Questions to Consider
1. Go back to lesson 3 (link above) and review your answer to the first part of question 5, Israel’s pattern of sin and repentance in 2:16-23. How does today’s passage fit this pattern? How does today’s passage fit the theme verse of Judges (21:25), “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”?
2. Read chapter 4. Did Deborah take it upon herself to assume the position of judge (4:4)? According to 2:18, who placed her in the position of judge, and why? Was it for her own personal fulfillment or for God’s purposes in the nation of Israel? According to 4:5, what was Deborah’s day to day “job description“? How does this reconcile with God’s stated purpose for raising up judges in 2:18?
3. Notice how Deborah has to prod Barak to action (4:6, 14) and Barak’s hesitancy (4:8). What does this phrase – “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you…?” (4:6) – tell you about Barak’s awareness of God’s command before Deborah confronted him about it? Why weren’t he and his fighting men already out there obeying God’s command and fighting to protect their wives and children?
(Notice how 4:11 – seemingly random, useless information at the moment – becomes vital backstory when you get to 4:17. Always keep an eye on those seemingly random bits of information in the Bible. You might need them later.)
Where are Heber and the rest of the men of his clan when Jael is taking care of business (4:17-22)? Why aren’t they standing between Jael and Sisera, protecting her and the rest of their wives and children from danger?
What happens to women and children when men fail to fulfill their God-ordained role of protector? In what ways does men failing to carry out their God-ordained role impede women from carrying out our God-ordained role, and vice versa?
4. Compare 4:7 with 4:23-24. Did God keep His promise?
5. Many evangelicals today see this passage as a “girl power…’I am woman, hear me roar’…’Who run[s] the world? Girls!'” story. But is it? Carefully examine chapter 4, especially verse 9, in light of Isaiah 3:12 (Read 3:1-5, 9-12 for context. Notice the themes of Israel’s sin and God’s judgment in this passage. Notice also the “support” God is “taking away” in judgment. Are the people listed in 3:2-3 men or women? Why is God taking them away?) In both Judges 4 and Isaiah 3, is a woman in leadership portrayed as a blessing or as God’s judgment on His people? Explain why the original audiences of both the Judges and Isaiah passages would have seen these passages, not as a “girl power” celebration of women, but as a “man up” indictment of cowardly, lazy, faithless men.
Does the fact that God used Deborah as a judgment against the Israelite men who would not step up and do their duty as men in any way diminish her godliness or her wisdom as a judge?
6. Read chapter 5. As you read, compare the people, places, and actions with the the people, places and actions in chapter 4. Explain in your own words, verse by verse, how chapter 5 elaborates on, explains, or celebrates the events of chapter 4.
Which words and phrases in chapter 5 indicate that Deborah and Barak gave glory to God for the victory over Jabin and Sisera?
In a time in which literacy rates were low and writing materials were scarce, explain how this song would have helped preserve the historical events of chapter 4 in the memories of the people of Israel. Why would it have been important for them to remember these things? What lessons would God have wanted them, and us, to learn from these events?
7. Take a moment to meditate on the depth of mercy and grace it took for God to rescue these sin sick souls from His own judgment and wrath, and give them the victory. Then, consider that He extended the same mercy and grace to you in the cross, rescuing you and giving you the victory over sin, death, and the grave. Kind of makes you want to sing a song of worship like Deborah and Barak did, doesn’t it? Pick a good one and sing His praise!
Many egalitarians and feminists today try to use the story of Deborah’s position of leadership to justify women “pastors,” women preaching to and teaching the Bible to men, and women exercising authority over men in the church. Read my article Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian. Practice how you would explain to a friend who’s using Deborah to argue against 1 Timothy 2:12 that Deborah as judge does not support the idea of women pastoring, preaching to/teaching men, or exercising authority over men in the church? How might women holding these positions today be just as much a “man up” indictment of evangelical men as Deborah was to the Israelite men in her day?