Monthly Archives: April 2014

Deborah the Bee Part II

Part I

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidot, was judging Israel at that time. (Jdg. 4:4)


© K. Gallagher

The Flaming Bee

The fourth judge of Israel was Deborah, a woman of flames/torches/lamps/lightning.[1] This is according to the bolded phrase above when viewed in the Hebrew (eshet lappidot). I find it captivating that the Hebrew uses such fiery connotations when it presents this unique woman in the Bible. All this imagery is lost and falls flat with the transliterated word Lappidot. Blazing torches and fire brands are much more exciting and unpredictable — another reason I love the holy tongue! Have you ever thought of Deborah as fiery? This is how the Bible describes her. Not only that, but she was a prophetess and a judge! Talk about a woman with weighty responsibility! I even imagine her with flaming red locks to accompany her “sparky” introduction.

I do realize that the phrase I’ve explored designates Lappidot as Deborah’s husband in most translations. But this Hebrew phrase (eshet lappidot), could easily be rendered in more than one way. This leaves some scholars[2] to conclude that this phrase is descriptive of Deborah’s character (woman of lights/torches/etc.) or that it refers to her occupation as a wick maker. On the other hand, some Jewish scholars think this phrase connects Deborah to Barak, for his name actually means “lightning”.[3] Thus, the inference is that Barak was her husband. No matter which way you slice this pie, Deborah is connected with fire and lights.


© Selma Hodzic

                                                        The Palm of Judgment

She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Jdg 4:5)

As a judge, Deborah not only had judicial power, but she commanded the military. This was the function of Israel’s judges. I believe one reason that Deborah is connected to fire and flames is her ranking number among Israel’s judges. As the fourth judge of Israel, Deborah was unique in several ways. She is the only judge of Israel that was female. She was also the only judge to have a dual role as a prophet, and she was the only judge that was cast in a totally positive light in the narrative. In fact, the judges succeeding her are depicted with a decline in virtue until Samuel (the last judge) is raised up.[4]

Amazingly, I have read and heard some teachers diminish the “judging” aspect of Deborah because she was a female. Apparently, to maintain continuity in their theology, they must regulate the actual role and function of this female prophet and judge. (She wasn’t really making Torah judgments over men) This not only requires some theological gymnastics, but a stubborn refusal to allow the Word to speak literally. Those less persistent in their preconceived notions grant that she only held this position because there wasn’t a man willing to step up and fulfil this role. I beg you to consider “from where” these notions originate. Does the text about Deborah in the Book of Judges imply either position? An honest, unbiased, and literal look answers in the negative.

Whew! Now that that’s off my chest, let’s look at what Deborah actually did. In Part I, we saw how Rebekah’s nurse Deborah was associated with a tree (etz) and here there is palm tree named for Deborah the judge. A judge gives counsel (etzah), which is the feminine form of the word for tree (etz). Do you remember where the nurse Deborah was buried? It was in Bethel under an oak tree. Notice that the judge Deborah sits in the seat of judgment and counsel not very far from her predecessor’s grave. (I can’t help but to wonder if Deborah the Judge was named after Deborah the nurse of Rebekah.)

The sons (benai) of Israel came up (aliyah) to her for judgment (mishpat). What sort of judgment calls was she making? Strong’s defines misphat as:

H4941 משׁפּט mishpâṭ From H8199; properly a verdict pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree of divine law, including the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty.[5]

It comes from the root shaphat (again defined by Strong’s):

H8199 שׁפט shâphaṭ A primitive root; to judge, that is, pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication to vindicate or punish; by extension to govern; passively to litigate.[6]

These Hebrew words for judgment are used in verses such as these:

Ex. 18:15-16 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. (16) “When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

Dt. 16:18 “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.

