Who Is She?

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.  She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4-5 NASB)

One of the unique elements to this account of God’s deliverance of the Sons of Israel is that His main person is a woman.  The writer of Judges does emphasize this uniqueness in that she’s not just a “prophetess” but a woman prophetess.  Like there’s another kind.  Obviously he’s emphasizing her gender.

Do what you want with that, but also take into consideration that, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the leadership role of a woman is not “moralized”, or characterized as evil, in the Hebrew narratives.  Even the “evil queen”, Athaliah was condemned for her actions in the same way as the other evil kings; her downfall was never tied to her gender.

In most cases, the husband of a woman in leadership is also mentioned.  In the case of Athaliah, it’s mentioned prior to her assuming the throne.  But in the case of Huldah and Deborah, their husbands are introduced along with them.  Deborah’s introduction with her husband is somewhat unique though.

In the case of Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), her husband is given the expected introduction so the hearer/reader gets a sense of who he is.  Even his role or occupation is listed.  But in the case of Deborah, her husband has a weird name, and no sense of his tribal affiliation.  Only their location in the hill country of Ephraim provides a clue as to the tribe to which they belong.

The introduction formula isn’t necessarily a problem.  Yet, another unique quality is that Deborah’s husband has a name in a feminine form.  The word it’s derived from is “torch”, which can also mean “lightning”, “fire brand”, “flame”, etc. In a sense, you could say that Deborah’s husband’s name is “she shines”, or “she’s bright”.  The problem being that “torch” doesn’t have a verb equivalent to the noun.

So, is it possible that the writer of Judges didn’t have any of that info for Deborah, and supplied a “placeholder”?  It’s not necessarily likely, but possible.  If that were the case, though, then God wasn’t really interested in that particular detail.  As it is, that detail isn’t very prominent, not nearly as prominent as it is in the case of Huldah.

So, what’s my point?  The point I see here is that Deborah’s gender is important to the account, but her “marital status” is not.  Even her tribal affiliation isn’t that much of an issue.  The point that is emphasized is her gender (woman prophetess), and that reluctance of the part of a male (Barak), for whatever reason, incites God to give the victory to another woman rather than the “chosen male”.

And I don’t see any reluctance on the part of God to use a woman.  He chose a guy local to the battle, but the guy wanted the prophetess to accompany him. God acquiesces, but then takes the “glory” away from the guy and gives it to a girl.  Once again, God seems to have no problem with that.

So, this entry only deals with God’s use of women as leaders in the Hebrew Scriptures.  And that’s as far as I’m going in it.  I’m not dealing with or addressing Paul’s writings here.  And as far as we’ve gone, I think it’s clear that God seems to have no problem using women as leaders.  Whatever that might mean to you, to me it means that I shouldn’t have a problem with it either.

Well, that’s my view through this knothole this morning.  What do you see through yours?


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