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5 Reasons Deborah Supports Male Leadership-author-scott-lapierre

Five Reasons Deborah Supports Male Leadership

Judges were Israel’s primary rulers for almost three-and-a-half centuries. They also commanded armies, making them some of Scripture’s strongest leaders. So why did Deborah serve as judge? Her position is often the first mentioned to support female leadership. Does she conflict with God’s pattern of male leadership? Let’s take a look!

1. There’s No Mention of Deborah Being Appointed By God

Throughout the book of Judges, as men rise to leadership, verses identify them as chosen or empowered by God:

  • Judges 3:9—The Lord raised up a deliverer . . . Othniel.
  • Judges 3:15—The Lord raised up a deliverer . . . Ehud.
  • Judges 6:14—The Lord [said to Gideon], “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel . . . Have I not sent you?”
  • Judges 11:29—The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah.
  • Judges 13:24–25—Samson . . . grew and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him.

But with Deborah there is no recognition of God’s appointing. Judges 4:4 simply says, “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” Her introduction emphasizes that she is female, but in a negative light. Wayne Grudem, co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, explains:

Judges 4:4 suggests some amazement at the unusual nature of the situation in which a woman actually has to judge Israel, because it piles up a string of redundant words to emphasize that Deborah is a woman. Translating the Hebrew text literally, the verse says, ‘And Deborah, a woman, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she was judging Israel at the time.’ Something is abnormal, something is wrong—there are no men to function as judge! This impression is confirmed when we read of Barak’s timidity and the rebuke he receives as well as the loss of glory he could have received.

Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth (p. 134)

2. Deborah’s Ministry was Private Versus Public

Judges 4:5 says Deborah “would sit under the palm tree . . . And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” The nation approached her privately. She didn’t publicly teach God’s Word. Like Huldah and other prophetesses, she is another example of a woman limited to private and individual instruction. Even when Deborah calls for Barak, she speaks to him privately:

Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”

Judges 4:6-7

3. Deborah Encouraged Barak to Lead

Notice several phrases in the above verses:

  • The statement “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded?” shouldn’t be understood as Deborah giving orders to Barak. As a prophetess, she received a word from God and passed it along to Barak. She confirmed what he already should have known, that God commanded him to lead the army.
  • The directive, “Go and deploy troops,” is particularly significant because Deborah was judge at the time. She was in the position typically occupied by Israel’s commander. But rather than summon the troops herself, she let Barak know that God called him to command them.
  • The phrase, “against you I will deploy Sisera,” reveals God’s plan for Sisera to attack Barak, not Deborah.
  • “I will deliver him into your hand” indicates God wanted Barak, and not Deborah, to claim victory over Sisera.

All this shows that even while serving as judge, Deborah affirmed the rightness of male leadership, not only looking to Barak to lead but letting him know this was what God wanted. Sadly, Barak didn’t step up but instead told Deborah, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judges 4:8). We recognize something isn’t right when a man tells a woman, “I won’t go to battle unless you go with me.”

4. Deborah Rebuked Barak for Failing to Lead

Not surprisingly, Deborah confronted Barak about his reluctance: “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9). Deborah’s prophecy came true. God routed Sisera’s army before Barak, but it was a woman, Jael, who ended up defeating the enemy commander (Judges 4:17–22). Barak should not have insisted Deborah accompany him but instead taken leadership himself.

This entire account is not advocating for female leadership but is instead presented as a criticism of Barak. The book of Judges records some of Israel’s worst days, and the absence of male leadership is a strong reflection of the time. Deborah’s judgeship actually served as a rebuke to the nation regarding the absence of male leadership. Later, during another dark period in Israel’s history, the prophet Isaiah asserted that women ruling was a sign of God’s judgment: “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).


To learn more about the consequences when men don’t lead, watch this sermon I delivered as a guest preacher

Jacob’s family, especially his daughter, suffered because of his leadership. He planted his family at Shechem, never considering the terrible consequences. What can men learn from Jacob’s mistakes? How can fathers and husbands – as well as sons growing up to be men – do to avoid some of these same mistakes?

5. The Account Is Descriptive Versus Prescriptive

The book of Judges describes the breakdown of leadership among God’s people: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). In general the book of Judges is presented as an example not to follow; it is not prescriptive.

Is there application for today? Definitely:

If there is an example to be followed here, it is Deborah. She encouraged Barak to lead, told him what God desired of him, and rebuked him when he would not take charge. It is also worth noticing what she did not do.

When Barak refused to lead, she did not take control of the situation herself but rather let God direct Barak’s steps and victory. Her story should motivate women to do what she did, and Barak’s failure should motivate men to avoid the mistakes he made.

Discussion Questions

  1. If someone promoted female leadership using Deborah as an example, how would you respond?
  2. What lessons can women learn from Deborah?
  3. What lessons can men learn from Barak?

48 Responses

  1. Scott would the verse in Corinthians. “All things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial” apply to the story of Deborah? My church family has adopted women to lead in worship service and I can first hand tell you it has disappointed and discouraged me from taking responsibility to lead.

    1. Hello Christopher,
      Good question, but I don’t think so. I think that verse refers to the amoral, versus the moral or immoral. The moral is beneficial and the immoral is detrimental and harmful. In the case of Deborah, because a woman’s leadership over men contradict as scripture it would not be permissible, or in other words, amoral. Instead it would be immoral and detrimental.

      Thank you for sharing your testimony. I think it’s common that when women lead, men are not as inclined to lead. I’ve heard women say that they have to lead because a man doesn’t, if a woman wants a man to lead she should ensure she doesn’t lead so he feels burdened to do so.

  2. There is certainly a difference between the leadership of judging the entire Israel (Deborah’s Role) and the leadership of leading the warriors to battle (Barak’s Role). It is certain that women usually didn’t go to war in those days, so Deborah would not lead the men to war but remained a leader in judging the matters of the people of Israel.