Nothing about these definitions diminishes Deborah’s role as a judge of Israel. She decided cases of Torah law and halachah, as was required of all appointed judges. There is no indication that the men of Israel had any problem with the fact that she was a woman. They neither were shamed by her gender nor did they fear that she had usurped a male only position. The body of Messiah could learn a thing or two from this biblical example. Interestingly, Deborah is the only judge that is portrayed in an entirely positive light.

Four & the Hidden Woman woman of valor

I’ve mentioned several times that Deborah was the fourth judge of Israel. This is significant because the number four is indicative of authority and government. Those of you familiar with the Creation Gospel will pick up the theme immediately. For example, the fourth day of creation is associated with the governing action of the sun, moon, and stars. The fourth son of Jacob, Judah, was given authority to rule over Israel. There are four corners of the altar. Palm branches (associated with Deborah) are one of the four species waved at the four corners of the earth during Sukkot. The fourth commandment is the Shabbat. The fourth feast is Shavuot (Pentecost). The fourth disciple called by Yeshua was John, and so on.

Essentially, four is a picture of seven or the whole (completeness). This can be visualized if you imagine a seven branched menorah (lampstand) folded in half. The center stem is not only the source for the six outer branches, but also the hinge on which the others hang in a folded menorah. In the folded menorah, you distinctly see four stems instead of seven, yet the whole is still present. (You can learn all about this by studying the Creation Gospel model by Dr. Hollisa Alewine)

The governing aspect of the number four is also portrayed in Deborah’s prophetic song that comprises the whole of chapter five. Before Deborah “rose up” there was disorder and strife in Israel. (vs.6-11) Apparently, this is why YHWH chose to raise up a “mother” in Israel. Deborah realizes the significance of her role in bringing unity and order to Israel. Do you remember the root and meaning of Deborah from Part I? Truly her name is indicative of her person and character as one who brings order to disorder. (Much like the davar or Word) Her association to the number four only magnifies this truth.

deborah 2She Speaks

The song of Deborah demonstrates her gift of prophecy. There can be no doubt that Deborah’s primary weapon was words as testified by her name (lit. dibberah: “she speaks”). I cannot help but to wonder what would have happened if she had been silenced or ignored due to her specific gender. Deborah, a woman on fire with the Word, spoke! Her words brought righteous judgment and order to chaos. The “ways” of the people were crooked and the “watering” places became a place of division and war…UNTIL Deborah arose!

Jdg 5:6-11 “In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, In the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, And travelers went by roundabout ways. (7) “The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Until I arose, a mother in Israel. (8) “New gods were chosen; Then war was in the gates. Not a shield or a spear was seen Among forty thousand in Israel. (9) “My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel, The volunteers among the people; Bless the LORD! (10) “You who ride on white donkeys, You who sit on rich carpets, And you who travel on the road–sing! (11) “At the sound of those who divide flocks among the watering places, There they shall recount the righteous deeds of the LORD, The righteous deeds for His peasantry in Israel. Then the people of the LORD went down to the gates.

Deborah not only “roused” herself, but calls the remnant of the faithful in Israel to arise and battle for truth and the God of Truth, YHWH. As usual, the call is to “Wake Up”!!

Jdg. 5:12-13 “Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song! Arise, Barak, and take away your captives, O son of Abinoam. (13) “Then survivors came down to the nobles; The people of the LORD came down to me as warriors.

Does this not remind you of another prophecy in the Torah regarding Israel?

Num. 24:8-9 Elohim who has brought him out of Egypt is for him like the lofty horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations that are his foes, and shall break their bones in pieces, and shall pierce them through with his arrows. (9) He has crouched; he has lain down like a lion, and like a lioness; who shall rouse him up? Blessed is everyone that blesses you, and cursed is everyone that curses you. (HRB)

Dr. Tikva Frymer Kensky beautifully illustrates how the alternate meaning of Deborah, a bee, ties all of this together:

Like the queen bee, she raises up the swarm for battle, sending out the drones to protect the hive and conquer new territory.[7]

The Song

Deborah’s song describes three particular women. The first, of course, is Deborah herself. I believe we already have a good understanding of the fact that she clearly represents both the activity of the Holy Spirit and of the righteous assembly of YHWH. The second woman is Yael (Jael). As you know, it was by her hand that King Sisera met his demise. Yael means “to ascend” and “mountain goat”. An ideal wife will be to her husband a fountain (notice the woman/water imagery) and a graceful hind (mountain goat).

