The Truth About Deborah The Judge In The Bible

Before using a king as a ruler, ancient Israel looked to a group of tribal chiefs, known as judges, for advisement. The Book of Judges, a section of the Old Testament, tells the story of how the Israelites lost their faith after the death of Joshua, who led them to the Promised Land. In response, God sent judges to help them resist worshipping idols and other temptations, per OverviewBible. These individuals weren't the usual courtroom variety; instead, they acted as leaders and helped the Israelites reconnect with God and overcome their enemies. 

A judge needed to possess charisma so they could influence the people away from the tainted Canaanite culture. Some of the more famous judges were Barak, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, and Deborah, explains Britannica. In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Judges consists of four sections that speak of the Israelites in Canaan, their struggle for virtue, and God's rewards or punishments when they succeed or fail to find it. It is believed that several sources wrote this book. For instance, each judge originates from a different Israeli tribe, and academics think that the tales within the book were once separate pieces (per My Jewish Learning.)

Deborah's story appears in chapters 4 (in prose) and 5 (in poetry), per Christianity Today. A prophetess from the tribe of Ephraim, she is immediately different than the other judges before her: She is the first — and only — female who wears the title. 

Unwavering belief leads to peace

According to, Deborah — or Devorah/D'vorah in Hebrew — translates to "bee," and the animal is like the Jewish people in several ways. For example, bees follow their leader, and the Jews look to sages and prophets for knowledge. Elsewhere, like a bee, God can sting those not living by the Ten Commandments, but he can also sweetly reward his followers — just like the bee provides honey.

The Book of Judges emphasizes the rewards God offered to followers. Deborah appears during a time when Israelites strayed from the right path, and the Canaan King Jabin sought to oppress them. In particular, Deborah helped the Israelites defeat Jabin after God warned her of the threat. She told the warrior Barack to lead a group to Mount Tabor for battle. But Barack's faith faltered, and he demanded that Deborah come as well to inspire the soldiers. Although she traveled with him, she prophesized that Barack's victory would never be acknowledged. And she was right: Sisera was killed by a woman, Jael, a clan leader's wife, who took a mallet and drove a tent peg into his head when he appeared at her tent asking for help (pictured above).

When their forces overcame King Jabin's troops, they sang a hymn that praised God. In chapter 5 of the Book of Judges, the faithful judge is honored in the Song of Deborah. Ultimately, Deborah's part in the battle gave the Israelites a 40-year peace before other challenges came (via Learn Religions).