Monday, June 20, 2011

Deborah the Judge - An Example of Leadership?

It’s very interesting to me when Deborah the Judge is presented as an example of Biblical female leadership. I’ll often ask the person, or group, if they can tell me where the story of Deborah is found, but most people "guess" wrong for the Bible reference. Their answers have been one of the books of Samuel or Chronicles, or the book of Acts. It is amazing how many people will take what someone else has said as the gospel truth, instead of reading the gospel truth for themselves.

Here is another question to ponder - who leads a country? Most would answer, the president, congress, parliament, but no one would say "the judge, or judges". The role of a judge is that of an arbitrator, similar to a magistrate. The judge has the obligation to know the laws of their country, and then to apply these laws as they make decisions regarding cases that are brought before them.

Deborah’s story can be found in the book of Judges chapter 4, with chapter 5 as her song of celebration with Barak. Deborah was a judge, but Deborah did not lead the children of Israel (Nation of Israel). The position of judge is a very important position, but a judge is not a leader. It was Barak who was accountable to God for his role as the leader of the Nation of Israel, not Deborah.

In the book of Judges there were two positions sometimes given to one man; to judge, and to be the deliverer (or the leader) of the children of Israel (Judges 2:16-23). In Judges chapter 3 a pattern begins to be established with the children of Israel doing "evil in the sight of the Lord", with the Lord sending chastisement upon them, and with the people crying "unto the Lord" for the Lord to give them another deliverer. By the time of Judges chapter 4 many years have passed with this same "roller coaster" pattern. Now, the children of Israel would have a judge in Deborah, but a weak and fearful leader/deliverer in Barak.

Granted, Barak was a weak and fearful leader, but he was the leader none the less, and it was Barak who was accountable to God for his neglect of leadership, not Deborah. Deborah had gone to Barak to encourage him to fight the battle against their enemies, but God gave the credit for the victory to Barak, in Hebrews 11:32, because leadership is male, and God has never changed His mind on this distinction. Male leadership is always accountable to God, when it is weak, when it is strong, when it is neglectful, and when it is successful. Barak was the leader, not Deborah.

Deborah’s role with the Nation of Israel was very important, but Deborah was not the leader. Deborah called herself "a mother in Israel" - a mother is not a leader. A father is the leader; a mother consoles and gives comfort. (Judges 5:7) It is also interesting to note that Deborah "dwelt under the palm tree..." "...and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment." (Judges 4:5) she did not seek to lead them; they sought her for godly counsel.

Thank you for reading my post. Your comments and questions are welcome.
God Bless!
Jane Coley


Jessi said...

Great post. I enjoy reading your lessons.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jessi, I'm glad you enjoy the posts and I appreciate your comments. (from Jane)