Pr. 5:18-20 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. (19) As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. (20) For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?

Since Proverbs 31 depicts the Eshet Chayil or Woman of Valor as a Warrior,[8] it’s not surprising that a woman named “Yael” was given the honor of defeating Israel’s enemy. She is a fountain of living waters[9] to her husband and a mother to Israel (like Deborah). She is a warrior woman like the women who served at the doorway to the Tent of Meeting.[10] And her bravery ascends up to heaven like the sweet aroma of the goat Olah sacrifice.

JaelIt is for these reasons that I find it intriguing that Sisera asks Yael for water, but she instead gives him milk. Ponder this. A woman is a picture of life giving waters; Yael has anything but life in mind for Sisera. Like a baby, she gives him milk and he falls asleep between her thighs. This is when she hammers a tent peg through his temple. Again, with the “tent peg”, we see the imagery of a woman… she builds her house. Obviously, Sisera is a threat to the expanding of her tent or home. Yael may appear to be acting like a harlot, but in reality she is a righteous warrior of her home and for the people of Israel.

The third woman in Deborah’s song illustrates for us the other side of the coin. Remember, we are constantly shown the dichotomy of a righteous woman and a harlot in the Scriptures. They call to the same people, sit in the same places, and often wear similar colors. It is our job to discern which we are dealing with or which one we are acting like (this goes for men and women)! Yael appeared to be a harlot by calling Sisera into her tent, but we see in the end that she was really acting righteously.

The unnamed mother of Sisera is the third woman mentioned and she is depicted as anxiously looking (seeing/false prophecy) for her son to return home with the spoils of war. Notice that part of the expected “spoil” is the daughters of Israel. The Hebrew term used for these Israeli maidens is racham (wombs)![11] The enemy, the harlot, and the dragon desire to devour the offspring of the (righteous) woman.[12] Moreover, the other spoils of war mentioned are dyed and embroidered works. These “works” are associated with the righteous women of Israel. The enemy wants to capture, destroy, and rape the daughters and their righteous acts.

Can you now see the poetic justice between Yael and Sisera’s mother? Sisera desires to steal the “wombs” of Israel, but instead he dies between the thighs of the righteous woman (Yael). If you aren’t paying close attention, you just might miss this point. Or worse, you may misinterpret the actions of Yael and accuse of her of being a harlot. While this story makes the actions of the righteous woman more clear, other stories utilizing this same dichotomy are more subtle. For example, consider Tamar, Rahab, or Ruth. Each of these women’s actions could be misconstrued if you’re not reading carefully.

But why all this emphasis on the women? In the eyes of YHWH, His people are the daughter, the sister, the wife, the bride, and the woman. If our view of natural women is skewed, then our prophetic outlook on the whole body will also be out of kilter. So in that sense, when we look into the narratives and lives of the women, we are really investigating the sons of YHWH too!! The Hidden Ones (both men & women) are revealed in the Woman. Look for her!

Hopefully, this will help you “see” why I write a lot about women. In the natural, women have been oppressed throughout secular and religious history. I believe this is a picture of what’s happening in the spiritual as well. It is a woman that both men and women are compared to in the Scriptures. When we liberate and restore natural women, the WHOLE (spiritual) Body is restored. If the enemy can steal the wombs of Israel, we are weakened and the tent fails to expand. To produce LIFE, it takes both a man and a woman. This is one aspect I see in the prophetic song of Deborah. May the Deborah’s in YHWH’s camp ignite the hive to proclaim truth and battle the Sisera’s of our day.


