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Why did God use Deborah in the leadership role as prophetess and judge to Israel, and why is this recorded in God's Word?

An important key to use when studying God’s Word is to understand
WHY God has inspired certain stories: “Now all these things happened to
them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom
the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Read the context
of this quote in verses 1 through 13, and you will understand that God
used their examples as a warning to others. He also revealed very
detailed information about Moses for the purpose of instruction: “And
Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a
testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward” (Hebrews
3:5).

In Biblical accounts, what is recorded represents the
actual circumstances and actions of people. The fact that God has
chosen to show examples that involved all kinds of human behavior does
not mean that He necessarily sanctions what was done! Rather, the Bible
tells the story of both faithful, obedient people and of those who
rebelled against God.

Concerning prophetesses, the Bible
reveals that certain women spoke in exactly the same fashion as any
number of prophets through whom God revealed both His will and future
events. The first prophetess mentioned in Scripture is Miriam, the
sister of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:20). Furthermore, we have this
testimony from God: “…And I SENT before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam”
(Micah 6:4). Another prophetess, written about in Judges, chapters 4
and 5, is Deborah:

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of
Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the
palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of
Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment”
(Judges 4:4-5).

Reading further, we find that Deborah conveyed
God’s will to Barak, stating that he should lead some of the tribes of
Israel into battle against their Canaanite oppressors (Judges 4:6-14).
At that time, Deborah was esteemed as God’s representative. Note how
Barak viewed her counsel: “And Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with
me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!'”
(Judges 4:8).

Here is Deborah’s response: “So she said, ‘I will
surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the
journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of
a woman.’ Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh” (Judges
4:9).

This exchange between Barak and Deborah depicts the
prevailing attitude in Israel during the period of the judges:
“…everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
The people of Israel underwent a cycle of oppression and deliverance,
because they would rebel against God and begin to fall into worshipping
false gods time and time again. When they cried out to God, He would
deliver them through the leadership of someone He specially chose. This
lasted until the time of Samuel and until Israel rejected God and
demanded to have a king like the nations around them (Compare 1 Samuel
8:19).

In a time when the nation of Judah began to turn to God
through King Josiah, inquiry of God was made through a faithful woman
on behalf of the king and the nation: “So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam,
Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of
Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe.
(She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with
her” (2 Kings 22:14). As it is recorded in verses 15-20 of 2 Kings 22,
Huldah conveyed God’s response.

When some of Judah returned to
Jerusalem following national captivity, Nehemiah’s leadership to
rebuild the wall of Jerusalem faced constant resistance. Among those
who contended against Nehemiah was a prophetess who proclaimed false
messages. Here is what Nehemiah recorded: “My God, remember Tobiah and
Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah
and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid” (Nehemiah
6:14).

God differentiates between women who act and speak on His
behalf and those who falsely establish themselves by their own
inspiration: “‘Likewise, son of man, set your face against the
daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own heart; prophesy
against them… Because with lies you have made the heart of the
righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the
hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to
save his life. Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor
practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and
you shall know that I am the LORD'” (Ezekiel 13:17, 22-23).

We
then see from Scripture that just as there are true and false prophets,
there are also prophetesses designated by God, and there are those who
appoint themselves through lies and evil practices!

In the time
shortly following the birth of Jesus, another faithful woman specially
chosen by God is identified: “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age,
and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this
woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from
the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And
coming in that instant she gave thanks to [God], and spoke of Him to
all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

As
we have seen from the examples in God’s Word, some dedicated, faithful
women have been chosen by God for unique service to Him. In the case of
Deborah, it appears that no man at that time had the kind of
faith necessary to serve as judge to Israel. Huldah the prophetess was
faithful to God while the nation of Judah was steeped in false worship,
and she was able to provide God’s encouragement to Josiah and other
national leaders as they sought to repent and turn Judah back to
following God. Anna, as a very elderly woman, was blessed to see the
Messiah and to testify of His presence in that generation.

An
interesting prophecy in the Book of Joel further reveals God’s actions
regarding the men and women who will serve Him: “‘And it shall come to
pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My
maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days'” (Joel 2:28-29).
Peter adds this to his quoting of Joel 2, verse 29: “And they shall
prophesy” (Acts 2:18).

Because of God’s Spirit being poured out
on both men and women, some among them spoke through the inspiration of
God. Certain individuals spoke of God’s will and of future events
revealed by God. We see other examples of this when Hannah prayed (1
Samuel 2:1-10) and in the statements made by Elizabeth to Mary (Luke
1:41-45).

Although we don’t have a record of what they prophesied
about, we do know that the four daughters of Philip spoke under God’s
inspiration (Compare Acts 21:9). Consider the kind of family that they
were a part of–here is the record in Acts: “On the next day we who
were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the
house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed
with him” (Acts 21:8). Philip was one of the seven deacons ordained as
the Church of God began to multiply following the Day of Pentecost
(Compare Acts 6:1-7). He was later raised in rank to the office of
Evangelist (Acts 21:8; also, compare Ephesians 4:11-13).

However,
Philip’s daughters were not ministers! Neither are they called
prophetesses. The Bible only says that they “prophesied.” There is no
Biblical record that women were called or ordained to an office of
prophetess in the New Testament Church. In fact, God does not permit a
woman to preach or to prophesy in Church services. Paul makes this
statement: “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority
over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12). Also, Paul
explains: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not
permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also
says” (1 Corinthians 14:34).

For more information about this important Biblical teaching, please read pages 13-15 of our free booklet, “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families!”

When
Apollos first preached about Jesus Christ, “…he knew only the baptism
of John” (Acts 18:25). Note the approach taken by a faithful husband
and wife who were members of God’s Church: “So he began to speak boldly
in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him
aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts
18:26).

Aquila and his wife Priscilla had a PRIVATE discussion
with Apollos. They both explained to him things of Christianity that he
had not yet learned. In that sense, Priscilla was involved in teaching
something to Apollos; however, Priscilla did not do this acting as a
minister, nor did she do this publicly.

Based on a careful and
comparative reading of various translations in 1 Timothy 3 and 5, and
in consideration of the broad Biblical statements and examples, the
Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates follow the long
established practice of the Church of God, under Herbert W. Armstrong,
and ordain women to the office of “deaconess.” In Romans 16:1-2, we
read in the NKJV: “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a SERVANT
of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a
manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she
has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself
also.” The RSV translates the word servant as “deaconess.” “Diakonos”
is the masculine form and gives credence to the idea that Phoebe was a
deaconess. Otherwise, Paul would have used a feminine form for servant.

Men
have served as prophets and women as prophetesses, as the Word of God
clearly illustrates. In the Church of God, today, men may still be
called to be prophets (among other offices)–which is by ordination
(Compare Acts 11:28; 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12:27-28; Ephesians 4:11;
Hebrews 5:4). Women, such as the four daughters of Philip, may also be
chosen to speak prophetically through the outpouring of God’s Holy
Spirit, but not in Church services, and not as ordained ministers or as
ordained prophetesses. The ONLY ordained office within the Church of
God that is held by women is that of DEACONESS–an appointment based on
solid maturity and selfless service.

In considering how God
administers His government, remember: “There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for
you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In the future, we
will all be born-again children of God through whom He will continue to
build His unending Kingdom!

Let us attentively serve God in whatever capacity He has called us in this present time!

Lead Writer: Dave Harris