Deborah, a Mother in Israel
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A judge with a sting like a bee

Prior to the establishment of the monarchy under Saul, local chieftains called shofetim (judges) served as the leaders of the Israelites. This was known as the Period of the Judges, and most of the judges were males, with one glaring exception: Deborah. She is most famous for leading the Israelites into battle against the Canaanites in the Jezreel Valley, as recorded in chapter 4 of the Book of Judges. In Hebrew the name Deborah means “bee”, an allusion to the vicious sting she inflicted on the Canaanites.

An exceptional biblical woman

The truly amazing thing about Deborah are the unique titles that she is given in the Bible: “At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel” (Judges 4:4).
If the fact that Deborah - a woman - served as a judge is not surprising enough, the Bible goes one step further and refers to her as a prophetess. The Hebrew word neviah (נביאה), which is the female form of the Hebrew word for prophet (navi), is very rare, only appearing five times in the entire Bible. But in the following chapter the Bible goes even further in its praise of Deborah: “you arose as a mother in Israel” (em b’Yisrael) (Judges 5:6). This is the only time this term appears in the Bible, making Deborah a truly exceptional matriarch.

The power of the Hebrew Language

The Bible is full of examples of interesting phrases and words that are not reflected in the English translations. Reading the Bible in its original Hebrew is by all means the most powerful way of accessing the true meaning of the text. In short, if you are reading the Hebrew Bible in English you are only seeing half the picture. Enroll in our online Biblical Hebrew course.