Deborah (Hebrew: דְבוֹרָה, Modern Dvora Tiberian Dəḇôrā ; “Bee”, Arabic: دبورة Daborah) was a prophetess of the God of the Israelites, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchic Israel, counselor, warrior, and the wife of Lapidoth according to the Book of Judges chapters 4 and 5. The only female judge mentioned in the Bible, Deborah led a successful counterattack against the forces of Jabin king of Canaan and his military commander Sisera, the narrative is recounted in chapter 4. Judges chapter 5 gives the same story in poetic form. This passage, often called The Song of Deborah, may date to as early as the 12th century BC and is perhaps the earliest sample of Hebrew poetry. It is also significant because it is one of the oldest passages that portrays fighting women, the account being that of Jael, the wife of Heber, a Kenite tent maker. Jael killed Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple as he slept. Both Deborah and Jael are portrayed as strong independent women. The poem may have been included in the Book of the Wars of the Lord mentioned in Numbers 21:14. In Hebrew, her name, דְּבוֹרָה, translates as bee. The Deborah number, a dimensionless number used in rheology, is named after her.
Personal Life of Deborah
Not much is known about Deborah’s personal life. Her name in Hebrew is pronounced Dvora. Some sources, such as Chabad.org, state that she judged Israel from 1107 B.C. until her death in 1067 B.C. The Dictionary of World Biography: The Ancient World, claims that she might have lived from 1200 B.C. to 1124 B.C., which would have made her about 36 years old at the time of the battle against Sisera, and 75 at the time her death. The book also says that she was most probably born in central Israel to the tribe of Ephraim, and was also the author of The Song of Deborah. In the Book of Judges, it is stated that she was the wife of Lapidoth (Hebrew: לפידות whose name means “torches”).
She rendered her judgments beneath a palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the land of Ephraim. (Judges 4:5) Some people today refer to Deborah as the mother of Israel because of the “Song of Deborah and Barak” found in Judges 5. After being oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan, in Hazor, for twenty years, (Judges 4:9) Deborah prevailed upon Barak who was the head captain of the army at that time, to face the Assyrian General Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, in battle.
The victory to which the Bible refers is the victory of an Israelite force of ten thousand over Sisera’s force of nine hundred iron chariots. (Judges 4:10) When Deborah saw the army, she said, according to Judges 4:14: “| Up; for this [is] the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.| ”| As Deborah prophesied, the Lord gave the victory to the Israelites. Sisera fled the battle site seeking refuge in the tent of the woman Jael. In the Biblical account, Jael killed the enemy leader, Sisera. The Biblical account of Deborah ends in Judges 5. After the battle, there was peace in the land for 40 years. (Judges 5:31)