Deborah: The Strong Girl- Part 4 in a Fourteen-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this fourteen-week Bible study based on Girls’ Love Letters from God. If you have time, you may wish to keep a journal to record your responses to the questions. Please DO leave comments, responses or questions on this post so that we can learn from and encourage one another.

Deborah: The Strong Girl

Read: Judges 4:1-16

In 1939 a motivational poster was produced by a British company to boost the morale of its citizens as they faced news of impending war. On a bright red background, five words in capital letters stood out clearly, and proclaimed a bold message to the world: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. 

It’s a message that the heroine of our Bible story, Deborah, would have worn as a billboard around her neck. Except that in her case, I’ve a feeling it would say: KEEP CALM AND MARCH ON.

Let’s set the scene:

Joshua, the successor of Moses, has just led the Israelites through forty years of misery in the desert and has, at long last, arrived at the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Except that this land is also flowing with oppressors and enemies on every side. Add to this Israel’s rejection of God, and you have a recipe for disaster.

For the next 325 years, Israel would be subject to slavery, foreign rule and injustice. The book of Judges spans the careers of 12 rulers whose roles were to govern Israel and deliver her citizens from oppression. Only ONE of those judges was a woman. And that’s where our Deborah comes in.

Deborah was the fourth, and only female judge in Israel’s history. And if ever there was a strong girl, it’s this one.

Like many modern women, Deborah held several important roles, and obviously managed her responsibilities well. As well as being a judge, she was also a wife, a prophet, and a musician.

In Deborah’s role as judge:

She held court under Deborah’s Palm between Ramah and Bethel in the hills of Ephraim. The People of Israel went to her in matters of justice. Judges 4: 5

Picture the scene: here’s Deborah, sitting calmly under a tree named after her, hearing and settling disputes among thousands of unhappy, restless Israelites. There’s a big bully in the wings. His name is Sisera, a cruel king who has been oppressing the Israelites for twenty years.  One day, Deborah decides that the time is right to face this intimidator, and summons Barak, the leader of her army. Much to his disdain, Deborah tells him:

It has become clear that God, the God of Israel, commands you: Go to Mount Tabor and prepare for battle. Judges 4: 6

What happens next is almost comical. Here’s Barak, an army general, who splutters:

“If you go with me, I’ll go. But if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” Judges 4: 8

I can almost hear his knees knocking, and actually, the poor guy has good reason: Sisera’s army is not only larger than Barak’s, but he’s also in possession of nine hundred chariots made of iron. But still, I can’t help thinking that Barak is a wimp of a commander. On the other hand, Deborah is no wimp.

She stands up, holds Barak’s trembling hand, and marches right alongside him, with ten thousand men up to Mount Tabor, where, like all happy endings, God ensures their victory. Deborah stands on the mountain top, her hair blowing in the breeze, and boldly declares:

“Charge! This very day God has given you victory over Sisera. Isn’t God marching before you?” Judges 4: 14

Barak emerges victorious, the Israelites are liberated, and under Deborah’s leadership, the land enjoys peace for over forty years.

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I am so not like Deborah! 

Deborah has a place, under that palm tree, where she faithfully meets with God every single day.

Deborah knows God so very well, and hears God’s voice so distinctly, that she can say, without doubt: it has become clear to me….

Deborah proclaims, in the face of overwhelming odds, God is marching before you…

Deborah doesn’t just keep calm and carry on, Deborah keeps calm and marches on, straight into the face of injustice and oppression and all the bullies in the world.

Then there’s me.

And this is my prayer:

God of the poor, and the least, and the lost, who sent Jesus into the world to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free… PLEASE help me do my part. Amen.

Since Deborah’s story challenges me so much, I thought it only fair to honestly answer my own questions. Please do comment, as you feel led, on what your responses might be.

Questions for Reflection

  • What, about Deborah’s story, challenges you the most?

Deborah’s commitment to the oppressed and her courage in marching out with Barak really challenges me. Deborah didn’t just stay calm. She acted! If I’m truly a disciple of Jesus, then his mission needs to be my mission too, and I need to ACT!

  • How are you working to change the world now, and where might God be calling you to more action?

I sponsor a child in Bangladesh through Compassion International, but I can do that without ever leaving the comfort of my own home! I know God is calling me to do more for the children in my church community, and that’s where I need to act.

  • Do you faithfully meet with God every single day? If not, why not?

I try to meet with God every day but the reality is that I probably manage it 5 days out of 7, and even when I do manage it, I’m so easily distracted. My phone gets in the way. My laziness gets in the way. I know I should get up earlier, but I don’t. 

  • What is God revealing to you through this story?

Before I set out to write this blog post, I really didn’t know what I was going to say about it. It fell right in the middle of the presidential inauguration, with all the divisiveness that went with it, and the very day I pen these words, I know that many, many women are peacefully marching on Washington DC to raise their voices in support of those who are marginalized, poor, and oppressed. Regardless of where we each stand on the political spectrum, I have to admire these strong women for marching for what they believe in, like Deborah did. I need that courage. 

Going Deeper

  • Re-read Deborah’s Story and Rahab’s StoryList the similarities and differences in these two women. Which of their characteristics would you like to emulate?
  • Who are the strong women in your life who have helped shape who you are? Write a letter thanking them for their influence on you.

25 thoughts on “Deborah: The Strong Girl- Part 4 in a Fourteen-Week Bible Study for Women

  1. Helga Mortensen

    This is really good, Glenys. May I have your permission to share this blog and questions with our women’s prayer breakfast group? Each month we highlight a woman of the Bible, learning more about her and discussing and praying over what we have read. This would be perfect for us. Of course I would credit you, and put in a plug for your books too!