    1. Hi Daniel,
      Yes, you’re right. Maybe something is escaping my mind, but I can’t even think of any examples in the Bible of women going to battle. Considering God’s desires for the gender roles, and especially 1 Peter 3:7 discussing women being physically weaker, it’s evident He wouldn’t want women at war.

  3. Deborah didn’t tell Barak to lead, she lead him to do his job as a military general, she wasn’t giving him her job as judge of Israel. You are reading into something that isn’t there.

    Same with victory being in the hands of a woman – Jaels gender isn’t the point, her willingness is. She didn’t say ‘I will only do this if someone else does it with me’ as Barak did, she just seizes the moment and because of that she receives the honor. It’s that simple.

    Remember God is Spirit and we are always called first to be citizens of heaven before anything we define ourselves by here on earth, including gender.
    The story of Deborah, Barak and Jael is a spiritual lesson for everyone about obedience to the Lord, not male and female leadership. Do you get it?

    Open your eyes to the things unseen, for man judges upon appearances but the Lord looks on the heart.

    Your other points are so far fetched and lacking in love I won’t even touch on them.

    1. Hi Elle,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I copied your comment and responded below different parts of it…

      Deborah didn’t tell Barak to lead, she lead him to do his job as a military general,

      I’ll let the text speak for itself. In Judges 4:6 she said, ““Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun.’”

      she wasn’t giving him her job as judge of Israel. You are reading into something that isn’t there.

      Correct, but I never said she made him a judge.

      Same with victory being in the hands of a woman – Jaels gender isn’t the point, her willingness is.

      The fact that Jael was a woman is a huge point. Debroah used that as a threat to Barak. In Judges 4:9 she said, “And she said, ‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’”

      She didn’t say ‘I will only do this if someone else does it with me’ as Barak did, she just seizes the moment and because of that she receives the honor. It’s that simple.

      Anyone being honest with the text can see Deborah resisted leading the troops. Instead, she told Barak that God commanded him to lead them.

      Remember God is Spirit and we are always called first to be citizens of heaven before anything we define ourselves by here on earth, including gender.

      If that was true there wouldn’t be specific commands in Scripture for men and women/husbands and wives.

      The story of Deborah, Barak and Jael is a spiritual lesson for everyone about obedience to the Lord, not male and female leadership. Do you get it?

      Yes, the account with Deborah and Barak deals with obedience, but if it didn’t deal with male leadership then Deborah would have led the troops herself.

      Open your eyes to the things unseen, for man judges upon appearances but the Lord looks on the heart.
      Your other points are so far fetched and lacking in love I won’t even touch on them.

      It’s not unloving to tell people the truth.

  4. Hi Scott. Before going to your 5 reasons, let’s notice that Judges 2:16-19 shows us that the meaning of the word translated as ‘judge’ or ‘leader’ here refers to a deliverer raised up by God, not merely a judge. Let’s also notice the context. Deborah’s story exemplifies a theme that God calls and uses people without being bound by how they are ranked by human culture. The story immediately preceding is the story of Ehud, the left-handed deliverer (Judg. 3:12–30). In ancient Near East culture, the right hand was associated with strength, authority and wisdom; the left with weakness, foolishness and waywardness (Gen 48:12-20; Exod 15:6, 12; Isa 48:13; Ps 110:1; Eccl 10:2; Matt 25:33, 41). The story after Deborah’s is that of Gideon, the youngest member of the weakest clan (Judg. 6:15). God’s call to leadership is not excluded by left-handedness (Ehud), by gender (Deborah), by the customs favoring the eldest son (Gideon) or by human weakness (Gideon again).
    1. There’s no mention of Deborah being appointed by God? Ok, those exact words are not used. But the text presents her leadership as God-given. In 4:3 the oppressed people are crying to the Lord for help. In 4:4 Deborah is the judge/leader of Israel. In the rest of chapters 4 and 5, following the agenda set by 2:16, Deborah is the leader through whom God delivers them, with the very satisfactory conclusion in 5:31 that the land had peace for 40 years. See also the inspired song at 5:6-7 – there was no relief until Deborah arose. So, as far as the Bible is concerned, God here raises up a woman to exercise leadership over men.
    2. Deborah’s ministry was private not public? But this can’t be supported from the text. Justice was delivered in public (Deut 17:5; Josh 20:6, 9; Isa 29:21; Amos 5:10, 12, 15). The palm tree where she sat (Judg 4:5) was therefore a public place. And even if her decisions had been given privately, by making them she still exercised authority over men.
    3. Deborah “encouraged” Barak to lead? But in the text the nature of the encouragement is that she summons Barak and instructs him to take Israel into battle. This does not diminish her authority but highlights it.
    4. Deborah rebuked Barak for failing to lead? If 4:9 is a rebuke, it is for his reluctance to obey the command which she delivered to him in 4:6-7. This does not contradict God’s call to Deborah to be the commander in chief who instructed Barak how to lead the army.
    5. The story is descriptive, not prescriptive? But the central question here is: does the Bible insist on a general principle which requires leadership to be male only, or does the story of Deborah show that God may choose to call a woman to a position of leadership over men? It shows God’s call to a woman to lead.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I responded below…

      Hi Scott. Before going to your 5 reasons, let’s notice that Judges 2:16-19 shows us that the meaning of the word translated as ‘judge’ or ‘leader’ here refers to a deliverer raised up by God, not merely a judge.

      I don’t deny that judges were leaders, but where is the word translated as “leader”? Yes, those verses say the judged were raised up by God, and it frequently says that through the book…except in Deborah’s case…which is why it’s so significant. That’s actually my point. It does NOT say that God raised her up as He did with the others.

