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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

1. Rebekah's nurse ( Genesis 24:59), faithful as a servant from Rebekah's childhood, and so, when dead at an advanced age, lamented as much as one of the family. Her burial place at the oak beneath Bethel was hence called Allon-Bachuth," the oak of weeping" ( Genesis 35:8). She was in Jacob's household now, as she had been in his mother's, who was by this time dead, as appears from  Genesis 35:27.

2. The prophetess and judge ("a bee"), a personal or possibly an official name applied to poets, seers, and priestesses. The symbol of a monarch in Egypt; a honey bee to her friends, a stinging bee to the enemy (Cornelius a Lapide). "Lived under the palm tree"; a landmark, as palms were rare in Palestine ( Judges 4:5); possibly meaning Baal Tamar, "the sanctuary of the palm" ( Judges 20:33). Wife of Lapidoth; "a mother in Israel," a patriotic and inspired heroine like Miriam. Jabin oppressed the northern tribes adjacent to Hazor his capital (Zebuhn, Naphtali, and Issachar, which she judged). Barak, at her call, summoned these (to whom the central tribes, Ephraim, Manasseh (Machir), and Benjamin in part sent contingents,  Judges 20:14) in a long train (draw:  Judges 5:6-7) toward the broad topped mount Tabor. Deborah accompanied him at his request.

With but 10,000 in his train ("at his feet"), by the Lord's interposition, descending from Mount Tabor, he defeated Sisera's mighty host and 900 chariots who were in the famous battlefield of Jezreel or Esdraelon, in the valley of Kishon. Deborah's prediction was fulfilled by the "Lord's selling Sisera into the hand of a woman," namely, Jael, the Kenite Heber's wife. Enthusiasm for the cause of Israel, so closely allied with the Kenites through Moses' father-in-law Hobab, caused her to commit the treacherous murder. The praise, "blessed above women in the tent (i.e. shepherdesses) shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be" commends her faith, not her treachery. Some actions of faith are mixed with the corrupt motions of the flesh, as that of the midwives and Rahab's treatment of the spies. So Jael's act showed real faith in the case of God's controversy with the godless Canaanites.

The approval of her faith, the mainspring of her conduct, by no means implies approval of the deceit by which its true character was obscured. Yet faith is precious and "blessed" in spite of grievous infirmities, and will at last outgrow and stifle them utterly. God is keen to see the faith, slow to condemn the fault, of His children. Deborah and Barak together sang the song of victory composed by her. It begins with a reference to Jehovah's original, grand, and awful manifestation at Sinai (Exodus 19;  Deuteronomy 33:2), the sealing of the covenant with Israel, and the ground of all His subsequent interpositions for them. Then follows Israel's deep degradation, its highways deserted, its 40,000 soldiers (a round number for a diminished army) without shield or spear, because they forsook Jehovah for "new gods" (compare  Deuteronomy 32:17). Then "war (pressed up) to their (very) gates."

But now deliverance is come, for which "bless the Lord." All should join in "speaking" His praise: the upper classes "who ride upon white-spotted asses," and those "that sit upon coverings" ( Middin , the rich,  Matthew 21:7) spread upon the asses; also the humbler "who walk on the way," foot travelers. Those delivered from the plundering "archers "who infest "the places of drawing water" to plunder the shepherds, shepherdesses, and their flocks in lawless times ( Exodus 2:17), should rehearse there, now that all is peace, "the Lord's righteous acts." "Then shall the people of Jehovah go down (from their past mountain hiding places) to their gates" and towns now delivered. "Barak, lead away thy captivity (train of captives) captive" (quoted in  Psalms 68:18); fulfilled exhaustively in Christ the ascended Conqueror ( Ephesians 4:8;  Ephesians 4:13).

"Out of Zebulun came they that handle the pen of the writer," i.e. the scribes of the host ( Jeremiah 52:25) who wrote down the names of the soldiers. "Barak was sent by his feet into the valley," i.e. impelled irresistibly to the battle. "At the brooks of Reuben were great resolutions of the heart," but issuing in no practical action, the tribe resembling their forefather. Reuben preferred hearing "the bleatings of the flocks" to the blast of the war trumpets. Dan with its port Joppa preferred merchandise to warring for the fatherland. "Asher abode in his bags."

"The kings of Canaan took no gain of money," i.e. no booty, as they expected, from the battle; for "the stars from heaven fought against Sisera;" i.e., a Jehovah-sent storm beat in their faces and on the Israelites' back (Josephus), swelling the Kishon, which suddenly fills up the dry channel and overflows the plain of Esdraelon, making it impassable with mud, especially to chariots, so that the" prancing horses" and their "mighty" riders were swept away.