    1. Glenys Post author

      It’s wonderful to hear of your Bible study Helga! I wish I lived closer so I could come! Of course you may use it. I’m so glad it spoke to you. Deborah’s story surely challenged me!

      1. Helga Mortensen

        Thank you, Glenys. I am looking forward to this book. I have started a small collection of Bible story books especially for girls 🙂

        1. Glenys Post author

          You’re welcome Helga…and I do think you will love this book. I think it’s pretty special..but then again, I am just a tad biased 🙂

  2. Mary Jane Jewell

    the lesson for me is that when I sense and feel that God has spoken to me to say or do something, I should do or say it even though I wonder if it will create discord!!!
    The big decision is, did God speak or did I just feel that God spoke because that is what I wanted to hear?????

    1. Glenys Post author

      Mary Jane, how right you are on both points. It is so hard to know if God really is calling you to action, and I also do struggle with the whole ‘pleasing God’ rather than ‘pleasing others’ issue, especially if it might create discord. Prayer, prayer and more prayer!

    2. Diane Grimm

      I am working on boldness to speak out when I see injustice and not sit silently by and do nothing. I think this boldness is hard for many of us. Each time I witness bold women acting on their convictions, it gives me courage to do the same.

  3. Lori

    The similarities of Deborah and Rahab…both women had a strong purpose that was driving them. Rahab believed God would save her family and Deborah believed he would save the people. They both believed that God would lead them, would protect them, and they would succeed. Which they did.
    The difference between the two women..Deborah was a very respected women and as a judge the people looked up to her and listened. Rahab was a prostitute, not respected yet she was key to God’s plan just like Deborah. So no matter what station in life we hold or where we are in our journey with God, he is ready to use us and the gifts we have right now. We just need to believe and trust. We need to encourage each other in God’s word. I can think of 3 strong women who have encouraged me for many years and still do. My mom, my childhood friend, Lois, and my friend Jill. These 3 women will be getting a letter from me in the next few days. Thank you, Glens for that great idea.

    1. Mary Jane

      It seems to me that strong women do not always appear strong at first, but they are resilient and in their actions (or non actions) show their strength – sometimes not speaking out too forcefully, is a sign of strength.
      I love your idea of writing to someone/s in encouragement that have given you examples.

      1. Glenys Post author

        I agree Mary Jane…I do think that some strong women can appear ‘in disguise’, and we may not recognize them as strong at first.

    2. Glenys Post author

      Lori, I am so impressed that you went ahead and took a deeper look at these two women. What wonderful points you pulled out. I also love it that you’re going to write to those 3 strong women in your life. I think it’s so important to do that… we never know how long we have to thank someone for their influence on us, and it’s so easy NOT to do that, and then it’s too late. Bless you for your commitment to this Bible study! It means a lot to me.

      1. Lori

        Thank you, Glenys. I have written my letters this afternoon and it was such a GREAT feeling to let these 3 women know the many ways they have influenced my life. Thank you for the challenge. It was a great one!
        And you know, if we were to write to men who influenced our faith, I would be writing to David because he pushed me in ways that I would not have gone; even for the short time. Yes, you may share that with him.

        1. Glenys Post author

          Lori…you did it! You went ahead and wrote your letters! Oh, I am SO glad you did. What a wonderful thing to take time to do that. And I will tell David what you said. Bless you Lori!

  4. Peggy Manrose

    What a strong and smart woman Deborah was! But she gave all the credit to God. That was her strength, and she needed time with God every day for that strength and knowledge. I need to spend much more time with God each day, and then know that he will empower me when I need it…which is everyday!
    The people of Israel looked to her for guidance …as Deborah looked for her guidance in God. The people of Israel were very lucky to have such a leader!

  5. Anita

    I don’t know if I could ever be as brave as Deborah. Her story is inspiring. I am trying to discover how God is calling me into action. Right now I feel that smiling at everyone I meet and trying to say something encouraging to them also is the best I can do. I do spend time with God every morning before I leave my bedroom to begin my day. I find it helps to calm me, find God’s peace and trust Him to show me the way through my day.
    Bless you Glenys for this Bible study.

    1. Glenys Post author

      Well I know your sweet smile Anita, so I know that it will bring hope and encouragement to whoever sees it! When I read Deborah’s story, her sense of calm is what really stood out to me. I’m glad that you take time with God and get that same sense of calm too.

  6. Pauline Smith

    Wonderful Glenys. Your little story says Deborah sat under the palm tree in the heat of the midday sun. Now this made me laugh because midday sun is quite rare in England! But here’s a strange ‘coincidence ‘ because I am sat up in bed reading this bible study and have just been prompted to look out of my bedroom window and in the garden below, of the house we only just recently moved in to, stands – a palm tree! Yes, I know, unusual in England, but there it stands, determinedly waving its palms in the winter wind and rain and I think to myself that although I may not sit under it every day like Deborah, I must make more effort to sit somewhere and listen to my God. Thank you Glenys for this encouragement and also for being one of the strong women in my life.

    1. Glenys Post author

      A palm tree in Wigan? Unheard of! And Pauline, when I was thinking of who the strong women in my life were, you were on my list too 🙂

  7. Margaret E Buelke

    Staying calm in a time of chaos is very important indeed. I feel so proud of the women in our nation who march peacefully to ensure the just treatment and rights of others! Jesus was never hesitant to speak truth to injustice and as His follower, I want to be as brave as Deborah and as vocal as Jesus. Thank you Glenys, for this wonderful and inspiring lesson.


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