[1] The phrase (the wifeH802 of Lapidoth,H3941 )is the following two Hebrew words respectively defined by Strong’s:

H802 ish-shaw’, naw-sheem’ The first form is the feminine of H376 or H582; the second form is an irregular plural; a woman (used in the same wide sense as H582).: – [adulter]ess, each, every, female, X many, + none, one, + together, wife, woman.

H3941 lap-pee-doth’ Feminine plural of H3940; Lappidoth, From an unused root probably meaning to shine; a flambeau, lamp or flame: – (fire-) brand, (burning) lamp, lightning, torch, the husband of Deborah: – Lappidoth.

[2] Eshet lapidot could be translated “wife of Lapidot,” but it also means “woman of torches.” Lapidot, “torches,” comes where we would ordinarily expect a husband’s name, but it is a strange‑sounding name for a man and, moreover, does not have the standard patronymic “son of.” (Dr. Frymer-Kensky)


[4] When looking into the number of Israel’s judges, there is not a unanimous opinion on how many there actually were. The number usually falls between 12 and 15. This is due to the fact that some “rulers” like Abimelech aren’t directly referred to as a “judge”, but ruled Israel all the same. No matter whom you include in your count, Deborah is the fourth in order.

[5] Emphasis mine. Definition shortened in order for easier reading.

[6] See footnote 2.


[8] See The Biblical Role of Women Part IV.

[9] See The Cup of Miriam Part III.

[10] See The Mirror Waters and the Gatekeepers.

[11] Jdg. 5:30 ‘Are they not finding, are they not dividing the spoil? A maiden (racham), two maidens (racham) for every warrior; To Sisera a spoil of dyed work, A spoil of dyed work embroidered, Dyed work of double embroidery on the neck of the spoiler?’

[12] Rev 12:4 And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. Rev 12:17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Categories: Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

The Mirror Waters and the GateKeepers

As I was writing Part II of Deborah the Bee, my study took me in an unexpected direction. So, humor me and I promise to post Part II next time. (:

Ex. 38:8 Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

While it’s probably not news to you that the bronze laver was made from the mirrors of the women, the role or service of these women just might be — it was to me. However, for the sake of those that haven’t considered the links of the laver, water, and women, let’s explore that first.

In my posts on the Cup of Miriam, we took a long hard look at why women are so closely associated with water. It is just like our Elohim to use articles from women to build the one piece of furniture in the Tabernacle that contained water. Even more significant is the fact that mirrors are used to reflect an image. Thus, we often hear how the waters in the laver were there so the priests could “see” the dirt and wash their hands and feet.

But it’s more than that. A mirror reflects beauty and defects. The Word of Elohim also reveals both when we look into it.[1] This is why we need the constant washing of the water of the Word.[2] The Hebrew word for mirror or looking glass is marah[3], but this word is ONLY elsewhere translated as “vision” — as in I saw a vision.[4]

You can see the connection with seeing “into” something. In other words, the purpose of the laver was to give spiritual insight about the state of a person’s heart. The washing was more symbolic than a remedy to physical dirt. In order to serve the King, you must be washed by His Water, which is the Word. Only the Torah can show you at once how beautiful and precious you are in the Father’s eyes and at the same time reveal your unsightly blemishes and spots. The Water of the Word is meant to cleanse us of these marks as James so aptly remarks in 1:25.

This idea is expanded by the Hebrew word for laver, keeyor. This word means a furnace and also to purify. Once again we see the dichotomy of fire and water, both cleanse and purify. But who are these “serving” women at the doorway of the tent of meeting? The answer to this question is what provoked me to write this post.

