Judges 4:4
And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Deborah.—The name means “bee,” like the Greek Melissa. The names of Jewish women were often derived from natural objects, as Rachel, “a lamb,” Tamar,”a palm,” &c. It has been sometimes regarded as a title given to her as a prophetess, just as the priestesses of Delphi were called Bees (Pindar, Pyth. iv. 106); and priests were called by the title Malebee (Essēn). But the fact that Rachel’s nurse (Genesis 35:8) had the same name is against this supposition, though Josephus (Antt. v., § 5) accepts it. She had, as Cornelius à Lapide quaintly says, “a sting for foes, and honey for friends.” The pronunciation Debŏrah is now so deeply-rooted in England (possibly from the Vulgate, Debbora) that it would, perhaps, be pedantic to alter it; but properly the “ō” is long נביאה; LXX., Deborra and Debbōra).

A prophetess.—Literally, a woman, a prophetess; like Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), &c. She is the only female judge, or, indeed, female ruler of any kind in Jewish history, except the Phoenician murderess, Athaliah. She is also the only judge to whom the title “prophet” is expressly given. “Prophetess” (like the Latin Vates) implies the possession of poetic as well as of prophetic gifts (Exodus 15:20); and we see her right to such a title, both in her predictions (Judges 4:9), her lofty courage (Judges 5:7), and the splendour of her inspired song (Judges 5). She has modern parallels in the Teutonic prophetesses, Veleda and Alaurinia (Tac., Germ. 8), and Joan of Arc, the “Inspired Maid of Domremi.” Among the Jews prophetesses were the exception; among the ancient Germans they were the rule.

The wife of Lapidoth.—This is probably the meaning of the phrase, although some ancient commentators make it mean “a woman of Lapidoth;” as does Tennyson (Princess), “Like that great dame of Lapidoth.” The phrase closely resembles “Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron,” “Huldah the prophetess, wife of Shallum.” The name Lapidoth, which occurs nowhere else, means “flames,” “lamps,” or “splendours;” and Rashi says that she was called “a woman of lamps,” from making the wicks for the lamps of the sanctuary; while others, with equal improbability, interpret it of her shining gifts and of her fiery spirit. The parallels which are adduced to support this view (Isaiah 62:1; Job 41:2; Nahum 2:5) are inadequate; as also is Ecclus. xlviii. 1, “The word of Elias burnt like a torch;” and the Midrash, which says of Phinehas, that “when the Holy Ghost filled him, his countenance glowed like torches” (Cassel). Perhaps there was a fancy that such a prophetess could only be a virgin. The name Lapidoth has a feminine termination, but this does not prove that it may not have been, like Naboth, Shelomith, Koheleth, &c., the name of a man. It is uncertain whether Deborah was of the tribe of Ephraim or Issachar (Judges 5:15; Ewald, ii. 489).

She judged Israel.—We see from the next verse that up to this time her functions had mainly consisted of peaceful arbitration and legal decision (Deuteronomy 17:8).

Jdg 4:4. A prophetess — Such a one as Miriam, Exodus 15:23; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14, and divers others; but the word prophets, or prophetesses, is ambiguous, sometimes being meant of persons extraordinarily inspired by God, and endowed with the power of working miracles, and foretelling things to come; and sometimes of persons endowed with special gifts or graces, for the better understanding and discoursing about the word and mind of God. Of this sort were the sons of the prophets, or such as were bred in the schools of the prophets, who are often called prophets, 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 10:10. And because we read nothing of Deborah’s miraculous actions, some have thought she was only a woman of eminent holiness, and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, by which she was singularly qualified for judging the people according to the laws of God. It appears, however, from Jdg 4:7; Jdg 4:9, that she was endowed with the gift of prophecy, properly so called, or of foretelling, at least in some instances, future events. Judged Israel — That is, determined causes and controversies arising among the Israelites, as is implied, Jdg 4:5. And this Jabin might suffer to be done, especially by a woman. Yet the frequent discharge of this part of the judge’s office, whereby she gained great power and authority with the people, did, in a peculiar manner, (though not observed by the tyrant,) prepare the way for her sliding into the other part of her office, which was to defend and rescue the people from their enemies.4:4-9 Deborah was a prophetess; one instructed in Divine knowledge by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. She judged Israel as God's mouth to them; correcting abuses, and redressing grievances. By God's direction, she ordered Barak to raise an army, and engage Jabin's forces. Barak insisted much upon her presence. Deborah promised to go with him. She would not send him where she would not go herself. Those who in God's name call others to their duty, should be ready to assist them in it. Barak values the satisfaction of his mind, and the good success of his enterprise, more than mere honour.Deborah, a prophetess - Her name, meaning a bee, is the same as that of Rebekah's nurse (marginal reference). The reason of her preeminence is added. She was "a woman, a prophetess," like Miriam Exodus 15:20; Huldah 2 Kings 22:14, etc. In Judges 4:6, Judges 4:9,Judges 4:14, we have examples of her prophetic powers, and in Judges 5 a noble specimen of prophetic song. Though the other Judges are not called prophets, yet they all seem to have had direct communications from God, either of knowledge or power, or both (compare Judges 3:10 note). 4. And Deborah, a prophetess—A woman of extraordinary knowledge, wisdom, and piety, instructed in divine knowledge by the Spirit and accustomed to interpret His will; who acquired an extensive influence, and was held in universal respect, insomuch that she became the animating spirit of the government and discharged all the special duties of a judge, except that of military leader.

the wife of Lapidoth—rendered by some, "a woman of splendors."

