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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Deborah

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1. Rebekah's nurse (Genesis 24:59), faithful as a servant from Rebekah's childhood, and so, when dead at an advanced age, lamented as much as one of the family. Her burial place at the oak beneath Bethel was hence called Allon-Bachuth," the oak of weeping" (Genesis 35:8). She was in Jacob's household now, as she had been in his mother's, who was by this time dead, as appears from Genesis 35:27.

2. The prophetess and judge ("a bee"), a personal or possibly an official name applied to poets, seers, and priestesses. The symbol of a monarch in Egypt; a honey bee to her friends, a stinging bee to the enemy (Cornelius a Lapide). "Lived under the palm tree"; a landmark, as palms were rare in Palestine (Judges 4:5); possibly meaning Baal Tamar, "the sanctuary of the palm" (Judges 20:33). Wife of Lapidoth; "a mother in Israel," a patriotic and inspired heroine like Miriam. Jabin oppressed the northern tribes adjacent to Hazor his capital (Zebuhn, Naphtali, and Issachar, which she judged). Barak, at her call, summoned these (to whom the central tribes, Ephraim, Manasseh (Machir), and Benjamin in part sent contingents, Judges 20:14) in a long train (draw: Judges 5:6-7) toward the broad topped mount Tabor. Deborah accompanied him at his request.

With but 10,000 in his train ("at his feet"), by the Lord's interposition, descending from Mount Tabor, he defeated Sisera's mighty host and 900 chariots who were in the famous battlefield of Jezreel or Esdraelon, in the valley of Kishon. Deborah's prediction was fulfilled by the "Lord's selling Sisera into the hand of a woman," namely, Jael, the Kenite Heber's wife. Enthusiasm for the cause of Israel, so closely allied with the Kenites through Moses' father-in-law Hobab, caused her to commit the treacherous murder. The praise, "blessed above women in the tent (i.e. shepherdesses) shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be" commends her faith, not her treachery. Some actions of faith are mixed with the corrupt motions of the flesh, as that of the midwives and Rahab's treatment of the spies. So Jael's act showed real faith in the case of God's controversy with the godless Canaanites.

The approval of her faith, the mainspring of her conduct, by no means implies approval of the deceit by which its true character was obscured. Yet faith is precious and "blessed" in spite of grievous infirmities, and will at last outgrow and stifle them utterly. God is keen to see the faith, slow to condemn the fault, of His children. Deborah and Barak together sang the song of victory composed by her. It begins with a reference to Jehovah's original, grand, and awful manifestation at Sinai (Exodus 19; Deuteronomy 33:2), the sealing of the covenant with Israel, and the ground of all His subsequent interpositions for them. Then follows Israel's deep degradation, its highways deserted, its 40,000 soldiers (a round number for a diminished army) without shield or spear, because they forsook Jehovah for "new gods" (compare Deuteronomy 32:17). Then "war (pressed up) to their (very) gates."

But now deliverance is come, for which "bless the Lord." All should join in "speaking" His praise: the upper classes "who ride upon white-spotted asses," and those "that sit upon coverings" (middin , the rich, Matthew 21:7) spread upon the asses; also the humbler "who walk on the way," foot travelers. Those delivered from the plundering "archers "who infest "the places of drawing water" to plunder the shepherds, shepherdesses, and their flocks in lawless times (Exodus 2:17), should rehearse there, now that all is peace, "the Lord's righteous acts." "Then shall the people of Jehovah go down (from their past mountain hiding places) to their gates" and towns now delivered. "Barak, lead away thy captivity (train of captives) captive" (quoted in Psalms 68:18); fulfilled exhaustively in Christ the ascended Conqueror (Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:13).

"Out of Zebulun came they that handle the pen of the writer," i.e. the scribes of the host (Jeremiah 52:25) who wrote down the names of the soldiers. "Barak was sent by his feet into the valley," i.e. impelled irresistibly to the battle. "At the brooks of Reuben were great resolutions of the heart," but issuing in no practical action, the tribe resembling their forefather. Reuben preferred hearing "the bleatings of the flocks" to the blast of the war trumpets. Dan with its port Joppa preferred merchandise to warring for the fatherland. "Asher abode in his bags."

"The kings of Canaan took no gain of money," i.e. no booty, as they expected, from the battle; for "the stars from heaven fought against Sisera;" i.e., a Jehovah-sent storm beat in their faces and on the Israelites' back (Josephus), swelling the Kishon, which suddenly fills up the dry channel and overflows the plain of Esdraelon, making it impassable with mud, especially to chariots, so that the" prancing horses" and their "mighty" riders were swept away.

Meroz might have intercepted the retreating foe and Sisera, but is "cursed by the angel of Jehovah" for not doing so; and Jael is blessed" for her zeal, though mixed with earthly alloy. So "the land had rest for 40 years." (See BARAK.) Neither Ehud nor Jael are in the list of examples of faith in Hebrews 11. Jael apparently received Sisera in good faith, with the intention of hospitality, but a sudden impulse may have urged her to destroy the enemy of God's people. Her faith and patriotism are commendable, but not the means she took of delivering Israel.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Deborah'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/d/deborah.html. 1949.

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