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Monday, November 7, 2016

Is Deborah An Exceptional Prophetess/Judge Who Ruled Over Israel As Other Male Judges Did ? -View (2): "Yes, She Is."

                                             Autumn Japan

[Guest Author: This article was written by Mr. David Yamamoto, a Japanese complementarian Christian blogger. He is also one of the few Bible-believing Japanese brothers who advocates Christian head covering courageously.]

This post is an objection to a part of Mr. Wayne Grudem’s argument on the woman in ministry. He says, in his book Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism: Biblical Responses to the Key, ”The text does not say that Deborah ruled over God’s people or taught them publicly or led them militarily” at Answer #3 in Chapter 7.

As a complementarian believer, I highly respect Mr. Wayne Grudem, and I usually agree with him on almost everything as he argues on the gender issue. But as a Bible believer, I also admit the Bible says that God ordained Deborah as one of the few exceptional prophetesses in the history.

Therefore I will argue and clarify here whether Deborah did or did not rule over Israel as other male judges did. If my argument is correct, it means that God sometimes allows exceptions to happen and that we had a few female servants to play the rolls which men usually play. 

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In Answer#3 of his book, Mr. Grudem says as below concerning Deborah :

She gave “judgment” (Hebrew mishpat) to the people privately when they came to her. When the text says that “Deborah ...was judging Israel at that time”(Judges 4:4), the Hebrew verb shaphat, “to judge,” in this context does not mean “to rule or govern,” but rather has the sense “decide controversy, discriminate between persons in civil, political, domestic and religious questions.”......
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My short conclusion:

Consider our presidents and prime ministers. They do not go to war themselves but they only sit in their chairs and “decide” military matters. But still they lead their countries and armies that way. 

They do not make all the documents and phone calls to various institutes when political administrations are processed, but still those political leaders lead and rule over their nations as they “decide” political matters. The same is true with Deborah. 

She did not take a sword and fight when she led wars. But she judged and led the army of Israel that way. And it was others who carried out political administration in Israel, but still Deborah led it politically by “deciding” things sitting under the tree.

So it is completely wrong to say, “ to judge” in this context does not mean “to rule or govern.” Actually it does mean “ to rule and govern.” Deborah did act as a judge just the way other male judges did. There is nothing different in its quality or essence with what she did as a judge.

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 My further arguments :
Judges4:4 (ESV) Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
This is the verse with which we need to find out if it means that she ruled over Israel by fully exercising her authority or not. And the phrase "was judging" in blue is where the word "shaphat" is used.

1) The phrase in blue, “was judging” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “shaphat.” Mr. Grudem says that this word does not mean to rule or govern but only “decide” some matters. As I looked into the online Hebrew lexicon, Brown-Driver-Briggs' Expanded Definition , I found that the Hebrew word “shaphat” was also used for other male judges as you can see in the verses below in pink letters.
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1 act as law-giver, Judges , governor (giving law, deciding controversies and executing law, civil, religious, political, social; both early and late):

 b. of man, Genesis 19:9 (twice in verse) (J), Moses deciding cases Exodus 18:13 (E), making known statutes Exodus 18:16 (E); so his assistants Exodus 18:22; Exodus 18:22; Exodus 18:26; Exodus 18:26 (E), "" Deuteronomy 1:16; of שׁפטיישׂראל Numbers 25:5 (executioners); set שֹׁפְטִים over Israel Judges 2:16,18; 2 Samuel 7:11 = 1 Chronicles 17:10, to deliver Israel, שׁפט ישׂדאל Judges 3:10; Judges 4:4; Judges 10:2,3. Judges; 1 Samuel 4:18; 1 Samuel 7:15,16,17; 2 Kings 23:22, compare 1 Samuel 7:6;

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Judges 3:10 (ESV)
The Spirit of the Lord was upon him (Othniel), and he judged (shaphat) Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.

Judges 10:2 (ESV)
And he (Tola the son of Puah) judged (shaphat) Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.

Judges 10:3 (ESV)
After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged (shaphat) Israel twenty-two years.

The verses above are where the verb shaphat is used in the same meaning as in Judges 4:4. If Mr. Grudem’s argument was correct, Judges 4:4 shouldn’t be found together with these verses in which other male judges “shaphat” or ruled over Israel by fully exercising their authority. 

Put another way, if Mr. Grudem was right, Judges 4:4 must be unique and special in the usage of the word shaphat. Judges 3:10, 10:2 and 10:3 must not be found together with Judges 4:4, because the presence of those verses would prove that the male judges and Deborah ruled over Israel in the very same way.
But actually they are here together with Judges 4:4. This simply means that Deborah WAS judging over Israel just as other male judges were, meaning that she was fully and publicly exercising her authority over political and military issues as well. It is inappropriate to think that she was only deciding private matters.

