Now, before the time kings ruled over the children of Israel, God put judges in place to advise the people, settle disputes, and to lead the fight against their enemies. As the children of Israel moved into the Promised Land, God purposely allowed idol worshipers to remain in the area so he could test whether the children of Israel would remain faithful to him. However, they would only remain faithful for a while before disobeying. Repeatedly, God allowed the children of Israel to reap the consequences of their unfaithful behavior. When the time came, God sent a judge to help rescue them from their enemies. One of these judges was Deborah. She was the only woman to serve as a judge over the children of Israel.
Before Deborah became a judge, God used Ehud to serve as a judge. Ehud helped free the children of Israel from the Moabites, whom they served for eighteen years. After Ehud served as a judge, God sent Shamgar who killed 600 Philistines, but it was after Ehud died that the children of Israel begin doing evil in the sight of God again. God allowed Jabin, the king of Canaan, to overthrow them using General Sisera and his army, which featured 900 iron chariots. The people feared Sisera and his army greatly, and for twenty years, Sisera oppressed the people. When they were tired of the oppression, they called out to God for help.
During this time, God had set Deborah in place to serve as the judge over the people. Deborah was a prophetess, and she was married to Lappidoth. She sat under a palm called Deborah, and the people could come to her and ask her how to deal with their situations. When the people came to her inquiring what to do concerning Sisera, Deborah called for Barak of Kadesh. Deborah asked Barak, “Has not the Lord God commanded you to gather men to go to war against Sisera? I will set a trap to bring Sisera and his army to you, and you will defeat him at the Kishon River.” Barak responded that he would go if Deborah would go with him. Deborah replied that she would go with him, but because his attitude was not as it should have been, the honor of personally defeating Sisera would go to a woman.
Deborah traveled to Kadesh with Barak, and Barak called for 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali to fight. After the men gathered, Deborah, Barak, and the 10,000 men marched to Mount Tabor. Someone told Sisera that Barak was at Mount Tabor. When Sisera heard this, he gathered his 900 iron chariots and all his soldiers and marched to the Kishon River. When they arrived at the Kishon River, Deborah told Barak that God had guaranteed their win. So, Barak took his men to face Sisera’s men.
During the battle, God confused Sisera’s men, and Barak and his men were able to overcome and defeat every one of Sisera’s soldiers. When Sisera saw that they were losing, he ran intending to hide in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Sisera chose this tent because Heber the Kenite and King Jabin had peace with one another. When he arrived, Jael met him outside. She allowed him to enter her tent and hid him under a rug. Because he was very tired from running, Sisera fell asleep. After he fell asleep, Jael entered quietly and defeated him. Just as she did this, Barak came looking for Sisera, and Jael showed Barak that Sisera had been defeated. King Jobin’s prized general and his army were destroyed. Yet, the fight did not end there. God allowed the children of Israel to grow stronger and stronger until they destroyed King Jabin completely.
Source: Judges 3-4 (Attention: Child-friendly bible recommended for this scriptural reading if conducting a family bible study with young children.)
- Before reading this story, did you know that women leaders existed in the bible? What are your thoughts about women in leadership after reading this story?
- How would you describe Deborah as a leader? What characteristics did she exemplify to help her lead, and how were they important to her leadership?
- Two characteristics that Deborah exemplified were a great faith and courage. How do you see yourself being like Deborah in these ways?
- In addition to serving as a judge, Deborah was a prophetess. What is a prophetess? Do we have modern-day prophetess?
- Although Deborah was in leadership, she was married. Why is it important for us to know this detail about her life?
- When Barak lacked faith, Deborah reassured him of God’s word, and she traveled with him to battle. Why were both actions important?
- Because Barack lacked faith, God gave the honor of defeating Sisera to a woman named Jael. What does this tell us about God’s planning?
- Jael showed courage like Deborah. Her action risked disrupting peace between King Jabin and her husband’s family. Could you do what God asked you to do even if it disrupted peace and caused strain within the family? Why or why not?
- One thing the story shows us is that God is willing to use anyone despite their gender or their status. Why do you think it is important for us to know stories like these?
- Going forward, how do you think you will support girls and women in leadership?
- Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. Judges 4:4 ESV
- She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. Judges 4:6-9 ESV
- And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead…. Judges 4:22 ESV
- If you are available for God’s service, he will use you. Gender and status do not prevent you from doing great things for God.
- True leadership requires great faith and courage despite what you face. Your circumstances do not prevent your outcome from being a victory.
- Sometimes, you must be a disrupter to do God’s will. If God calls you to be that, be that courageously.
Father God, may we always make ourselves available for your service, have great faith and courage to do your will, and be okay with being the disrupter if you call us to do so. We know that your plan is the best plan. Amen.
Comment: Looking at the story of Deborah and Jael, how were you impacted? What lessons did you learn?