Deborah (Bible)

In the book of Judges in the Old Testament, we learn about the people who held the office of judge in Israel. Their mission was to arbitrate conflicts and disputes among the people. Judges also became military leaders during times of crisis. Famous biblical characters such as Samson, Gideon or Jephthah occupied this position. Deborah is the only woman that the Bible cites among these. Read on to learn about the biblical passages that talk about her and the victory song she composed!

Who is Deborah in the Bible?

Judge Deborah

The Bible presents Deborah as the only woman to have been a judge in Israel. Indeed, it is written: “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.” (Judges 4:4-5) She held that position for 40 years, during which peace reigned over Israel.

Deborah the Prophet

She was also a prophet; she heard the voice of the Lord, who asked that the Israelite armies fight to defeat the army of Jabin. She passed that word on to Barak, who acted according to that order. A great victory for the people of Israel followed soon after.

Important Episodes from the Life of Deborah

Deborah’s Prophecy

She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.” (Judges 4:6-7)

Deborah at the head of the army

“Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?’ So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.” (Judges 4:14)

Deborah's victory Song

“Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD! ‘You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the victories of the LORD, the victories of his villagers in Israel. Then the people of the Lord went down to the city gates. ‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song! Arise, Barak! Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam. The remnant of the nobles came down; the people of the LORD came down to me against the mighty.” (Judges 5:7-13)