Chronicling 40: Day 67 of 365

numbers

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.

~Henry DuBose

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. 

Similar Patterns:

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.

Create Categories:

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. 

Google It:

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.

Tuesday:

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. 

Wednesday:

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.

Thursday:

I will wrap up with any final thoughts on Deborah.

Friday:

We meet Jezebel, and begin the break down of who she was… why her story is significant.

Next Week:

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.

Chronicling 40: Day 66 of 365

DebTree

We left off yesterday with some questions to explore:

Why Deborah?  I’ve heard that the only reason Deborah was selected as a judge was because there were not suitable men.  This is not seen in this portion of scripture.  We need to find out where this idea was birthed.  Is it supported in the scripture?

Why the Various Roles?  Deborah is listed as a prophet, leader of Israel, and a judge.  What are the differences between each of these positions?  Where do they overlap, and if/why this matters?

Why the Order?  I noticed that Deborah’s role as a Prophet was listed first, even before her role as a wife.  When we, as women, are constantly told that our marriage/family is our first and most important calling… I think this order is very interesting.  Is this significant, that she was listed as a Prophet before wife?  I want to explore this question.

Who Was Deborah:

Through various translations and study Bibles, Deborah was noted as a:

  • Prophet
  • Wife
  • Judge
  • Leader of Israel

Deborah the Woman:

What is very interesting is when I looked into the Interlinear Bible (which includes original Hebrew) Deborah was specifically identified as a “woman” in this position.

“And Debora a woman, a prophetess Lapidoth’s wife, she (was) judging Israel at that time.  and she (was) living under the Palm Tree of Deborah, between Ramah and between Bethel in the hills of Ephraim; and went up to her the sons of Israel for judgment.”

~Interlinear Hebrew to English translation of Judges 4:4-5

In my research, I couldn’t find any specific reason for including the given fact that Deborah was a woman.  As you read the rest of her introduction, the gender of Deborah seems pretty obvious.  Yet, when we are introduced to the judges before/after… not a single one includes the description “a man”.  Therefore, I believe that this was intentional to make sure with 100% certainty that Deborah’s full identity was clear.  Most likely because it was not common for a woman to be seated in this position of authority, and that makes her gender an important fact in the story.

Where Were the Leading Men?

A chief argument about Deborah’s role in leadership is that there were no other men willing or able to lead.  But, where is this found in the scriptures?  Leading up to Deborah what we see is a repetition of behavior.  Israel did evil in the eyes of God, they were delivered into the hands of their enemy, Israel would cry out, God would raise up a judge to lead Israel, while the judge lived things were good, and once the judge died Israel would again do evil in the eyes of God.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  It was a habit.

Before and after Deborah, there were men who were leading.  So what happened during this time that would bring God to raise up a woman as a judge?

There is literally not one piece of scripture before or including Judges 4 that states there were no men available to lead.  Judges 5 gets a bit trickier.  Depending on the translation it can read that there were no willing men, the town where Deborah was had been deserted (in other words there were no men at all), and then that there were no men willing to fight.  This last translation is the kicker, because when Deborah was acting as a judge for the men in Israel that was not a military position.  She was handling disputes, providing wisdom, and sharing the direct Word of God as a Prophetess.  

If the first two translation suggestions (no willing men, no men at all) is accurate, you can argue that this is the basis of the belief that Deborah led because no man was willing to.  On the other hand, if the latter translation is accurate… no men willing to fight… then you could argue that this had nothing to do with Deborah’s call into leadership and instead was a reference to the lack of a willingness to fight their enemy before Deborah was called as a judge.  So, once again, let’s look at what the Interlinear Hebrew translation tells us about this verse in Chapter 5:

“The leaders in Israel they ceased until I arose, Deborah, I arose a mother in Israel they chose new gods then war was at the gates!  A shield if one was seen, or a spear among forty thousand in Israel.  My heart (went out) to the lawgivers of Israel (who) volunteered among the people. Bless Jehovah!

