1st Era of Judges: Deborah

Discovery for Teachers

1st Era of Judges: Deborah


Judges 1:1 through 5:31

“Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.” (Judges 2:16)


The Book of Judges covers the period between the death of Joshua and the birth of Samuel — a time span of approximately 300 years.

Several cycles of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance occur throughout this book. The first phase involves sin or backsliding, in which the people began to compromise with their enemies, and allowed them to coexist in the conquered land. This ultimately led to gross disobedience to God through Israel’s adoption of the pagan worship of Baal and Ashtaroth.

The second phase of the cycle is oppression. In His wrath and displeasure, God sent or allowed hostile nations (those Israel should have driven out) to oppress Israel by means of war, taxation, or occupation. When the people grew weary of the hardship and distress produced by the enemy, they cried out to God.

Phase three is marked by the repentance of God’s people. When their repentance was genuine, God heard their cry.

Deliverance is the fourth and final phase of this cycle. In His mercy, God answered their prayers and raised up a leader or “judge,” which “delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them” (Judges 2:16). Unfortunately, the repentance of the people tended to last only as long as their judge lived, and then they lapsed into rebellion, initiating the first phase of the cycle all over again. The most prominent aspect of their rebellion was found in their acceptance and worship of false gods — primarily Baal.

Baalism was a religion that deified various aspects of nature. Worship was tied to the seasons and natural phenomena such as rain and harvest. Baal, whose name means “lord” or “owner,” was the god of rain and thunder. Ashtaroth, his female counterpart, was the patroness of sex and war. Ritual prostitution was practiced by both men and women worshipers, in a desire to increase fertility in their lives. Because the Canaanites were farmers, the fertility of their land, wives, and herds was of utmost importance to them. In times of famine or drought, the people would sacrifice their children to Baal “through the fire,” in an effort to appease this god of rain and harvest.

Not only did the Canaanites take extreme measures to please their gods, they took extra measures to ensure success over their enemies. Canaanite chariots were equipped with sharp iron blades on their axles, which would have been terrifying to foot soldiers such as the Israelites. In addition, the horses’ hooves and bridles were also covered with sharp spikes, making them a formidable foe.


  1. In Judges 2:1-3, an angel of the Lord told the Israelites that their covenant with God had been broken. What were the reasons for this? Judges 1:21-36; 2:10-23

    God declared that His covenant had been nullified due to their disobedience. First of all, the Israelites failed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land and were making alliances with those nations God had instructed them to destroy; second, as a result of these sympathies and intermarriages, the Israelites had rejected God and begun to serve Baal and Ashtaroth. Discuss with your class how we keep our covenant with God.
  2. Othniel, Israel’s first judge, is described in Judges 3:9-11. What was his relationship to Caleb? How do you think Caleb may have influenced Othniel?

    Othniel was Caleb’s nephew, and may have enjoyed a rich, godly heritage. Caleb’s faithfulness and courageous stand may have influenced Othniel to trust God implicitly. How can we take advantage of the godly heritage that is available to us? If you are teaching a class of seniors, discuss with them how we can influence those younger in age. In a class of younger students, discuss how they can look to older saints for mentoring, guidance, example, etc.
  3. How did Ehud, Israel’s second judge, overthrow the oppression of Moab?

    After delivering a “present” of tribute money to King Eglon, Ehud swiftly assassinated him with his dagger. Sometimes God’s directions are plain and simple. Ehud obeyed the Lord without question, quickly and quietly, and the Israelites enjoyed eighty years of peace under his administration. Ask your class for examples of times when the Lord spoke plainly to them about something He wanted them to do, and what the results were of their actions.
  4. After Ehud died, the Israelites again backslid into rebellion and idolatry, and God allowed Jabin, king of Canaan, to oppress them (Judges 4:1-3). Why do you think the Israelites waited twenty years before crying to the Lord for deliverance?

    Pride and stubbornness are the marks of abackslidden heart. No doubt the Israelites tried to solve this problem in their own strength, using their own ingenuity and weapons of war. However, God’s purpose in allowing the Canaanites to oppress them was to bring the nation of Israel to a place of repentance for their sin. Discuss with your class some possible rationalizations for the Israelites failure to overcome their oppressors — we don’t have the right weapons, we are too few in number, at least we know what to expect, etc.
  5. Who was Deborah, and what role did she have in Israel’s government? Judges 4:4-5

    Deborah was the fourth judge of Israel, but was also a prophetess. She spoke God’s Word to the people and judged in civil and religious matters. She possessed the gifts and skills necessary for leadership, and made herself available to God. Under her faithful leadership, the Israelites enjoyed forty years of peace.
  6. What was Deborah’s message to Barak (Judges 4:6-7)? What did God promise Deborah He would do?

    After receiving directions from the Lord, Deborah called Barak, the military leader, to her. She told him that God said that he should go to Mount Tabor with ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Sisera would learn of this and be drawn into battle at the Kishon River. God promised Deborah victory if the people followed His instructions.
  7. Why do you think Barak wanted Deborah to go with him into battle? How can the support of a fellow Christian be an encouragement to us in our spiritual battles?

    Although Barak is listed in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews as a hero of faith, he initially needed the reassurance of Deborah’s physical presence with him in battle before he would agree to go. It is unlikely that he was timid in nature, since he was the general of their army. More likely, he was frightened by the thought of facing those 900 chariots of iron, and wanted Deborah’s prayers right with him.

    In response to the second question, class discussion should bring out that the support of a fellow Christian can motivate us to continue on, give us courage, provide us with examples of others who have fought and won, and give us strategies that will help us defeat the enemy.
  8. Barak’s army of foot soldiers was, in the natural, no match for Sisera’s 900 chariots of iron. What did God do to defeat Sisera and the army? (See Judges 5:4, 15-16, 20-22)

    Not only did God send great courage to Barak and the Israelite army, but God sent thunder and rain (5:4) and a flash flood (5:21) which immobilized the heavy chariots and allowed the infantrymen of Israel to overtake and annihilate the army of Jabin. Only Sisera escaped, on foot, and sought refuge in the tent of Jael, a Kenite woman. Sisera no doubt assumed that, being a Kenite, her politics would be neutral; but they were not and she deceived and slew him. The army of Jabin was completely destroyed.
  9. In five words or less, describe the character of each of the following people: Ehud, Deborah, Barak, and Jael.

    Your students responses may include some of the following thoughts:

    Ehud — Man of action and courage

    Deborah — Strong advisor and counselor, dedicated

    Barak — Courageous, obedient to God’s instructions

    Jael — Courageous, woman of action,dedicated to cause

    The words “brave” and “obedient” should be foremost in your students’ descriptions. Although most of us are not faced with physical battles such as these Bible characters were, we do face spiritual battles. Discuss with your students how we can cultivate more faith in our lives.
  10. What must we do in order to be the recipients of God’s help and favor, as were Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, and Barak?

    God is looking for those who will trust Him completely, not looking at the circumstances or trusting in their own abilities, but trusting in God’s ability. As we have seen, the Israelites began to backslide when they failed to fully obey God and drive out the inhabitants of the land. Their disobedience, neglect, and self-reliance brought them into close association with the idolatry of the Canaanites, and then into sin. Only when they maintained a humble and obedient spirit were they the recipients of God’s help and grace.


God’s promises have always been conditional upon man’s obedience. If we choose to rebel and disobey, we will certainly face the consequences; however, if we trust God and obey Him, we can be equally certain of inheriting His promises.