Translator’s (both Jewish and Christian) have a terrible tendency to diminish the roles or service of women. We have become so accustomed to this that we read right through a verse such as Exodus 38:8 and focus on the bronze (or brass if you prefer) laver and/or the mirrors. Yet, we know that there is not an idle word in the Torah. These women were important; and I for one, am ashamed that I never noticed their position until now. But, that’s what I’ve come to expect: the woman is always hidden! And I know that YHWH had divine intent and purpose for that as you will begin to see in my post on Deborah the Bee Part II.

The Hebrew phrase for “the serving women who served” is hatzovot asher tzaveu. You can probably see the repetition of the Hebrew verb tzvah, which means to go forth, wage war, fight, and serve. It is directly related to YHWH Tz’vaot (LORD of Hosts). It carries strong military connotations. This should remind us of the eshet chayil or woman of valor.[5] She too, is often obscured by translation and softened from a warrior to a woman of virtue, goodness, worth, or excellence. Why?

Would it surprise you to know that tz’vaot is feminine? When we call on the God of Armies (YHWH tz’vaot), we are really saying God of (women) warriors. Apparently, the women who “served” at the doorway to the Tent of Meeting were warriors! Now, considering the context of their station, it would appear as though this was more of a “spiritual” guardianship. After all, the laver was made from their “visions” or “mirrors”. I imagine these women to be warriors of the faith, prophetesses, prayer warriors, and guardians of the Water of the Word. I believe there is evidence of this with the prophetess Anna.

Luke 2:36-37 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, (37) and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

Of course, we also have a witness as to what happens when these women are either taken advantage of or in outright rebellion.

1Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

In this verse, their role has been perverted; these women have become like the harlot mentioned in Proverbs instead of the righteous woman. Whether or not these women were manipulated, forced, or were the seducers themselves is not mentioned. I believe we have evidence of all these possibilities happening in our assemblies still today. Regardless of the reason these women strayed, we see the male counterparts in this story also falling away from their purpose.

1Sa 3:1-2 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. (2) It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well).

There can be no coincidence that as the Word of YHWH and visions began to diminish, so did Eli’s eyesight. What is not immediately apparent is that the women are also related to the reduced visions by their association with the mirrors (visions) of the laver and the doorway. The proverbial “chicken or the egg” question might pop into your head. We want someone to blame. But, I believe the point is that improper worship, negligence, perversion, and the like is the culprit here. Lack of the Word means lack of vision and eyesight (insight, foresight, and hindsight). Torah is our One True Mirror! Without it we perish in our perversion.

Since women are often associated with vision and the prophetic, these next verses shouldn’t surprise you.

John 18:15-17 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, (16) but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. (17) Then the slave-girl who kept the door *said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He *said, “I am not.”

The Greek indicates that this “slave girl” was actually a bond-servant. Notice that Peter has to go through HER to get inside. She is the gate-keeper to get to the court of the high priest. And what does she do? She immediately “sees” right through Peter. She knows that he is one of Yeshua’s disciples! But he lies, and this becomes the first of three denials he makes of the Master.

This happens with wives and their husbands as well. A woman meets her man at the door to question him on some issue and if he lies or denies the thing —- she can usually “see” right through him! Since women were created to be managers and guardians of the home, we shouldn’t be surprised that YHWH gave women this role in His House as well.

If we lack vision, perhaps we need to visit the laver. What do you see when you look into the mirror waters? Look closely and allow the waters to fully reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once revealed, true beauty emerges.

bronze laver 2


[1] James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (KJV)

[2] Eph. 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (27) that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

[3] H4759 from H4758 (mareh) meaning view or appearance.