As there were men prophets, so there were also women prophetesses, as Miriam, Exodus 15:2, Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14, and divers others; but the word prophets or prophetesses is very ambiguous in both Testaments; sometimes being used of persons extraordinarily inspired by God, and endowed with a power of working miracles, and foretelling things to come; and sometimes of persons endowed with special, though not miraculous, gifts or graces, for the better understanding of and discoursing about the word and mind of God, for praising of God, or the like; of which see 1 Chronicles 25:1 1 Corinthians 11:5 14:1,3,4 &c. And of this sort were the sons of the prophets, or such who were bred in the schools of the prophets, who are often called prophets, as 1 Samuel 10:5,10-12. See, also 1 Kings 18:4 1 Kings 19:10. And because we read nothing of Deborah’s miraculous actions, peradventure she was only a woman of eminent holiness and prudence, and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, by which she was singularly qualified for the judging of the people according to the laws of God. If it be alleged that she foresaw and foretold the following victory, so did all the sons of the prophets foresee and foretell Elijah’s translation, 2 Kings 2:3,5, which yet were not extraordinary prophets.

The wife of Lapidoth; or, a woman of Lapidoth; and so Lapidoth is not the name of a man, but of the place of her birth or abode.

She judged Israel, i.e. determined causes and controversies arising among the Israelites, as is implied, Judges 4:5. And this Jabin might suffer to be done, especially by a woman; and the frequent discharge of this part of the judge’s office, whereby she gained great power and authority with the people, did notably (though not observed by the tyrant) prepare the way for her sliding into the other part of her office, which was to defend and rescue the people from their enemies. And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth,.... Deborah was a name common to women with the eastern people, see Genesis 35:8; as Melissa, which is of the same signification with the Greeks, and both signify a "bee"; and to which Deborah answered in her industry, sagacity, and sweetness of temper to her friends, and sharpness to her enemies: she was a "prophetess", and foretold things to come, as the drawing of Sisera and his army to a certain place named by her, the victory that should be gained over him, and the delivery of him into the hands of a woman. Who Lapidoth was, or what is meant by the name, is not certain; most take it to be the name of her husband, which seems best, but who he was is not known; the Jews will have him to be the same with Barak, there being, as they think, some agreement in the names, Barak signifying lightning, and Lapidoth, lamps; but the whole context shows the contrary, that he was not her husband. Some render the words, "a woman of Lapidoth", taking it for the name of her native place on habitation; but where there was a place of this name no account can be given: some say she was so called from her employment before she was a prophetess and judge, making wicks for the lamps in the sanctuary, as Jarchi relates; and others take it to be expressive of her excellencies and virtues, which shone in her as lamps; the first sense is best:

she judged Israel at that time; toward the close of the twenty years' oppression under Jabin, being raised up of God as other judges were, and eminently endowed with gifts and grace; she endeavoured to convince the people of their sins, exhorted them to repentance, and was a means of reforming them, and administering justice and judgment in all cases brought before her; and which Jabin might admit of, connive at, or take no notice of, she being a woman, of whose growing power and interest he had no jealousy.

And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she {c} judged Israel at that time.

(c) By the spirit of prophesy resolving controversies and declaring the will of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Deborah, a prophetess] i.e. a woman inspired to declare the divine will, and on this occasion to deliver her country from oppression; as a prophetess she announces the command of Jehovah (Jdg 4:6) and the moment for action (Jdg 4:14). We are reminded of Joan of Arc; Moore also compares the German Veleda, who instigated Civilis by her prophecies to throw off the Roman yoke, Tacitus Hist. iv. 61. Other prophetesses in the O.T. are Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14). Debôrah = ‘bee,’ Lappîdoth = ‘torches.’

she judged Israel] i.e. in the sense of Jdg 2:16, Jdg 3:10 (see notes); ‘delivered Israel,’ though in the Hebr. the verb is vocalized as a ptcp. she was judging, perhaps on account of the following at that time; it can hardly mean that Deborah exercised authority as ‘judge’ before the deliverance, for everywhere else it is the deliverance which establishes the judgeship, according to the Dtc. compiler. The next verse, however, interprets she was judging in the legal sense, and therefore adds that during the period of the oppression the Israelites came up to her for judgement; it would appear that Jdg 4:5 is an explanatory insertion.Thus they smote at that time about 10,000 Moabites, all fat and powerful men, i.e., the whole army of the enemy in Jericho and on this side of the Jordan, not letting a man escape. The expression "at that time" seems to imply that they did not destroy this number in one single engagement, but during the whole course of the war.
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