Each year when we get to the book of Judges I am reminded of the common arguments made either against YHWH’s judgement in choosing Deborah or as to why YHWH had no other choice. Two of the leading arguments are that YHWH chose a woman because there were no qualified or willing men, or YHWH chose a woman as a punishment for Israel.
In this article I’m going to argue that YHWH’s judgement is better than our own and that neither of the aforementioned excuses we have come up with and helped to perpetuate over time are Biblical. Rather, they actually contradict the Bible, denigrate the Father’s wisdom, and cast aspersions on His choice to lead Israel during the time of Deborah.
Let us begin with the argument that there were no willing or able men at the time that YHWH rose Deborah up to be a judge. Immediately, I am taken back to the day that YHWH called Moses, His first mediator and the man He chose to give His law through. Throughout Exodus chapters 3 and 4, we see the Father telling Moses that he has been chosen to lead His people and represent Him. Normally, you’d think this would take a simple conversation, like it was with Isaiah wherein the Father said, “Who will go for me?” And he answered, “Here I am, send me!” But no, with Moses, we have two chapters of him going back and forth arguing with the Father over this.
Who am I to do such a thing? I’m not qualified.
But I’ll be with you.
If I tell them all you said, They won’t listen to me! They will ask me what your name is.
Here, I will tell you my name….
But they won’t believe me or listen to my voice, they’ll think I made it up that you appeared before me.
Then, let me show you signs. Here, the staff in your hand, throw it down on the ground and watch. Moses did this and it became a snake and the text tells us that he immediately ran from it. I can’t even imagine his mental state at this time, with all of his excuses being dismissed as he feverishly tries to get out of doing this and here is this God insisting that he come to work for Him. Now, one more excuse fails and he throws down his staff as YHWH instructs and OH ITS A SNAKE! AGGGHHH!
Moses clearly takes a breath and recovers a bit because he follows YHWH’s instructions to grab the snake by the tail and it turns into his staff again. Is the arguing over now? Has Moses accepted his fate? Hardly. The Father gives him yet another sign to show the people, by instructing him to put his hand in his cloak and pull it out to have tzaraat, then repeat to have his hand fully restored. Now, will Moses acquiesce? One would think, but no.
He offers up yet another excuse: Even if they do listen to me, they won’t believe me.
The Father finally puts an end to these arguments of disbelief by giving a third sign amid his reassurance
“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” Exodus 4:8-9
So Moses’ arguments have been put to rest, surely he is willing now, but again, no.
Oh my Lord, I’m not eloquent, in the past I have not been and even not after speaking with you I’m still slow of speech and tongue.
After all of this, Moses either still does not believe that YHWH can work through Him – or he is reluctant for a myriad of other reasons. Likely a mix of both. YHWH responds by reminding him that He is the one who made his mouth, who makes people mute, deaf, seeing, or blind. And He will be with him and teach him how to speak.
Dadburnit, all of Moses’ arguments have been met with YHWH’s assurance! Will he accept his calling now?
Nope. A final statement is found in Exodus 4:13
“Oh Lord, please send someone else.”
At this point we are told that the Father became angry with Moses. Now, according to the most common argument against Deborah, that there were no willing or qualified men, this is the point where the Father should throw up His Almighty arms and say, “Fine then I’ll just have to send a woman!”. But does this happen? Nope. Moses would not accept his calling on his own, bringing forth excuse after excuse, he would not have faith in the Father to send him alone, and so the Father decides to send his brother, Aaron, with him.
It doesn’t get more reluctant and unwilling than that.
Oh wait, maybe it does…. Let’s look at Jonah.
In chapter 1 of Jonah, we read:
“ Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3
Did you see that? When YHWH told Jonah what his assignment was, Jonah just ran away from home. Did YHWH pick a woman in his place because he was unwilling? No, he continued with his choice, and although it took the belly of a whale, the Father’s will was done through Jonah. Does this pattern of the Father choosing unqualified and unwilling men to serve Him end there? Y’all know the answer to that. Let’s look at just one more.
In Hebrews 11:32, Gideon is listed among the heroes of the faith:
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets..”
So surely he was a willing and eager servant of YHWH, right?
In Judges 6:12-18, beginning around verse twelve, the Angel of YHWH appears to Gideon, calls him a mighty man of valor, and tells him that YHWH is with him. Gideon responds by saying, if he is with us, then why has all of this happened to us? Where are all the wonderful things he did for our forefathers? Nope, you gotta be wrong he’s not with us he’s forsaken us.
