Deborah: A Mother in Israel (Sept. 2)

Judges 4:4-16; 5:4-9


Deborah is one of the major judges (meaning charismatic leaders, rather than juridical figures) in the story of how Israel takes the land of Canaan.

The only female judge, and also the only judge to be called a prophet, Deborah is a decisive figure in the defeat of the Canaanites, a victory told in two accounts, a prose narrative in Judges 4 and an ancient song known as the Song of Deborah, probably composed not long after the original events, possibly by Deborah herself, and preserved in Judges 5. In Judg 4:4, Deborah is identified as ‘eset lappidot, which may mean “woman of [the town] Lappidoth,” “wife of [the man] Lappidoth,” or “woman of torches” (that is, “fiery woman”).

(Women of Scripture: A Dictionary of named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, edited by Carol Meyers, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, p. 66)

Reading the Scripture

Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).

•    Video:
o    YouTube Video: Deborah and Barak (Tells the story simply, with color cartoon illustrations. Available on this webpage.)

Teaching Suggestions

•    Wise Women of LABC: Delores Goggans—Leader and Mother

Delores Goggans, a long-time member of the Ruth Sunday School class, was thoroughly engaged in Bible study. She was one to ask questions and discuss the lesson and follow-up. For instance, once Emmy Glo encouraged her class members to write a journal describing their spiritual journeys. Delores did. She wanted to use it to teach her children. This journal made an impact on Judee Vanderpool. Judee kept the questions and used them at our last women’s retreat.

Delores was a visionary leader.  At a time when there was no McDowell Place assisted living or anything like it, some were talking about the possibility of LABC starting an assistant living facility on our property, perhaps working with other churches and providing volunteers. It was Delores who enthusiastically went before the deacons to advocate for such a facility and encourage them to think about the possibility of our church sponsoring an assistant living home. Though our church did not act on the idea, Delores’ leadership abilities were evident.

Another memorable demonstration of Delores’ leadership ability was a speech she gave at a breakfast about women in leadership within the church and community. Her presentation was empowering to women at a time when we didn’t have as many women deacons as we do today.

On another occasion, Delores took a leadership role along with many other women in her Sunday School class to have a huge yard sale for missions.  She was always there doing her part and encouraging others. To insure safe and easy entrance into the gym, she saw do it that Mark Goggans installed the handrails we use today. As a result of this yard sale, the church raised over $1000 for a worthy mission cause, at a time when a thousand dollars was worth more.

(Thanks to Emmy Glo Purdom for her help with this story)

o    Questions for reflection (See also Formations Teaching Guide, “Influential Women”, page 6):
i.    Does anyone else have a Delores Goggans story?
ii.    When you think of wise women of LABC, what women and stories come to mind?
iii.    Who are the women leaders who have impacted your life and the life of this church, past and present?
iv.    What leadership qualities do you admire in them and would like to emulate?

•    Discuss LABC’s history of women in leadership roles and the issue of ordination. You might talk to Evelyn Crooke, our first female deacon, about her experience and perspective. Suzanne Coyle was the first woman minister ordained at LABC, though she was a member of another church. Evelyn Crooke was the first woman, and first woman deacon, ordained in our church in 1992. Jo Garnett, was the first woman minister of our church who was ordained in 1993. As a result of these ordinations the Baptist Association took a vote to remove LABC from the association, which came four votes shy of the necessary two-thirds. Soon after, LABC voted to withdraw, in order not to be a source of conflict within the association. Some interesting newspaper articles, which tell the story, are available in the office.

•    Midwife Teaching/Case Study Method: Reflect on the Bible story or your own contemporary case study using these questions for dialogue:
o    “What would you do?”
o    “What do you think is going on here, or what should the person have done?”

•    A Visual Guide to Bible Events (pages 68-69, available in the library) includes a picture of the Jezreel Valley where the chariots got bogged down, a map, a picture of a chariot, and an article.

•    Pray for the girls of LABC that they might hear God’s call and grow up and accept whatever type of leadership role God may have for them. In the office we have a list of all girls, younger than eighteen, in our database that have a birthday listed. Look at the names and allow faces to come to mind of our future wise women leaders of LABC.

I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)

•    Also available in the Library
o    Women of Scripture: A Dictionary of named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, edited by Carol Meyers (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000).
o    A Visual Guide to Bible Events (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, Michigan), pp. 68-69.