Deborah and Barak
As far as I know, Deborah was history’s first female ruler.
Deborah was already installed as Judge when Canaan revolted (Judges 4:4). The Bible does not tell us what event caused Deborah to become Judge1. As casual a mention as Judges 4:4 gives, it almost suggests that there were other judges at the time that were not mentioned.
Deborah’s method of judging (Judges 4:5) suggests there were probably multiple judgeships. One person judging the whole nation from underneath a tree doesn’t fit the image of a sole judgeship.
The Canaanite revolt was internal, and made possible because Israel had not completed the job of driving the Canaanites from the land.
That Deborah commissioned two rather non-prominent tribes, the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun (Judges 4:6), to quiet the uprising suggests that the uprising had a local flavor to it.
It is not clear why Judges 3:31 bothers to mention Shamgar. But he had some level of prominence in his day (Judges 5:6).
Barak was an army commander, but never cited as a judge. Barak is cited in the faith chapter of Hebrews 11. Deborah is not, though one verse earlier a woman is included, and Sarah is earlier included.
The days of the Judges were exceedingly wicked and evil. It is curious that Deborah and Barak and no one else sang the song of Judges 5. The song starts out orthodox (Judges 5:2-5) but very quickly turns to pure hedonistic braggadocio:
“…until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.” – Judges 5:7
“Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, break out in a song! Arise, Barak, lead away your captives, O son of Abinoam.” – Judges 5:12
Somehow the songs of Moses seemed more focused on what the LORD had done than what Moses had done.
It seems best to comprehend Barak’s mention in Hebrews 11:32 as the Spirit acknowledging that Barak’s faith did stand out as he fought against the powerful army of Canaan (Judges 4:3). But there doesn’t seem to be much else in Barak’s walk with God that deserves mention.
1Othniel and Ehud were made judges to quiet foreign revolt. Othniel evidently lived the entire forty years that the land had rest. After Ehud, the land had rest for eighty years. Nothing requires that it was all under Ehud. After Sisera’s defeat, the land had rest for forty years (Judges 5:31). Deborah may or may not have been judge that entire time.
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