“The villagers ceased in Israel: they ceased to be until I arose: I Deborah arose as a mother in Israel.” Judges 5:7
Deborah is one of my heroes in the Old Testament. Her name means “Bee,” and she’s absolutely a queen bee of the judges. Not only is she the only female judge and the only “judgey-judge” (meaning she heard disputes and settled them); but she is also the only judge in the book who is also described as a prophet.
I read a fascinating Hebrew word study of the phrase “wife of Lappidoth” from Judges 4:4 that raised the possibility that Lappidoth was not the proper name of her husband, but instead was related to the Hebrew word for “torches.” And, since “wife” and “woman” can be interchangeable words in Hebrew, “wife of Lappidoth” could be translated “woman of torches.”
And she certainly lit a fire under Barak, didn’t she? I really love how Deborah and Barak team up in today’s reading. Barak is the muscle. He puts the “arm” in army. But he recognizes the wisdom and the prophetic word the Lord has given Deborah. And while many interpret Barak as being wimpy and timid, I prefer to see him as understanding how necessary Deborah was to the battle. It is as though Barak said, “All my muscle won’t make a difference, Deborah, without your heart and mind.”
In the song of Deborah and Barak (Judges 5), Deborah sings about her motive for rising up to save Israel. Check out v. 7:
“The villagers ceased in Israel: they ceased to be until I arose: I Deborah arose as a mother in Israel.”
Deborah thinks of herself as a mother before she’s a prophet or a judge or anything else. And when she sees village life—community—disintegrating, she rises up as a mother.
(side note: The Song of Deborah is probably the only song to ever praise the virtues of a woman driving a tent peg through a man’s skull (See Judges 5:24-26). And while it probably wouldn’t have made it into the top ten on American Top Forty, it would have been huge at Ozzfest).
I think this is part of the unique and precious contribution women make to the body of Christ. Men tend to look at the church with a warrior mindset– the next hill to take, the next battle to fight, the next territory to claim, the next enemy to defeat. All good things. All necessary and vital.
Women tend to look at the church with a mothering mindset– a community to be preserved, faith that is to be nurtured, relationships that are to be strengthened. Also good and necessary and vital things.
My wife is fierce when it comes to protecting our family. She is a warrior against anything that would threaten our unity. And as gifted as she is in so many different areas, she identifies first as a mother.
During the Covid shutdown, I saw the moms in our neighborhood working the hardest to maintain community. It’s almost always the moms I saw walking with their kids down our street, helping them find teddy bears in windows, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. Like Deborah, they saw “village life ceasing,” so they rose up. And I am so thankful for strong women who will “fight like a mother” when their family is threatened!
Have you got a “warrior mom” in your house, church, or neighborhood? Thank them today. Are you a woman who fights to preserve the village? Thank God for you. Lord, lead the men in our church to value the women in our church!