2) Moreover the same word “shaphat” is used in the same meaning for Moses in Exodus 18: 13, too.

Exodus 18:13 (ESV)
The next day Moses sat to judge (shaphat) the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.

This means that Deborah judged in the same way Moses did.

3) The word “shaphat” is also used in several places in 1 Samuel and other books as you can see in the above quote of the lexicon.

These factors prove that it is safe for us to believe that Deborah WAS called by God to be one of the judges just as other male judges were, and that she DID act as a judge in the same way that other male judges did as well as Moses and Samuel.


I think Mr. Grudem went too far in an attempt to refute egalitarians and made a careless mistake by overlooking the other passages where the word “shaphat” are used, and said that Deborah did not “rule or govern.” Actually we saw that she did “rule and govern” Israel just as Othniel and Tola did. But I must say that she did so as one of the exceptions in the long history of Israel. 


  1. Several years ago,I noticed that there are churches which uses the words 'female leadership in churches' as a phrase for their ministry.I felt so much uncomfortable to read it,but could not explain why exactly.

    Reading Mr.Yamamoto's Japanese blog post about female preachers made me understand the reason,it was because of that they are trying to make exceptional cases generalized.(Thank you so much,Brother David about it.)I think that God hopes male leadership.If God has allowed female prophetess to be a leader,it is exceptional,does not mean that women can be like men.

    Thank you,Kinuko for introducing articles about Deborah,her story in OT is one of most difficult and sensitive issue for both egalitarians and complementarians,I think.

    God bless you and our brethren.


    1. Dear Sanae, thank you so much for your comment. Actually, Jessica also responded to these posts this morning via email and I am thinking of re-blogging her previous post regarding the issue of Deborah, if she allows me. I think it is wonderfully beneficial to have frank Bible discussions with our brothers and sisters, especially among those who have a common faith and foundation about the authority/inspiration of the Holy Bible. "...they are trying to make exceptional cases generalized."---yes, that's the point. (*about this "exceptional cases", I am going to develop my own thought, in my reply to bro. David. So, stay tuned:))

    2. [My personal testimony]
      It seems to me that it had been my "destiny" to be placed under egalitarian male leaders. I don't know why but wherever I go, I encountered almost the same setting....that the egalitarian male leader was so much attracted by my "talents" and "abilities," and without any exception, they asked me to preach (meaning "pulpit preaching.")

      And I had felt a sense of constant insecurity and a desperate longing to be loved/accepted as a human.

      (For I had felt they loved my "talents" but not my "being" as a human. I had felt they paid special attention to me because of my "usefulness" in their ministry. And I had felt they did not understand my inner softness and fragileness as a woman.)

      I believe that if one leader truly loves and cares for one sister (including her spirit, soul, body, and feminine sensitivity in His creation), and if he knows the real spiritual state of pulpit preaching (that all the arrows of hell-fire are flinging at the preacher), he can never ever ask her to go up to the pulpit and preach.

    3. In pentecostal churches(and some of evengelical,I guess),there seems to be 'functional equalism in mission'.They admit creation order and difference of men and women,but more or less admit women preaching.

      I think it is not from feminism/liberalism,but from their bible interpretation.But I observe that still there are adverse effects in such kind of functional equalism.For example very large pressure to woman preacher.

      It seems so strange for me that many male leaders ask you to preach! Maybe because of your rare background. I think that personal sharing is one of your precious mission.

      Female missionaries are necessary to churches.To serve people and teach women.Sharing is one of what we can do for gospel,as bible-believing christian women,I feel.


    4. Dear Sanae, thank you for your reply! Yes, as you told me, personal sharing is a precious mission which He has granted both of us:) Now I am going to share with you another fact which I had experienced and witnessed during my preacher's day.

      1) Unbalanced and unhealthy relationship

      Some brothers came to ask me for courtship via pastors/leaders but those who approached me were predominantly much younger men who were much weaker in both faith and character and who were longing to rely on me (like "mother-son" relationship.)

      If I had accepted their proposal, I am sure my marriage life would have been a disaster because in this setting, it is unavoidable that I would be the (spiritual) head of the family.

      2) Extreme loneliness causes some female preachers to depression and sexual deviation

      When I was in mission organizations in northern Europe, I met many many female preachers who were suffering from extreme loneliness. They confessed to me with tears how much they longed for marriage but they could not.

      One preacher (in her 40s) was with us when we were in preaching tours. She was a powerful preacher but in her private life, she was also suffering from the extreme loneliness.