Meroz might have intercepted the retreating foe and Sisera, but is "cursed by the angel of Jehovah" for not doing so; and Jael is blessed" for her zeal, though mixed with earthly alloy. So "the land had rest for 40 years." (See Barak .) Neither Ehud nor Jael are in the list of examples of faith in Hebrews 11. Jael apparently received Sisera in good faith, with the intention of hospitality, but a sudden impulse may have urged her to destroy the enemy of God's people. Her faith and patriotism are commendable, but not the means she took of delivering Israel.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

DEBORAH (‘bee’). 1. Rebekah’s nurse, who accompanied her mistress to her new home on her marrying Isaac (  Genesis 24:59 ). She was evidently held in great reverence, as the name of the site of her grave in Bethel shows, Allon-bacuth , the ‘terehinth of weeping’ (  Genesis 35:8 ).

2. The fourth of the leaders, or ‘Judges,’ of Israel; called also a ‘prophetess,’ i.e. an inspired woman one of the four mentioned in the OT of the tribe of Issachar (  Judges 5:15 ), wife of Lappidoth (  Judges 4:4 ). Her home was between Bethel and Ramah in the hill-country of Ephraim; here the Israelites came to her for judgment and guidance. She was the real deliverer of the Israelites, who had sunk into a state of feebleness and impotence, through the oppression of Jabin, king of Hazor (see Barak). A personality of great power and outstanding character, she was looked up to as a ‘mother in Israel’ (  Judges 5:7 ), and was instant both in word and in deed in fulfilling her calling of’ Judge.’ Her rôle is the more remarkable in that the general position of women in those days was of a distinctly subordinate character.

Deborah’s Song (  Judges 5:2-31 ) is one of the most ancient and magnificent remains of early Hebrew literature. It is a song of victory, sung in memory of Israel’s triumph (under the leadership of Deborah and Barak) over Sisera and the kings of Canaan. The vivid pictures which the poem brings up before the mind’s eye make it certain that the writer (whether Deborah or another) lived at the time of the events described. The parallel, and somewhat later, account (in prose) of the same battle (  Judges 4:4-24 ) agrees in the main with the poem, though there are many differences in the details. The Song is divided into four distinct sections:

Praise to Jahweh, and the terror of His approach,  Judges 4:2-5 .

Condition of Israel prior to Deborah’s activity,  Judges 4:6-11 .

Gathering of the tribes of Israel,  Judges 4:12-18 .

Victory of Israel and death of Sisera,  Judges 4:19-23 .

The chief importance of the Song lies in the historical data it contains, and in the light it throws on some of early Israel’s conceptions of Jahweh. Of the former, the main points are that at this time the Israelites had securely settled themselves in the mountainous districts, but had not as yet obtained any hold on the fertile lands of the Plain; that unity had not yet been established among the tribes of Israel; and that the ‘twelve tribes’ of later times had not yet all come into existence.

Of the latter, the main points are: that Jahweh has Hi a dwelling-place on the mountains in the South; that, therefore, He has not yet come to dwell among His people, though He is regarded as specifically the God of Israel; that He comes forth from His dwelling-place to lead His people to battle; and that His might and strength are so great that the very elements are shaken at His approach.

The Hebrew text is in some places (notably in  Judges 4:8;   Judges 4:10-15 ) very corrupt; but the general sense is clear.

3. The mother of Tobit’s father; she seems to have taught her grandchild the duty of almsgiving ( Tob 1:8 ).

W. O. E. Oesterley.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

 Genesis 35:8 Genesis 24:59 Judges 4:1;b15

1. Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried near Bethel. She had been part of the household of Jacob, Rebekah's son.

2. Deborah, the leader of Israel, is identified as a prophetess, a judge, and the wife of Lapidoth ( Judges 4:4 ). She probably lived about 1200 B.C. or slightly later during a period of Canaanite oppression. Deborah is described in  Judges 5:7 as “a mother in Israel” because of her role in delivering God's people. After Moses, only Samuel filled the same combination of offices: prophet, judge, and military leader.

Deborah served regularly as a judge, hearing and deciding cases brought to her by the people of Israel. She held court at “the palm tree of Deborah,” in the southern part of the territory of Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel ( Judges 4:4-5 ). Nothing is said about the procedures at her court or about the extent of her jurisdiction.