[4] H4759: Total KJV Occurrences: 9 visions, 5 Gen.46:2, Eze.1:1, Eze.8:3, Eze.43:2-3 (2) vision, 3 Dan.10:7-8 (3) lookingglasses, 1 Ex.38:8 (2)

[5] For more information, see my post The Biblical Role of Women Part IV, which defines the Eshet Chayil or Woman of Valor.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deborah the Bee Part I

© Olga Vasilkova

© Olga Vasilkova

The Hebrew word for bee is Devorah (Deborah). This is also the feminine form of the word davar (literally: Word). Another derivative from this Hebrew root is midbar or wilderness. Jeff Benner has this to say about our root word:

The root word is ‘davar’ and is most frequently translated as a thing or a word. The original picture painted by this word to the Hebrews is the arrangement of things to create order. Speech is an ordered arrangement of words. In the ancient Hebrew mind words are ‘things’ and are just as ‘real’ as food or other ‘things’. When a word is spoken to another it is ‘placed in the ears’ no different than when food is given to another it is ‘placed in the mouth’. The Hebrew name Devorah (Deborah) means ‘bee’ and is the feminine form of the word davar. Bees are a community of insects which live in a perfectly ordered arrangement. The word ‘midvar’ meaning wilderness is actually a place that exists as a perfectly arranged order as its ecosystem is in harmony and balance.[1]

Bees are fascinating little creatures. The structure of their colonies are perfectly ordered much like the wilderness and the Word of God. The pollination that they provide for our crops is actually vital to our very survival. Is it any wonder that YHWH chose the humble honey bee as a natural picture of His spiritual Torah? Both provide Life! Even more interesting to me is that while the bee is an unclean insect, the sticky sweet honey that they produce is not.

Perhaps that is because we are supposed to be similar to a bee. We should be building the house (colony) in unity and with order. Moreover, much of the time we are ritually unclean and/or spiritual unclean due to sin. Nevertheless, we are told to remedy our dilemma by the cleansing of the blood of the Lamb. Once we do, we can venture into the fields like the worker bees to build the Kingdom by gathering pollen from the flowers of the earth. Our efforts should produce golden sweet honey that attracts all the “whosoevers”. (Living the Word with Love)

Ironically, as the world slips further away from the Creator’s Word and closer to death, the natural honey bee population is also dying.[2] This should cause us great concern because bees are directly responsible for one out of every three bites of food that you ingest![3]

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, 
man would only have four years left to live.” 
― Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee

We need to be praying not only for our nation and the world to turn back to YHWH, but also for the survival of the honey bee. But this post isn’t about the physical bee as much as it is about the spiritual picture that they represent.


Deborah the Bee and Nurse

The Book of Judges enumerates the most well-known biblical woman with the name Deborah. But before we explore her extraordinary story, there is another more obscure Deborah mentioned in the Torah that I’d like to highlight. The reference is in the middle of the passage below. Please read all five verses so you can see the beauty of the context.

Gen. 35:6-10 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. (7) He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother. (8) Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth. (9) Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. (10) God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel.

This isn’t the only reference to Deborah the nurse of Rebekah. We also see a brief appearance in Genesis 24 when Abraham’s servant finds Rebekah at the well and requests that she come with him to marry Isaac.

Gen. 24:59 Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men.

Though the nurse isn’t named in this passage, most of the Christian and Jewish commentaries[4] that I referenced believe that this nurse was none other than the Deborah mentioned in Genesis 35. Rashi cites a tradition that Rebekah had sent Deborah to Aram to tell Jacob that it was now safe to return.[5] I find this interesting given the name of the Torah Portion this passage is found in: Vayishlach “And He Sent” (Gen. 32:4-36:43).

Genesis 35[6] comes after Jacob wrestles all night with the “angel”, his reunion with Esau, and Dinah’s violation by Shechem. Jacob has literally gone from the “fire” to the “frying pan” and back again. Life is hard. He has made both good and bad decisions and is living the consequences. YHWH tells him to return to Bethel (House of God) and build an altar. Bethel is where YHWH first revealed Himself to Jacob. It is as if YHWH is bringing Jacob full circle.

