Introduction: Although the Bible consistently refers to the wives of
prominent men of the Old Testament, it does not focus on women in
leadership roles. This week we will study two leading women of the
Bible. Deborah of the Old Testament, and Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Let’s jump into our study!

  1. Deborah

    1. Read Judges 4:1-2. Why did the Israelites fall into the
      hands of Jabin and Sisera? (Because they did not obey God.)

      1. Is this a practical principle that applies to us
        today? (We learned last week from our study of John
        the Baptist and Stephen that the righteous sometimes
        suffer and die for their faith. But, I believe this
        principle in Judges still operates as a practical
        principle today. The greater number suffer (here on
        earth) and die for their lack of obedience to God.
        God’s rules are for our benefit, they are not
        arbitrary commands.)

    2. Read Judges 4:3. Why does the Bible mention the Canaanites
      had “900 iron chariots?” (Chariots and iron were a new level
      of sophistication in military weapons. It was like the
      advance of guns over bows and arrows. The idea of using a
      horse (a large animal) to pull a fast wheeled vehicle made
      of iron (thus not easily pierced or burned) containing at
      least one soldier was frightening to foot soldiers. Can you
      imagine being a foot soldier and for the first time seeing
      horses with metal “wagons” speeding towards your position?
      What if you weren’t acquainted with horses and thought they
      might be large meat-eaters? What if your weapons were only
      made of wood? Very scary.)

      1. Evil doing got the people into trouble. What got them
        back on the road to help? (Turning (crying) to God for

    3. Read Judges 4:4-5. How do you explain that Deborah is
      looked at in a positive light, yet she is leading Israel
      during a time when it is doing evil?
    4. Read Judges 4:6-7. The people ask God for help and the next
      thing we read is that Deborah sends for Barak. What is
      Deborah’s message from God to Barak?

      1. What do you think about the number of men Deborah

      2. What significance is there that only two of the tribes
        (Naphtali and Zebulun) are to be the source of these
        10,000 troops? (If the enemy has about 1,000 chariots
        this does not seem to be a very large number of men
        for Barak. When you add to this the fact that they
        could get 10,000 men from only two of the twelve
        tribes, it seems logical that they could have gotten a
        lot more men if all of the tribes had been involved.
        This makes me conclude that Deborah was telling Barak
        to use a relatively small number of troops.)

      3. What other details of the battle does God reveal to
        Barak through Deborah? (God tells where the battle
        will take place, He tells the general strategy (I will
        “lure” the enemy into this low (river) area) and give
        you the victory.)

      4. Why does God repeat that the famous general, Sisera,
        will be leading the opposition troops, that he will
        have not only troops but his chariots as well? (God is
        saying that He knows the difficulty of the task. He
        is also testing the faith of Barak when He puts the
        problem in such stark terms.)

      5. Does this message answer my prior question about why
        we look at Deborah in a good light even though she is
        leading a sinning Israel? (It shows that while she was
        leading, the people turned to God and God gave her a
        plan of action to relieve their suffering.)

    5. Read Judges 4:8. Does Barak believe this is a message from
      God? What does this say about his trust of women?

      1. Is Barak a smart man? Or, is Barak a wimp? (The
        argument for him being smart is that he tests the
        honesty of the prophet by essentially saying that if
        we go to battle and the Lord is not with us, you are
        going to be killed too. The argument for him being a
        wimp is that he thought they needed the presence of
        the woman prophet to keep the troops’ morale and
        courage high. The word of God was not sufficient for

    6. Read Judges 4:9-10. Is Deborah unhappy with the way Barak is
      obeying? (Yes. The problem is that God told Barak what to do
      and he refused unless his conditions were met. How much
      better just to obey God!)

      1. How about you? Do you obey God, but place conditions
        on your obedience?

      2. Is this an important matter? Or, is whether we obey –
        not how we obey – the only issue?

      3. What do you think God’s attitude is towards our
        conditional obedience?

      4. Is there some sort of sexist “payback” to Deborah’s
        warning that Sisera will fall to a woman? (Assuming
        that Barak was worried about trusting Deborah, a
        woman, this might be some sort of payback in kind.)

      5. What do you think Barak believes will happen when
        Deborah says “the Lord will hand Sisera over to a
        woman?” (It would be logical to think Deborah will get
        the credit for the win.)

        1. Is this bad – to say that Barak will not get the
          credit? I thought God wanted the honor and not
          us? Is Deborah promoting vanity?

