We see so much discrimination against women in religions around the world . We read about the strict enforcement of the Islamic dress code and the burqa the dress code police enforce in Muslim countries, but we also find all of the major religions of the world putting women in a status below men. This includes major Christian religions.
On the other hand, in the Book of Judges we read about Jewish hero’s which includes aN extraordinary woman, Deborah. Here was a woman who lived in an orthodox society, but was nevertheless honored as a prophet, a judge and even a military genius. What’s remarkable is the fact that at this time, this was very much a male dominated society and the religious leaders were all male. It was a time when Jewish men had the right to divorce a woman they no longer wanted as a wife and the woman’s place was in the home raising children. Yet, this woman was regarded as a great leader and is so honored even today. In addition, to being a prophet, the bible describes her as holding court under a palm tree where she acted as an informal judge, deciding disputes between people as well as being regarded as a leader, a prophet and greatly respected by all.
Her role in the defeat of the Canaanite army is described in the book of Judges which also describes another woman, Jael, who killed the general of the Canaanite army. For twenty years the Canaanite’s cruelly oppressed the Israelites. Sisera was the commander of the Canaanite army who had nine hundred iron chariots. With this army they imposed a heavy handed rule.
One day, Deborah sent for Barak, an Israelite leader. It is significant that he came when asked by a woman which shows t he high esteem she was held in. She told Barak to take 10,000 soldiers to Mount Tabor. She said Sisera would be lured with his chariots and troops to the river there and Barak would defeat them with the Lord’s help. But, Barak, wasn’t convinced he could do this without her help and presence. He insisted she come with him or he wouldn’t go. "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman." In other words, if she went with him, as he demanded, the victory, instead of being his honor would be that of a woman. In spite of this warning, he refused to go if she did not come, so she did go as a leader of the Israelite army.
When Sisera found out the Israelite army had gone to Mount Tabor he took his chariots and all his men with him to the river area just as Deborah had predicted. Due to wet marshy ground, probably due to a flash flood at that time of the year, the chariots wouldn’t function in the muddy area of the river. His chariots were useless. His men were put the sword. Sisera’s army was defeated. Sisera abandoned the army and ran away. His entire army was slaughtered.
Another woman plays a key role in this episode as well, Jael. While hiding in her tent she killed Sisera. So two women were involved in the defeat of an army and are honored in Scripture. Deborah, as she predicted, was given the credit and the honor for having defeated the Canaanite army and bringing peace to Israel. For the next forty years the Israelites lived in peace because of her actions. She was honored even more for her wisdom and leadership this woman in this male dominated society. She is a role model for women of today.