Once the Israelites were settled into the land promised by God, it became time to live their lives. God didn’t see a need for the Israelites to have a king; God was their ruler, guide, and protector. But they were in need of leaders who could help settle disputes and guide the people according to God’s will. So God set judges before them who could lead and guide them in God’s ways. Deborah was one of these judges.
The promised lands were still being conquered and defended by the Israelites. Deborah called for Barak to attack Jabin’s army, knowing that God would deliver the army into their hands. But Barak wasn’t convinced. He would only go if Deborah went, too. We don’t know why. Fear? Distrust?
Deborah rose to the occasion. She agreed to go (of course she did – she believed God would deliver their enemies into their hands!). But she also claimed responsibility for the outcome of the conflict. If she was to judge in live combat, she would claim the victory, not Barak. Deborah proved to be one of the greatest judges in Israel’s history.
At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and ten thousand warriors went up behind him; and Deborah went up with him.