      Then one night, I happened to encounter one scene which made me puzzled..."Is,,,she,,,a lesbian?" No, it should not be like that! Because several times, she had confessed to me her strong desire to get married (with a man.)

      Several months later, though, this fact (that she had showed an unhealthy interest in one teenage girl) was revealed and the mission board banned her from attending the common services for a certain period.

      But I still believe that she is not a lesbian and I write this with deep compassion that this wrong egalitarian system cornered her, pushed her to the point where she committed some deviated acts.

  2. Deborah made decisions for her country to choose which way to go. I think making such decisions is a leader's job. It is quite obvious that she was ordained literally to "lead" the nation Israel. And that included political and military issues. In that, God even allowed her to exercise authority over all the people of Israel, including men.

    Her position and role were special in the sense of being an exception. But it suggests that God can do the same even today when He thinks such an exception is necessary.

    So if a complementarian Christian woman, such as Mary Kassian, is really called by God as an exceptional female teacher/preacher who'd publicly and widely be used, that's something we should not deny, but acknowledge and even support!

    1. Dear bro. David, thank you so much for giving us such a wonderful opportunity to ponder this important issue. I do appreciate your sincerity and genuine willingness to tackle this issue with me! I also feel so free to express my thoughts/views to you because you have such a big and generous heart!

      Bro. David, here is a thought which I want to share with you ; "Her position and role were special in the sense of being an exception. But it suggests that God can do the same even today when He thinks such an exception is necessary. "

      Well, whenever I hear the word "exceptional" or "exception" in the Bible discussion, my inner sense gets alarmed and I ask myself,

      "what if we start to accept something as "biblically exceptional case," are we opening the "secret gate" to let the egalitarian spirit come into our own realm? Is this a subtle beginning but the dangerous road to "evangelical feminism?" What do you think of my idea?

      And about women like Mrs. Mary Kassian, I think we should distinguish women like her from other female preachers (such as Beth Moore, Kay Arthur etc), because unlike other female preachers, Mary never speak to mixed congregations. She always speaks to the women's conferences and meetings.

      So, I think she is doing her activities within the Bible limits. But you once told me that if the 17th century Puritans watch her Youtube videos, they might think of them as NG,,,,umm,,,,that statement really made me think over and over...

  3. OK. Yes, I know Mrs. Kassian mostly speaks to women on female stuff. But as I told you before, she'd be definately beyond the measure of the puritans. She speaks in front of so many people (although most of them are women) wearing beautiful clothes with a head microphone, walking here and there on the platform. Her hair style looks quite contemporary, putting on the makeup which puritan women would never do. She visits many different countries, writes many books, appears on the internet, radio, probably TV, too... Although the agenda is female, she actually talks about various things as her sermon begins and teaches from all over the Bible. And she regularly teaches at Southern Baptist Seminary. I suspect that her students are consisted of both man and women. Although the seminary is not a church, her audience are all Christians (meaning it's like a church gathering) and she shares the biblical truth with them. I don't think she is an ideal complementarian lady, whatsoever. This leads me to an idea that she IS special. And we need to put her into a category of an exception. Yes, I understand what you are afraid of. Thinking like this can open a way for egalitarianism to sneak in. But I think she is one of the very few who teach what she teaches, and I believe God wants to have her keep on doing what she does. Otherwise who can do what she does? Can you do that? No! That's where my argument comes in. We need to see the gap to be met. If we only listen to Mr. Grudem and John Piper, we have to stop Mrs. Kassian! I couldn't do that. To me, it's like trying to erase the name of Deborah from the Bible. What would you say?

    1. Dear bro. David, thank you for your reply!

      "she'd be definitely beyond the measure of the puritans." Yes, you are right. (*but about the seminary teaching, I searched the Woman's Programs at Southern Baptist Seminary;, and made sure that in this Program, female professors teach female students. There is no male student in this course.)

      In this respect, I prefer to gaze at the life and faith of Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 30). She was a young nun and of course, she never violated the commands of NT regarding the "teaching" and "authority" issue.

      However, under the command of her mentor, she was corresponding with some brothers (seminary students and other male priests) through letters and it did give them great impact!! She did not "teach" them, but her sincere faith and dedication encouraged many brothers who read her letters and messages.

      But the fact is... everybody is different. So, I cannot copy-paste the way of Mary Kassian nor the way of Thérèse of Lisieux and this is the difficult aspect indeed!!

      Oh, by the way, here are some useful guidelines which Grudem made about womens' ministry. Have you read it before?
      "But What Should Women Do In The Church?"
      In Christ,

  4. Think this way. If "MR. Kassian"(a male teacher) taught things just like she teaches, what do you think would happen? I would say it would cause egalitarians get even sronger. They would say to Mr. Kassian, "You are feudal!" "You don't have a right to speak out on woman's stuff!" and so on. I think it's God's wisdom for a female complementarian teacher to do what Mrs. Kassian does.

