Women of the Bible - Deborah and Jael

    Women Who Fought for God
    by Kathryn Capoccia

     Young Adults Sunday School Class
     All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW
     INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by
     permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

 Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000.  This file may be freely copied, printed out,
and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact,
and that it is not sold.

 I. Introduction

     A. Prayer Requests

     B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse

II. Character Profile: Deborah and Jael, Women who Fought for God

     A. WHO WERE THEY? (read JDG chps. 4 and 5).

        1. Deborah

           a) When did she live? During the period of the Judges @1050-1000

           b) Where did she live? (JDG 4:5) In the hill country of Ephraim,
              between Ramah and Bethel.

           c) What was her name? (JDG 4:4) Deborah, "a bee".

           d) What was her occupation? (JDG 4:4; 5:7)

              1) prophetess (JDG 4:4) WHAT WAS A PROPHETESS? "nebiah", a
                 spokesman or transmitter of God's word to others.

                 a] a prophetess could have the office herself or

                 b] a prophetess could only be married to a prophet (ISA

                 c] other prophetesses were:

                    i] Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (EXO 15:20).

                   ii] Huldah (2KI 22:14).

                  iii] Noadiah (NEH 6:14).

                   iv] Anna, the daughter of Phannuel (LUK 2:36).

              2) wife of Lappidoth, "lightning flashes" or "torches" (JDG

              3) judge (JDG 4:4); she was the fifth "Judge" of the period:
                 "shaphat", to judge or govern.

              4) mother (JDG 5:7). There is no account of her children in
                 the Bible which may mean:

                 a] that she did have children but who they were had no
                    bearing on the story in Judges chapter four so their
                    names were omitted.

                 b] that she was actually childless but that she was a
                    spiritual mother to the nation.

           e) How old was she? Her age is not mentioned, but because she
              was a leader of her people, and apparently free to govern, it
              seems that she was not a young woman obligated to care for
              young children.

           f) Who were her people? (JDG 4:4) The Ephraimites: the

        2. Jael

           a) When did she live? @1050-1000 B.C.

           b) Where did she live? (JDG 4:11) By the great tree in
              Zaanannim, near Kedesh.

              *This site has been proposed in four areas: a place on the
              southern border of Naphthali (JOS 19:33); Khirbet Bessum,
              three mi. NE of Mt. Tabor; Lejjun, between Megiddo and Tell
              Abu Qedeis; and Khan et-Tujjar on the road between Beth-shean
              and Damascus (about four mi. SE of Adami). This information
              came from "The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the
              Bible", vol. 5, pg. 1025.

              *A clue to it's location may be JDG 4:6:

              JDG 4:6  "She [Deborah] sent for Barak son of Abinoam from
              Kedesh in Naphtali..."

           c) What was her name? (JDG 4:17,18,21) Jael, "wild or mountain
              goat" or "gazelle".

           d) What was her occupation? (JDG 4:17,21) She was a housewife.

           e) Who were her people? We do not know her ancestral background,
              but her loyalties were with the Israelites.

              1) her husband was Heber the Kenite (JDG 4:11, 21).

                 a] his name means "ally".

                 b] the Kenites were a loosely knit clan of metalworkers
                    (kenite means "metalworkers" or "smiths") living in

                 c] Kenites were descendants of Hobab, the brother-in-law
                    of Moses (*an alternate rendering would be the
                    father-in-law of Moses), so they had close ties with
                    Israel (JDG 4:11).

              2) her husband had separated from the rest of the Kenites
                 (JDG 4:11) and allied himself with Jabin king of Hazor
                 (JDG 4:17).

                 a] he may have done this because he was a metal worker and
                    Jabin had 900 iron chariots.

                 b] he may have done this because Jabin seemed to be the
                    undisputed ruler of the area and Heber wanted to be on
                    a winner's side.


        1. Deborah Judged The People

           a) What Did Judges Do?

              1) They tried difficult cases from the people.

                 a] under Moses a judicial system was established upon the
                    advise of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, to assist Moses
                    in settling disputes on behalf of God:

                    EXO 18:21,22  "... select capable men from all the
                    people--men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate
                    dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over
                    thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve
                    as judges for the people at all times, but have them
                    bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases
                    they can decide themselves."

                    EXO 18:25,26  "He chose capable men from all Israel and
                    made them leaders of the people, officials over
                    thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as
                    judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases
                    they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided

                    i] "judges and officers" were appointed for every town
                       (DEU 16:18).

                   ii] a judge with priests as assessors tried more
                       important cases (DEU 17:8-13).

                 b] a Judge had jurisdiction over the entire nation of
                    Israel, some judging from a fixed location and some
                    from a circuit (JDG 4:; 1SA 7:16,17).

                 c] a Judge was "raised up" by God to that office (JDG

              2) They attempted to keep the nation from idolatry (EXO
                 18:20; JDG 2:17).

