in the past through His leaders, Moses and Joshua, and now He was speaking through Deborh. Yahweh came and helped Deborah with a violent thunderstorm – Judges 5:4 “LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.” Then there was a mini replay of the crossing of the Red Sea, and the horse-drawn chariots of the enemy floundered.
The destruction of Canaanite power was immortalized in one of the finest specimens of Hebrew poetry by Deborah and Barak. They picture in praise the events which led to victory for the people. Long before Deborah exercised her uncommon leadership and decision-making skills to save her nation in a time of trouble, she was a homemaker–a wife and mother in Israel. Her compassion was awakened by the atrocities her people suffered. She arose to make herself available, and she was victorious as she herself trusted God, then she inspired others within her sphere of influence with the same trust.
1 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
2 Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.
3 Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.
4 LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.
5 The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.
6 In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.
7 The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.
8 They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?
9 My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.
10 Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.
11 They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.
12 Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.
13 Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.
14 Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.
15 And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.
16 Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
17 Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.
18 Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
19 The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.
20 They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
21 The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.
22 Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.
23 Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.
24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
25 He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.
26 She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
28 The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
29 Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
30 Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
31 So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.