1. Exposition

Was Deborah one of the judges?

Judges 4:4 (ESV)

4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

The verb to judge is used in connection with Deborah. It is tempting to think she functioned as a judge and was resolving legal issues brought her way. Yet this in­terpretation is unlikely. The term judging does not require a judicial interpretation anywhere else in the book. And where the role receives some definition, the judges are presented primarily as deliverers. Deborah, however, is never called deliverer (like Othniel and Ehud were, in Judges 3:9 and Judges 3:15, respectively) or said to deliver Israel (as do other judges: Judges 2:16; Judges 6:14; Judges 8:22; Judges 12:2; Judges 13:5). “The specific mention of Deborah as 'judging,' though common to a number of minor and major judges (Judges 3:10; Judges 10:2–3; Judges 12:7–9, Judges 12:11, Judges 12:13–14; Judges 15:20; Judges 16:31), is unique in that the exact nature of her activities is given (Judges 4:4–5)."1

She is also not introduced as one whom the Lord had raised up. She is not empowered by the Lord. She does not serve a military function: she’s absent from the description of the actual battle, she needs Barak to accomplish the deliverance, and she never meets the enemy Jabin or Sisera.2 And, when we turn to the so-called hall of faith in Hebrews 11:1–40, several leaders from the time of the judges are listed, including Barak, but not Deb­orah.