The Story of Deborah in the Bible

Deborah’s story is a powerful illustration of what it looks like to trust in God and step into the great things he has planned for our lives.  Deborah was one of the most influential women of the Bible, and we can glean many insights from studying her life.

The life of Deborah is marked by courage, faithfulness, wisdom, humility, and commitment.  Deborah was a faithful judge and leader to the people of Israel.  Furthermore, she became a formidable military commander and played an important role in freeing ancient Israel from the hands of their Canaanite enemies. 

Deborah is known for her song of praise after defeating the Canaanites.  This victory was an important step closer to the Promised Land as the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness. 

Today, we’ll explore the story of Deborah, discuss the song of Deborah, learn about the day when God led his people to victory through the hands of a woman, and find strength in our own lives from Deborah’s courage.

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The Story of Deborah in the Bible Summary

The story of Deborah is found in the Old Testament Book of Judges, specifically in Chapters Four and Five.  After the Israelites fled Egypt, most of the first generation had died.  The next generation lived in the plains of Moab, and they were governed by judges who ruled over them.

Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth and was a judge and prophetess among God’s people. She was the only female judge to preside over the people.  She held court under a palm tree in the hill country of Ephraim, referred to as the Palm of Deborah. 

During the time of her leadership, the children of Israel turned away from God and began worshiping Baals.  As discipline, God handed them over to the Canaanites, led by Jabin and his military leader, Sisera.  After years of being ruled by the Canaanites, God called Deborah to lead his people to freedom—a task which she successfully completed with his help.

Who Was Deborah in the Bible

Deborah is famous for being the only female judge of Israel.  She is also known for leading God’s people in a victorious battle against the Canaanites.  After winning the battle, she offered a song of praise to the Lord, known as the Song of Deborah.

In Hebrew, the name Deborah means, bee.  This might seem strange in our culture; however, in ancient times, the bee was associated with honey, which was known for giving strength and sustenance.  Bees were also associated with the Promised Land, also referred to as “The Land of Milk and Honey.”

Deborah was one of the most influential women in the Bible.  Let’s take a closer look at Deborah’s example by exploring her characteristics.

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Characteristics of Deborah in the Bible

Deborah was a woman of great faith.  She trusted God to lead her and fulfill his promises to her.  She was also a strong leader and had a worshipful heart.

Additionally, Deborah was wise.  As a judge, she settled disputes between ordinary people and offered wisdom to influential leaders as well. 

Deborah possessed great courage.  By following God into battle, even when the enemy’s forces appeared to be stronger than the Israelite army, Deborah showed her bravery and steadfast leadership. 

Let’s look at 13 additional characteristics of Deborah.

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Deborah Was a Strong Leader

Deborah’s leadership was seen through her role as a wise and discerning judge.  However, she showed even greater leadership when she followed God into war against the Canaanites.

Her leadership over Barak, the military leader who helped her overcome the Canaanites was clear.   She sent for Barak and said to him,

“The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands’” (Judges 4:6-7, NIV).

Barak’s response indicated that he did not want to go into battle without her.  Deborah agreed to go with him but also noted that it would be forever said that God gave their enemies into the hand of a woman.

Deborah Was Committed

Deborah was deeply committed to the people of Israel.  When God’s people turned to worship idols, it might have been tempting to turn away from them in disgust.

However, Deborah was committed to leading the Israelites to live in obedience and holiness toward God.  Her commitment is apparent in her song, in which she refers to herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).

Deborah Was Devoted to Her Country

Deborah did not give up on the people of Israel.  She faithfully served them as both a judge and military leader. 

Additionally, as a prophetess, Deborah’s prophecy was that God would deliver Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, into Israel’s hand (Judges 4:7). 

This prophecy was fulfilled when all of Jabin’s army died in battle. 

Sisera fled into a tent of one of his allies, where he was struck through the temple with a tent peg by a woman named Jael, the wife of his supposed ally.  At this moment, Deborah’s prophecy was fulfilled.

Deborah Was Fiery

As the wife of Lappidoth, Deborah was referred to as Eshet Lapidot.  Interestingly, we can translate this name to mean, “wife of Lapidot,” which is accurate. 

However, it can also be translated as, “woman of torches.”

Certainly, both translations are true of Deborah.  While she was both a wife and leader, she was also a fiery woman. 

Deborah helped light the fire that stirred Barak to join her in battle and defeat their enemies. 

