It's a bit like buses - you wait for ages for one, then two come along. After pages of Old Testament men through Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and most of Joshua, we come across two women who take God's people forward unflinchingly. Today, Deborah (nickname - 'Bee') and tomorrow her equally strangely named sister in battle, Jael (nickname - 'Mountain Goat').
It's the bad old days in Israel - people lurch from misspent youth to old age, sinning happily against the Lord and suffering the consequences. In a long line of male judges who try and sort them out we suddenly read this:
'Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah (...) and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided' (Judges 4:4-5).
Sorry, Deborah...? Was that DEBORAH, as in a woman's name? As in a WOMAN leading an Old Testament, militaristic, patriarchal society...just like that?
The OT is full of surprises. She summons Barak to do battle against Sisera. His answer:
'If you go with me I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go.'
I rather like him for this - quite 'sensitive man' answer - but God is less impressed, opening up an opportunity for another woman* to have a part in Israel's eventual victory.
Deborah is not backward in coming forward about her role:
'Village life in Israel ceased,
ceased until, I Deborah, arose,
arose a mother in Israel' (Judges 5:7).
Between them, these two women have got the whole nation wrapped up, spiritually and tactically.
*To be continued...