By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Women in the Old Testament

  • The name Deborah means "bee," but it also has the same consonants as the Hebrew root for "speak" or "word."
  • This was also the name of Rachel's nurse. (See Gen. 35:8)
  • Some scholars define Deborah in relation to the significant man in her life. (She is the "wife of Lappidoth", though absolutely nothing is ever said about him). Other scholars translate this same phrase as "woman of torches." (And she certainly lit a fire under Barak.)
  • Deborah is called a prophet, i.e., someone who speaks for God (i.e., inherent in her name).
  • Though she was a professional prophet, she spent her days "judging" Israel. (All Israel came to her for guidance and decisions.)
  • She is the only one acting in this legal capacity in Judges.
  • She sat outside the town (under the Palm of Deborah), thereby making her accessible to everyone. [The Palm of Deborah was named after Rachel's nurse.] (This brings to mind memories of Moses "judging" the people in the wilderness.)
  • The fact that the people came to Deborah and not to the priests suggests a breakdown of the priesthood.
  • There is no explicit directive from God to go into battle.
  • Deborah uses the prophetic formula anyway.
  • She tells Barak to "go" and "get" troops.
  • 10,000 Troops answered the call, no doubt because of Deborah.
  • Barak refuses to go into battle without her -- maybe out of fear, maybe out of respect for the stature of Deborah.
  • She agreed to go along, but then said the glory will go to a woman.
  • Her commitment to be present is seen as a symbol of God's presence.
  • Despite all these signs of God's approval, the battle was long and difficult.
  • Ultimately, the Lord routed Sisera and his men with a flash flood whereby their chariots got stuck and they were swept away (Echoes of Red Sea).
  • Deborah announced when Sisera would be delivered into Barak's hand.
  • Her prophecy was fulfilled.
  • The Song of Deborah (5:1-31) is probably older than the narrative.
  • The Song of Deborah tells what life was like before Deborah and how the Lord delivered them.
  • In the poem, Deborah is called a "mother of Israel." (5:7)
  • Because of Deborah, Israel was given new life and nurturing.


Ackerman, Susan. Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen. New York: Doubleday, 1998.'

Auld, A. Graeme. "Joshua, Judges, and Ruth." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984.

Block, Daniel. "Judges, Ruth." The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Gehman, Henry Snyder, ed. The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974.

Hamlin, E. John. "Judges, At Risk in the Promised Land." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1990.

Harris, J. Gordon. "Joshua, Judges, Ruth." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

McCann, J. Clinton. "Judges." Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.

Bible Characters