death of Joshua, the next generation of Israelites forgot God. They began
to worship the gods of the people who lived around them. They did not keep
the laws that Israel had agreed to obey. God promised blessings for
obedience; curses for disobedience. This new generationís disobedience
brought about those curses. They no longer won any battles and were oppressed
by their captors. When they began suffering, they would cry out for Godís
deliverance. God would feel sorry for them. Then he provided judges to
free them from their enemies. Just as soon as their enemies were defeated,
they would turn away from God again. This cycle repeated many times.
One of the judges God appointed was Deborah. She is the only judge except for Samuel who is identified as both judge and prophet. Her duties included the leadership of Israel (executive decisions), making legal decisions (judge), and speaking specific messages from God (prophesying). The only personal information given in the text is that she was married to Lappidoth who isn't referred to again.
Deborah gave Barak a message from God. God intended Barak to lead an army from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon against Sisera, the general of the Canaanite army. God promised to give Barak the victory, but he refused to go unless Deborah went with him. Instead of believing and trusting God, he put his trust in Deborah's relationship with God. As a result, God did not allow Sisera to be captured or killed by Barak. Sisera was killed by the woman Jael. Since Barak put his trust in a woman instead of Godís promise, God gave the final victorious blow to a woman.
The practice of appointing judges over Israel began with Moses who judged Israel in the wilderness. He instructed them in God's will, taught them God's law, and decided legal cases (settled disputes) according to God's law and will. Deciding legal cases took so much of his time and energy, that Moses' father-in-law recommended that other judges be given authority to handle all but the most difficult cases.
For Deborah to qualify to become a judge, she had to be capable, knowledgeable of God's laws, God-fearing, trustworthy, and a person who could not be bribed. She would have been a person who was respected for her wisdom, understanding, and integrity. Judges were commanded by God to judge fairly (they were to hear both sides and get all the facts); they were forbidden to pervert justice by acquitting the guilty or condemning the innocent; they were forbidden to show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great; and they were told not to accept a bribe.
Those who are resurrected at Christ's
return will be appointed as judges. They will be given authority to lead,
decide court cases, teach God's laws, and speak specific messages inspired
by God as Moses and Deborah did. God is building in His children the qualities
needed to carry out those duties. Judges must be mature (discerning good
from evil), capable (knowledgeable about the will of God), and love, fear,
and trust God. Judges must be merciful to others and obedient to God. In
the end we must all remember that God is the Judge of all. He is the one
to whom we will all give account on the Day of Judgment.
For the scripture reference list
and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible
Study Guide: Principles of Judgment