      Let’s also notice the context. Deborah’s story exemplifies a theme that God calls and uses people without being bound by how they are ranked by human culture. The story immediately preceding is the story of Ehud, the left-handed deliverer (Judg. 3:12–30). In ancient Near East culture, the right hand was associated with strength, authority and wisdom; the left with weakness, foolishness and waywardness (Gen 48:12-20; Exod 15:6, 12; Isa 48:13; Ps 110:1; Eccl 10:2; Matt 25:33, 41). The story after Deborah’s is that of Gideon, the youngest member of the weakest clan (Judg. 6:15). God’s call to leadership is not excluded by left-handedness (Ehud), by gender (Deborah), by the customs favoring the eldest son (Gideon) or by human weakness (Gideon again).
      1. There’s no mention of Deborah being appointed by God? Ok, those exact words are not used. But the text presents her leadership as God-given. In 4:3 the oppressed people are crying to the Lord for help. In 4:4 Deborah is the judge/leader of Israel. In the rest of chapters 4 and 5, following the agenda set by 2:16, Deborah is the leader through whom God delivers them, with the very satisfactory conclusion in 5:31 that the land had peace for 40 years. See also the inspired song at 5:6-7 – there was no relief until Deborah arose. So, as far as the Bible is concerned, God here raises up a woman to exercise leadership over men.

      I’m with you on everything you said except the last sentence. I don’t want to repeat what I said above, but it’s very significant that it does NOT say God raised up Deborah. You’re saying something Scripture doesn’t say.

      2. Deborah’s ministry was private not public? But this can’t be supported from the text. Justice was delivered in public (Deut 17:5; Josh 20:6, 9; Isa 29:21; Amos 5:10, 12, 15). The palm tree where she sat (Judg 4:5) was therefore a public place. And even if her decisions had been given privately, by making them she still exercised authority over men.

      Here’s what Wayne Grudem writes in Systematic Theology, page 942: “Deborah was different from other male prophets in that she did not prophesy in public, only in private (Judges 4:5; Huldah does the same in 2 Kings 22:14-20); she handed over her leadership role to a man (Judges 4:6-7); and, although God did bring blessing through her, it is interesting that there is no explicit affirmation of the fact that the Lord raised her up, making her unlike the other major judges, for whom there is explicit statement of their calling from God.”

      3. Deborah “encouraged” Barak to lead? But in the text the nature of the encouragement is that she summons Barak and instructs him to take Israel into battle. This does not diminish her authority but highlights it.

      She didn’t command him as you’re saying. She told him what God said. God commanded him to go. I used the word “encouraged,” but I could just as easily write that she told Barak that God commanded him (not her) to lead.

      4. Deborah rebuked Barak for failing to lead? If 4:9 is a rebuke, it is for his reluctance to obey the command which she delivered to him in 4:6-7. This does not contradict God’s call to Deborah to be the commander in chief who instructed Barak how to lead the army.

      No, it is a rebuke for his reluctance to obey what God commanded him to do. Where do you see God calling Deborah to be the commander-in-chief? The text presents the opposite in that God wanted Barak in that position as Deborah relayed to him.

      5. The story is descriptive, not prescriptive? But the central question here is: does the Bible insist on a general principle which requires leadership to be male only,

      Absolutely! That is the theme of Scripture. Please see this post about male leadership being God’s pattern.

      or does the story of Deborah show that God may choose to call a woman to a position of leadership over men? It shows God’s call to a woman to lead.

      It shows the opposite. Deborah told Barak that God commanded him to lead. I’m not sure how it could be clearer?

  5. Hey Scott,

    Thanks for the article! I know you have received some push back on point #1, with the retort, “Shamgar was not appointed by God.” Perhaps the more simple solution is that Shamgar is not one of the major judges. He’s more akin to Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, & Abdon.

    While a creative solution, I do not agree with Tanya’s solution. Shamgar seems to be a positive character both in his close association with Ehud (the unlikely deliverer), as well as his association with Jael (the righteous Gentile deliverer).

    I would say Deborah’s role, although it included judging of some form (Judg 4:4), was not the same as the other major judges of the time. And certainly it is not a proof text for female headship in the church. If so, her absence is conspicuous in the lists that appear which include Barak but not Deborah in 1 Sam 12:9-11 and Hebrews 11:32. The main conflict in the narrative is Deborah trying to convince Barak to take up the mantle of leadership that God has clearly called for him to do.

    I would say Deborah is a paradigmatic of positive female influence. She is a “mother of Israel (5:7).” One who encourage people to follow the Lord. She uses her relational influence to encourage men to lead, and give themselves willingly on behalf of others (5:2,7,18). It seems to me, the praises in her song of biblical masculinity are a foreshadowing of Eph 5:25 and Christ himself.

    Thanks again for the great article. Preaching this text Sunday!

    1. Hi Kyle,
      Thanks for reading and commenting! I was going to break up your comment and respond below different statements, but I realized all my comments were pretty much the same: “Well said, I agree.” ?.

      I will say your comment about her positive female influence is very good. To recognize the different calls God has on men and women isn’t to minimize or deny the ways God has used them and will continue to do so. There are many wonderful, godly women in Scripture, and it’s unfortunate when egalitarians act as though a complementarian view denies that.

      Are your sermons recorded? If so, I’d like to hear it. Here’s the link to my sermon on the topic. Be glad to hear your thoughts.

  6. Scott, I truly appreciated your article on Deborah and the reasons why it shows male leadership. My wife and I have been learning a lot in this area over the last 8 months and yesterday during our worship service there was a prayer calling women to co-lead at church. This did not sit well with my spirit and after speaking to the pastor about it, he gave Deborah as an example of female leadership. This has been a tremendous eye opener for me and thank you for it. It amazes me how God gives us what we need at the right time. Your original entry was in 2017 and I’m seeing it just when I needed to. Praise God! Any other information or insight you can offer would be great!! Thanks.