At this point in the narrative, the story is interrupted by a blurb about the nurse named Deborah. We are not given much information about her life, but the fact that the Torah mentions her at all is very telling. Deborah was Rebekah’s nurse; Rebekah is Jacob’s mother. Apparently, Deborah had been with Jacob all these years at her request. As a nurse, Deborah would have been a nurturer to Jacob, his wives, and his children. It is doubtful that this woman was married and had children of her own. Instead, she lived a life devoted to Abraham’s seed. She was like one of the worker bees ensuring the survival of the colony. I believe that Rebekah sent this woman to watch over Jacob and ensure his prophetic future.

Once YHWH brings Jacob back to where their relationship began, Deborah dies.[7] The importance of her role is revealed in the place and name of where she was buried: Allon-Bacuth. She’s buried under an oak tree in the land of Bethel. The people called this place “The Oak of Weeping/Mourning”. I can only imagine that for Deborah to have a permanent mention in the Torah that she was indeed a Mighty Oak in the eyes of the family. She was no mere nurse or servant. Her name implies hard diligent service in producing the sweet honey of the WORD.

Before Jacob returns to Bethel, he was a little reckless and immature. A person with a nature such as this needs a counsellor, a guide, a helper, and a nurturer. Though the Torah doesn’t explicitly state that Deborah was these things to Jacob, I believe the “hints” are undeniable. Let’s look at some of the imagery.

  • Deborah = bee (busy/unity) and Word (as in Word of Elohim)
  • Nurse = (yanaq) to give milk or sustenance to the immature
  • Oak = tree (etz) and counsel (etzah) trees are pictures of counsel and the righteous
  • Bethel = House of El (God)

The nurse Deborah is greatly mourned because she was a mother figure, teacher of the Word, and counsellor to Jacob and his family. As a woman of valor,[8] she had been a picture of the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of young Israel.

When YHWH brings Jacob’s life full circle, he is more mature and ready for the stronger boundaries of the Father. After Deborah dies, YHWH again “appears” to Jacob to reestablish the Promise and Covenant. Jacob’s sojourning has prepared him for this day. The change in his nature is marked by the change of his name. He is no longer a supplanter or heel catcher;[9] he is Israel (One who struggles/overcomes with God). As such, he no longer needs his mother’s Torah[10] (the imagery of Deborah); he is ready to walk with his Father. Nevertheless, this process is bittersweet. In this one Torah Portion[11] where Deborah meets her demise, Rachel and Isaac also pass away. Jacob’s promotion comes on the heels of losing a mother figure[12], his beloved wife, and his earthly father.


© Ichtor

© Ichtor

Meanwhile, Back at the Hive

The heart of any beehive is its queen. The hive does not exist without her. She literally builds the colony as … a wise woman builds her house.[13] The queen releases pheromones (an aroma) that keeps the hive thriving and humming in unison. This reminds me of the aroma of the anointing oil and the Holy Spirit. This sweet fragrance should also be discernible on us when we meet others. I’m not one to read many Bibles that “paraphrase” the Scriptures, but I couldn’t resist these verses:

2Co 2:14-15 I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. (15) In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life… (CEV)

I happen to follow a blog that is all about bee keeping or apiculture. Recently, an article caught my attention, but for far different reasons than the author intended. The name of the post is “Roar of a Queenless Hive”.[14] The bee keeper had inadvertently removed a panel from one of his hives that had a queen on it. After a few minutes, the hive began to roar with chaos and loud buzzing. He knew that he must have mistakenly removed the queen which sent the hive into a panic. His point was to warn fellow bee keepers of making the same mistake and to “listen” as well as “look” at their hives. But it was his words that really struck me with a startling revelation.

A queenless hive will most certainly roar in a way that you rarely hear otherwise.[15]

I could not help but wonder if this natural picture of bees is also true for the body of Messiah. Like the humble bee, we should also be an example of the (Living) Word. The Word produces sweet honey, not bitterness or condemnation in our lives. But there seems to be something amiss from our hives. Have we been trying to build a colony without a queen?