                 JDG 2:17  "Yet they would not listen to their judges but
                 prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them.
                 Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in
                 which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to
                 the LORD'S commands."

                 a] they taught the people God's word (EXO 18:20; JDG 2:17;
                    1SA 12:23).

                 b] they prayed for the people (DEU 9:18-20,25-29; DEU
                    10:10; 1SA 12:23).

              3) They led their people in war against their enemies:

                 a] Othniel, son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, fought
                    Aram Naharaim, or Northwest Mesopotamia, to free Israel
                    (JDG 3:7-11).

                    JDG 3:10,11  "The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so
                    that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD
                    gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of
                    Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for
                    forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died."

                 b] Ehud, the son of Gera the Benjamite, slew Eglon king of
                    Moab and mustered an army of Ephraimites to kill 10,000
                    Moabites and deliver Israel from their oppression (JDG

                    JDG 3:30  "That day Moab was made subject to Israel,
                    and the land had peace for eighty years."

                 c] Shamgar, son of Anath, slew 600 Philistines and
                    delivered Israel (JDG 3:31).

                    JDG 3:31  "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who
                    struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He
                    too saved Israel."

                 d] Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, led Israel against Jabin
                    king of Hazor and delivered them from the hands of the
                    Canaanite king (JDG 4:1-24).

                    JDG 4:23,24  "On that day God subdued Jabin, the
                    Canaanite king, before the Israelites. And the hand of
                    the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against
                    Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him."

                    JDG 5:31  "Then the land had peace forty years."

                 e] Gideon, son of Joash the Abiezrite, led an army of 300
                    Abiezrites (from the tribe of Manasseh), and later
                    Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh and
                    Ephraim, to drive out a combined army of Midianites,
                    Amalekites, and other eastern peoples (JDG 6:33) from
                    Israel (JDG 6,7 and 8:1-28).

                    JDG 8:28  "Thus Midian was subdued before the
                    Israelites and did not raise its head again. During
                    Gideon's lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years."

                 f] Tola, son of Puah, the son of Dodo "rose to save
                    Israel" (JDG 10:1,2).

                    JDG 10:2  "He led Israel twenty-three years; then he
                    died, and was buried in Shamir."

                 g] Jephthah the Gileadite led Israel against the
                    Ammonites, devastating twenty towns and freeing Israel
                    from subjugation to Ammon (JDG 11).

                    JDG 11:33  "He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to
                    the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus
                    Israel subdued Ammon."

                 h] Samson, son of Manoah, from the clan of Dan, fought the
                    Philistines (JDG 15:4-19; 16:29,30).

                    JDG 15:20  "Samson led Israel for twenty years in the
                    days of the Philistines."

           b) What Were Other Titles For Judges?

              1) "Savior" or "deliverer" (JDG 3:9,15).

                 JDG 3:9  "But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised
                 up for them a deliverer..."

                 JDG 3:15  "Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and
                 he gave them a deliverer..."

              2) "gods" (PSA 82:1,6), because of their divinely appointed

                 JOH 10:35  "If he called them 'gods' to whom the word of
                 God came..."

           c) Who Were Judges?

              1) God Himself (GEN 18:25), the Righteous Judge of both
                 individuals and nations.

              2) Patriarchal heads of households (GEN 21:22,27).

              3) Moses (EXO 18:13-27).

              4) "Judges and officers in every town" (EXO 16:18), i.e.
                 those appointed to administrate local justice by dint of
                 their character and wisdom.

              5) Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jepthah, Samson (the major
                 Judges), Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Izban, Elon, and Abdon (the
                 minor Judges).

              6) Samuel (1SA 7:15).

              7) The king of Israel (2SA 15:2), during the monarchy.

              8) Magistrates and judges (EZR 7:25), after the exile.

           d) How Did Deborah Judge?

              1) She was "leading Israel" (JDG 4:4).

                 a] Israel needed leadership.

                    i] Israel was without a strong leader with the death of
                       Joshua (JDG 2:8).

                   ii] Israel was without strong spiritual advisors after
                       the elders of Joshua's generation died.

                 b] Israel "had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (JDG
                    21:25), i.e. the people did not acknowledge God as
                    their King and were disloyal to Him and His rule (JDG

                    i] Israel "did evil" after Joshua's generation died
                       (JDG 2:10) and served the Canaanite gods (JDG 3:7).

                   ii] Israel began a pattern of cycles of apostasy,
                       oppression, crying out for relief, and divine
                       deliverance after Joshua's generation died.

