The story of Deborah is relayed to us in the book of Judges in chapters 4 and 5. Deborah is from the tribe of Ephraim. She lived between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim. She was married to a man named Lapidoth. Nothing else is mentioned of him. The uniqueness of Deborah is that she was the only female judge mentioned in the scriptures. She was known for her wisdom and prophetic prowess. Judges 4:5 says, “The children of Israel came up to her for judgement.”. She is referred to as “the Mother of Israel”, and is also known for song writing. She is the only prophet besides Samuel who was also a judge. She was also a prophet who was a strong decisive leader, which makes her analogous with Moses and Joshua. This is all in a time when women did not generally hold high positions in society.
As a leader Deborah was courageous. She served with wisdom and knowledge. She trusted God and supported the people that God appointed as leaders. She did not seek to usurp the authority of the leadership already established by God. Unlike another female leader in Israel named Athaliah who murdered her own grandsons in order to seal the crown. The scripture reads, “And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal. But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. And he was with her hid in the house of the LORD six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.” (2 Kings 11:1-3) Instead, she encouraged them to do what was right before God. In this, she was direct, unwavering in duty, and still humble enough to let others have the glory. The Song of Deborah testifies to this giving of encouragement to the people and the praise of deliverance to God. She uses terms like:
When the princes in Israel take the lead…praise the LORD! (5:2)
My heart is with Israel’s princess…praise the LORD! (5:9)
Take captive your captives (5:12) – I find this phrase particularly fascinating. Paul uses it in Ephesians 4:8 in describing salvation provided by Jesus and the importance of his ascent to heaven as in Jesus’ ascension he “let captivity captive and gave gifts unto men”. And Psalm 68:18 reports, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.”
During the time of her calling the Israelites had wandered from God and did evil in his sight. So God used the Canaanites to bring them under judgement. They were brought under the oppression of King Jabin and his strong men. They had a strong army that included 900 iron chariots and they oppressed Israel for 20 years. The men of Israel had lost their courage. Jerusalem was crushed into the dust by their tormentors. Their vineyards were destroyed, their women violated, their children starving and made into orphans. They had no mighty men of valor. Out of this God called a devout woman to be his voice. Where no man had hope in God, God spoke to Deborah. Deborah put her trust in the LORD.
One day she summoned a commander of the children of Israel to her home where she delivered a message from God. In Judges 4:7 Deborah tells Barak that God wants him to take an army to face Jabin’s army at the river Kison where Elijah slew the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:40. She tells him that God will deliver his enemies into his hand, but the leader will be slain by a woman. In this way Barak will be spared from his own pride. But Barak was afraid to go into battle with out Deborah. So she went and at the time appointed of the LORD, she gave the command to Barak to do battle with the Canaanites. Later we find in the song of Deborah is says that “the river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river the river Kishon.”. We also find that Sisera the commander is slain by a woman named Jael. So the story and Song of Deborah ends with this reassurance. “So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.” (5:31).
The ministry of God’s Judgement through Samson (1085-1065 B.C.) is found in the seventh book of the Old Testament. It is in chapters 13-16 of the book of Judges where we find the story of the last judge of Israel mentioned. The story of Samson is also the longest narrative of a judge in this epic volume. It takes place in a time where God had delivered Israel into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years prior to his appointment of Samson to “begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13.5). The completion of the Deliverance would not be until the reign of King David (2 Samuel 5:17-22). It is like the beginning of our deliverance from death in Jesus Christ. Jesus began his redemptive work on the cross, but it will not be completed until the final chapters of Revelation when the wrath of God has been poured out, Israel is delivered and after the final judgement, where death and the hell are cast into the Lake of Fire.
This is an interesting position in history to consider for a moment because Samson is from the Israeli tribe of Dan. When God originally led Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, God told them to go and conquer the people of the land and take possession. The tribe of Dan failed to do this in the lands that they were given. In fact, the land that they were originally given was in possession of the Philistines. If they would have been in obedience to God, then the oppression and long wars with the Philistines would have been avoided. (Tribe of Dan Facts, History & Descendants | What Happened to the Tribe of Dan?, n.d.)
