What can we learn from the life of Deborah?

By Dillon Burroughs

The Story

Judges 4-5 describes the story of a Jewish leader named Deborah. She is mentioned as the only female leader in the book of Judges, a woman who followed the Lord and was greatly used by Him to provide direction and encouragement to Israel.

Deborah lived during a period of oppression by a Canaanite king named Jabin, who tyrannized Israel for twenty years. We first meet Deborah in Judges 4:4: "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time." She had set up shop under a tree in Ephraim called the "Palm of Deborah" (verse 5). God led Deborah to summon a man named Barak and tell him to gather 10,000 troops to battle Jabin and his commander, Sisera. Victory was assured (verses 6-7). Barak agreed to lead the army, but only if Deborah went with him (verse 8). She acquiesced but predicted that his hesitancy would result in Sisera's being defeated by a woman (verse 9).

Judges 5 provides a song of praise by Deborah and Barak after the Lord had given the victory. The lyrics reveal more details of the battle itself and how God intervened on behalf of His people. The conclusion of Deborah's story reveals that the land had rest for forty years following the triumph over the Canaanites (Judges 5:31).

The Lessons

Many lessons can be learned from the life of Deborah. She acknowledged that her strength came from the Lord. Rather than taking pride in her own abilities, she relied on God for wisdom and leadership ability.

Deborah used her abilities to serve. She showed no selfishness in the use of her God-given abilities to judge Israel or to prophecy. Rather, she focused on helping the people of Israel improve their lives, honor God, and find freedom from their oppressors.

Deborah offers a bold and powerful role model for women today. Deborah had courage to face the enemy, even after 20 years of oppression. Her courage was contagious, and Barak was able to fulfill his God-given duty with Deborah's support. Her courage became encouragement.

Though the Bible's record of Deborah's life is brief, her impact was great. Her leadership and obedience to God's Word resulted in a changed nation for an entire generation. Those who study her life will find a role model of godly faith, boldness, wisdom, and worship.

Image Credit: Gustave Dore; "Deborah"; c. 1868; Public Domain

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Published 12-7-12