“Deborah sent for Barak and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure the commander of the enemy army, with his chariots and his troops and give him into your hands.'” Barak said to Deborah, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” “Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand the enemy over to a woman.” Judges 4: 6-9
Why is it that Barak is named in Hebrews 11 as a hero of faith instead of Deborah? Readers may be bothered by Barak’s reluctance to go to battle without Deborah. His hesitation seems to make him “less manly.” According to Barbara and Allan Pease in Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, men do not like to ask for help. There are many jokes about mens reluctance to stop and ask for directions. Men prefer independence and enjoy the challenge in solving their own problems. Meanwhile, in “woman culture” it is not a threat to ask for help. As a matter of fact, many women ask for help and offer it as a way to build relationships. In this story, Deborah and Barak clearly do not fit the common gender stereotypes.
In Barak’s defense, he had good reason to be afraid. The enemy had nine hundred iron chariots! Plus, the Old Testament prophets and judges played a major role in battle. They mustered and inspired the troops. Prophets such as Elijah and Elisha were called “Israels chariot and cavalry.” Barak’s request that Deborah, the prophetess, would accompany him is quite reasonable. Barak did not seem to be concerned that Deborah was a woman. As a matter of fact, it was Deborah who made the observation that “the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand the enemy over to a woman.”
However, this still does not answer the question of why Barak is mentioned as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11 instead of Deborah. After all, Rahab, the prostitute, is mentioned, so why would Deborah, a strong woman judge and prophetess, be ignored? Is it because the author was trying to appeal to the Jewish leaders, and in their culture of the day, the role of women was to be submissive and silent? Deborah clearly did not fulfill that stereotype. She was a strong woman who was placed by God in an influential leadership role.
We do not know why Barak is mentioned instead of Deborah in Hebrews 11. However, there are lessons to be learned from Barak, the hero of faith. He certainly trusted Deborah. He knew that he needed the Lord on his side, and he recognized that Deborah had the gift of prophecy. Deborah would see things with her spiritual eyes that Barak could not see. It made sense to have Deborah by his side if his army was going to face a formidable foe. When Deborah reminded Barak that the honor for this venture would go to a woman, Barak did not care. It was not about the honor. It was about doing what the Lord wanted Barak to do, and he knew he could do that better if he had Deborah at his side.
Deborah and Barak were a great team. Deborah needed Barak to do the work of battle, and Barak needed Deborah to see the things he could not. Our Heavenly Father brought together two people who had what each other needed. There is an old Quaker proverb that states, “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.” Are you lifting those around you? Are their loads lighter because you are around? Do you recognize the gifts of those who support you? There is no greater joy than building one another up and helping each other be the best they can be. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5:11