Deborah: Virtuous or Violent

Judges 4, Adapted Steitz
Just as the book of Joshua opens with a transition
of leadership from Moses to Joshua…as we begin
the book of the Judges, we have another transition
with the death of Joshua. As is often the case in such
situations, there was a leadership vacuum. And so
special tribal leaders known as judges came to take
some authority. One such judge was a woman named
Deborah. Deborah was a prophet and a leader
of Israel during those days. She would sit under
Deborah’s Palm Tree between Ramah and Bethel in
the hill country, where Israelites would come and ask
her to settle their legal cases and matters of justice.
One day, she summoned a man named Barak to her
and said, “I have a message for you from the Lord
God of Israel! You are to get together an army of ten
thousand men and lead them to Mount Tabor. The
Lord will trick Sisera into coming out to fight you at
the Kishon River. Sisera will be leading King Jabin’s
army as usual, and they will have their chariots, but
the Lord has promised to help you defeat them.
Barak protested, “I’m not going unless you go!” “Oh,
I’ll go!” she replied. “But I’m warning you that the
Lord is going to let a woman defeat Sisera, and no
one will honor you for winning the battle.”
Deborah and Barak left for Kedesh, where Barak
called together ten thousand soldiers. Deborah
told the troops when to attack and Barak’s soldiers
destroyed the entire army of Sisera and King Jabin.
Sisera however, was able to escape and found what he
thought was a safe place to hide. He found a woman
named Jael and hid inside her tent. However, once
he was asleep…in a horribly violent act, Jael murdered
Sisera. Meanwhile, Barak had been following Sisera,
and Jael went out to meet him. “The man you’re
looking for is inside,” she said. “Come in and I’ll
show him to you.”
They went inside, and there was Sisera—dead.