Sometimes A Woman Needs To Give A Man A Headache (Judges 4)

notes from Bible Group discussion 1/29/2017



Judges 4 –  A Godly Woman Gives An Evil Man A Headache

è Apart from family, what female has had the most influence in your life?
{me: mom, wife, mom leas & family / r-phelps, a-funn, m-shumate, d-brown, c-green, spbc… – – –  Elizabeth Elliot Passion & Purity}

è Who is your favorite female character in the Bible?

è What was the purpose of the #MarchOnWashington, and what stood out to you?

EXAMINE           Judges 4

Judges were not so much spiritual leaders as they were national military figures. They functioned as ones that God used to deliver Israel in the midst of battles and consequences from their sinful choices. While some may assume that Israel’s judges were heroes, a closer reading of the book concludes the desperation and depravity of a nation with deficient spiritual leaders and God as the sole Savior of the nation.

Judges Study: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson. Israel has no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes…. Foreshadows time of famine with Ruth, then kingship in 1-2Samuel and 1-2Kings, and ultimately the Messiah as the rightful King.

Judges 4 Deborah


God gives consequences for our sin (4:1-3)

The repeating cycle of Judges: Rebellion – Judgment – Repentance – Deliverance & Return. Specific repeating statements in the book of Judges that describe their plight:

–       “In those days there was no king in Israel and they did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1)

–       “The Lord gave them over into the hands of the enemy” (2:14; 6:1; 13:1)

–       “The Israelites cried out to the Lord” (3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6; 10:10)

–       “The Lord raised up a deliverer for Israel to save them” (2:16, 18; 3:9, 15)

–       “Then _____ [the judge] died” (2:19 3:11; 4:1; 8:32; 12:7)

Previously, Othniel was judge for 40 years (3:11) then later Ehud was judge with peace for 80 years (3:29). Yet, each generation of Israel was not being raised to know and follow the Lord. The consequences was God bringing judgment through the hands of an evil king and nation.

è What makes Israel forget their history of consequences from rejecting God? – See Ps 51:10; Rom 7:14 ff Under what circumstances do you drift from God: indifference, boredom, busyness, crisis?

è Why (reasoning) does God bring judgment on Israel for their evil deeds? – See Joshua 24:14-27

è What is the difference between God’s judgment actively and passively? How can we know which we are experiencing?

In the bible, God’s wrath does occur passively in the natural consequences of our sin occurring from our choices: poor leaders, circumstances from decisions, disease, etc. Yet, God’s wrath also occurs actively in punishing evil, cursing sin, and judging sinners (cf. Mat 10:28, 25:46; Romans 2:5; 2Pet 3:7; 2Thess 1:9; etc.). “Hell is not merely self-imposed natural consequence (like smoking leading to lung cancer); it is the penalty of God’s wrath (like a judge sentencing a criminal to hard labor).”[1]

It does not seem we can specifically discern when we are experiencing God’s active or passive wrath. Yet, we do know the judgment of hell will be the just and active wrath of God.

God gives leaders for our influence not idolatry (4:4-10) deborah

Deborah was a prophetess, a wife, and a judge, and a mother in Israel (5:7). As a judge, she likely led Israel in national affairs and settled disputes. She relayed God’s message for Barak to be Israel’s deliverer. However, he lacked confidence in the Lord and courage to fight. He told Deborah, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

Barak refused to obey and seemingly had more hope in the prophetess as a spiritual leader than in the promise of God. He trusted the messenger more than the message, thereby turning a good gift into a god-substitute; she became an idol. While Deborah agreed to go with Barak, she noted that due to his doubt and potential disobedience, he would not have the honor and glory of winning the battle.

Women’s leadership in Israel has lessons for the church.

–       Women can serve in significant positions of influence. Deborah was a judge and mother in Israel. She was a prophetess speaking God’s words. 

–       Women serve uniquely in cooperation with male leadership. Deborah only prophesied privately and not in public proclamation, in contrast to male prophets in the OT.[2] “She exercised her prophetic ministry in a way that did not obstruct male headship.” Deborah exhorted Barak to fulfill God’s call upon his life in leading Israel’s army. Even when Barak hesitated to obey and requested her assistance, she responded with an indictment on his obedience; and perhaps a slight with the handing of Sisera over to a woman (Judges 4:8-9). She is not described as fighting in the army but still serving as an encourager to Barak (Judges 4:14 “into your hands” not “my/our hands”). Further, Deborah’s song shows her desire for princes in Israel to take the lead (5:2, 9). Perhaps not to be missed is the setting of the book of Judges of an errant season in Israel’s spiritual condition is the complexity of gender roles and the fact that she is not specifically raised up by the Lord or empowered by His Spirit as some of the other judges.

o   Even in NT, women are encouraged to pray and prophesy but in a manner that does not violate male headship (cf. 1Cor 11:2-16, 14:33-35; 1Timothy 2:11-15).

o   Hebrews 11:32 the only name listed is Barak, while silence to mention Deborah.

è How did Deborah, a woman, become a judge for Israel? What characteristics stand out for Deborah: mediation skills, leadership abilities, faith, boldness, musical ability?

è Why does another person’s willingness to serve alongside of us motivate us to act with confidence and courage? Can you provide example? How can it also be a detriment? Can you give an example?

God gives victory over His enemies (4:11-23)

Deborah went with Barak to fight against the Canaanites. As Sisera gathers his troops – an impressive army with 900 iron chariots – the prophetess exhorts Barak into battle, foreseeing the Lord’s victory. All the Lord’s enemies fall by the sword with only Sisera left, fulfilling the earlier prophecy (4:9). Jael, another woman, brutally kills the Canaanite king by driving a tent peg through his skull while he’s sleeping. Now that’s a headache!

Ultimately, the text points to God as subduing his enemies and providing victory over His enemies and enabling Israel’s strength (4:23-24). The result of Israel’s victory turns to praise for Deborah and Barak (Judges 5).

è What does Jael’s murder of Sisera reflect about Israel and the setting of the book? Do you cringe or celebrate this act?

è When you receive victory in life battles, how do you remind yourself of God’s work to provide over man’s?

è What is the significance of worship through song for Deborah & Barak and the nation of Israel? (telling the story to others…)


è What enemies or battles do you need God’s deliverance? Remind yourself of God’s power and promises.

è How can we pray for one another?




[1] John Piper, What Jesus Demands From The World, 93.

[2] See Thomas R. Schreiner, “The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A Survey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, p.216.

picture: Deborah: Words, Women, and War with painting meaning found at

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