As a prophet, Deborah summoned Barak and delivered an oracle giving him God's instructions for a battle in the Jezreel Valley against the Canaanite army commanded by Sisera ( Judges 4:6-9; compare Samuel in  1 Samuel 15:2-3 and the unnamed prophet in   1 Kings 20:13-15 ). Barak obeyed, and the Israelites won the battle. Some scholars believe that Deborah as prophet also composed the victory poem she and Barak sang in  Judges 5:1 . Deborah's authority under God was evidenced by Barak's desire to have her present with him in the army camp ( Judges 4:8 ,Judges 4:8, 4:14 ) and by the testimony to her leadership in the song ( Judges 5:7 ,Judges 5:7, 5:12 ,Judges 5:12, 5:15 ).

Pamela J. Scalise

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Deb'orah. (A Bee). (B.C. 1857).

1. The nurse of Rebekah.  Genesis 35:8. Deborah accompanied Rebekah from the house of Bethuel,  Genesis 24:59, and is only mentioned by name on the occasion of her burial under the oak tree of Bethel, which was called in her honor Allon-Bachuth .

2. A prophetess who judged Israel. Judges 4-5. (B.C. 1316). She lived under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim,  Judges 4:5, which, as palm trees were rare in Palestine, "is mentioned as a well-known and solitary landmark." She was probably a woman of Ephraim. Lapidoth was probably her husband, and not Barak as some say. She was not so much a judge, as one gifted with prophetic command  Judges 4:6;  Judges 4:14;  Judges 5:7 and by virtue of her inspiration "a mother in Israel."

The tyranny of Jabin, a Canaanitish king, was peculiarly felt in the northern tribes, who were near his capital and under her jurisdiction. Under her direction, Barak encamped on the broad summit of Tabor. Deborah's prophecy was fulfilled,  Judges 4:9, and the enemy's general perished among the "oaks of the wanderers" (Zaanaim), in the tent of the Bedouin Kenite's wife,  Judges 4:21, in the northern mountains. Deborah's title of "prophetess" includes the notion of inspired poetry, as in  Exodus 15:20, and in this sense, the glorious triumphal ode, Judges 5, well vindicates her claim to the office.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

  • A prophetess, "wife" (woman?) of Lapidoth. Jabin, the king of Hazor, had for twenty years held Israel in degrading subjection. The spirit of patriotism seemed crushed out of the nation. In this emergency Deborah roused the people from their lethargy. Her fame spread far and wide. She became a "mother in Israel" ( Judges 4:6,14;  5:7 ), and "the children of Israel came up to her for judgment" as she sat in her tent under the palm tree "between Ramah and Bethel." Preparations were everywhere made by her direction for the great effort to throw off the yoke of bondage. She summoned Barak from Kadesh to take the command of 10,000 men of Zebulun and Naphtali, and lead them to Mount Tabor on the plain of Esdraelon at its north-east end. With his aid she organized this army. She gave the signal for attack, and the Hebrew host rushed down impetuously upon the army of Jabin, which was commanded by Sisera, and gained a great and decisive victory. The Canaanitish army almost wholly perished. That was a great and ever-memorable day in Israel. In  Judges 5 is given the grand triumphal ode, the "song of Deborah," which she wrote in grateful commemoration of that great deliverance. (See Lapidoth, Jabin [2].)

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Deborah'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

    Two women named Deborah are mentioned in the Bible. The first of these was the maidservant of Rebekah who came with her from Paddan-aram when Rebekah married Isaac. She lived to a great age and died near Bethel ( Genesis 24:59;  Genesis 35:8).

    The better known Deborah was a respected civil administrator in Israel during the era of the judges. She lived near the town of Bethel, where she gave decisions in cases brought to her for judgment. Being a prophetess, she was well suited to discern God’s will in difficult cases ( Judges 4:4-5). She is chiefly remembered for directing Israel’s victory over the forces of Sisera in northern Palestine. (For map see Judges, Book Of )

    With her army general Barak, Deborah led a force of Israelite soldiers up Mt Tabor, with the aim of drawing out Sisera’s chariot forces into the plain of the Kishon River below ( Judges 4:6-10). With prophetic insight, Deborah must have foreseen the outcome. There was a tremendous storm, the river flooded and, as Sisera’s chariots became bogged, the Israelites rushed down upon them and won a great victory. Many details of the event are given in the song of victory that Deborah composed to celebrate the occasion ( Judges 4:12-16;  Judges 5:1-22).

