If there is one Biblical character whose life could be used to support the flawed theory of feminism, it would have to be Deborah. Most people view her as some sort of superwoman! The popular opinion is that she was a prophetess who ruled Israel, leading them into battle and winning a victory over their enemies. On the surface, it would seem that one can use her actions to advocate the idea that women can pursue careers and hold public office. If we dig a little deeper into the story, we find a different perspective.
The first rule in discovering Scriptural truths is to allow Scripture to define itself. We serve a God of order; He is not an author of confusion and He does not contradict Himself. If we find principles in Scripture that would seem to contradict other principles in Scripture, we need to rethink the way that we are interpreting those principles!
So what about Deborah? Was she a military commander? A ruler in Israel? A prophetess? A judge? A career woman?
Does the story of Deborah, Barak and Jael support the theory of feminism, or of Godly womanhood as described in passages such as Proverbs 31 and Titus 2?
My personal belief is that Deborah was a Godly woman and her life did not contradict the Biblical standards of a woman’s role.
There are several reasons that I believe this; one of the main ones being that Deborah is described as a “mother in Israel” – Judges 5:7. Deborah did not rule Israel. The Scriptures say that she judged Israel, which is a totally different word than ruled. To rule, means to have dominion or authority. This would be contrary to 1 Timothy 2:12 where women are instructed not to have authority (exercise dominion) over men.
Isaiah 3:12 indicates that women ruling over the nation are part of the consequences that take place when a nation is rebellious and being punished. It’s not a good thing – it’s a bad thing! Deborah’s position was that of mother, instructing the nation in righteousness … not ruling over them in a position of authority.
The Scriptural record implies that Deborah was a keeper of her home. We read in Judges 4:5 “she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”
Interestingly enough, this is the only time in the accounts of numerous different judges that the record specifies “and the children of Israel came up to him/her for judgment”. It seems to indicate emphasis on the fact that she was at her home and the people came to her.
Was Deborah a military commander? I think that we often have this idea of Deborah strapping on armor, grabbing a sword and leading all the men into battle! Is this an accurate representation of her actions?
In the recorded conversation between Deborah and Barak concerning the upcoming battle with the Canaanites, she informed him of YHWH’s instructions for attacking their enemies. He was to take ten thousand men of the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali and meet Sisera’s army at the river Kishon … and YHWH would deliver them into his hand. Barak was fearful and refused to go unless she accompanied him. He told her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” – Judges 4:8.
Deborah’s response was a key to understanding this Biblical account from a proper viewpoint and not through the lens of feminist agenda. She told Barak, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for YHWH will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
We read on and see that Deborah accompanied Barak and the army to Mount Tabor and Barak led the men against their enemies. There is nothing in the account that would indicate Deborah even went into battle. The Canaanite army was destroyed and Sisera, the captain, fled. He found refuge in the tent of a woman named Jael. She invited him in, gave him milk to drink and a place to rest. He fell asleep, certain that he was in a safe place. While he slept, Jael brought a hammer and tent peg … driving it through his temple and killing him.
Here we have a heroine who gained glory and honor, while in her home! She could not have been available to play the role that she did, had she not been at home. The Scriptural account of Deborah and Jael supports the idea that a woman should be at home, as much if not more than any other account in the Bible
In Jael’s case, we see that if she had not been at home, she could not have performed the glorious action of ridding Israel of its archenemy. Yet this does not mean that a woman can never leave her home, as we see that Deborah’s presence was temporarily required away from it.
Godly womanhood does not have an exact formula that is the same for everyone … it is about using wisdom and discernment, listening to the voice of the heavenly Father and following the pattern that is laid out in His Word. This story of Deborah and Jael emphasizes the importance of a Godly woman’s role, presenting a beautiful example of two women who were used to impact a nation, while their focuses were centered on their homes.