        2. Read Judges 7:2. What is God saying to Gideon
          about the credit for this upcoming battle with
          the Midianites? (I think there are some strong
          similarities to these two battles. God seems to
          limit the number of His warriors in each case. In
          Gideon’s battle God clearly says He wants the
          people to understand that He gave them the

    7. Read Judges 4:11-13. What causes Sisera to bring his
      chariots to the Mount Tabor region? (Elwell’s “Evangelical
      Commentary on the Bible” explains that the Canaanites were
      intermingled with the Israelites in their normal living. The
      Canaanites generally controlled the valleys and the
      Israelites the hills. When Sisera heard that 10,000
      Israelites had assembled in an area that was accessible to
      chariots, Elwell suggests this was the “lure” that brought
      him forward with his chariots.)

      1. Why do you think the Israelites controlled the hills?
        (Chariots were not very good on hills!)

    8. Read Judges 4:14-16. From where does Barak attack? (Verse
      14 tells us that he “went down” Mount Tabor. The Israelites,
      as usual, were in the hills. The chariots were (as expected)
      were in the valley.)

      1. Why would Sisera’s men abandon their chariots and
        horses and run away on foot? (This text does not give
        any details. However, Judges 5 is the song of victory
        of Deborah and Barak. Judges 5:4&20-21 suggests that
        it rained, the Kishon river overflowed its banks, and
        this defeated the iron chariots.)

      2. How complete was the victory? ( Judges 4:16 says that
        “not a man was left” of the enemy.)

    9. Read Judges 4:17-22. “‘Come into my house,’ said the spider
      to the fly.” What do you think about the morality of what
      Jael did to Sisera?

    10. Read Judges 5:24-27. In the song of Deborah and Barak they
      call Jael “most blessed of women.” Is that how you look at
      this? (It looks like dishonesty and betrayal to me. However,
      Sisera was a man of war who intended to kill Barak and his
      soldiers. If Barak had just obeyed he might have killed
      Sisera on the field of battle ( Judges 4:9). In the end I
      guess it did not matter to Sisera how he died.)

    11. Read Judges 5:31. What is the result of the righteous
      leadership of Deborah? (The land had peace for 40 years. The
      cries of the people to God had been answered.)

    12. What do you conclude from this story?

  2. Mary

    1. Read Luke 1:8,11-13. Did the angel give Zechariah good news
      or bad news? Did he want a son or not? (Verse 13 says,
      “your prayer has been heard.” He had been praying for a

    1. Read Luke 1:14, 17-19. Put Zechariah’s words into today’s
      language. (“How do I know you are not lying to me?”)

      1. Was Gabriel insulted? (It sure sounds like it in verse
        19. Gabriel seems to say, “Do you know who you are
        talking to? And, where I got this message?”

      2. Why would Zechariah doubt the answer to his prayers?

        1. Do we do that sometimes?

      3. Was this an understandable reaction for a priest? (No.
        He had been praying for this. He is a priest, someone
        who is supposed to have a closer relationship with
        God. And, he had the example of Abraham and Sarah who
        had a son late in life. Yet Zechariah doubted.)

    2. Just a few months later Gabriel has a similar mission. Read
      Luke 1:26-29. When verse 26 says “the sixth month,” what is
      it talking about? (The sixth month of the pregnancy of
      Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth.)

      1. Mary was troubled by Gabriel’s words. Why? (It would
        be unusual for an ordinary person, especially a woman
        in those days, to expect to be called “highly

        1. Would this greeting make Mary more or less likely
          to believe the rest of Gabriel’s message?

    3. Read Luke 1:30-33. Is this a credible message? How did it
      compare in credibility with the message Gabriel gave to
      Zechariah a few months before? (It had never happened in the
      history of the world!)

    4. Read Luke 1:34. Did Mary doubt the words of Gabriel? (No.
      She simply asked “how will this work?” That seems like a
      reasonable question given the nature of the message.)

    5. Read Luke 1:35-38. What is Mary’s response to this
      incredible message? (Go ahead, God.)

      1. What was the downside to having God do as Gabriel said
        He would? (Joseph might refuse to marry her. Her
        reputation would be ruined. There was even the danger
        of stoning (see John 8:4-5).)

      2. How would you compare Mary’s response to that of the
        priest Zachariah?

        1. Who is the one who reasonably could have said to
          Gabriel, “How do I know you aren’t lying to me?”
          (Zachariah was given a completely plausible
          message that fit into his life (he was married)
          and was in answer to his prayer. Mary was given a
          completely implausible (up to then) story, that
          could have serious negative consequences for her
          life, and she said, “OK, Lord.”)

        2. Does this give us an insight into why God chose
          Mary to be the mother of Jesus?

    6. Friend, are you willing to be like Mary? To be willing to
      work with God’s program no matter how much it costs or is
      contrary to your expectations? Are you, like Deborah,
      willing to trust God and go into battle? These two women
      show the courage that should come from our faith!

  1. Next Week: Tiny Sins, Huge Results

    1. Read text (end of 5) on peace for 40 years.