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Pioneer Women - Part 1 - Deborah the Judge

Updated on April 22, 2013
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This is a series on women with a pioneering spirit taken from the Bible and history.

While I reflected on what exactly a pioneering spirit is, I kept coming back to Proverbs 31. I realised that if we, as women in the Body of Christ, are able to take a hold of and begin to live out Proverbs 31 daily then we would all make a greater impact on our environment and begin to see a change in our history for the glory of Jesus. Thus becoming pioneering women in our own right.

Proverbs 31 : 10 – 31 is our blueprint for this series, perhaps you would like to look at the text in your Bible before you read further.

Infantry Group

The word pioneer means to prepare or open up ( a way, road etc), initiate, originate, lead the way or innovate in, lead, guide ( a person). To be a pioneer you would be likened to a member of an infantry group going with or ahead of an army or regiment to prepare the roads or terrain for the main body of troops. This is the example that highlights exactly what we are to be doing in our purpose as a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was a pioneer for Christ; he spent his whole life preparing the way for the One whom John was not even fit to carry his sandals. Throughout the Bible you find countless men and women who have prepared the way for God’s children, encouraging us to look beyond ourselves and the temporal to looking into the heavenlies and the eternal. So that we would come face to face with His destiny and purpose for us. All of us, as disciples, are pioneers. Some more so than others because they have counted the cost and not loved their lives unto death and accepted that they are crucified with Him, it is now no longer them thatliveth but Him that liveth in them.

Balanced Priorities

My prayer is that this series will stretch and challenge you into becoming a pioneer for Christ. This is not something that is a way off in the distance out of your reach; this is something that you are able to do every day within your own home. If you are a wife and mother then you are pioneering the way in those areas for your husband and children. If you are single then you have the opportunity, like Paul before you, to go out and pioneer in your work place or ministry or the place that God has called you to. I am not saying as a wife and mother that pioneering stops in your home, what I am saying is that it does begin there, for the Proverbs 31 woman has already shown her priorities are God first, then her husband and then her children. When these priorities are balanced and in order then she goes out into the community and helps the poor, and increases her family’s resources through wise investments. To many this woman seems out of reach, yet you fail to realise she had a key to being a successful pioneer, the key is that she feared and reverenced the Lord above all else and through this her relationships and responsibilities were wisely balanced.

Now let us begin on the road to being a pioneering woman:

Photographed by Julian Stratenschulte / EPA
Photographed by Julian Stratenschulte / EPA

Deborah was from the tribe of Ephraim, born into a period of time on the earth where God raised up men to deliver Israel from oppression. It was a time that spanned four hundred years and seems to have been one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history. The people were disobedient and rebellious, choosing to be unfaithful to God time and time again. They had failed to fully possess the promised land as God had commanded and failed to obey God and His Law. These men that God raised up were military leaders and were divinely appointed and empowered by God. They did not rule by heredity, they were sovereignly chosen. Yet we see not all were men, one was a woman named Deborah.

A Judge and Homemaker

Not only did she become a judge but she also had the distinction of being her nation’s leader. Deborah, whose name in Hebrew means ‘Bee’, was a Prophetess. It is interesting to note that in the Hebrew the root word of any person’s name is vitally important to understand the person. The root word of Deborah is Dabar:

dabar (A); as a verb, this word generally denotes the producing of whatever the same word means as noun, hence: to speak, declare, warn, threaten, command, promise, sing...etc. The noun always denotes a message or at least a verbal unit that came from contemplative thought, or (according to HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) "most matters pertaining to moral and ideal values." (source: Abarim-publications.com)

This shows quite clearly who Deborah becomes as she begins her journey as Israel’s Judge.

Deborah is also introduced as the wife of Lapidoth. The Hebrew meaning for Lapidoth is ‘Torch, enlightened, lamps’. This suggests that he was a man who could see with God’s light, just how important Deborah would be in this role of judge and therefore released her into all that role would require outside of the family home. He not only released her but also stood beside and supported her in this role of huge responsibility.

The word ‘ Bee’ could not have been a more simple description of someone who became one of the foremost leaders in Israel’s history. Yet, we know that humility is essential, as is a servant’s heart, both of these character traits would have been birthed from out of her role as homemaker. Humility and servant hood were certainly two of Deborah’s strongest qualities. She had no aristocratic lineage yet Deborah was the only woman in scripture elevated to high political power by the common consent of her peers. As a homemaker - a wife and mother in Israel – in her home she learnt skills and lessons that would one day save her nation. Her compassion had been awakened by the atrocities suffered by her people, out of her compassion she arose and made herself available. Firstly she would counsel with God’s wisdom beneath a palm tree not far from her home which was located between Ramah ( Hebrew meaning ‘height or haughtiness or lofty places depending on it’s verbage) and Bethel ( Hebrew meaning ‘House of God’). She would sit there all day if need be to ensure that all the people who came up to seek God’s counsel were attended to. The making of decisions was not something she would take lightly for often it would be one that meant life or death, peace or war, unity or division. Whatever came before her on a daily basis she would always make sure that God’s wisdom was first sought. (Judges 4: 6,7).