Samson is the 14th in a long line of Judges covered in the book so named. In the 13th chapter we see that the birth of Samson was announced to his parents, prior to his being conceived, and that Samson was set aside by the Lord for a specific purpose. The purpose was to be a deliverer for Israel. Because of this, his mother was not to pollute her body with “wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing” (Judges 13:4). This would show the importance of how an expectant mother should be careful of what she exposes her yet born baby to while she is pregnant. Anyway, Samson himself was to be a Nazarite his whole life. The Law of the Nazarite is a very serious and particularly holy law of separation of oneself to the Lord. It is detailed in the book of Numbers 6:1-21 and involves special sacrifices and ceremonies. In addition, it has a strict code of sanctification that involves abstaining from drinking anything made from the vine, cutting of the hair, and not touching anything that is dead. You cannot even be in the presence of a dead body, even it by accident. As we read the story of Samson, we see that he violated every condition of the Nazarite vow. We see that even though you have strength, it is nothing without fellowship with God, and that God resist the prideful.
While Samson was set to be the example of a righteous deliverer, he failed to live up to the expectations. Samson breaks vows, marries outside of his people, visits harlots, drinks to drunkenness, engages in vengeance, and is prideful, arrogant, and self-centered. Yet we also see that God’s will is not thwarted concerning his mission for Samson. The story of Samson in the bible jumps from his birth to his adulthood. We find then that he is asking his father to arrange his wedding to a Philistine woman. Despite the objections of his parents, he persists until his father makes the arrangements. On the way to the wedding Samson is found to be in a vineyard. There Samson is attacked by a lion and he kills the lion with his bear hands (Judges 14:5-6). Later as Samson is in route to claim his bride, he sees the carcass of the lion and in it is a honeycomb that bees have built. Samson takes some of the honey and tastes that it is sweet and then brings some to his mother and father. Samson does not tell them about the lion, nor about where he got this honey. Remember the conditions of the Nazarite, he cannot be in the presence of the dead, much less touch a dead animal, especially eat from the cavity of one. Samson has made himself unclean, and worse he has made his mother and father unclean without telling them. See how fast our secret sins can affect those we love?
Samson it seems has desired this wedding to have an opportunity to come up against the Philistines. Now for those who are unaware this is the third mention of Samson being around wine. First was in the vineyard with the lion, then he passed back through the vineyard, and now at the wedding feast. Now it does not say that he was doing any drinking, however he at the least is demonstrating a dangerous pattern of exposing himself to the availability to drink. This pattern would continue and eventual assist in the painful downfall of Sampson. The availability and expectancy to drink is especially assumed at the wedding feast. These were weeklong feasts where alcohol was consumed liberally. Remember how Jacob was deceived into consummating a wedding to the wrong girl because he drank to much at his wedding feast (Genesis 29). It would seem likely that Samson would have drunk wine at such a festive occasion so far from home. Especially because Samson sought an occasion to start an incident with the Philistines.
However, instead of consulting God, Samson has come up with his own plan on how to start a fight with the Philistines through this marriage. In the process of marrying this Philistine woman, Samson has disregarded the wishes of his father. Still, he has decided to make a wager with the guests at this wedding party to solve a riddle that they would not be able to solve. He has decided to use this event with the lion and the honey as the answer to the riddle. “out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14). He knew that they could not possibly know the answer to the riddle, as the lion. He also knew that they would not be willing to pay the debt of the bet. Then when they refused to pay up to their end of the bet, he would have cause against them.
But the Philistines have told his bride to find the secret to the riddle or they will burn down her father’s house with them in it. Instead of confiding in Samson, she tricks him into the answer to the riddle and tells the Philistines. They tell Samson the answer and then Samson must live up to his end of the bet. His end was to deliver 30 sheets and 30 changes of garments (Judges 14:12). Samson was angered at the double-cross. Once again Samson does not consult God. To live up to his debt, Samson goes to another Philistine camp and murders them and takes their belongings and give it to his wedding party and then leaves without taking his bride. Later Samson cools of and returns to collect his bride, but the father has given her to another man.