    1. Hi Travis,
      I’ve received lots of questions from people asking when they should leave a church. Typically I tell people to stay strive to be an instrument of change, unless they start to be perceived as divisive. I would consider a church’s desire to see women co-leading as a dealbreaker. This shows such a departure from God’s Word that I’d doubt your ability to rectify it. In other words, you’d probably be labeled divisive if you worked to move the church from this direction. I appreciate your sensitivity to what you saw and that it burdened you to go to the pastor. That was the right thing to do.

      You asked for any other information. I would encourage you to read this post too: Male Leadership is God’s Pattern.

    2. Oh dear. Travis, that’s not your Spirit not sitting well with it. Continue to learn about how this story is all about obedience to the Lord and gender is irrelevant. This article by Scott is littered with misinterpretations and he has misunderstood it and missed the entire point. He is leading you astray. This is why guys like him are dangerous. No true theologian or historian would agree with his twisted, extremely abstract views. Honestly I’ve never read such rubbish as what he typed about the incredible leader Deborah. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Please grow in your understanding of the character of God and don’t make big life choices based on articles on the internet. Be careful.

    3. Travis,
      Elle said:

      gender is irrelevant.

      A surface reading of the story reveals gender is one of the most important aspects. If gender was of no consequence then Deborah would’ve led and she wouldn’t have threatened Barak by telling him, “the LORD will Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9).

      Also, if gender was irrelevant, we wouldn’t see specific commands for men and women/husbands and wives in Scripture.

      Elle said:

      No true theologian or historian would agree with his twisted, extremely abstract views.

      This makes me wonder if she read the article. I quoted Wayne Grudem who wrote the most respected and established Systematic Theology. The quote itself is from Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, which is published by Crossway, and endorsed by:
      ―Richard Mayhue, Research Professor of Theology, The Master’s Seminary
      ―Mary A. Kassian, author, Girls Gone Wise
      ―John Piper, Founder and Teacher, desiringGod.org; Chancellor, Bethlehem College & Seminary; author, Desiring God
      ―Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author, Adorned; Teacher and Host, Revive Our Hearts
      ―R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
      ―J. I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College
      ―J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
      ―Alistair Begg, Senior Pastor, Parkside Church, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
      ―Diane Passno, Executive Vice President, Focus on the Family; author, Feminism: Mystique or Mistake?
      ―Dorothy Kelley Patterson, Professor, Theology in Women’s Studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
      ―Dennis Rainey, President and CEO, FamilyLife; Host, FamilyLife Today; author, Stepping Up
      ―Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
      ―Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

    4. Scott,

      I couldn’t agree with you more on this topic. This passage is clearly one where gender specific roles are a key component! It is sad and shocking to see the feministic views coming into the church at such an alarming rate. By studying the truth written in God’s Word I and my wife we’re able to have our eyes opened to the lies being taught and widely accepted. We did leave our church and continue to stand for the truth written in scripture. It’s not been an easy road but God has blessed us greatly through this by drawing closer to us as we drew closer to Him!!

      Thank you for standing firm upon the Word of God and speaking the truth to the world. You are an encouragement to me and to many others.

    5. Hi Travis,
      That’s good to hear. Truth sets us free. There’s blessing from embracing what God’s Word says, whether it’s hard or easy to swallow.

      Your words about me are an encouragement. Thank you!

  7. Good Morning

    In response to your first question about me saying hearing the Holy Spirit I am referring to the gentleman’s argument that the Holy Spirit needs to confirm the word that’s in the bible to him and other people that oppose the idea that women shouldn’t lead men in church or home. Secondly his argument was fleshy. It was not of the Spirit of god and he was defending a emotional feeling and not the truth. Like I said God has never called a woman to lead any nation or church in the bible. That was a very good point you made about Debrah not being appointed and if you really are reading this story with the guidance of the Holy Spirit she was not leading them. When I hear opposition to this subject it shows that people in the body of Christ have not matured and their understanding is still darkened about this subject. There is a perverted Spirit in the world that is killing the mentality of men and causing them to be passive and yielding to things that are not of god. I praise God for you taking a stand.

  8. Hi Scott!

    What an excellent job you’ve done on this post and in responding to all of the comments here. It is clear that you are a man of GOD leading well the children of GOD. Thank you!

    The point about scripture not directly saying that Shamgar was appointed by GOD was mentioned more than once by dissenters in the comments, and misused by them to support the false supposition that not all who were appointed by GOD had that directly revealed in scripture.

    I obviously disagree with that. I believe the scripture doesn’t say that Shamgar was appointed by GOD b/c Shamgar was NOT appointed by GOD.

    Not every man is called. Only men are called to lead, but not all men are called to lead. Simply being a man is not qualification alone. Some men (dare I say most men) are unfit to lead. Just b/c Shamgar was a man doesn’t mean he was appointed by GOD. I believe the only ones who were appointed by GOD are the ones where scripture specifically reveal that.

    So, since scripture does NOT say that Shamgar or Deborah were appointed by GOD, but does say that the others were, it is clear that Shamgar and Deborah were NOT appointed by GOD.

    I also find it no coincidence that the Song of Deborah in Judges 5:6 says that in the days of Shamgar people took winding paths and villages collapsed. And, in the very next verse (Judges 5:7), it says that b/c Deborah arose as a mother in Israel, peasantry prospered. Under both Shamgar and Deborah, the people suffered. It just really couldn’t be more clear that Shamgar and Deborah were NOT appointed by GOD to lead.

    Your thoughts?!

    1. Hi Tanya,
      Thank you for the encouraging comment.

      You made a great point about Shamgar (and Deborah) being appointed by God. Not sure why that didn’t occur to me, but I think you’re right. I hope others read your thoughts. Typically I discourage people from speaking into silence, and now I can see that by suggesting Shamgar was appointed by God that I was doing what I’ve discouraged!