    American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

    1. A prophetess, and wife of Lapidoth, judged the Israelites, and dwelt under a palm-tree between Ramah and Bethel,  Judges 4:4,5 . She sent for Barak, directed him to attack Sisera, and promised him victory. Barak, however, refused to go unless she accompanied him, which she did, but told him that the success of the expedition would be imputed to a woman and not to him. After the victory, Deborah composed a splendid triumphal song, which is preserved in  Judges 5:1 -  31 .

    2. The nurse of Rebekah, whom she accompanied from Aram into Canaan,  Genesis 24:1-67 . At her death, near Bethel, she was buried with honorable marks of affection,  Genesis 35:8 . There is something very beautiful in this simple and artless record, which would scarcely find a place in our grand histories, treating only of kings, statesmen, and renowned warriors. They seldom take the trouble of erecting a memorial to obscure worth and a long life of humble usefulness.

    People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

    Deborah ( Dĕb'O-Rah ), A Bee. 1. The nurse of Rebekah, and her companion into Canaan.  Genesis 24:59. She was buried at Bethel, under the "oak of weeping."  Genesis 38:8. Nurses held an honorable place in early times in the East, where they were important members of the family.  2 Kings 11:2;  2 Chronicles 22:11. 2. A prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, who judged Israel. She dwelt under, I.E., had a tent pitched beneath, a noted tree; a palm tree it is called, and may have been at Baal-tamar,  Judges 20:33, or not far distant from the tree under which the first Deborah was buried. Deborah incited Barak to deliver his people from the oppression of Jabin; at his desire accompanied him, though with a rebuke, and after the victory uttered a triumphal song of praise.  Judges 4:5.

    Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

    1. Rebekah's nurse: she accompanied her mistress when she left Padan-aram and remained with her till her death; she was buried under the 'oak of weeping.'  Genesis 24:59;  Genesis 35:8 .

    2. Wife of Lapidoth: she became a 'mother in Israel,' and was a prophetess and 'judged Israel;' it was she who incited Barak to attack Jabin, who had oppressed Israel twenty years. This led to the defeat of their enemies, the death of Sisera by the hand of Jael, and the destruction of Jabin. A remarkable song of triumph by Deborah over the enemies of God followed the victory.  Judges 4 and 5. Deborah is a beautiful instance of how, under God, the faith of a single person may be the means of arousing those under deep depression into activity and thence to victory.

    Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [10]

    a prophetess, wife of Lapidoth, judged the Israelites, and dwelt under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel,  Judges 4:4-5 . She sent for Barak, directed him to attack Sisera, and, in the name of God, promised him victory; but Barak refusing to go, unless she went with him, she told him, that the honour of this expedition would be given to a woman, and not to him. After the victory, Deborah and Barak sung a fine thanksgiving song, the composition probably of Deborah alone, which is preserved, Judges 5.

    Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

    The eminent prophetess, whose history is recorded  Judges 4and 5She was the wife of Lapidoth. Her name is probably from Deborat, bee; perhaps, in allusion to the activity of her mind. The Holy Ghost hath endeared her memory, not only by the victory wrought by her instrumentality, in the deliverance of Israel, but by that divine hymn she sang, and is left upon re-record for the use of the church.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

    deb´ō̇ - ra ( דּבורה , debhōrāh , signifying "bee"):

    (1) Rebekah's nurse, who died near Bethel and was buried under "the oak of weeping" ( Genesis 35:8 margin).

