Deborah: Troublesome Woman Or Woman Of Valor? -- By: Ronald W. Pierce

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 32:2 (Spring 2018)
Article: Deborah: Troublesome Woman Or Woman Of Valor?
Author: Ronald W. Pierce


Deborah: Troublesome Woman Or Woman Of Valor?

Ronald W. Pierce

Ron Pierce is Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He is well published, including co-editorship of Discovering Biblical Equality (3rd ed. forthcoming from InterVarsity Press), and serves on the CBE International Board of Reference.

This article was presented as a lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio, Texas, on Nov 15, 2016.

A longer version of this essay, written for a more general audience, is a chapter titled, “Deborah: Only When a Good Man is Hard to Find?,” in Sandra Glahn, ed., Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2017).

Unwarranted criticisms by evangelical scholars of Deborah’s leadership in Judg 4–5 continue to devalue her work as “abnormal,” “wrong,”1 something done only in private2 or even in subservience to Barak.3 Some rabbinical scholars go so far as to brand her an arrogant woman who deserves God’s punishment.4 In contrast, this paper argues that a close reading of her story and song reveals an ’eshet hayil, a “woman of valor” (cf. Ruth 3:11, Prov 12:4, 31:10).5 This is evident not only in the direct references to her, but also in the narratives regarding her associates Barak and Jael.

Deborah’s Story (Judges 4)

The Story’s Setting (4:1–3)

The repetitive pattern in Judges of spiritual corruption, foreign oppression, pleas for deliverance, and a judge who brings peace until the next cycle starts6 sets the distressing backdrop to Deborah’s story and song in chs. 4–5. This literary unit forms the first of the four longer accounts that include Gideon (chs. 6–8), Jephthah (chs. 10–12), and Samson (chs. 13–16).7 Deborah is ...

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