The Secret of Deborah, Scripture, and Women in Authority

I’ve heard it for decades – It’s OK with God to have women in authority. After all – He put Deborah in authority. Deborah was a judge of Israel. She was also a prophetess. Therefore, God is really not against women in authority.

Introducing Deborah

We see Deborah make a debut in the book of Judges, chapter 4. She is introduced right off the bat as a judge of Israel and prophetess.

Quite a job description!

The general population came to her for judgement. And she also prophesied over them, proclaiming the Word of the Lord. But does this mean that she is in God’s perfect will?

Not So Fast!

It is easy to say that God set up Deborah as a judge over Israel. But where does it say that?

There is not one verse. Not even an implication that Deborah became a judge over Israel at God’s command. We have direct evidence that Moses was called by God to do what he did. We have direct evidence that Aaron was called by God to do what he did.  We know this because it clearly says that God called them to be in that position.

We know that God called David to be king because it directly, and explicitly says that God called David to be king.

But this is not the case with Deborah. There is not once verse telling us that God put her there. There is not even an implication that God wanted her there. In fact, because of the context of the scripture, we can say unequivocally that God did not set up Deborah as a judge over Israel. Rather, it was men who set her up in that position.

Did God Break His Own Word?

The law of God clearly declares that men are to be set up as judges, not women.

Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them, [to be] rulers of thousands, [and] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: 22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, [that] every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear [the burden] with thee.

Here we see that God commanded men to be set up as judges, not women. If God set up Deborah as a judge, then God would be breaking His own word. Thus, He would nullify Himself.

Disobedient Prophets

But, she was a prophetess! How can a prophet be outside of the will of God? How can a prophet be in sin?

The answer is simple – a prophet is a prophet. A prophet is not a perfect person who always stays in the will of God. Consider Moses, the murderer, and the one who disobeyed God and was punished by death before entering the promise land.

Consider David, who committed adultery. But yet, he is one of the greatest prophets in the Bible.

Consider Jonah who ran from God. Yet he was still a prophet.

And finally, consider the words of our Lord in Matthew 7:21-23.

Jesus said plainly that many will come to Him – prophets – but yet sinners who will be rejected in the last day.

Just because someone is a prophet, or a prophetess, doesn’t mean they are in the will of God.

After all, the donkey acted as a prophet to Balaam – waking up from his insanity.

In Context

Judges, chapter 4 introduces us to Deborah. But Judges, chapter four also paints a very clear picture of a sinful, backslidden, idolatrous Israel.

But it didn’t start in Judges 4. We read as early as Judges 2 that Israel forsook their God – forsook the ways of the their fathers. And this is evident in the fact that they set up Deborah, a woman, to be judge over them.

If Deborah was such a good leader in Israel, why was Israel so disobedient, and corrupt?

Deborah was out of place. Put in that position by a people out of place – out of the will of God.

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