Judges 4–5 — female judges Devorah & Ya’el

 Daniel Agee looks into the only two female judges of ancient israel, Devorah (Deborah) and Ya’el (Jael), and how that last battle against Canaan parallels the struggles we face today and will face on the Day of the LORD.

Food for thought

  • Heber the Kenite separated himself from his family (Judges 4:11). Why?
  • Why did Heber’s family have a treaty with Sisera, the Canaanite commander?
  • Why does Judges 4 only deal with the northern tribes?
  • Who was Yubin (Jabin), the king of Canaan (Judges 4:1-2)?
  • How does geography affect the account in Judges 4-5?
  • What is unique about Devorah compared with other women and judges in Israel? (See Judges 4:4-5.)
    • What does “Lappidoth” (Judges 4:4) in reference to Devorah mean in Hebrew?
    • Which tribes did Barak call to join the battle against the last king of Canaan?
    • Why did Barak want Devorah to go with him to call the tribes and to fight?
      • Was he correct in wanting her to do so?
      • What was the command the LORD gave him through Devorah (Judges 4:6)?
    • How is the destruction of Sisera’s army similar to the victory over Israel in the Red Sea?
      • Was it lack of faith on Devorah’s part?
    • How does this account reflect on the treatment and consideration of women?
  • Why did Sisera go to Ya’el’s tent? Why would the soldiers of Israel not have gone in there?
  • Who were the Kenites, of whom Ya’el’s husband, Heber, came from?
    • Why was Heber able to travel freely in the land?
    • Why did Ya’el, who would have been at peace with Sisera and Canaan, kill him?
    • What was the deal between Sisera and Heber?
  • Some translations of the Bible use “princes” in Judges 5:2, and some render it “vengeance.” Which is it? Does it matter?
  • In what two situations were Israel to praise the LORD upon entering the land of Canaan?
    • What was the purpose of evil coming upon Israel?
    • Is that any different in today’s world?
  • Which tribes and groups related to Israel were good and bad in Judges 5 by their responses to the call to arms?
Good, bad and busy tribes of Israel in Judges 4-5
Good Uknown or busy Bad
Ephraim Judah Reuben
Benjamin Simeon Dan
Machir Gad Gilead
Zebulun   Asher
Issachar   Meroz
Naphtali    
  • What was the condition of life in Israel during the judgeships of Shamgar and Yael?
  • What has so significant about the events described in Judges 4-5 to have a song written about it, as was the Red Sea crossing memorialized in Exodus 15?
    • What was the point of emphasizing the power of God in this song (Judges 5)?
    • Why recall all this history?
    • Were there times when Israel was without a judge or prophet?
    • Then what is meant by Bible passages that said there was no judge in Israel at certain times (see Judges 2:18-19?
  • What does it mean that Devorah (Deborah) was “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7)?
    • When did God talk to the matriarchs Sarah, Revkah (Rebecca) and Rachel (Rachael)?
    • How is this related to “tent-dwelling women” (Judges 5:24)?
    • What did the matriarchs do that Ya’el didn’t?
    • What did Devorah do that Ya’el didn’t to make up the work of the previous matriarchs?
    • Why do the sages hate the statement that Devorah was “a mother in Israel”?
  • What does it mean that “not a shield or spear was found among 40,000” (Judges 5:8)?
  • Which two tribes earned the most praise for their actions in the song of Devorah? (See the chart above for clues.)
    • Why was Asher hesitant to joint the fight?
      • Which power to the north of the land of Israel was gaining strength?
    • Who is Meroz (Judges 5:23)?
      • Where were they in relation to the battle?
    • How is the song of Devorah a prophecy of the Battle of Har Meggido (Armageddon) predicted to come in the last days?
      • What was the agreement between all the tribes when they entered the land?
    • Why weren’t Judah and Simeon mentioned here?
      • What were they facing at the time?
    • How does the fact that the kings that fought for Canaan “carried off no silver or plunder” indicate their motivations for fighting?
    • Who was Makir during Moshe’s (Moses) and Yehoshua’s (Joshua) time?
      • What were they at Devorah’s time?

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