      I just read Judges 5:6-7. I hadn’t considered the application these verses had on Deborah and Shamgar’s judgeships. You’re right that they weren’t times of prosperity! Great insight, truly.

      I hope you’ll read some of my other posts and share your thoughts!

  9. I believe it’s important to hear the Holy Spirit on what God wants for men and women. It’s important not to let emotions overtake what is truth. I hear a lot of flesh when it comes to saying that women should not be leading men. God has never came to a woman and gave her a appointed assignment.God loves women but he doesn’t want them to lead men.

    1. Hi Cody,
      I responded below your comments…

      I believe it’s important to hear the Holy Spirit on what God wants for men and women.

      What about hearing God’s Word says about men and women? Also, would God’s Holy Spirit lead us in a direction that conflicts with God’s Word?

      It’s important not to let emotions overtake what is truth.

      I completely agree! I think it’s typically emotionally charged, versus scripturally charged, arguments for women teaching and having authority over men.

      I hear a lot of flesh when it comes to saying that women should not be leading men.

      Tone is hard to convey in writing. Can you let me know what has sounded fleshly?

      God has never came to a woman and gave her a appointed assignment.

      Can you elaborate a little on what you mean here?

      God loves women but he doesn’t want them to lead men.

      Now it sounds like you’re saying women shouldn’t lead men? I think I’m having some trouble following your position.

    2. Hi Cody!

      You are correct that GOD doesn’t want women to lead over men, but it’s inaccurate for you to say that has GOD never given a woman an appointed assignment.

      In John 1:28-31, GOD very clearly gives Mary an appointed assignment – have a child, and name Him Jesus. And in verse 38, Mary accepts this assignment.

      GOD certainly uses women. He created us in His image and He loves us. And He has purpose for us. But that purpose just does NOT include leading over our husbands or leading over the church.

  10. Hello Scott~ You have interesting points but I disagree with your reasoning.

    First, you stated that she wasn’t appointed by God. Your reasoning is because it doesn’t say God called Deborah as a judge. Then who appointed her? Did the men of Israel thought it would be cool to have a woman judge? Did she self appoint her self as a judge and everyone simply agreed? HOW DID SHE BECOME A JUDGE OF ISRAEL? Are you going to ignore all the other evidences of her appointment because it didn’t say she was appointed by God? This is very ignorant. Bible says she was a prophetess and judged Israel. No one in Israel disputed her authority. She called for Barak to deliver God’s message. Her prophesies came true in grand fashion like other unlikely victories in the bible when it says God promises victory. ALL the evidences point to her being appointed by God! We can judge a tree by its fruits. She was one of the judges like other judges raised BY GOD.

    Second, you stated that Deborah had private ministry and not a public ministry. Judges 4:4 says Deborah was leading, governing, or judging (depending on how you translate it) Israel at that time. No matter how you see it, it was a position of authority over men and women since it is stated generally and doesn’t specify only women of Israel. Judges 4:5 says she would sit under the Palm of Deborah and the people of Israel would come to her for judgement. Under a tree is very open rather than private. In court where judgments are carried out, there are audiences or at least other people who are waiting for their cases to be settled. People will learn from observing how the judgments are carried out. She taught how the laws of God were to be applied and carried out for Israel people. That means her judgments had public implications and not just private as Supreme Court justices’ decisions have public implications. So, I don’t know why you would go out of your way to claim that her ministry was a private versus public. It is definitely easier to believe that she was a public leader with public ministry rather than a private ministry. If the author wanted to let us know that her judging was uniquely private opposed to public as the other judges or prophets were, don’t you think he would have let us know such an important distinction more clearly without all this ambiguity?

    Third and fourth points I agree with. The last point I agree with but with some reservation because of applications you mentioned.

    I do believe in male leadership as norm but not rule. Men have to step up and be courageous. If Deborah was an exception to the norm, who says there can’t be more exceptions? If God calls and gifts a woman to lead in any role, who are we to say she can’t lead? If God anointing is evident as with Deborah, who are we to go against God? God can call and anoint a woman to lead as shown by Deborah’s case. Therefore, I believe we shouldn’t make it a rule to disallow women to lead. I have seen women who can teach and lead as good as any man. Why can’t they teach and lead in a church? As for Paul’s teaching on females’ role in church, it was more about keeping the order. (Paul did tell slaves obey their masters also.) Our times have changed to a point that it would not cause disorder or chaos in a church if there are women teachers or even pastors. (Our men and women learn from female professors in universities already. I doubt that was the case during Paul’s time.) I know God made man and woman differently. This is why I say female leaders are not the norm but exceptions. Still, I don’t want to stand in the way of God if He wants a woman to lead. We can judge a tree by its fruits.

    1. Hello Sam,
      You wrote quite a bit, so I quoted your comment, and responded point-by-point…

      Hello Scott~ You have interesting points but I disagree with your reasoning.
      First, you stated that she wasn’t appointed by God. Your reasoning is because it doesn’t say God called Deborah as a judge. Then who appointed her? Did the men of Israel thought it would be cool to have a woman judge? Did she self appoint her self as a judge and everyone simply agreed? HOW DID SHE BECOME A JUDGE OF ISRAEL?

      Since Scripture doesn’t tell us, I don’t know. I thought it was significant that it said the male judges had been appointed by God, but the same wasn’t said of Deborah. Then Damian Wilson asked about Shamgar who also doesn’t have a statement about God appointing him, and I acknowledged that I could be wrong about this point.

      I don’t think it says God appointed Shamgar, because there’s only one verse about him. If the account of his judgeship was longer, there would probably be an accompanying statement. Maybe I’m wrong though, and perhaps it’s insignificant that it doesn’t say God appointed Deborah.

