Deborah: A Mother in Israel

 “The villages were unoccupied and rulers ceased in Israel until you arose-you, Deborah, arose-a mother in Israel”   

Many times I have heard people say, “God is raising up Deborah’s.” What does this statement actually mean? Who was this Deborah that this cliché speaks about? What kind of woman was she and what can we learn from her to strengthen our walk with God? There have been those who have used Deborah as the litmus test to affirm women preachers. Others have stated that as a judge this was a position of civil authority and not religious. Looking at that prospective you could find yourself taking the position that they made it a point of mentioning she was a prophetess. Depending on how that positioned was honored, and we have many examples of prophets being used in strong religious ways, including leadership, one could assert that prophets did religiously lead the children of Israel. Then you have those who mention Phillips seven virgin daughters who were prophets, I’ve had it said, they’re never mentioned as prophets outside of Phillips home. The bible didn’t explicitly say that, no instance was simply given. Having said that, I simply choose not to debate the issue, I allow God to be the authority.
What I do stand firm on this salient point, please ladies, whatever position God has called you to first and foremost if you are married the bible says your first ministry is your family. The bible calls for the man to be the head of the home, the spiritual leader of the family allow the women to see your spouse operating in that position and you submitting to his leadership   submitting as unto the Lord. So whenever you step down for the night as a teacher, walk into your role as the wife.  Okay so I digressed let me get back on point.
The story of Deborah begins in Judges chapter 4 - chapter 5 tells the same story in a poetic format.  Facts we know:
  • Deborah was the only woman judge out of twelve that the Lord raised up to lead Israel during this tumultuous period in their history.  
  •  She was not only a judge but she was also a prophetess.
  • At the time of Deborah’s call to lead Israel, they had been under the cruel and oppressive rule of King Jabin for twenty years. Israel found itself in an endless cycle of victory and defeat with their enemies because of their disobedience to God. 
  • Deborah inherited a people who did not know God nor did they know of what God had done for their ancestors (Judges 2:10b). The Israelites had no understanding of whom they were and the covenant that God had made with Abraham which was a part of their inheritance.  Judges 2:16-19 gives us a glimpse at the condition of the people during this time:
  • “Then the Lord raised up Judges who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshipped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord rose up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” 
  • I’m sure many of you in leadership positions can relate to the challenges that Deborah must have faced in leading people with a rebellious spirit. But just as God equipped Deborah for the challenge He will equip you as well.

  • There were three judges who preceded Deborah. The bible talks about their mighty military capabilities against Israel’s enemies under God’s anointing; yet when it speaks about Deborah, her God influenced instruction seems to be the focus. By appointing a woman to lead Israel at this juncture, God wanted His people to be exposed to a “motherly or feminine” influence. This didn’t mean that she was weaker, or less authoritative, simply different in delivery, manner and response. Clearly as we continue with the story we find that the men revered her inner strength and her godly qualities. There isn’t a single instance in the story of a man challenging her authority, or refusing to take her counsel or accepting the edicts she handed down. We don’t know exactly why God chose a woman to lead at this time but maybe their groaning’s were more pronounced because they were exceptionally weary from the cycle of victory and defeat that they had endured and the consistent loss of the children that had been born out of their womb and who had sucked on their breasts. The previous scripture does say that God had compassion on them as they groaned.  
Or perhaps as wandering children, God knew that they needed to be nurtured and need to feel a sense of protection for a period of time. Perhaps they needed to experience sensitivity in order to develop this trait. In any case, with Deborah’s calling, God naturally gave His people a new type of leadership that included sensitivity, compassion, delicacy, protective caring and nurturing, laced with strength and level headedness. As a “Mother of Israel” she would conduct business differently. Not better or worse, just differently. For example, Judges 4:5 describes the place in which Deborah carried out her judgments: Under the Palm Tree.  I can imagine this being a calm and nurturing environment where the judgments could be delivered effectively with no compromise. This was necessary because you must remember that:
    1.  The people were being delivered from a rebellious spirit and Deborah had to tell them things that they did not want to hear and;  
    2. This was a woman handing down judgments and prophecies to men. The environment had to be just right. The effectiveness of her leadership was apparent in Judges 4:6-8. Deborah had just informed Barak that the Lord had commanded him to lead the troops to Mount Tabor to defeat Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. Barak’s response was “If you go with me I will go but if you don’t go with me I won’t go.”  Barak’s confidence in Deborah was a testament to her effectiveness as a female leader in a culture where women were not often found in leadership positions.  
  • Had Deborah tried to emulate the style of the previous judges she might not have been as effective. God knew exactly what Israel needed at that time and it was everything that He had placed within Deborah.

