Two women named Deborah are mentioned in the Bible. The first of these was the maidservant of Rebekah who came with her from Paddan-aram when Rebekah married Isaac. She lived to a great age and died near Bethel (Gen 24:59; 35:8). The better known Deborah was a respected civil administrator in Israel during the era of the judges. She lived near the town of Bethel, where she gave decisions in cases brought to her for judgment. Being a prophetess, she was well suited to discern God’s will in difficult cases (Judg 4:4-5). She is chiefly remembered for directing Israel’s victory over the forces of Sisera in northern Palestine. (For map see JUDGES, BOOK OF.)

With her army general Barak, Deborah led a force of Israelite soldiers up Mt Tabor, with the aim of drawing out Sisera’s chariot forces into the plain of the Kishon River below (Judg 4:6-10). With prophetic insight, Deborah must have foreseen the outcome. There was a tremendous storm, the river flooded and, as Sisera’s chariots became bogged, the Israelites rushed down upon them and won a great victory. Many details of the event are given in the song of victory that Deborah composed to celebrate the occasion (Judg 4:12-16; 5:1-22).

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