~Interlinear Hebrew to English translation of Judges 5:7-8

This scripture, seems to point to the repetition of Israel’s history… do evil, handed over to enemy, call out for help, God raises a judge, the judge restores order.  Until that time, that Deborah was called, no one was standing up against their enemy.  Israel cried out for God to deliver them, He raised up a judge (Deborah).  Once the correct leader was in place, the people fell into place to make the advancement against their foe. 

It’s also interesting that we don’t see any mention in Judges that anyone stood in opposition to Deborah as a judge.  If her being raised to this position was in contradiction to God, wouldn’t someone have stood against her?  Or, wouldn’t some reasoning be given to explain Deborah’s calling?  Instead, we see a people willing to come to Deborah as a judge, Barak’s insistence on her coming with him, and in Chapter 5 we see that others stood with Deborah as well.

Another argument against Deborah is that in the scriptures it states that God raised up each of the male judges.  In the introduction of Deborah in Chapter 4, it is not specifically said that God raised her up.  However, this opinion is made void in Chapter 5:7 when it is written that things changed for Israel when Deborah arose.

My final argument against the “there were no men” position is simply that God is a creator God, who has a history of taking the unwilling and least likely people and making them a leader.  Moses was unwilling at first, giving excuses as why he couldn’t lead Israel out of Egypt.   God can also raise anyone He chooses from the dead.  Therefore, if God wanted a male leader… a male judge… He could have done so by calling and equipping any of the men in the area or raising up a man from the grave to do so. 

This idea that there were simply no men, and that is why God broke from the rules, seems to put God in a box that makes sense to the human mind… when we try to justify something that doesn’t fit our belief/position.  I believe that in this instance it was not that Deborah was the only option, rather she was the right/best option because she was God’s chosen for this position.  Additionally, the willingness of the men to come to her for judgement and to advance under her direction against their enemy reveals a willingness to follow her lead.  Deborah wasn’t the last or only choice.  She wasn’t a usurper.  Deborah was raised as a judge by God for this time and purpose.

The Many Roles of Deborah:

Deborah was listed specifically as a woman, a prophetess, a wife, a judge, and a leader.  There are some who believe that some of these titles are intertwined.  That to be a judge means to be a leader, or that because of the time period wife and woman were expressed by the same word and it could go either way in the translation. 

  1.  In the interlinear Hebrew translation, Deborah is referred to as a woman, and then a wife of Lapidoth.  It would make no sense for the author of this introduction to describe Deborah as a wife, then a wife of Lapidoth (a person).  Nor would it make sense to describe her as a woman, then a woman of Lapidoth (a city, place).  If the word is used twice, especially in a single sentence, what makes the most sense?  That she is either a wife and a woman of Lapidoth, or she is a woman and the wife of Lapidoth.  Considering the time period, what makes the most logical sense is that she is in fact the wife of a person named Lapidoth.
  2. In the interlinear Hebrew translation, Deborah was not defined as a judge and as a leader.  This would support that in this case judge and leader could be exchanged for one another at any given time.  They were not seen as distinctly different jobs.  We will spend time exploring this role in more depth Tuesday.

I believe we can be confident in the assumption that Deborah was a woman, and she was a wife.  And, that her role as judge could also be the role of leader.  Translations that use either independently are accurate; and I think those that use both do so to clarify the role she had. 

A more accurate view of her roles would be:  woman, Prophetess, wife, and judge (leader) of Israel.

The Order of Things:

We continually point to God being of order not chaos.  We refer to the creation order, how the marriage was ordered, how the leadership of Israel was ordered, etc.  God loves order.  Therefore, I believe that the order in the introduction of Deborah is very intentional.  Her role as Prophetess trumped her role as judge.  When we learn about Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament, we are given the list of gifts and then later how those gifts can be used in the body.  Prophecy is listed as a Spiritual Gift in Romans 12:6-8, and I contend that in this instance Prophecy was her gift, and Judge was the position in which she would use the gift.

