And so we get to Deborah. Thank heavens for her.
No explanation how a woman got the job, we are introduced to her as leader of the Israelites at that time. She is recognised as a prophet, speaking God’s word, and people come to her for resolving disputes. Qualified by virtue of what people see, by her actions.
Another king is oppressing the people and she has a word about how God will give them victory, which she gives to the commander. He does not have courage, so trusting God’s word she leads the army herself. He is freaked out by the superior military strength of iron chariots.
These turned up in Joshua too. They were obviously the tanks of the era, a massive tactical advantage. God said he would deliver the land in spite of them, but the people were spooked and failed to drive out the people that had them.
They’ve become a rallying badge for atheists… there is a prominent wiki called iron chariots, as they are said to symbolise God’s weakness. But it seems pretty clear to me that they are symbolic of the people’s lack of faith, ironically.
A massive point of Joshua and Judges is that the Israelites are not military geniuses, but favoured by God. Its all about how God gives victories. Deborah says it is shame on him that a woman will bring the victory – a woman prophetess inexperienced at warfare beats the army with all the strategic advantage.
Courage, victory, blessing and faithfulness are all conflated in Judges – God’s power is theirs if they have the faith to trust it.
And I believe that leadership of God’s people is still given to women if they have the faith to trust so, in spite of what large swathes of my church teaches!
It is also the story of Jael, another woman. The defeated commander, Sisera, ignobly runs from the battlefield on foot and takes shelter with her. She is a woman of some prominence and politically an ally, but she is on Israel’s side and kills him – quietly hammering a tent peg into his temple as he sleeps. Chilling. They don’t really editorialise about Jael, but she is a Jewish hero clearly.