Deborah was a passionate and fiery woman, and her zeal brought great glory to God and his people.

Deborah Was Wise

Deborah was a woman of great wisdom.  As she settled disputes and served as a judge, she evidenced the God-given wisdom entrusted to her.

She knew that if God called his people into battle, he would be with them, sustain them, and fulfill his promises to them.  Her wisdom in serving others and following God is evidenced through her story.

Deborah Was a Servant

By holding court day after day under her palm tree, Deborah showed her commitment to serving God’s people.  She was committed to her work and did her best to serve and direct others.

Settling disputes most likely grew tiresome at times; however, Deborah remained committed to her calling and served God’s people faithfully.  This is a good example for us today as well.

Most of us grow weary when serving others becomes burdensome.  Deborah’s steadfast commitment to service reminds us to keep doing good, even when we become weary and burdened. 

Deborah Was Trustworthy

Barak trusted Deborah so much that he did not want to go into battle without her.  It has been disputed as to whether this was a sign of his cowardice or a sign of wisdom. 

Regardless of the case, it is clear that Barak trusted Deborah deeply.  He did not want to step into the battle without Deborah’s strength beside him.

Deborah Was Assertive

When Barak refused to go into battle without Deborah, she responded,

“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” (Judges 4:9).

Deborah didn’t tread softly with her words.  She was direct and firm in her dealings with Barak.  Most likely, she was also assertive and direct in her work as a judge.

This is a good example for those in leadership today, too.  Instead of treading lightly, we are best to be clear and direct. 

It’s better to hurt another person’s feelings than to fail to convey strong messages that need to be spoken.

Deborah Was an Encourager

Deborah encouraged Barak to step out in faith and step into the battle even when he felt uncertain.  Her encouragement led God’s people to do what seemed impossible.

The Canaanite army had 900 chariots and many soldiers.  They were much more formidable than Israel’s small army of 10,000 foot soldiers.  Nevertheless, with Deborah’s encouragement, God performed a miracle.

The small Israelite army overcame their enemies.  This leads to the next important characteristic we see in Deborah: She trusted God and took him at his word.

Deborah Trusted God

God promised Deborah that he would go with his people and lead them in victory over the Sisera’s army.  Even though the Israelite army was far smaller and weaker, Deborah trusted God.

She reminded Barak that God had promised to go with them, and she encouraged him to step out in faith.

This is a powerful reminder for us as well.  When God calls us into assignments that feel overwhelming or situations that feel impossible, he will also provide for us.  He can make a way where there seems to be no way.

Deborah Was Courageous

Deborah portrayed great courage when she led God’s people to step out and fight the larger army.  She was committed to taking a stand against the enemies of God.

We can follow her example when we face opposition in our lives, too.  We all battle against spiritual forces that feel overwhelming at times.  By reminding ourselves that God is with us, we can stand firm against the enemy’s attacks.

As the Apostle Paul reminded us, our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (see Ephesians 6:12).

Deborah Was Worshipful

When God led Israel to victory, Deborah responded with a song of worship.  Here are the first two lines of her song:

“When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord!  Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!  I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song” (Judges 5:2-3).

We can follow her example by immediately praising God when he works in our lives.  All glory and honor belong to the Lord, and he is pleased when we praise him for the victories he brings in our lives.

Deborah Was Humble

Deborah did not try to claim the glory for the victorious battle over the Canaanites.  Instead, her song of praise showed that she knew that the glory belonged to God.

When life goes well, most of us feel tempted to cling to some of the glory.  However, God calls us to have humble hearts.  We honor him when we give him the glory for doing the impossible in our lives.

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What We Can Learn From Deborah

Deborah is a special hero in the Bible that will forever be someone to look up to, a woman of strength, authority and bravery that reminds us to stay firmly planted where He has placed us no matter what.

The story of Deborah in the Bible is a wonderful example of what a woman who has stepped fully into God’s calling on her life can accomplish.

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Deborah’s story can fill us with courage, boldness, and greater trust in God.  Most of us aren’t facing military battles today, but we are all fighting battles. 

No matter what your battle looks like, follow Deborah’s example by trusting that when God calls you to step out in faith, he will fulfill his word to you.  He will bless your obedience, provide for you, and bring victory in every battle he calls you to fight.

Keep your eyes on him and trust that he won’t let you down.  As you experience his victory in your life, remember to give him praise and glory.  In doing so, others will be drawn to his great love.

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