Forty women: 19. Deborah

It’s not supposed to be Deborah. She’s a prophet. She can make good judgments in disputes between Israelites. She’s perfectly happy sitting under her tree, holding court.

It’s tough, of course, because the Israelites are going through one of their regular phases of great wickedness. There’s plenty of disputes to be sorted out. There’s plenty of God’s wisdom needed and probably plenty of it ignored. They aren’t all that interested in what God has to say.

It’s tough because of Sisera, too. He’s cruel and harsh and has a huge army, keeping the Israelites firmly under his thumb. And so finally, finally, the Israelites realise that they need to ask for help. Not from Deborah, obviously. They need the Lord’s help.

But look, she knows the pattern. This isn’t their first time through this cycle of wickedness, oppression, and finally crying out for help. Help always comes in the form of a judge. Not a judge sitting in a law court, but a judge leading his people to victory over their enemies. So Deborah looks around for the answer to Israel’s prayers, and she finds Barak. He should lead Israel’s army up against Sisera’s and God will give them victory and rest from their enemies.

But Barak, it turns out, is something of a coward: “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” (Judges 4:8).

Maybe he hopes that she won’t go. She’s a woman, after all.

But Deborah, it turns out, is no coward: ‘”Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” ‘ (Judges 4:9).

Deborah will go with Barak, to raise an army and lead it against Sisera’s troops. And Deborah’s trust will be proved worthy, when God gives them the victory. And Deborah’s prophecy will be proved true, when the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.

Maybe it should have been Barak. But as it turns out, Deborah is certainly up to the job.

Forty women: 20. Jael