The civil court system at the time was inept; the military was too weak to defend the national borders; the priesthood of what had been a theocracy was impotent and ineffective. Normal life was no longer possible and thus Deborah became a judge and finally a deliverer of her people in a time of war. She inspired many to greater heights, amongst these many were Barak whom she encouraged and ordered to gather an army of ten thousand men from his own tribe, Naphtali and the neighbouring tribe of Zebulun. To understand who Barak was, his name in Hebrew means:

The name Barak is identical to the Hebrew word (baraq) meaning lightning (usually of God; Exodus 19:16; Ezk 1:13), or glittering of weapons (Ezk 21:10 Job 20:25). The verb (baraq) means cast forth (of lightning) as used in Psalm 144:6. (source: Abarim-publications.com)

Yet Barak could not believe that he could carry out the orders of the Lord on his own so he insisted that Deborah accompany him. She consented but in doing so told Barak that no glory would be for him, instead a woman by the name of Jael, would receive the glory that was meant for him that day.

The place for this battle to occur was in Kedesh. The Hebrew meaning for Kedesh is consecrated, hallowed, sanctified and sanctuary. This suggests that God was preparing His people to be purified for the next seasons to come once the battle had been won and Israel was once again emptied of its enemies.

Deborah not only joined the drive to raise this army but she also suggested their strategy. She wholeheartedly entered into listening to God and His plan for warfare. What He said, she did, there was no compromise. Through her obedience God gave her a violent thunderstorm (Judges 5:4) and like the crossing of the Red Sea hundreds of years before, the horse drawn chariots of the enemy floundered and the destruction of the Canaanites was completed. Following this destruction Deborah set to and with the help of Barak wrote a song of praise to her loving God which would stand as a reminder throughout Israel’s history to her people that trusting in God is surely the only way to victory.

Deborah has been described as a ‘bee in peace and a wasp in war’. The defending of Israel was uppermost in her mind and heart, the peace of Israel and the restoration of worship to God her primary focus, no matter what the cost, even to her own life. She lived, she breathed, she ate the purpose God chose for her to do but she also waited for that moment when God said ‘Arise My daughter now is the hour for you to go.’

A Servant Heart

She was available, loving the Lord with all her heart, soul and strength. She was compassionate, listened to God, had a servant’s heart, delegated tasks, and offered praise. She led with authority from God, motivating and encouraging the people and finally she was a respected leader. This list is similar to Proverbs 31, a goal that only as you remain in Christ, can be fulfilled, for apart from Him we can do nothing but with Him, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

We, as members of the Body of Christ, are more than able to succeed to be pioneer women this very day. Go on arise and speak with me now the final part of Deborah’s ancient poem,

‘Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord! But let those who love Him be like the sun. When it comes out in full strength’. (Judges 5:31)

P.S. It is of interest to note that the last part of Judges 5:31 states ‘and the land had rest forty years’. The same amount of time that Israel was in the wilderness was given within the Promised Land for rest after Deborah instigated, through the Lord, this battle for cleansing and purifying His people. What depth of treasure the Lord gives in His Word.

I look forward to seeing you back here soon for Pioneer Woman - Part 2 - Mary Magdalene the First Evangelist.

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      Caulean Vesey 21 months ago

      Thank you for your scholarship. I'm searching for a Biblical verse dealing with pioneering from which I can take a title for my book on women and children, Community of Noah, Coffee County, Tennessee, 1861-1865. These women were the descendants of Tennessee's first pioneers, ca 1795-1805: they will act as pioneers during the conflict; and when when it's over, pioneer again to bury the past and encourage reconciliation for the community.

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      Mandy 15 months ago

      Could you share the verse you use for the proof text that she was a homemaker? I understand you suggests that her husband "was a man who could see with God’s light, just how important Deborah would be in this role of judge and therefore released her into all that role would require outside of the family home. He not only released her but also stood beside and supported her in this role of huge responsibility." But in the midst of a weak male leadership at this time in Israel's history, I have a hard time giving this husband, or any other man any credit for seeing God's light. If they had seen God's light, they would have been the leaders. God had always called on male leaders and in this passage, there were non that were faithful enough, including Deborah's husband. Just as Deborah told Barak that there would be no glory for him in this battle, the same goes for all men who are weak and don't lead. God could have chosen Deborah's husband, or even Barak, as judge but He didn't. They were spiritually weak and Deborah was not.

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