A woman judge?
Likely some will be a bit offended that I have drawn attention to her gender. After all, a woman can be a judge as well as a man. Surely there’s nothing to be said here about gender.
But I believe there is.
The appearance of a woman judge would take the ancient reader by more than surprise. It’s not that women were incapable of leading. It is that it was not their place. The fact that a woman is leading Israel means there are no male leaders, and God has given the matter of leadership to men. Israel is in a deplorable state. Even Deborah is aware of this. When it comes time to lead Israel against her enemy Jabin, Deborah does not take this task to herself, but calls for a man – Barak. That Barak refuses to lead without Deborah’s assuring presence is to his own shame, and Deborah tells him that the glory for victory will be lost to him and given instead to a woman. It is, from her to him, a mild rebuke.
For all the talk about the roles of men and women in society and the Church, the matter of “place” is often obscured. God expects men to step up to the plate and lead – in government, in the community, and in the home. When men don’t, women always step up. That’s to their credit and to the male gender’s shame, because he has abdicated the responsibility God has given him. Men and women are equal before God. But they are not the same. God has, as we’ve seen numerous times, a created order. It has nothing to do with ability, superiority or inferiority. It’s simply God’s order. He expects it to be observed.