      Are you going to ignore all the other evidences of her appointment because it didn’t say she was appointed by God? This is very ignorant. Bible says she was a prophetess and judged Israel.

      Yes, you’re right that Deborah was a prophetess. I discuss female prophetesses in this post and how they don’t conflict with male leadership. I don’t want to copy the material from that post to this comment, so could you read it and let me know if you have any thoughts and/or questions?

      No one in Israel disputed her authority. She called for Barak to deliver God’s message. Her prophesies came true in grand fashion like other unlikely victories in the bible when it says God promises victory. ALL the evidences point to her being appointed by God! We can judge a tree by its fruits. She was one of the judges like other judges raised BY GOD.
      Second, you stated that Deborah had private ministry and not a public ministry. Judges 4:4 says Deborah was leading, governing, or judging (depending on how you translate it) Israel at that time. No matter how you see it, it was a position of authority over men and women since it is stated generally and doesn’t specify only women of Israel.

      It’s very important to distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive. Just because something is recorded (described), doesn’t mean it’s commendable (prescriptive). What makes you think Deborah being a judge is prescriptive versus descriptive? The time of the Judges was the spiritually darkest time in Israel’s history. It’s largely a record of what NOT to do. Isaiah 3:12 says, “As for My people, children are their oppressors, And women rule over them.” Women ruling is a judgment against the nation. How can you then conclude a woman ruling (Deborah) is a good thing?

      Judges 4:5 says she would sit under the Palm of Deborah and the people of Israel would come to her for judgement. Under a tree is very open rather than private. In court where judgments are carried out, there are audiences or at least other people who are waiting for their cases to be settled. People will learn from observing how the judgments are carried out.

      I disagree. Saying she was under a tree and people visited her there emphasizes the private (versus public) nature of her position.

      She taught how the laws of God were to be applied and carried out for Israel people.

      Where does it say that?

      That means her judgments had public implications and not just private as Supreme Court justices’ decisions have public implications. So, I don’t know why you would go out of your way to claim that her ministry was a private versus public. It is definitely easier to believe that she was a public leader with public ministry rather than a private ministry.

      Even if her judgeship was public, and the pattern in the rest of Scripture is for men to lead and Scripture forbids women from having authority over men, we can conclude this was descriptive versus prescriptive.

      If the author wanted to let us know that her judging was uniquely private opposed to public as the other judges or prophets were, don’t you think he would have let us know such an important distinction more clearly without all this ambiguity?

      Deborah was a godly woman. She is the example in the account. The irony of your argument is that Deborah did her best to escape leading the men—she rebuked Barak and told him to take charge. It’s not ambiguous whatsoever. If, as you say, God wanted Deborah to lead, then why didn’t she?

      Third and fourth points I agree with. The last point I agree with but with some reservation because of applications you mentioned.
      I do believe in male leadership as norm but not rule. Men have to step up and be courageous. If Deborah was an exception to the norm, who says there can’t be more exceptions?

      Why would God make something normative (men leading), forbid something (men leading in 1 Timothy 2:12), pronounce it as a judgment (women leading in Isaiah 3:12), yet expect us to think there should be exceptions? Additionally, if there are supposed to be exceptions, why don’t we see any in Scripture? Deborah is the example cited, and an elevated view reveals a godly woman who tried to get a man to lead. You could cite Jezebel and Athaliah I suppose. They were queens who exercised authority. Do you think women should follow their examples?

      I have heard people say, “What about all the women in the New Testament who led?” Whenever I ask for examples, they throw out the names of women in the New Testament, but not who led. Yes I know there are wonderful women in the New Testament. Yes, I know God used them powerfully. But I don’t see any leading men.

      If God calls and gifts a woman to lead in any role, who are we to say she can’t lead?

      Right. If God did that. But He didn’t. He put restrictions on women’s roles, and gave them a greater focus on their husbands, children, and homes (Titus 2). Has God given women leadership ability? Yes. I think my wife has great teaching and leadership ability, as do other women in our church. Katie exercises these gifts within the boundaries given her: over other women and children.

      If God anointing is evident as with Deborah, who are we to go against God? God can call and anoint a woman to lead as shown by Deborah’s case.

      Lead who? You keep saying that, but the account is about a woman making every effort to see a man lead.

      Therefore, I believe we shouldn’t make it a rule to disallow women to lead. I have seen women who can teach and lead as good as any man.

      I agree with this, and I would add that I have seen men who can’t lead as well as some women. But this is not a question of ability. It’s a question of what God’s Word says.

      Why can’t they teach and lead in a church?

      They can, over other women and children.

      As for Paul’s teaching on females’ role in church, it was more about keeping the order.

      First Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” This could not be clearer. You must rip this verse kicking-and-screaming out-of-context to support what you’re saying.

      (Paul did tell slaves obey their masters also.) Our times have changed to a point that it would not cause disorder or chaos in a church if there are women teachers or even pastors.

      Okay, now you’ve given insight into your exegesis. Scripture’s teaching changes with time as the culture changes. I disagree with this completely.

      (Our men and women learn from female professors in universities already. I doubt that was the case during Paul’s time.) I know God made man and woman differently. This is why I say female leaders are not the norm but exceptions. Still, I don’t want to stand in the way of God if He wants a woman to lead. We can judge a tree by its fruits.

      If God wants a woman to lead men, as I said earlier, we must wonder why He wants something He forbids (1 Tim 2:12), condemns (Isa 3:12), and doesn’t support scripturally.

  11. How do you take the fact that the name Deborah means leader. Also, according to your argument, Joab should have been the leader of Israel instead of David, because he was raised to lead an army. Barack was just a general, Deborah was the commander in chief. Also, are you just ignorant of the female church leaders in the new testament, or that Deborah is mentioned in Hebrews 11 in the list of “heroes of the faith” (as it’s called) because she was a prophet. So are you saying we are to also set aside the new testament as descriptive instead of perspective?

