Category: Deborah


The account of Deborah and Barak is found in Judges 4 and 5 in the Old Testament. The Israelites had been under the control of the Canaanite king Jabin and the commander of his army, Sisera. The Canaanites had 900 chariots of iron and ruled over Israel for 20 years (Judges 4:2–3).

A prophetess named Deborah judged or made rulings for the people of Israel under a palm tree during that time. One of Deborah’s judgments was to instruct Barak to summon 10,000 men and attack Jabin’s army. Likely fearful to comply with such a command, Barak told Deborah, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go” (Judges 4:8). She replied, “Certainly I will go with you. . . . 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” (verse 9).

Deborah and Barak then gathered 10,000 troops and attack Sisera and his army. Barak’s troops won: “All Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left” (Judges 4:16). Sisera himself fled to the tent of a Hebrew woman named Jael. She gave him milk to drink and covered him with a blanket in the tent. Then, “Jael . . . 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” (verse 21).

Following this battle, “God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him” (Judges 4:23–24). Deborah’s prophecy was fulfilled: Barak won, Sisera was killed by a woman, and the Israelites were freed from their enemies.

Judges chapter 5 then records the song of Deborah and Barak, written to rejoice in God’s victory over the Canaanites. The lyrics encourage the actions of Deborah and Barak, saying, “Wake up, wake up, Deborah! / Wake up, wake up, break out in song! / Arise, Barak! / Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam” (Judges 5:12). Jael’s role is also heralded: “Most blessed of women be Jael, / the wife of Heber the Kenite, / most blessed of tent-dwelling women” (verse 24).

The song of Deborah and Barak also gives some more detail about the victory over the Canaanites: “The earth shook, the heavens poured, / the clouds poured down water” (Judges 5:4). Evidently, God used a flood to disable the iron chariots of Sisera. The victory was supernatural (verse 20). Chapter 5 concludes with the statement, “And the land had peace forty years.” This impressive time of peace lasted until Midian took control of Israel, necessitating Gideon’s rise.

Lessons for today from the lives of Deborah and Barak include the following: 1) God often calls people to step out in faith to attempt the unexpected, 2) God often uses unlikely people and sources to accomplish His plans, 3) God sometimes requires great risk and effort on our behalf as part of His divine plan. In the case of Barak and Deborah, they risked their lives in war, while Jael took in a runaway fugitive and risked her life to end his and help free Israel from oppression. Ultimately, this account reveals that God is in control of the nations and changes their leaders according to His desires.

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Deborah was one of the judges of  Israel during a time of oppression. She is called a prophetess and the wife of  Lappidoth. The Lord spoke through her as she held court under a tree called “the  Palm of Deborah” in Ephraim. The Lord also used her to set her people free and  defeat the king of Canaan. Deborah’s story is found in Judges, chapters 4 and  5.

Deborah was Israel’s only female judge. Some scholars have suggested  that her position as judge was itself a judgment on the weak-willed men of  Israel. Because Israel’s men were unfit to judge, God chose a woman for the job,  partly to shame the men who should have taken the leadership. Other commentators  believe that Deborah’s role as judge was a sign of God’s comforting presence in  the midst of His oppressed and downtrodden people.

When Deborah became  judge, the Israelites had been subjugated for 20 years by Jabin, king of Canaan.  The commander of Jabin’s army was named Sisera, and he had 900 iron chariots –  formidable weapons against Israel’s foot soldiers (Judges 4:3).  The Israelites were treated very cruelly by Sisera and his army, and Israel’s  spirits were very low. Deborah describes the hardship of living under Jabin and  Sisera this way: “The highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways.  The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be” (Judges  5:6-7). In other words, people feared to leave their homes; traveling was  very dangerous.

God’s word comes through Deborah to a man of Naphtali  named Barak. The message is that he will lead the revolt against Sisera. Barak’s  response is, “I’ll only go if Deborah goes with me” (Judges 4:8). Everyone was afraid of Sisera, including  Barak. Deborah agrees to accompany Barak, but she also prophesies that the honor  for the victory would belong to a woman, not to Barak (Judges 4:9).

When the time came for battle, God  again spoke through Deborah, who prompted Barak to marshal his forces. The  Israelites came against the army of Sisera, and God granted the victory. The  mighty Sisera himself was brought down by the hand of a woman, just as Deborah  had said. As the commander rested after the battle, a woman named Jael drove a  tent peg through his head.

What can we learn from the life of Deborah?  We can see that God’s power is what matters, regardless of the instrument He  chooses to use. Man or woman, strong or weak, confident or hesitant – all are  strong when they are moved by God’s Spirit and filled with His strength. We can  also see in Deborah a picture of God’s tender care for His people. As a mother  cares for her children, so Deborah led and nurtured Israel (Judges 5:7).