Deborah

In a disorderly, violent time, as Israel fought for land and survival, Deborah was called--and stepped forward--to aid her people.

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Deborah's Weapon, the Word, Shows God as Israel's True Savior

On Mount Tabor, Deborah the prophet announces the victory. She herself does not go down to the battle. Like Moses, Deborah is not a battle commander. Her role is to inspire, predict, and celebrate in song. Her weapon is the word, and her very name is an anagram of "she spoke" (dibberah). The battle itself is not essential.  It is important only to remember that God fought: God distressed Sisera. Deborah has announced God's victory, Barak has facilitated it, and God has saved Israel. The Song of Deborah provides a glimpse of how God defeated Canaan: God brought a flash flood that made a bog of sliding mud in which chariots were useless.

A Woman and Mother, Neither Hidden nor Incidental

Both the story and the song emphasize the fact that Deborah is a woman. The story tells us that she was a prophetess‑woman, adding the word "woman," ishah, when the female noun "prophetess," nebi'ah, already conveys that information. She is called "Lapidot"‑woman or Lapidot's woman, again repeating the word "woman," eshet.

And the song stresses that Deborah was a "mother in Israel." The femaleness is neither hidden nor incidental: it is an integral part of the story. The motherhood of this "mother in Israel" goes beyond biology. It describes her role as counselor during the days before the war, and it indicates her role in preserving the heritage of Israel, in her case by advising in battle.

The fullest sense of Deborah as mother is revealed in her name, which is not only an anagram of "she spoke"; it is also a noun meaning "bee." Like the queen bee, she raises up the swarm for battle, sending out the drones to protect the hive and conquer new territory.

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Tikva Frymer-Kensky

Tikva Frymer-Kensky (1943-2006) was a professor of Hebrew Bible at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.She was the author of many works of biblical scholarship and spirituality.She was a foremost assyriologist, biblical scholar, and feminist.