From Yesterday’s Post:
The order of Deborah’s description in her introduction poses the following questions:
- If the order is significant, then that means her role as a Prophetess would trump her role as a wife. Can we find any place in scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?
- If the order is not significant here, then it could impact how we view “order” in other Scriptures. How can we determine when/which verses where order is something to note and when it isn’t?
We’ve got some big thoughts to unpack here, so let’s dig right into the first point to consider:
The Order of Things:
I have heard many speakers and teachers, and read many books/articles, that state that the order of things matter. In the introductions of people in the Bible, we learn a lot about who they are in society. Is this a family member, friend, co-laborer, official, or leader? Is this a formal letter to deal with an issue, or an informal conversation? What is the significance of this person or group of people.
When we are introduced to Deborah, she is first listed as a woman, then a Prophetess, then a wife, and then judge/leader of Israel. As stated yesterday, I believe that it was very intention that Deborah was first identified as a woman. The rest of the judges were men, and that makes Deborah unique in this role. Based on my research, I do not believe Deborah was raised up because there were no men available but that Deborah was exactly who God intended for this time and place. I also believe Deborah’s gender is mentioned first because of imago dei, the image of God. In Genesis the first thing we learn about God’s creation order of humanity is that man and woman were made in the image of God. Deborah was woman, imago dei, created in the image of God.
The next ordered description is that Deborah was a Prophetess. In the Old and New Testament, we see many examples of where the Lord anointed a person with a gift/talent and called that gift/talent into service. I contended yesterday that prophecy was Deborah’s gift and it was called into service as a judge. If order is important, then we recognize that her role as a Prophet (chosen to deliver the Word of God and guide Israel) is the key to how she leads Israel. This is not just a position where Deborah was acting as a legal judge settling disputes, or creating societal rules or laws. Deborah was leading in accordance to God’s direction, God’s will. While she would rule on disputes and smaller issues, they would have been secondary to guiding Israel and sharing God’s Word.
Third in the order of her introduction is “wife of Lapidoth”. Yesterday we discussed that the Hebrew word used her can translate to wife or woman. And, since in the original Hebrew text the first description of Deborah is “woman”, it made sense to assume the word used with Lapidoth would have meant wife. There would be no reason to list “woman” twice. There is a lot of educated guessing here because we just don’t know who Lapidoth was. If it was a man, then clearly she would be his wife. If it was a city, then she would be a resident of that city. Again, the wording seemed to be to indicate she was a wife of a person. However, a third option was revealed in my research. Easton’s Bible Dictionary suggests that Lapidoth was actually not a formal name but an informal word; lapidoth which means “torch”. A “woman of lapidoth” in that informal context would mean a “woman of light” or a “woman of fiery spirit”.
There is literally no confirmation that Deborah was married, or had children. If we could confirm she was a literal mother, then by default we could safely conclude that Lapidoth was an actual person. She is only referred to in Judges as a mother of “Israel”, no genealogy is associated with her. Historically, women (especially those of status) would be 1. unmarried virgin, 2. married woman, and 3. widow. With the lack of information we must lean into what makes the most sense but also not get hung up in the details that we miss the bigger picture.
If she was unmarried, it could explain her freedom and ability to lead without any distraction. If she was married, her role as prophetess being listed before her role as wife could be an indication that her calling superseded her marriage. This is point I want to focus on. When speaking of women in leadership, we are often cautioned that our marriage/family is our first ministry and greatest calling. Thus, limits may be put on women in leadership in order to preserve that primary ministry. If our calling (how God uses us and our gifts for Kingdom purposes) is our primary ministry that changes a lot of how we view women in leadership.
Can we find any place in Scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?
The first piece of Scripture that comes to mind is The Great Commission:
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:19,20
The Great Commission directs us that our “job description” is to 1. make disciples, 2. baptize them, and 3. teach them. If The Great Commission applies to everyone, then this is the job description of both men and women. In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul suggests that it is better to remain unmarried in order to not be distracted from our ministry work. Marriage is suggested as a solution for those who can’t “control themselves”. Single & celibate was better than married, and married was better than single & promiscuous.
From the very beginning we know that the Divine Order is God first. No one disputes this, but the next rung on this top down ladder starts to get fuzzy. Some will place spouse second, children third, moving outward to the community at large. Some will place self in there, arguing that in order to serve others we must also take care of our selves. Some will even put children above spouse. Among all of this, we have to figure out where our calling lands. Does our gifting/calling come before our spouse? Our kids? Our church? Our community? Is it last on the list after we have served people generally speaking?
