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Archive for January 10th, 2023


Judges 5: God’s Yardstick – Deborah

Canticle of Fidelity

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah the Prophetess

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The book of Judges is the part of the Bible saga where we see a fledgling nation forming.  The twelve tribes have survived the rigors of their years of desert wanderings, following the pillar of fire and smoke which protects them.  Joshua has led them into the land promised to them and they have secured a foothold where a kingdom will be established.  A series of judges, or heroes, will rise up to gather the people to remind them that Yahweh has promised land, kingdom and blessing . . . and that they, God’s people, owe their creator fidelity, loyalty and obedience.  This is the covenant they have entered into.

The context for these stories is “Holy War” and close reading of Judges, in which so much war is waged, tells us that we are called to cooperate with God’s plan and providence rather than serve our own small agendas. The whole point of this part of the story is to stay the course, but it must be God’s course and not our own.  The forces of darkness cannot stand up to the perseverance, the innocence and the trust of the faithful.  Deborah does this well.

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

In the preceding chapter we see this prophetess sitting under her palm tree delivering just decisions to the people.  We also see Jael, wife of Heber, lure the enemy Sisera into her tent to kill him with a tent peg to the temple.  Jael kills this enemy because Yahweh has ordained it as spoken through Deborah; and we find that these tribes fight off the pagan peoples any way they can; always consulting with Yahweh before going into battle.  In these ancient times, the struggle to survive dominated all aspects of life and we see a good deal of brutal interaction.  Yet is our interaction any less brutal today?

Deborah judges the tribes during the period of time which coincides with political unrest following the death of Ramses II in Egypt.  The time of transition proves difficult for these people who struggle not only against the pagan nations that surround  them, but also with conflict among the tribes.  David will unite these people into a true political and spiritual kingdom, and whose son Solomon will erect a Temple which speaks to the fame of this people and their God.

Deborah leads well because she listens well when she speaks with God each day and it is against this voice, this measuring stick that she measures her own life. We will want to follow her example of fidelity as we struggle against the violence that surrounds us.


Images from: https://www.learnreligions.com/deborah-israels-only-female-judge-701157 and https://www.sartle.com/artwork/jael-and-sisera-artemisia-gentileschi

Adapted from a reflection written on November 18, 2007.

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