If I am correct in that contention, this would also make sense as to why Deborah was listed as a woman, then the wife of Lapodith.  To be a wife, one must first be a woman. Now that brings us to the crux of this thought process because Deborah was described as a Prophetess before she was listed as a wife. If the order is important, what does this say about our position as women when it comes to calling?

We are often told that as women our first calling is to our marriage and our children.  If in fact Deborah was married to a man named Lapodith, it is possible she had children.  Those who have wrestled with the scriptures where Deborah is referred to as a “mother” are not one hundred percent certain if she was an actual mother or if this was figurative to her being a woman leading Israel.

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?

Tomorrow, we will explore these two points.  How do we know when order is or isn’t significant?  What do we know culturally about how people were introduced in letters, stories?  What can we observe in the scriptures about how people were introduced (we’ll look at the other judges, as well as other key people in the Scriptures).   Then we will look at the implications of what we discover.

Texts Used Today: 

The Interlinear Bible (Hebrew, Greek, English) edited & translated by Jay P Green, Sr.

The Zondervan Study Bible (NIV) edited by D.A. Carson

the Study Bible for Women (HCSB) edited by Dorothy Kelley Patterson

NIV LifeConnect Study Bible edited by Wayne Cordeiro

Deborah: The Woman God Uses , article on Bible.org

Christian Standard Bible

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 65 of 365

How Do the Scriptures Speak of Deborah?

It is incredible how valuable Deborah is to the conversation about women in leadership, when such little is actually written about her in the Scriptures.  We are going to look at Judges 4 and 5.

As we look ahead of those 2 chapters, from the book of Judges, we see no previous mentioning of Deborah.  We do know that the judges handled disputes, and that when a judge would die the Lord would raise up a new judge.  Up until the 4th chapter, male judges were listed, then suddenly enters Deborah…

Judges4.png

Who Was Deborah:

  1.  Judges 4:4 lists Deborah as a prophet, a wife to Lappidoth, and leader of Israel.
  2.  Judges 4:5 explains that Deborah held court, and the Israelites came to her to settle disputes.
  3.  Judges 4:8 gives us a glimpse into how others viewed Deborah, she was so revered and seen as someone with God’s favor.  So much so, that once Deborah shared with Barak the Lord’s command… Barak agreed to go only if Deborah went with him.  In verse 9, Deborah makes sure that Barak understands that due to his lack of confidence in the Lord … the victory would be at the hands of a woman.
  4.  In verse 14, we see that Deborah gave the marching orders to Barak.

My Questions:

Why Deborah?  I’ve heard that the only reason Deborah was selected as a judge was because there were not suitable men.  This is not seen in this portion of scripture.  We need to find out where this idea was birthed.  Is it supported in the scripture.

Why the Order?  I noticed that Deborah’s role as a Prophet was listed first, even before her role as a wife.  When we, as women, are constantly told that our marriage/family is our first and most important calling… I think this order is very interesting.  Is this significant, that she was listed as a Prophet before wife?  I want to explore this question.

Why the Various Roles?  Deborah is listed as a prophet, leader of Israel, and a judge.  What are the differences between each of these positions?  Where do they overlap, and if/why this matters?

Judges Chapter 5:

Judges5

The Unwilling Men:

In Judges 5, we see the first mentioning of the unwilling me.  However, this piece of scripture doesn’t relate to there being no willing or capable men for leading Israel or sitting as a judge.  It specifically mentions an unwillingness to fight, which I see as a direct reflection on Judges 4:8,9 where Barak was unwilling to go into battle unless Deborah went with him.

As we begin to answer the questions I mentioned prior to the excerpt from Chapter 5, I think we are going to need to keep this piece of scripture in our pocket.  As we discern if there is (or is not) a difference between prophet, leader, and judge this (5:7) could be very important.

Tomorrow, we will set forward to answer these first questions.