              2) She judged Israel

                 a] She "held court" at a fixed location, the Palm of
                    Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country
                    of Ephraim (JDG 4:5).

                 b] She settled disputes for all the Israelites who came to
                    her (JDG 4:5).

              3) She aroused Israel

                 a] Israel had been oppressed

                    i] Northern Israel (Zebulon, Naphtali, W. Manasseh,
                       Issachar, and Asher) had been cruelly oppressed for
                       twenty yrs. under Jabin, a Canaanite king from
                       northern Israel,  who probably headed a coalition of
                       Canaanite forces trying to restore their rule to
                       northern Israel (JDG 4:1-3).

                       *"Jabin" may have been a title or perhaps a family
                       name since Joshua slew a Canaanite king of the same
                       name earlier in Israel's history (JOS 11:10).

                        -- Jabin had 900 iron chariots in his arsenal (JDG
                          4:3), too many for a single city to have (Pharaoh
                          Thutmose III, in the 15th century B.C., had 924
                          Egyptian chariots for the nation): this probably
                          represented a combined Canaanite army of 100,000.

                        -- Jabin's royal city was Hazor which had been
                          decimated and burned by the Israelites under
                          Joshua (JOS 11:10).

                   ii] Sisera, Jabin's army commander, had led the
                       Canaanite forces, including the 900 iron chariots,
                       against Israel for twenty yrs. (JDG 4:2,3).

                 b] Israel had been demoralized

                    JDG 4:3  "Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and
                    had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years,
                    they cried to the LORD for help."

                    *without God's blessing the Israelites were defenseless
                    and helpless.

                    i] life in Israel was hazardous- it was not even safe
                       to travel roads: travelers took to "winding paths"
                       to avoid enemy troops and marauders (JDG 5:6).

                   ii] "village life had ceased" (JDG 5:7)- it was unsafe
                       to live in open villages so everyone fled to walled
                       towns for protection.

                  iii] Israel had few weapons and could not throw off their
                       oppressors (JDG 5:8).

                        -- perhaps this was because Israel had voluntarily
                          disarmed because of a peace agreement between
                          themselves and the Canaanites.

                        -- perhaps this was because Israel had been stripped
                          of her weapons by her oppressors.

                 c] Israel was called to freedom

                    i] God gave a message to Deborah

                       HOW DID DEBORAH GET THIS MESSAGE?

                       Scripture does not specifically say, but after Moses
                       and Joshua God spoke to men in visions:

                       HOS 12:10  "I spoke to the prophets, gave them many
                       visions and told parables through them."

                       HEB 1:1  "In the past God spoke to our forefathers
                       through the prophets at many times and in various

                       JOE 2:28  "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit
                       on all people. Your sons and daughters will
                       prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young
                       men will see visions."

                   ii] God gave a promise of deliverance to Israel

                       JDG 4:7  "I will lure Sisera, the commander of
                       Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to
                       the Kishon River and give him into your hands."

        2. Deborah, Barak, And Jael Saved The People

           a) Deborah Commissioned Barak And Prophesied Honor For A Woman

              1) Barak "thunderbolt," son of Abinoam, was summoned to
                 Deborah (JDG 4:6).

                 a] he was from Kedesh in Naphtali (JDG 4:6)

                 b] he is included in the "heroes of faith" in HEB 11:32

              2) Barak was commissioned to fight Sisera, Jabin's army
                 commander and his army (Jdg 4:6,7).

                 a] he was commanded to muster an army of 10,000 men from
                    Naphtali and Zebulun (JDG 4:6).

                 b] he was commanded to meet Sisera's army (which was
                    headquartered at nearby Harosheth Haggoyim JDG 4:13) at
                    Mt. Tabor (JDG 4:7).

                    i] Mt. Tabor:

                        -- a hill in the valley of Jezreel about ten mi. SW
                          of the Sea of Galilee.

                        -- the elevation of Mt. Tabor is about 1,300 ft.
                          (1,843 ft. above sea level), and the hill is
                          located northeast of the battle site.

                        -- it has been identified as modern day Jebel et-Tur
                          (mount of the height). It is a steep, somewhat
                          symmetrical promontory with a rounded top and
                          affords an unobstructed view in every direction.

                        -- Tabor is thought to be the site of the
                          transfiguration of Jesus.

                        -- the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar shared borders
                          at Tabor.

