Deborah in "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
Born c. 1200 BCE
Died c. 1124 (aged 75)
or 1067 BCE
Residence Shelter in Mount Ephraim, which is between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel
Nationality Hebrew
Other names Debora, Débora, Dvora
Occupation Prophetess of God, Fourth Judge of Israel
Predecessor Shamgar
Successor Gideon
Spouse Lapidoth

Deborah (Hebrew: דְבוֹרָה, Modern Dvora Tiberian Dəḇôrā ; "Bee", Arabic: دیبا Diba‎) was a prophetess of Yahweh the God of the Israelites, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchic Israel, counselor, warrior, and the wife of Lapidoth according to the Book of Judges chapters 4 and 5.

Being the only female judge in the vast history of Israel, Deborah led a successful counterattack against the forces of Jabin king of Canaan and his military commander Sisera, the narrative is recounted in chapter 4.

Judges chapter 5 gives the same story in poetic form. This passage, often called The Song of Deborah, may date to as early as the 12th century BC[1] and is perhaps the earliest sample of Hebrew poetry. It is also significant because it is one of the oldest passages that portrays fighting women, the account being that of Jael, the wife of Heber, a Kenite tent maker. Jael killed Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple as he slept. Both Deborah and Jael are portrayed as strong independent women. The poem may have been included in the Book of the Wars of the Lord mentioned in Numbers 21:14.

In Hebrew, her name, דְּבוֹרָה, translates as bee. The Deborah number, a dimensionless number used in rheology, is named after her.[2]


Deborah's personal life

Grave near Kedesh attributed to Barak or Deborah

Not much is known about Deborah's personal life. Her name in Hebrew is pronounced Dvora. Some sources, such as, state that she judged Israel from 1107 B.C. until her death in 1067 B.C.[3] The Dictionary of World Biography: The Ancient World, claims that she might have lived from 1200 B.C. to 1124 B.C., which would have made her about 36 years old at the time of the battle against Sisera, and 75 at the time her death.[4] The book also says that she was most probably born in central Israel to the tribe of Ephraim, and was also the author of The Song of Deborah.[4]

In the Book of Judges, it is stated that she was the wife of Lapidoth (Hebrew: לפידות‎ whose name means "torches"). She rendered her judgments beneath a palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the land of Ephraim. (Judges 4:5) Some people today refer to Deborah as the mother of Israel because of the "Song of Deborah and Barak" found in Judges 5.

Judges in the Bible

In the Book of Joshua: Joshua
In the Book of Judges: OthnielEhudShamgarDeborahBarak† • GideonAbimelech† • TolaJairJephthahIbzanElonAbdonSamson
In First Samuel: EliSamuel

Not explicitly described as a judge

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After being oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan, in Hazor, for twenty years, (Judges 4:9) Deborah prevailed upon Barak to face the Assyrian General Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, in battle. The victory to which the Bible refers is the victory of an Israelite force of ten thousand over Sisera's force of nine hundred iron chariots. (Judges 4:10)

saw the army, she said, according to Judges 4:14:

Up; for this [is] the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.

As Deborah prophesied, the Lord gave the victory to the Israelites. Sisera fled the battle site seeking refuge in the tent of the woman Jael. In the Biblical account, Jael killed the enemy leader, Sisera. The Biblical account of Deborah ends in Judges 5.

After the battle, there was peace in the land for 40 years. (Judges 5:31)

The Song of Deborah

Gustave Dore's interpretation of the prophetess Deborah.

The Song of Deborah is found in Judges 5:2-31 and is a victory hymn, sung by Deborah and Barak, about the defeat of Canaanite adversaries by some of the tribes of Israel. It is recognized as one of the oldest parts of the Bible, dating somewhere in the 12th century BC based on its grammar and context.[5] The song itself contains a number of challenging differences from the events described in Judges 4. The song mentions six participating tribes (Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir, Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali) as opposed to the two tribes in Judges 4:6 (Naphtali and Zebulun) and does not mention the role of Jabin.[6] It describes Sisera's death in a different manner. Judges 4:17-21 describes Jael killing Sisera by luring him into her tent, letting him lay down to rest, and then while he was asleep hammering a tent peg into his head killing him.

Though it is not uncommon to read a victory hymn in the Hebrew Bible, the Song of Deborah stands out as unique in that it is a hymn that celebrates a military victory helped by two women: Deborah and Jael. Michael Coogan writes that Jael being a woman "is a further sign that Yahweh ultimately is responsible for the victory: The mighty Canaanite general Siera will be 'sold' by the Lord 'into the hand of a woman' (Judges 4:9) - the ultimate degradation."[7]

Historical and biblical context


After the death of Joshua, the tribe of Judah led the tribe of Simeon in a campaign against the Canaanites and Perizzites, defeating Adonibezek at Bezek. Then they marched against Kiriath-Arba (Hebron) and defeated three more kings. The descendants of Hobab the Kenite, father-in-law of Moses, accompanied Judah into the wilderness of Negeb but later left to live with the Amalakites. Judah did not take Ashkelon, or Ekron. The Canaanites continued to hold Beth Shean, Dor, and Ibleam. Zebulon was unable to drive them out of Kitron or Nahalol; nor could Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco, Sidon, Achzib, or Rehob. The Amorites drove back the Danites into the highlands.[8]