I believe one of the best responses to this topic comes from this piece: Should a Husband Place Ministry or Family First . I want to focus on these two points:
- In the New Testament one of the requirements of leadership is that they have been leading their own home well. One can not lead in the community at the sacrifice of their own family.
- In the Old Testament when marriage is defined as two coming together as one, leaving their old families behind. In other words, a husband and wife would be united in their calling to make disciples.
This makes it appear that the family is the priority. Does that contradict Paul’s words on staying single in order to focus on ministry? Not at all. Whether you are single or married, you have a responsibility as a leader to tend to your home. The requirements in the New Testament for leaders indicates that before they can even be considered for leadership they must be faithful leaders at home. Within my research I was unable to find any Scripture that supported the notion that calling/ministry trumps our responsibility to our family.
Order Does Matter, but not always.
What does this mean for Deborah? Most simply it means that either Deborah was single/childless, or that if Deborah was married that her husband was united in her calling. Regardless of her marital status, I believe Scriptures support that her calling as Prophetess would not have trumped her responsibility to her home life. So, in this instance I do not believe the order in which Deborah was described is an indicator of which roles were of more importance than others. In a few days, we are going to look a little deeper into what that means for a leader to be a faithful keeper of the home & helpmeet (particularly in relation to women in leadership).
While I do not see any indication that order mattered here in identifying Deborah, or the importance of her various roles, that doesn’t mean that we disregard the importance of order in any other Scriptures. Henry DuBose explains this very well in his piece God Works His Will Through Divine Order, when he states:
Divine order is very important, and we find it all the way through the Scriptures. There is a very simple reason for God using divine order like He does. It is because God’s plans are carried out by men. He works through His people. Thus, divine order becomes most important and necessary.
In this piece, DuBose indicates that since God has to employ imperfect men to do the work of His Plan; having instructions in place is an absolute need. Instructions are the order in which we complete a task or assignment. The evidence that the Lord uses divine order is seen in too many places to disregard it.
The complexities and order of creation stand as an evidence of God, so He uses order to reveal Himself to the world. Between the laws we see listed out in the Old Testament, through the writing of the Commandments, and even into the New Testament … we are shown a God of order. There is a way to do, and not to do. A way to behave, and not to behave. Even a way to make amends, to love, etc. The Old Testament also gives us prime examples of the consequences of that happens when man steps out of God’s order.
How Do We Know When Order Matters?
While there are a lot of articles you can read about this subject, I think the simplest way to determine if order matters is to test it against other Scripture.
In this instance, related to Deborah, the first thing we can do is look at how the other judges were introduced. There was no consistent pattern to the introduction of other judges. If order was being established, there would have been a similar pattern among the introduction of each judge. You can also look at other women in the Scriptures to see if there is a similar pattern in how women are introduced as a whole.
The second thing we can do is categorize the piece of Scripture being studied. If you are not sure how to categorize the Scripture, start by asking questions. What is this about? What questions does this bring up? In the case of Deborah, my examination of the order brought up questions about whether calling trumps marriage. Even if I couldn’t categorize Deborah in a neat and tidy file folder, I knew I could look to Scripture that talked about marriage and family priories.
Even when you want to rely on Scripture to prove Scripture, a Google Search is still helpful. You can enter the verses into the search bar with words such as: commentary, support of, criticism of, cross references, opinions, etc. Within these various articles and publications you will find Scripture references that you can then look up. You may find the article beneficial or enlightening, or chose to disregard the whole article and just focus directly on the verses it references.
To learn more about Deborah, we are going to explore her roles are Prophetess, Judge, Leader. We’ll define the positions, put them in context to one another, see if there are any differences between how Deborah fulfilled these positions and the other Judges.
We are going to explore the qualifications for being a leader (Old Testament and New Testament) and discover where women fit into leadership in the general sense. I’d love to tackle the topic of specific positions, but I think that is better saved for a post after we finish with Deborah and Jezebel topic.
I will wrap up with any final thoughts on Deborah.
We meet Jezebel, and begin the break down of who she was… why her story is significant.
I expect that we will walk through Jezebel for about six days, giving her equal time as Deborah. I’ll wrap up my final thoughts on Jezebel on Wednesday. Most likely Thursday/Friday, I’ll dive into the the what started this whole exploration: Don’t Confuse a Deborah for a Jezebel.