Sunday, January 6, 2013

Deborah the Prophetess

In the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, there is a story about Deborah.

It says:

"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.... the children of Israel came to her for judgment. 

And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?

And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go." (Judges 4: 4-8).

HOWEVER, in the Sunday School manual for the LDS Church, she is simply called a "friend": never referred to as one of the judges (which she was for 40 years, and one of the only judges to remain righteous through the scriptures) or a prophetess (which is just... huge). They emphasize Barak's role, that he was commanded by God and Deborah was simply his "true friend" that encouraged him to fulfill God's plan for him. They allow the man to be the doer, and the woman to be the sidekick, when (although the scriptures are a tad vague) it would seem that Deborah perhaps received the revelation from God. Moreover, they completely fail to mention that she was prophetess, perhaps nervous about the implication that she might have been ordained to the priesthood to be in that position. In doing so, they diminish her status as a leader of Israel. I suspect there were many more women in positions of authority in ancient times, but their stories have been plotted out by misogynist scribes who were products of their own time as well.

Here is yet another small, but simple, fix that would improve gender equality. We could also sing about her in Primary.... (as an additional verse in Follow the Prophet)

"Deborah the Prophetess judged her people well
As she served the Lord and lived in Israel.
She led them to battle with her friend Barak
They defeated Sisera who never more would mock."**

** I didn't make that up, lyrics from here. Also, how awesome is she? Feminist Primary lessons. I can't believe I have never read her blog before.


  1. That makes me so sad. I love that new verse for Follow the Prophet! I might teach my kids that one :)

  2. Been there, done that. We were talking about prophets in my Sunbeam class and I had two boys act out the story of Moses and Samuel (the boy), then I had a girl and boy act out the story of Deborah. Then we sang Follow the Prophet and we sang this verse. It was rad.

  3. I wonder if Duane Hiatt has heard that verse. He's a cool old man, you should ask him about it.


    "Although they didn’t hold the priesthood and did not have equal authority with the prophets, prophetesses—-inspired women with strong testimonies called upon by the Lord to perform various tasks—-do not seem to have been unusual in ancient Israel. 5 The writer of the book of Judges shows no astonishment concerning Deborah’s role as prophetess, judge, and deliverer. Indeed, as Daniel H. Ludlow points out, perhaps “the fact that a good woman was recognized as the spokesperson for the Lord is … indication of the failure of priesthood members to honor their responsibilities.”"

    I don't know why she wouldn't have held the priesthood, being a prophetess and judge. Also, to suggest that a woman was a leader only because the men failed to lead is horribly condescending.