    1. Hi Alex,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll respond below your comments…

      How do you take the fact that the name Deborah means leader.

      Deborah’s name doesn’t mean, “leader.” It means “bee.” You can see the entry here.

      Also, according to your argument, Joab should have been the leader of Israel instead of David, because he was raised to lead an army. Barack was just a general, Deborah was the commander in chief.

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re communicating with the Joab and David analogy. If you elaborate I’ll do my best to respond.

      Also, are you just ignorant of the female church leaders in the new testament, or that

      The Twelve Apostles were men. Jesus could have chosen six men and six women, but He chose all men for these important leadership positions. The Seventy were men. They were sent out after the Twelve (Luke 10:1). Again though Jesus could have chosen thirty-five men and thirty-five women, but He chose all men. Church elders are men – consider the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1–5, and Titus 1:6, 9 and they’re spoken of with masculine terms:

      “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work . . . the husband of one wife . . . one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission. If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife . . . holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught.”

      In 1 Timothy 2:12–14, Paul said, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

      Deborah is mentioned in Hebrews 11 in the list of “heroes of the faith” (as it’s called) because she was a prophet.

      No she’s not, but even if she was, that would be a commendation of her faith, not leadership over men.

      So are you saying we are to also set aside the new testament as descriptive instead of perspective?

      Parts of the New Testament are descriptive and parts are prescriptive. For example, Acts 2:44-45 says, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”

      This is descriptive versus prescriptive, but most of the epistles are prescriptive. I don’t think we should set aside any of the New Testament, but we should recognize what is descriptive and prescriptive.

  12. I have a quick question for you. What would you say about Shamgar in chapter 3:31? The scriptures never say he was raised or appointed by the Lord. However, he showed no passivity, like Barak, due to his killing of 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. He was a true man as far as leadership and courage.

    One more thing. Chapter 2: 16-18 talks about the Lord raising judges for Israel. I believe it is talking about all of the judges, including Deborah. What do you think? Just to let you know, I agree with everything that you have written.

    Thank you,
    Dame

    1. Hi Dame,
      Good question. You’re right that it doesn’t say Shamgar was raised or appointed by the Lord. I admit that I’m speculating, but I believe it’s because of how little is said of him. There’s only one verse. If the account of his judgeship was longer, there would probably be an accompanying statement. Without that addition though, like you said, he clearly distinguished himself from Barak through his courage and defense of the nation.

      Regarding Judges 2:16-18, I don’t think this means God raised up each judge. I think it’s simply a statement about what God did: He raised up judges for the nation, and He did; however, it doesn’t say, “Every judge was raised up by God.”

      Good questions, and I’m sorry for the delay in responding! Please let me know if there’s anything else.

  13. This was very powerful man of god and very needed in this present age. I see a lot of opposition to male leadership and even in some of the responses to what you were teaching. We live in a already jezebel and ahab society that wants to abolish manhood and praise perversion. This has encouraged me even the more to stand as a man of god in this society. God bless you and may the love of Jesus Christ empower you amen.

    1. Hello Cody,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad my post encouraged you. The relationship between Ahab and Jezebel is a perfect example of a swapping of the roles that caused problems for them and others. Think of the situation with Naboth: Jezebel had him murdered, while Ahab passively sat by. His wife led, and he submitted to her plan. Adam and Eve, and Abraham and Sarah are other good examples. In Gen 3:17, God rebuked Adam…

      “Because YOU HAVE LISTENED TO THE VOICE OF YOUR WIFE
      and have eaten of the tree
      of which I commanded you,
      ‘You shall not eat of it,’”

      We know the fall took place when Adam and Eve sinned, but God points out WHY the fall took place: because Adam obeyed his wife. He was passive. Go forward a few chapters and you reach Abraham and Sarah…

      Genesis 16:2 Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And ABRAM LISTENED TO THE VOICE OF SARAI.

      It’s the same words that God said to Adam. We know this caused problems too.

  14. The most interesting parallel in the Deborah account is how similar it is to today’s society… men who should be leading who are not, and women who are left standing in the gap searching for a leader. In both God is what is missing – and Christians know that. It proves that while often times it seems so much has changed since the Bible was written, so much is still the same.

    1. Hi Marissa,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, there’s definitely application for today. While submission receives an amount of criticism from unbelievers and even some professing Christians, as a pastor the most common criticism I hear is, “My husband won’t lead.” This leaves women having to be like Deborah and carry some of the load that’s meant for a man. I appreciate that you recognized the application Scripture has today.

  15. There is something about this story that I love. This is a hot topic with a lot of people, but we can learn a lot when we really look at what the Bible says about it. I am probably in the minority being a woman who thinks that men should lead.

  16. Hey Scott, thanks for really digging into this text and pulling out some very practical insights. You do a nice job of making strong, clear applications without going beyond what the passage warrants.

    From everything I see, we’re at a moment where many (most?) men struggle with leadership. It’s beyond the scope and point of your post, but I wonder why you think this is true (if you do), and, how you would recommend men addressing it. In my experience, many men ‘know’ they should lead, but find it very hard to make progress even after making this discovery.

    Thanks again for bringing up this important topic!

    1. Hi Bryan,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I especially appreciate the feedback on the points, that they don’t go beyond what Scripture teaches.

      In regards to your question, “Why do men struggle with leadership?” I hate to say it, but I have to put the responsibility on some churches. We can’t blame the world and/or the culture, because we don’t expect the world/culture to agree with God’s Word. If you look at the comments on my recent posts, Male Leadership Is God’s Pattern, and Complementarianism Versus Egalitarianism, you’ll see the criticisms in the comments are from people claiming to be Christians; mostly women by the way too. They’re all for female pastors and they’re terribly opposed to wives submitting to their husbands.

