The story of Deborah and Barak in the book of Judges has caused many hierarchists to assign the God-given work of judge delivering the people of Israel to Barak while denying that God raised up Deborah as a deliverer. By assigning a calling to Barak that scripture never assigns, it appears that the example of Deborah and Barak is a clear example of reading into the text the tradition of men and failing to identify in the text God’s own inspired words which give the calling to Deborah. In the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s (CBMW) Journal article, Barbara K. Mouser writes concerning Barak:
Barak is a weak man who does the will of God when paired with a righteous and wise woman. He does the job of deliverer-judge, makes the roll call of faith, but suffers a loss of glory because of his lack of zeal and obedience.
Barbara Mouser also denies that Deborah is a God-given judge who is raised up by God to deliver Israel:
Deborah is Not a Judge
She is not a judge in the sense that the book of Judges defines a judge; she is not a military deliverer.17 Rather she is a prophetess, and as a prophetess, she commands and exhorts Barak with God’s own words and authority.
The amount of “reading into” the text is astounding in this article. For example, where is Barak said in scripture to be “raised up” by God as a judge? Barak is never called a judge but Deborah is and Judges chapter 2 makes it very clear that all the judges were raised up by God.
Judges 2:16 Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.
The raising up must include all of the judges and in this account of deliverance it is only Deborah that is identified as a judge, not Barak.
Next the CBMW article identifies women as a sign of degeneracy:
Isaiah tells us that the rule of women is a sign of degeneracy, not liberation (Isa 3:12).
However, Deborah is never listed as a Judgment of God against Israel and Isaiah 3:12 has been mistranslated with the word “women” which can be clearly seen from the NET bible and the Septuagint’s translation of Isaiah. For more information see my article titled “Are women leaders used to judge sinful men?”
Mouser goes on to note that Deborah’s judging was “a very rare circumstance”.
Those who seek to extrapolate doctrine or practice from Deborah need to remember that Judges 4-5 is the historical report of a very rare circumstance in a far-from-ideal setting.
The fact that God creates a “rare circumstance” is not proof that the “rare circumstance” is a judgment against Israel by God choosing to use a woman as a judge. The passage in the book of Judges is clear that Deborah was a blessing to Israel and not a curse of judgment against Israel. We can also clearly understand that in the book of the Judges, God does not give the calling of a judge to someone who by the virtue of their gender is disqualified as a judge. God does not break his own rules.
The article goes off into speculation about the judging work of Deborah:
Clearly Deborah is not providing military deliverance under her palm tree. While the text is not specific, it is most likely that she is rendering verdicts in lawsuits, and/or giving divine guidance. (emphasis is mine)
While the CBMW article leaves Deborah devoid of the call of deliverer, who then is the true judge raised up by God according to CBMW and Mouser?
The Deliverer-Judge Barak
Call and Command
She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you…
Whatever the nature of Deborah’s judging ministry, something provokes her to summon Barak (v. 6)…
Whether God initiated the message to Deborah to commission Barak in response to the people’s cries to him, or whether the people petitioned Deborah and she sought the Lord for his word, we do not know. What we do know is that God’s prophetic word is to call and command Barak to engage the enemy general, with a sure promise of victory.
This is reading into the passage something that is not there. This passage in Judges does not say that Barak was commissioned as a judge. Deborah did the judging and she called Barak to come. Deborah gives her prophetic message to Barak in the form of a question. “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you?” The word of the Lord came through Deborah. The issue of the command was through Deborah and her direction was to be enough to send forth the troops.
Mouser then attributes sin to Barak for refusing to obey an earlier command of God. This is attributing sin to Barak where no such charge of sin is given in the passage. This is nothing but speculation and eisegesis:
Barak is the commander of the army; the people have cried out for salvation, and yet no deliverer has arisen. It is likely that God has previously commanded Barak to go forth,11 but he has refused to go. If this is the case, Deborah is repeating a command Barak has already heard, but refuses to obey. (emphasis is mine)
Barak’s response to Deborah showed why he was listed in the Hebrews hall of fame in Hebrews 11:32. It was “by faith” that Barak requested Deborah to go with him. “By faith” he accepted her as the deliverer-judge and he would not take the calling for himself. He believed God that God would once again bring deliverance from Israel’s enemies by the very word of God’s chosen judge.
A leader’s faith and reliance upon the one true God was measured by how he aligned himself with God’s appointed and called messengers. For those leaders who refused to obey God’s prophets, they experienced neither economic nor military prosperity but found themselves ravaged by the enemy. But the godly leaders who accepted God’s provision experienced freedom from their enemies and Barak was willing to risk his own ego to align himself completely with God’s called and chosen judge even if she was a woman. There is nothing in the passage about Barak being called as God’s chosen judge nor is there anything in the passage about Barak being a weak man who needed someone else’s wife to give him courage. Barak is listed as a great man of faith and it is our man-made tradition that turns the passage around to make Barak a disobedient judge who failed to receive the full calling that God had for him.
We do not know why Barak does not obey the Lord straightaway. Perhaps he thinks the people do not trust him as much as they trust Deborah; perhaps he fears they will not answer his muster. Perhaps he trusts Deborah’s physical presence as an assurance of God’s help more than God’s own promise. Whatever the reason, Barak’s issuing a condition to God is not a good or admirable thing (as some have tried to make it13)
Asking God’s chosen judge to go into battle as all the other judges had gone into battle was not a good thing? How could this be so? Mouser states that both Deborah and God are displeased with Barak:
Both Deborah and God are displeased with this response from Barak as we see by their responses to him.
There is nothing in the passage that says that God is displeased with Barak. Nothing at all. And Deborah’s response to Barak’s request is that she will indeed go into battle with him. While Barak will receive great honor for his victory in battle, Deborah does let him know prophetically that God has chosen to give the leader of the enemy into the hands of a woman. Barak is not threatened by this. He goes with Deborah as a man of faith.
The fact is that it was the Lord God who raised up the judges and the Lord was with the judges giving them credit for saving Israel all the days of the judge. Three times in the inspired book of Judges chapter 5, Deborah’s name is listed first before Barak’s.
Judges 5:1 Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying,
Judges 5:2 “That the leaders led in Israel…
Judges 5:12 “Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song! Arise, Barak, and take away your captives, O son of Abinoam.
Judges 5:15 “And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; As was Issachar, so was Barak;
Deborah was indeed God’s appointed and called judge. And in her days of judging, the land had peace for forty years:
Judges 5:31 “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD; But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” And the land was undisturbed for forty years.
Israel had peace through the judging of Deborah and she was God’s appointed judge just like all of the others that God raised up in Israel.