    (2) A prophetess, fourth in the order of the "judges." In aftertime a palm tree, known as the "palm tree of Deborah," was shown between Ramah and Bethel, beneath which the prophetess was wont to administer justice. Like the rest of the "judges" she became a leader of her people in times of national distress. This time the oppressor was Jabin, king of Hazor, whose general was Sisera. Deborah summoned Barak of Kedesh-naphtali and delivered to him the Divine message to meet Sisera in battle by the brook Kishon. Barak induced Deborah to accompany him; they were joined by 10,000 men of Zebulun and Naphtali. The battle took place by the brook Kishon, and Sisera's army was thoroughly routed. While Barak pursued the fleeing army, Sisera escaped and sought refuge with Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, near Kedesh. The brave woman, the prototype of Judith, put the Canaanite general to sleep by offering him a draft of milk and then slew him by driving a peg into his temple. Thus runs the story in Jdg 4. It is on the whole substantiated by the ode in chapter 5 which is ascribed jointly to Deborah and Barak. It is possible that the editor mistook the archaic form קמתּי , ḳamtı̄ , in  Judges 5:7 which should be rendered "thou arosedst" instead of "I arose." Certainly the ode was composed by a person who, if not a contemporary of the event, was very near it in point of time. The song is spoken of as one of the oldest pieces of Hebrew literature. Great difficulties meet the exegete. Nevertheless the general substance is clear. The Lord is described as having come from Sinai near the "field of Edom" to take part in the battle; 'for from heaven they fought, the very stars from their courses fought against Sisera' (  Judges 5:20 ). The nation was in a sad plight, oppressed by a mighty king, and the tribes loth to submerge their separatist tendencies. Some, like Reuben, Gilead, Dan and Asher remained away. A community by the name of Meroz is singled out for blame, 'because they came not to the help of Yahweh, to the help of Yahweh among the mighty' ( Judges 5:23; compare the Revised Version, margin). Ephraim, Issachar, Machir, Benjamin were among the followers of Barak; "Zebulun ... jeopardized their lives unto the death, and Naphtali, upon the high places of the field" ( Judges 5:18 ). According to the song, the battle was fought at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; Sisera's host was swept away by "that ancient river, the river Kishon" ( Judges 5:21 ). Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, receives here due reward of praise for her heroic act. The paean vividly paints the waiting of Sisera's mother for the home-coming of the general; the delay is ascribed to the great booty which the conqueror is distributing among his Canaanite host. "So let all thine enemies perish," concludes the song; "O Yahweh: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." It is a song in praise of the "righteous acts" of the Lord, His work of victory which Israel's leaders, 'the long-haired princes,' wrought, giving their lives freely to the nation's cause. And the nation was sore bestead because it had become faithless to the Lord and chosen new gods. Out of the conflict came, for the time being, victory and moral purification; and the inspiring genius of it all was a woman in Israel, the prophetess Deborah.

    (3) Tobit's grandmother (the King James Version "Debora," Tobit 1:8).

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

    Deb´orah (a bee), a prophetess, wife of Lapidoth. She dwelt, probably, in a tent, under a well-known palm-tree between Ramah and Bethel, where she judged Israel . This in all likelihood means that she was the organ of communication between God and his people, and probably, on account of the influence and authority of her character, was accounted in some sort as the head of the nation, to whom questions of doubt and difficulty were referred for decision. In her triumphal song she says—

    'In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,

    In the days of Jael, the ways lay desert,

    And high-way travelers went in winding bypaths.

    Leaders failed in Israel, they failed,

    Until that I Deborah arose,

    That I arose, a mother in Israel.'

    From the further intimations which that song contains, and from other circumstances, the people would appear to have sunk into a state of total discouragement under the oppression of the Canaanites; so that it was difficult to rouse them from their despondency and to induce them to make any exertion to burst the fetters of their bondage. From the gratitude which Deborah expresses towards the people for the effort which they finally made, we are warranted in drawing the conclusion that she had long endeavored to instigate them to this step in vain. At length she summoned Barak, the son of Abinoam, from Kedesh, a city of Naphtali, on a mountain not far from Hazor, and made known to him the will of God that he should undertake an enterprise for the deliverance of his country. But such was his disheartened state of feeling, and at the same time such his confidence in the superior character and authority of Deborah, that he assented to go only on the condition that she would accompany him. To this she at length consented. They then repaired together to Kedesh, and collected there—in the immediate vicinity of Hazor, the capital of the dominant power—ten thousand men, with whom they marched southward, and encamped on Mount Tabor. Sisera, the general of Jabin, king of Hazor, who was at the head of the Canaanitish confederacy, immediately collected an army, pursued them, and encamped in face of them in the great Plain of Esdraelon. Encouraged by Deborah, Barak boldly descended from Tabor into the plain with his ten thousand men to give battle to the far superior host of Sisera, which was rendered the more formidable to the Israelites by nine hundred chariots of iron. The Canaanites were beaten; and Barak pursued them northward to Harosheth. Sisera himself, being hotly pursued, alighted from his chariot and escaped on foot to the tent of Heber the Kenite, by whose wife he was slain. This great victory (dated about B.C. 1296), which seems to have been followed up, broke the power of the native princes, and secured to the Israelites a repose of forty years' duration. During part of this time Deborah probably continued to exercise her former authority; but nothing more of her history is known.

    The song of triumph, which was composed in consequence of the great victory over Sisera, is said to have been 'sung by Deborah and Barak.' It is usually regarded as the composition of Deborah; and was probably composed by her to be sung on the return of Barak and his warriors from the pursuit. It is a peculiarly fine specimen of the earlier poetry of the Hebrews.

    Deborah, 2

    Deborah. The nurse of Rebekah, whom she accompanied to the land of Canaan; she died near Beth-el, and was buried under an oak, which for that reason was thenceforth called Allon-bachuth—'the oak of weeping' .