She patted a place beside her on the bench and invited me to join her as she rested in the shade of a palm tree. Children ran around playing nearby. Their squeals and laughter were contagious, bringing smiles to our faces as well. “This” she said, pointing to the children, “this is worth fighting for. Children need to run and play without fear. They should stay innocent as long as they can.” The lines in her strong face betrayed the suffering she had experienced, so I asked her to tell me.
“Our people never learned. God would bless them and they would prosper. Before you knew it they ran after the things of this world, rejecting God, rejecting his ways—and doing every indecent thing they would think of. The sad thing is the children suffered the most. Next, they would fall into the hands of godless enemies and again the children would suffer in the hands of evil tormentors. Such terrible evil” she whispered.
“Then they would cry out to God for deliverance, and our great good God would rescue us with patience, only to see us go through the cycle again. When I was a prophetess in Israel we had been under violent oppression for 20 years. I feared for the life of every child of Israel.”
“You want to know how I became a leader of my people? Well, history tells the truth. Whenever men become selfish, worldly and weak, someone has to stand up and save the children. I guess that is what God put me here for,” she said as she looked up at the palm tree that shaded us. “Right here under this tree, my people would come to me for advice and for help solving problems…everything from squabbles between neighbors to advice about how to survive the persecution we experienced.”
“I prayed and sought God’s help to the best of my ability, when finally God spoke to me. If the burden we bore under that Canaanite King, Jabin, was heavy, imagine how heavy God’s command was on my heart. I appealed to Barak, the leader of our army to carry out God’s orders. He knew God was calling him to stand up against Jabin. I reminded him that God had promised the victory to us. If we did not stand up and throw over that oppression we would be annihilated.”
She shook her head and clinched her hands into fists. I’m not sure if she even realized it as she relived those moments. “Barak refused to make a move. He was not a man. He was a pathetic weakling!”
“’Noooo, I can’t. I will only go if you go with me, Deborah,’ he whined. Imagine!” she said. “That poor excuse of a man needed a woman, a grandmother no less, to lead him into battle. I told he would not receive any glory in the battle, and that a woman would have the honor for protecting Israel; he would be a laughingstock.”
She shrugged her shoulders and continued, “Barak called his generals and I went up with them. Ten thousand men fought with us, and the horrors of that battle are unspeakable. But God won the victory for us by the hand of Jael, another strong brave woman in Israel.”
She rested her head back on the rough trunk of the palm tree. “All I ever wanted was the safety of my children. I wanted to watch my children, and my children’s children grow up in freedom and peace. I love my God and I served him with my whole heart, but all I ever wanted to be was a good mother in Israel.”
Go to the Women Speak page for a study guide for this story.