The Womanliness of Deborah: Complementarian -- By: Barbara K. Mouser
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The Womanliness of Deborah:
Principles from Judges 4–51
Homemaker, Author, Speaker
According to the popular view, God called Deborah to be one of the judges of Israel, to lead men in war, and thus to deliver the nation from oppression. Deborah’s leading is considered normal and precedent-setting. If one says that women should not teach men or be ordained, the answer comes back, “Oh, but what about Deborah!” For example, in Why Not Women?, a book co-authored with David Joel Hamilton, Loren Cunningham writes, “All we need to do to refute this idea—that leadership is male—is to find one woman in the Bible who was a gifted leader. Just one woman, obviously gifted, anointed, and called by God to lead. But as we look at Scripture, we find not one but several, in both the Old and New Testaments.. .. Deborah was both a leader and a prophet. She was the head of state, just as Samuel and other prophets were in the days before Israel had a king.”2
What about Deborah? Does the text teach that Deborah is the leader of the nation and its military deliverer? Does Deborah provide an historical precedent that overturns the principle of male leadership in the home and nation? Is Deborah a judge, a head of state, and thereby a poster girl for egalitarianism? Or has she been misrepresented?
Judges 4–5 is a complicated and unusual passage. However, close examination of it will reveal that Deborah is not a military leader, a head of state, or an advocate for egalitarian principles. She is a great Israelite, a prophetess, the most noble person in the book of Judges, and a womanly woman. She is a strong woman in a day of weak men. Deborah’s glory is that she uses her strength to strengthen men so that God is glorified and the nation is freed.
The book of Judges takes place between the founding of the nation under Moses and Joshua and the rise of the kings. With God as Israel’s only king and governmental bureaucracy at a minimum, this should have been a time of great freedom and prosperity. However, because
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of idolatry, it was instead a dark time of oppression, civil and religious chaos, as “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
The book of Judges traces the following cycle six and a half times:
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