  • Deborah, as judge and prophetess, could have come to the people of Israel with a masculine demeanor like her predecessors. She in fact had the authority and power that was usually given only to males. However, Deborah didn’t try to run the military effort instead she gave the instructions as she received them from God. When Barak did not receive the instructions as they were given to him, Deborah rebuffed him with the authority that was given to her by God (Judges 4:9).  She didn’t try and take over his assignment, instead she agreed to go with him and she remained in a powerful advisory capacity (“Deborah said to Barak, Up! For this is the day when the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Is not the Lord gone out before you? (Judges 4:14).  Deborah knew her call and she operated effectively in that call.

    When God calls for a woman to lead in a particular situation, He already knows that the qualities that you bring with you as a female coupled with your particular experiences are exactly what is needed to bring success to that particular situation. Your femininity is an asset and should be celebrated. Unfortunately, we are in a place in our society where women are oftentimes placed in leadership positions and are expected, either by others or themselves, to leave their God given feminine qualities at home. As current and future leaders in the body of Christ, we need to celebrate those feminine qualities because God is going to use them to lead His people just as He did with Deborah. Men and women were created with unique attributes; therefore, our leadership will be different. The sensitivity and delicacy that are characteristic of the female gender will breed the compassion and spiritual discernment necessary for Kingdom leadership in this hour.   
    We are in a season where many Christians are in the same miserable state as the Israelites: Disobedient and Lacking in Knowledge of Who They Belong To. They need to be brought back into right relationship with God and He has called you for such a time as this. Don’t emulate anyone else’s style. God has given you a unique leadership style and purpose. Speak firmly the TRUTHS contained in the word of God but create an environment (“Under the Palm Tree”) that causes the message to be effective. There is something to the phrase “Oh How Wonderful is a Woman’s Touch.”


  1. God knows who we are. He has called many women into various leadership positions. But we must remember that our first ministry will always be our home; our families.

    Deborah understood who she was, and what she faced. But she also did what so many of us today do not do: and that is honor our husbands for who they are and the position that God has given them in the family unit.

    She also knew that she must adhere to the very directives that God had given her, regardless of the opposition. Deborah knew that as long as God was with her, she would accomplish what He sent her to do.

    We have a divine opportunity as women in leadership to make profound change. When we know who we are, and know what God requires of us, then we do not have to prove anything. God has equipped us and will lead us.

    As women we can bring to our leadership a certain compassion and quality that God has gifted women with. We can bring a softness and a nurturing spirit that some men cannot bring. We can make profound changes not only in our families, but our communities, as well.

    But we must always remember the order in which God has designed things to be. Our first priority and ministry must begin at home. If we fail on that front, then everything else is in vain. It will not matter to God how eloquent your words are; how dynamic your leadership skills are; or how many people you can draw in, if you have failed and set aside His first directive, which is to take care of home first, and always respect and honor your husband as the head.

    We can only lead when we have learned to follow God with all of our heart and soul. When we have humbled ourselves and can not only receive His instructions, but follow them exactly. Our victories lie within our obedience.

  2. Thanks for this information. On yesterday I had a word spoken over me from a visiting Minister by the name of Johanson. He told me that I was a mother of Israel but I wasn't sure of what that meant. So thank you for this information

  3. i am truly bless and inspired by your ministry. Thank you for allowing God use you as a mentor and "Mother in Israel". Words of wisdom brings strength and insght to my life.