      More than likely they’re also part of egalitarian churches that encourage women to lead in the home and the church, and indirectly encourage passive men. The remedy is for churches to clearly teach God’s Word and encourage the men, especially the husbands and fathers, to be the pastors/shepherds of their families. One other subtler issue is the view that churches are responsible with raising their children. When the view is, “I don’t have to pray with my children or read the Bible with them, because I take them to church and/or youth group” there will be spiritually lazy/passive men. It goes back to Genesis 3 when God told Adam, “Because you heeded the voice of your wife.” God was looking to the weakness of men to submit to their wives, and indirectly the weakness of women to take control of their husbands (“Your desire will be for your husband”; a desire to control).

  17. While I am a huge proponent of male leadership in the church, I do think that we need to be careful in saying that Deborah was not appointed by God. He clearly used her and spoke through her to lead the people of Israel.

    1. Hi Bailey,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I definitely would not deny that God used her!

      When other judges are introduced there’s a clear indication of God’s appointing. What verse gives the same indication for Deborah?

    2. Scott – Not all the judges had a clear statement indicating God’s appointment (There is Elon and Abdon in chapter 12 which had nothing more said about them). However, Judges 2:16 does show that “the LORD raised up judges”. So regardless of the individual attention given, the earlier text does indicate that each judge was established by God. I believe it is unwise to downplay the establishment of Deborah as a judge over Israel. The text clearly shows that it was an ordination from God. The fact that “Israel saw God defeat Jabin” is testimony to God’s working through Deborah. To say that Deborah was a judge because there were no men to lead is a stretch. He chose Gideon who was a wreck of a man with all his doubts. With Gideon, He used the weakest of the weak to rescue His people. So it is with Deborah. How many times has God shown His power and strength through those that the world would see as “weak”. In that culture, to have a woman leading was just another sign that God can use ANYONE he calls to accomplish His purposes. To say that a man and not Deborah should have been leading is a slap in the face to God’s calling someone into leadership.

    3. Hi Michael,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think it depends what you mean by “downplaying the establishment of Deborah as a judge.” I definitely wasn’t trying to do that. My attempt was to speak positively of Deborah. For example, I concluded by saying:

      If there is an example to be followed here, it is Deborah. She encouraged Barak to lead, told him what God desired of him, and rebuked him when he would not take charge…Her story should motivate women to do what she did.

      You said, “The text clearly shows that it was an ordination from God.” Where does it clearly show that? I don’t want to repeat the info I have in my post, but the commentary on Judges 4:4 and the argument from Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth is very strong.

      You said “God worked through Deborah.” I completely agree with you! But just because God uses someone, or uses a situation, doesn’t suddenly make it prescriptive (versus descriptive) or approve the decisions and actions of the individuals involved.

      I also agree with everything you said about God using the weak. Judges in general seems to be a case-study supporting your point…and I would say my life has been that as well :).

      You said, “In that culture, to have a woman leading was just another sign that God can use ANYONE he calls to accomplish His purposes.” It’s definitely true that God can use anyone He calls to accomplish His purposes. Whether it’s a man, woman, donkey (Balaam), fish (Jonah), etc. But just because God uses people doesn’t legitimize the situation or their actions. For example, keeping with the book of Judges, God used Samson’s disobedience with Philistine women to punish the Philistines. Judges 14:3-4 says:

      3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”
      And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”
      4 But his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

      Yes, God used Samson’s disobedience for good, but we don’t look at this and think we should go out and marry people when we’re unequally yoked. Thank you for the discussion!

    4. Scott, to demand to see proof that Deborah was God appointed but dismiss that there were male Judges without that distinction is unfair. You would also have to see every Judge appointed by God. Deborah is the foundation for the female leaders in the early church, if you would like I’ll give you a list of people directly spoken of in the letters. I’m also just curious of your stance on the “heroes of the faith” list in Hebrews 11. Because Deborah would be included in “the prophets” she also was a prophetess, the only person in the bible to have the distinction of both prophet and judge.

    5. Hi Alex,
      Again, I’ll respond below your comments…

      Scott, to demand to see proof that Deborah was God appointed but dismiss that there were male Judges without that distinction is unfair. You would also have to see every Judge appointed by God.

      Okay, that’s fine. You can see a question from someone else about Shamgar, as well as my response. The point is it doesn’t say he was appointed by God.

      Deborah is the foundation for the female leaders in the early church,

      You can see my previous comment about male leadership in the New Testament.

      Just to be clear, I know there are women with great leadership and teaching ability. My wife is in this category as are some other women in the church I pastor. They exercise their gifts over other women and children; therefore, there are outlets for them.

      if you would like I’ll give you a list of people directly spoken of in the letters.

      Do you mean you’ll give me a list of women mentioned in the New Testament? If so, you don’t need to do that. I’m away of plenty of wonderful, godly women in the New Testament. We have a daughter named Chloe ?. But while the mention of women in the New Testament often applauds their contributions to the Lord’s work, they aren’t in positions of teaching or authority over men.

      I’m also just curious of your stance on the “heroes of the faith” list in Hebrews 11.

      I commented on this in my previous comment. You said Deborah is in Hebrews 11, but she’s not.

      Because Deborah would be included in “the prophets” she also was a prophetess,

      Yes, you’re right that Deborah was a prophetess. I discusses female prophetesses in this post and how they don’t conflict with male leadership. I don’t want to copy the material from that post to this comment, so could you read that post and let me know if you have any thoughts and/or questions? Thanks!

      the only person in the bible to have the distinction of both prophet and judge.

      This is not true. Samuel was a prophet and judge, and served as the transition between the two offices.

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