                          *this information came from "The NIV Study
                          Bible", pg. 335, and "The Zondervan Pictorial
                          Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.4, pg. 302.

                   ii] Sisera's army, including his chariots and troops
                       would be "lured" to the Kishon River by the LORD
                       (JDG 4:7).

                        -- The Kishon River:

                          I. Kishon River " curving" is about twenty five
                             mi. in length, originating in the northern
                             hills of Samaria (Biblical En-gannin JOS
                             15:34;19:21; 21:29) and ending at the
                             Mediterranean Sea, by Mt. Carmel.

                         II. The Kishon River roughly follows the outline
                             of the Carmel ridge, passing through the
                             Valley of Jezreel (Esdraelon Valley), a flat
                             marshy area in Biblical times, as a torrent in
                             times of heavy run-off or as a brook or dry
                             bed late in the year.

                        III. In times of storm the Kishon River floods the
                             Valley of Jezreel making it virtually

                             *this information came from "The NIV Study
                             Bible", pg. 335, and "The Zondervan Pictorial
                             Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.3, pg.830.

                        -- the Valley of Jezreel

                          I. it is in the SE part of the larger valley that
                             separates Samaria (S) from Galilee (N).

                         II. the Valley of Megiddo is the northwestern part
                             of it.

                        III. the borders of the valley are:

                             A. on the W, Gilboa and Moreh

                             B. on the E by the Jordan River

                         IV. it is part of the only natural E-W pass across
                             Pal., so it has always been heavily traveled.

                             *this information came from "The Zondervan
                             Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible", vol.3,
                             pgs. 590,591.

                        -- God "lured" Sisera to the Valley of Jezreel by:

                          I. having Barak encamp his troops on Mt. Tabor
                             (JDG 4:12).

                         II. allowing Sisera to learn of their location and
                             intent (JDG 4:12).

                        III. making the Valley of Jezreel appear ideal to
                             Sisera for the deployment of his chariots.

                             *the flooded Kishon River in the Valley of
                             Jezreel would later help Napoleon gain victory
                             over a Turkish army in April, 1799 ("The NIV
                             Study Bible", pg. 335).

              3) Barak was chastened (JDG 4:9).

                 a] Barak was reluctant to trust God (JDG 4:8)

                    JDG 4:8  Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will
                    go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."

                    *He had faith that God would ensure victory if Deborah
                    went along but did not believe that it would occur
                    without her.

                    i] it may be that he thought of Deborah as a kind of
                       "good luck charm" as the Israelites would later
                       regard the ark of the covenant to be (1SA 4:3), i.e.
                       that Deborah had some power to effect victory.

                   ii] it may be that he did not trust God's evaluation of
                       his abilities and therefore wanted help.

                 b] Barak was rebuked for his lack of faith (JDG 4:9).

                    JDG 4:9  "'Very well,' Deborah said, 'I will go with
                    you. But because of the way you are going about this,
                    the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand
                    Sisera over to a woman.'"

           b) Deborah And Barak Led The Forces To Victory

              1) The trap was set

                 a] Deborah and Barak went to Kedesh where Barak summoned
                    10,000 men of Zebulun and Naphtali (JDG 4:9,10).

                 b] Deborah and Barak and the army went to Mt. Tabor and
                    camped there (JDG 4:10,12).

                 c] word was brought to Sisera that Israel's army had gone
                    up to Mt. Tabor (JDG 4:12).

                 d] Sisera, his 900 chariots and his army, assembled in the
                    Valley of Jezreel (JDG 4:13).

              2)  The trap was sprung

                 a] God "went before Israel" (JDG 4:14).

                    i] the powers of heaven, i.e. rain and floods, fought
                       for Israel in the Valley of Jezreel (JDG 5:20,21).

                   ii] the Kishon River swept away some of Sisera's army
                       (JDG 5:21).

                 b] Barak routed Sisera's army

                    i] Deborah urged Barak and his army to advance upon the
                       Canaanites whose superior numbers and equipment were
                       nullified by their inability to maneuver in the
                       flooded condition of the valley floor (JDG 4:14).

                       *There is disagreement about the location of the
                       battle but it is generally thought that the battle
                       occurred in the western end of the Valley of
                       Jezreel, towards the camp of the Canaanites.

                   ii] the Canaanite army was "routed by the sword", i.e.
                       panicked, and fled before the Israelites (JDG 4:15).

                  iii] Barak's army pursued, overtook, and slew the
                       remainder of the Canaanite army, even going as far
                       as Harosheth Haggoyim, the camp of the Canaanite
                       army (JDG 4:16).

                   iv] Sisera escaped on foot and fled to the camp of Heber
                       the Kenite, which was near Kedesh (JDG 4:17).