We are then told, in verse Judges 6:14, that YHWH (the language switched From Angel of YHWH to YHWH) says “go, because I am sending you, and you will save Israel from the hand of Midian.”
(Note that the text tells us this is the Angel of YHWH and the angel speaks in the first person of YHWH. That might need some digesting 😉 )
Does Gideon get up and go? Nope. He continues to argue. “My clan is the weakest and I am the least in my father’s house. How can I save Israel?” He continues after this to seek further assurance.
Gideon was unwilling and unqualified, so did YHWH just choose a woman instead?
Clearly he did not.
These are just three examples of unwilling and unqualified men being used by the Father, there are more within the Bible. YHWH chose who He chose and made them into leaders, by His will and His might. It denigrates His wisdom and His power to say that He cannot raise up whomever He chooses to lead at whatever time He chooses.
Although we do see many great men of God object to His choice of them, we see no such incident recorded with Deborah. Further, while we are clearly told Deborah was a woman, we see no record of the Israelites having an issue with this. They knew she was chosen by YHWH and they trusted in His judgement. We see no record of them trying to make excuses or explain to people why YHWH would not have done such a thing, as we see in Believers today.
Another argument is that the choice of Deborah was a punishment for Israel, (which tarnishes the blessing of YHWH) even though this, too, is not supported anywhere in Scripture. We are told that judges were sent to save (rescue, deliver, champion) YHWH’s people in Judges 2:16. As evidence of this, we are told Israel prospered under her reign and was given 40 years of rest. (Judges, 5:6-7, Judges 5:31, Judges 2:18-19)
During Deborah’s time as a judge, Israel had male noblemen, princes, and leaders (Judges 5:2-3, Judges 5:9, and Judges 5:15). Further there were many good men who willingly served under Deborah (Judges 5:2). Not to even mention Barak, who is also listed as a faith hero in Hebrews 11:32-33, and who asked Deborah to go with him into battle, though there were male leaders available (Judges 5:7).
Some argue that Barak was unsure of himself, lacking confidence and that is why he wanted Deborah to go into battle with him, despite there being no Biblical evidence of this. However, in Exodus 33:15, after Moses has a conversation with God about leading Israel, he ended the conversation by saying, “Okay but if you want me to do this, you have to go with me.” Do people see this as a weakness on the part of Moses? Not hardly, we count that as a reliance upon YHWH, an understanding that he needed YHWH’s strength. The same can be said of Barak, as he knows that Deborah is YHWH’s chosen representative.
Therefore, why is there such an insistence that Deborah was YHWH’s last resort? Why make these excuses? Because this is an instance where the Bible contradicts our doctrine and so, in order to uphold our doctrine, we must add to the word things that are simply not there.
Is this wrong? Absolutely. On every level: historically, ethically, morally, and Biblically.
For me, helping to usher thousands of people through the whole Bible each year, many of whom have never read it in its entirety, I’ve come to expect folks to understandably struggle with some things. Often, I find myself in a position where people take issue with the word and they want me to explain the Father’s behavior. Sometimes I can do this, other times I find that people will not be satisfied with my explanations because what they really want is an excuse for why YHWH did something that can make their errant doctrine continue to make sense.
When we try to make excuses for the Father’s behavior in order to force it to line up with our synthetic doctrine, we are in a position of activity looking for ways to trust in our own wisdom over his.
Let’s stop doing that. Trying to mold the Bible to suit us is exactly how we ended up where we are today, a people who, far too often, follow man’s doctrine over the Bible. (Yeshua condemned this centuries ago, but yet here we are. Matthew 15:9, He was quoting Isaiah 29:13)
The Bible is the straight edge to which all else must line up, not the other way around.
So what can we do? Test your doctrine. Test these things you’ve been taught (1 Thess 5:21). And if they don’t line up, let them go. Stop perpetuating this. Stop adding to the word what is not there (Deut 4:2).
According to the Bible:
Moses was YHWH’s first choice
Jonah was YHWH’s first choice.
Gideon was YHWH’s first choice
And yes, Deborah was YHWH’s first choice.
If that doesn’t fit in with our idea of God, maybe we should change our idea, rather than try to change God.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!