Jabin a king of Canaan reigned at Hazor and the commander of his army was Sisera who lived in Haroseth-ha-goiim. The accounts of Judges 4 and 5 tell the story of a battle at Taanach near the River Kishon. Few allies among the southern tribes could come to the assistance of Deborah and Barak. Israel, which the song of Deborah and Barak numbers at 40,000 spears, was unavailable except for forces from the tribes of Ephraim, Machir, Zebulon, Issachar, and Naphtali. While Sisera is said to have had 900 iron chariots, "the Song of Deborah" implies that heavy rain rendered them ineffectual.[9]


  1. ^ Michael D. Coogan (2011), The Old Testament, A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, Oxford University Press, pp. 214,219 
  2. ^ "Dairy Processing Handbook. Chapter 3, "Rheology"". Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  3. ^ - Jewish History: Deborah the Prophetess
  4. ^ a b Northen Magill, Frank and Christina J. Moose. "Dictionary of World Biography: The Ancient World - Deborah". Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009), 180.
  6. ^ Nelson, Richard. "Judges." The Harper Collins Study Bible, Revised Edition. Eds. Attridge, Harold and Wayne Meeks. (HarperCollins: New York 2006), 353.
  7. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009, p.180.
  8. ^ NAB, Judges,1
  9. ^ NAB, Judges 5, n.4

Further reading

  • Bird, Phyllis (1974). "Images of Women in the Old Testament". In Rosemary Radford Ruether. Religion and Sexism: Images of Women in the Jewish and Christian Traditions. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671216929. 
  • Brown, Cheryl Anne (1992). No longer be silent : first century Jewish portraits of biblical women : studies in Pseudo-Philo's Biblical antiquities and Josephus's Jewish antiquities. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster J. Knox Press. ISBN 066425294X. 
  • Deen, Edith (1955). All the Women of the Bible. New York: Harper & Row. 
  • Lacks, Roslyn (1979). Women and Judaism : myth, history, and struggle. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN 0385023138. 
  • Otwell, John H. (1977). And Sarah laughed : the status of woman in the Old Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. ISBN 0664241263. 
  • Phipps, William E. (1992). Assertive biblical women. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313284989.. 
  • Williams, James G. (1982). Women recounted : narrative thinking and the God of Israel.. Sheffield: Almond Pr.. ISBN 0907459188. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • DEBORAH — (Heb. דְבוֹרָה; bee ), wife of Lappidoth; judge and prophet during the period of the judges . Deborah promoted the war of liberation from the oppression of jabin king of Canaan (Judg. ch. 4). She is cited as the primary author of the Song of… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Deborah — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Deborah puede hacer referencia a: Deborah Harry, Debbie Harry, cantante y actriz estadounidense. Grupo Blondie; Deborah Kerr, actriz británica; nombre hebreo que significa: laboriosa como una abeja Obtenido de… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Deborah — Deborah. Ost, in den Zeiten des tiefsten Verfalls der Völker, wo selbst der Muth des Helden verzweifelnd gebeugt ist unter das Joch des Unglücks und der Drangsale, oft dann waren es Frauen, die den Völkern Leben und Thatkraft einhauchten, und wie …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Deborah — [deb′ə rə, deb′rə] n. [Heb debōrāh, lit., a bee] 1. a feminine name: dim. Debbie, Debby; var. Debra 2. Bible a prophetess and one of the judges of Israel: Judg. 4 & 5 …   English World dictionary

  • Debōrah — Debōrah, Frau des Lapidoth, Prophetin u. um 1250 v. Chr. angesehene Richterin auf dem Gebirge Ephraim in Israel. Mit ihr griff Barak den Sissera, Feldherrn des Jabin, an u. schlug denselben am Thabor (s. Hebräer). Sie sang mit Barak nach dem Sieg …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Debōrah — (hebr., »Biene«), israelit. Prophetin auf dem Gebirge Ephraim, Richterin und Heldin, Frau des Lappidoth, warf im Verein mit Barak, dem Sohn Abinoams, das bereits 20 Jahre schwer auf Israel lastende Joch des kanaanitischen Königs Jabin von Hazor… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Deborah — f Jewish and English: biblical name (meaning ‘bee’ in Hebrew) borne by the nurse of Rebecca (Genesis 35: 8) and by a woman judge and prophet (Judges 4–5), who led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanites. The name has always been popular… …   First names dictionary

  • Déborah — (XIIe s. av. J. C.), prophétesse et juge d Israël; auteur d un cantique qui célèbre la victoire des Israélites sur les Cananéens (V. Bible, Juges) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Deborah — prophetess and judge in the O.T., in Heb., lit. bee (thus the name is the same as MELISSA (Cf. Melissa)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Deborah — Dieser Artikel befasst sich mit dem weiblichen Vornamen Debora/Deborah. Für weitere Bedeutungen siehe Deborah (Begriffsklärung). Debora/Deborah ist ein weiblicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung des Namens 2 Namenstag 3… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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