                       *if both references to Kedesh refer to the same
                       place in Naphtali, the distance to there from the
                       battlefield could have been as great as forty miles.
                       A man on foot probably could not have made it in
                       less than two days.

           c) Jael killed Sisera

              1) Sisera sought sanctuary

                 a] he came to the camp of an ally, Heber the Kenite (JDG

                    i] there were friendly relations between Heber the
                       Kenite and Jabin (JDG 4:17).

                   ii] Heber the Kenite may have been the informant who
                       notified Sisera of Israel's activities (implied from
                       JDG 4:11,12).

                       *He expected to receive "hospitality" from Heber, a
                       Middle Eastern custom which promises shelter, food,
                       and protection (even to one's enemies for up to
                       three days under normal circumstances).

                 b] he came to the tent of Jael, Heber's wife (JDG 4:17).

                    *the tents of women, in Near Eastern customs, were
                    off-limits to any men other than their husbands. Sisera
                    believed he would be safe from discovery from the
                    pursuing Israelites there ("The NIV Study Bible" notes,

                    i] he asked for protection- hospitality

                       JDG 4:20  "Stand in the doorway of the tent," he
                       told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is
                       anyone here?' say 'No.'"

                   ii] he sought refreshment-hospitality

                       *To be invited to come into someone's home and to
                       receive water was to be acknowledged as a guest and
                       entitled to the benefits of the custom of

                        -- he laid down in the tent with a covering over him
                          (JDG 4:18).

                        -- he asked for water (JDG 4:19).

              2) Jael planned to kill Sisera

                 a] Jael deceived Sisera

                    i] she invited him into the concealment of her tent
                       (JDG 4:18).

                   ii] she assured him of safety (JDG 4:18).

                       JDG 4:18  Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to
                       him, "Come, my lord, come right in. Don't be
                       afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a
                       covering over him.

                 b] Jael "drugged" Sisera

                    i] she gave him milk to drink because he was thirsty
                       (JDG 4:19)

                   ii] she gave him milk to drink because he was exhausted
                       (JDG 4:19,21).

                       *this was probably goat's milk.

                       WHY DID SHE GIVE HIM MILK AND NOT WATER?

                       It would have been as easy for her to have given him
                       the water he asked for as to give him milk, but only
                       milk would have acted as a natural sedative on an
                       exhausted man. (Perhaps a subconscious reason she
                       gave him milk was because she did not really want to
                       offer "hospitality" to him, which an offer of water
                       usually guaranteed).

                 c] Jael dispensed with Sisera

                    i] she gathered her weapons and approached her enemy:

                       JDG 4:21  "But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent
                       peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he
                       lay fast asleep, exhausted."

                       *As a housewife Jael was very familiar with the
                       tools of tenting, pegs and hammers, and because she
                       was a housewife and not as strong as Sisera she used
                       the only weapons she had in the only plan that
                       seemed possible:

                   ii] she used them to kill him

                       JDG 4:21  "She drove the peg through his temple into
                       the ground, and he died."

              3) Jael was credited with killing Sisera

                 a] she exhibited his body to Barak (JDG 4:22).

                    JDG 4:22  "Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael
                    went out to meet him. 'Come,' she said, 'I will show you
                    the man you're looking for.' So he went in with her, and
                    there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his

                 b] she was extolled by Deborah in song (JDG 5:24-27).

                    *WHY WOULD JAEL KILL SISERA?

                    1) she knew about the battle that had just occurred

                       a] Barak's summons had gone out in the land (JDG

                       b] If Heber was the informant to Sisera Jael would
                    have learned of the impending battle.

                       c] Jael knew that Barak was searching for Sisera (JDG

                    2) she was obviously on Israel's side and regarded
                    Sisera as an enemy.

                    3) she was acting in accordance with God's will that a
                    woman would kill Sisera (JDG 4:9).



                    JDG 4:23,24  "On that day God subdued Jabin, the
                    Canaanite king, before the Israelites. And the hand of
                    the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin,
                    the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him."


        1. God hears and answers the prayers of the penitent and delivers
           them out of their troubles (JDG 4:3).

        2. God chastens those who are disobedient, as Barak was (JDG 4:9).

        3. God is not a respecter of persons- women are as useful to Him as
           men are (GAL 3:28).

 III. What Fruits of the Spirit Can You See in Them?

  IV. Memory Verse: COL 3:23,24  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your
     heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you
     will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord
     Christ you are serving."

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons" by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 119
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986