Judges 4 – Deborah, the Woman Judge

Wayne Jackson
Does Deborah’s service as a judge of Israel authorize leadership roles for women in the Lord’s church?

It was a dark hour in Israel’s history. Apparently, there were no worthy male leaders among the Hebrew people. Hence, God raised up a prophetess to judge the nation. Her name was Deborah (Judges 4:4ff).

Some feel that this example serves as a precedent today. And they contend, therefore, that it is appropriate to have women preachers/leaders in the church.

The fallacy of the argument is two-fold. First the Old Testament does not function as an authoritative document for religious activity under the New Testament system. If such were the case, polygamy, animal sacrifices, the burning of incense, etc., would all be permissible.

Second, there is no real evidence that Deborah functioned in a role that is analogous to the modern preacher. She served as a “mother in Israel” in a time void of leaders (5:7). The nation “came up to her for judgment” (4:5). The coveted proof for a prophetess who publicly proclaimed Jehovah’s message to the masses is simply not to be found in the Old Testament narrative.

Thus, underline the word “prophetess” in Judges 4:4, and in your margin note: No evidence of public preaching; see 4:5; 5:7. In those passages underline the key expressions to which we have called attention above.