Samson again, fails to consult God. Instead, Samson, in anger, traps 300 foxes and ties firebrands to their tails and sets them free upon the Philistines fields. The foxes burn up their fields, vineyards, and olive groves (Judges 15:4-5). This infuriates the Philistines. The philistines then burn to death Samson’s bride, and her father. Samson avenges himself against the Philistines, without consulting God, by murdering them (Judges 15:7-8). This leads to the Philistines coming against the Israelites and demanding that they turn over Samson or deal with the consequences. After some convincing from his brethren, Samson nobly agrees to be bound and handed over to the Philistines in order to protect his people.
Once in the Philistine encampment the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson, and he breaks his bonds and picks up the jawbone of an ass and slain a thousand Philistines (Judges 15:14-19). This was a good turning point for Samson. He has waited upon the Lord and the Lord delivered him out of the hands of his enemies. Samson judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years (Judges 15:20). But this is not the end of the story on Samson.
Samson falls for another woman who would be his undoing. The scripture does not say if she is a Philistine, but she is clearly in cohorts with them. She is offered a large sum of money by the Philistines to gather the secret behind his strength and to report it to them, so they can take him. Samson’s playing with her is very similar to us when we play with sin. Samson was with a woman who he should not have been with and played with her on the things that God had given him and what God had forbidden. That is his exceptional strength was dependent on his obedience to God with his Nazarite vow. As we have seen Samson violated the first part his commitment (Judges 14:8-9,19; 15:8,15), likely ignored the second, and now he would end up betraying himself into the violation of the final responsibility (16:13-17). Samson would toy with this gift of God and it would cost him his freedom, and his health, and his relationship with God. Scripture tells us the Samson “knew not that the LORD had departed from him.” (Judges 16:20). Samson had crossed the line in his sin and God abandoned him to his sin. (1 Samuel 15:23; 16:14; Romans 1:26; Hebrews 10:26). The result of Samsons life of sin had slowly led him into more and more bondage, until he had become a slave to those who he was sent to conquer. He had been deceived, weakened, bound, and blinded by his sin both physically and spiritually. How many Christians today live in poor health, weekend, and blinded physically and spiritually by their disobedience and lack of sanctification?
Still Samson is seen as an example of faith in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:32). So then, Samson was redeemed despite his life of prideful disregard for the will of God and the Vow and Calling he had received. Samson in seeing the error of his ways and the life he waisted had repented and turned to God in faith. Samson prayed to God for the will of God to be done in him, even though he knew it would cost him his life. Here is yet another parallel we can see in our savior who prayed in the garden for the will of the Father to be done, even though he knew that he would have to die to complete it. God granted Samson his strength one last time and Samson destroyed the Philistine’s temple to Dagon and killed thousands of Philistines in sacrificing himself for Israel. Samson died a hero, but more importantly he died in faithful obedience to God.
We learn many things from Samson. We see that sanctification protects us from our own evil desires. We can see that toying with sin leads to sickness, blindness, away from fellowship with God, and eventually death. Sin always leads to death in the end. Here is what James writes to us, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15). If we would only listen to the words of wisdom in the epistle of James, and the example of Samson.
We also see that God will leave us to our sin if we continuously reject him. (Isaiah 59:12) We see that God expects us to honor our vows before him. We also see that God gives us strengths and abilities that should be used to glorify him, but often we use them to glorify ourselves. We see that having a great gift from God does not make us godly. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” It does not matter what our gift is, if we abuse it in self glorification then we have waisted the gift God gave us. Like Samson, his great gift of strength meant nothing until he matched it with obedience in faith in God. God was the deliverer of Israel; Samson was the servant of God in the end.
This gives us hope in Christ. We who have accepted Christ and yet have squandered the gift of life that he has given us and disobeyed his commandments to be sanctified, sin no more. Perform our duties of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ; We who have failed to teach and Baptist in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is this, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). His purposes will be fulfilled, and we can partake if we just humble ourselves and submit to his will.