In Judaism, the Sabbath and the Divine Presence (Shekinah) are likened to a queen or a woman. (This is also true of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom) If physical women are to reflect these aspects of the Creator and we are limiting, restricting, or suppressing this reflection, are we not also in effect quenching the role and work of the Holy Spirit? Is this why our “hives” are often roaring with disunity and disharmony? Women are “mothers” that set boundaries to keep peace between siblings. They nurture and nurse growing babes and ensure they reach maturity.

Perhaps the Messianic movement is similar to Jacob. YHWH is turning us back full circle to where He first appeared to us at Bethel. But like Jacob, Deborah will nurse us until we fully reach the land of milk and honey. Interestingly, it is at this point that the Genesis account shifts focus from Jacob to his progeny — especially Joseph. Since Joseph prefigures the Messiah and the last days, it is reasonable to conclude that our Mashiach will return to the scene once Jacob is ready to become Israel. (A prepared Bride)

Until then, we require the “mothering” of Deborah (Holy Spirit). I suppose the real question is, “Where are we on the journey as a body?” Are we still slaving for Laban? Are we running from Esau? Are we wrestling with the messenger (angel)? Or have we remained silent after the violation of Dinah?

Song of Songs 4:11 “Your lips, my bride, drip honey; Honey and milk are under your tongue, And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

 We will explore more about Deborah the Judge in Part II … stay tuned.





[2] In a nutshell, bees are dying at an alarming rate and this has worldwide effects on our food crops. This process is called Colony Collapse Disorder.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Here is an example: Deborah had either been sent by Rebekah to take care of her daughters-in-law and grandsons, or had gone of her own accord into Jacob’s household after the death of her mistress. The mourning at her death, and the perpetuation of her memory, are proofs that she must have been a faithful and highly esteemed servant in Jacob’s house. (Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the O.T.)

[5] See the Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary under Genesis 35:8.

[6] We are told of three deaths in this chapter of Genesis. First, the nurse Deborah, then Rachel dies in childbirth, and finally Isaac passes at a ripe old age.

[7] The mention of Deborah’s death in the Torah is extremely puzzling especially since the Torah fails to indicate how or when Rebekah herself dies. This leads many Jewish commentator’s (such as Ramban) to conclude that this was a veiled announcement of Rebekah’s death. See the Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary under Genesis 35:8.

[8] See Proverbs 31 and my post The Biblical Role of Women Part IV.

[9] These are the meanings of the name Jacob.

[10] Pr. 1:8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction (musar) And do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Torah).

[11] Parashat Vayishlach “And He Sent”. Genesis 32:4 – 36:43.

[12] See footnote 7.

[13] Pr. 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.


[15] Ibid.

[16] I am NO way implying that God is a woman or that women are gods with these questions. I abhor the new age sacred feminine and goddess worship. My point is to get the reader to look into the original language and context. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is always in the feminine form in Hebrew; this is true for many of the emanations of His Presence. The One (genderless) Elohim displays aspects of both male and female. This is why we are repeatedly told that it takes BOTH a man and a woman to reflect the image of YHWH. Sadly, centuries of biased biblical interpretation and direct misogyny have clouded our view of not only women, but also of the Holy Spirit. My desire is to be a vessel of restoration. YHWH desires us to be in Unity and to walk in Fullness. We cannot do this unless we walk in complete Truth by shaking off manmade traditions and antiquated doctrines of men. However, I believe that this also requires diligence and caution from us. There are a myriad of ways we can distort this message of restoration as we have seen in the mystery religions from the beginning. We must carefully weigh all things. My point is to keep the baby and toss out the bath water. Nevertheless, the motivation cannot come from a place of fear or tradition — but from the One True plumb line (Torah). In our age of information, we have no excuse to not search these things out to see if they are so. To refuse is paramount to negligence of which we one day will have to answer.

Categories: Torah Portions, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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