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12/31/2008

Sitting Under A Palm Tree


Deborah was a prophet and judge in the Ephraim hill country of ancient Israel, between Ramah and Bethel. Israel was living in a tense time under the oppression of a Canaanite named Sisera for some twenty years. Judges 4:3 says the people "cried unto the Lord". She is presented in Judges as prophetically directing a battle to drive out opposing Canaanite forces. Note several things about this Judges story:


1) She was accessible. Deborah sat beneath a palm tree and people sought her out for her guidance and decisions. This may have been a landmark since it is believed such palms were rare in the land in the time period under discussion. It may have developed as a rest stop, a place of meeting and commerce. It was probably an accessible place for travelers to find and inquire of the prophet.

2) She was respected. She sent for Barack. For many years I had read that and heard it stated without understanding the significance. Barack was not nearby but was in Kedesh in Nephtali, at the far northern reach of Israel. This, coupled with the fact Barek calls on soldiers from other regions, indicates Deborah was a "major judge" rather than a minor one (as found in Judges 10) whose sphere of influence was limited.

3) She was administrative. Barack came when bidden by Deborah indicating her stature and the respect of the people for the prophet and Judge. Prophets were seen as the link between the world of God and the world of Humans and judges were the keepers of the law, the records, and the administrative tasks of the same. They also served a military leaders. Deborah was, as a major judge in Israel, a ''commander-in-chief" of the military.

4) She was spiritual. A capable woman of many talents to lead, plan, supervise, direct, and adjure, Deborah was also the spiritual link between God and the people. She was blessed by God to see what would happen, to know that the victory was theirs, and that the outcome would be in a specific manner. The "Song of Deborah" is a song poem thought to be one of the oldest writings of ancient Israel celebrating the victory given by God.

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