Deborah, Judge of Israel and prophetess

There are two prominent people named Deborah in the Bible.

The first Deborah lived about 4000 years ago. She was Rebekah's nurse. Deborah traveled with Rebekah when she left home to become Isaac's wife. She probably spent her years caring for their sons, Jacob and Esau. When she died, "she was buried under the oak below Bethel, and so it was called Allonbacuth" (Gen. 35:8). Allonbacuth means "oak of weeping" in Hebrew.

The other Deborah was a Judge of Israel who lived about 3000 years ago, during a time when the nation was ruled by judges instead of kings.

She was the only female Judge of Israel. She was also a prophet, and the wife of Lappidoth. She held court in Ephraim in a place called "Deborah's Palm Tree," and the Israelites came to her to decide their disputes.

She called upon the warrior, Barak, and through a message from God told him to mobilize 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun to fight the army of king Jabin of Hazor in Canaan. Barak agrees to go to battle, but only if Deborah comes with him. Deborah accompanies the army, but warns Barak that the honor of conquering Sisera (King Jabin's general) will go to a woman instead of him.

Sisera marched his entire army, including 900 iron chariots to the Kishon River. Deborah told Barak "Now is the time for action! The Lord leads on! He has already delivered Sisera into your hand." Barak leads his army down the slopes of Mount Tabor and defeats the enemy. Sisera, who escaped the slaughter by the Israelites, is killed by Jael, a woman, who drives a peg through his head while he is sleeping. This fulfills Deborah's prophecy that Sisera would fall to a woman.

Deborah and Barak then sing a victory song in Judges, chapter 5. It is believed that Deborah herself wrote the song. After that battle there was peace in the land for 40 years.

The name Deborah means bee.


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