    1. Dear bro. David. That's a great insight.For example, suppose you (instead of me) start to translate and publish HCM articles and testimonies on your blog. And let's suppose you also start to point out the un-biblicalness of the female pastors straightforwardly like I am doing...what would happen? Yes, as you predicted, you would be labeled as a feudal, sexist, patriarchist, oppressor, anti-women, religious dictator and so forth. So, as you said, it might be God's wisdom for complementarian sisters to do what Mrs. Kassian does. Thank you for your wisdom, bro.David.

  5. I read Mr. Grudem's list, " But What Should Women Do In The Church." There is one important verse which must be considered but is lacked in the list. It is 1 Corinthians 14:26. This verse speaks of the regular church meeting, and there Paul encourages both men and women to share teaching(doctrines). This on the surface seems to contradict 1 Timothy 2:12. But as Grudem says in the list, I think in 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul had eldership in mind. Notice only a few verses later, Paul begins to talk about the ordination regulations for eldership. So 1 Timothy 2:12 should be understood as "to teach as an elder." But 1 Corinthians 14:26 is not about eldership, and women are encouraged to share teaching regularly. Therefore by this argument we should change the border to draw the line in the area of teaching practice. Obviously it opens a door a bit wider for women to teach in a congregation.

    1. [A Response From A Complementarian Sister]*with her permission, I am going to quote her writing here;

      I have to admit, that after reading both passages from 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2, I didn't see that there was any basis for the commenter's claim.

      I didn't see that women are supposed to be quiet/submissive only in matters related to eldership, but can share in other "teaching" matters in a mixed-gender context. I just didn't.

      What I see in 1 Cor. 14, from a simple reading of the text and with my simple understanding, is that the male leadership is to judge prophesies, etc.; but, it is later clarified that women should have no part in that.

      So, in 1 Cor. 14, v. 29, it says, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge." But, continuing down through the passage, when we get to verse 34, it says, "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak." I believe verse 34 clarifies verse 29. Just in case folks start to think that by saying "others" in verse 29 Paul means ALL others, including women, he makes sure we understand that he means all others EXCEPT women.


      In 1 Tim. 2, I don't see that the context for women being silent is SOLELY "eldership." Paul starts out in chapter 1 by encouraging Timothy to "remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1:3). He then continues on by telling him to "wage the good warfare" (v. 18), and to oppose false doctrine having "faith and a good conscience" (v. 19).

      Then, he says in chapter 2 that in light of that, "THEREFORE" Timothy and other believers should pray for those in authority, in order that he and other believers might live a peaceable life and so that other people might be saved. Now, here's where it gets even clearer:

      There is only one way to be saved, Paul points out in vv. 3-7, and that is through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ. That's our aim in life, to point people to Him. Because of that, it is so important for us to pray. However, Paul mentions two specific forms of outreach: one related to men, and one related to women.

      Men are to "pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting"... (2:8)

      But speaking of women, Paul says, "in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation...with good works" (vv. 9-10). Next, he says, "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (vv. 11-12).

      After that, in chapter 3, Paul moves on to talk about qualifications for being an elder.

      So, men are to "pray EVERYWHERE, lifting up holy hands," which seems to indicate to my understanding a more public form of outreach, while the women, though they are to do "likewise," are at the same time admonished to be modest and silent, and to "learn."

      (continued to part 2)

    2. Both men and women must be involved in directing the eyes of others to the Lord, so that others can be saved. Men do this mainly by going OUT and praying EVERYWHERE, with all sorts of people, I imagine; women do this mainly by demonstrating modesty, good works, and respect for male leadership.

      Part of that outreach is "living peaceably with others." Men do this mainly by not having wrath/being angry with others, but by praying for them instead, with HOLY hands unblemished by sin. Women "live peaceably with others" mainly by being modest, good, and quiet. This makes so much sense.

      As we know, women have a tendency to be showy, attention-grabbing, immodest, loud, gossipy, and insecure in their femininity, thinking that it makes them weak to be soft or submissive. This sort of attitude creates envy, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and superficiality among women. Not to mention lust in the men. And that does NOT point others to Christ, nor does it lead to having peaceful relationships.

      Instead of women thinking they know everything and being bossy and telling everybody what to do, they need to "learn." In silence. This leads to unity, friendship, and greater potential for the truths of the gospel to be heard.

      The discussion about being an elder continues the point Paul started out with, that of the need for correct doctrine, and for keeping away from false teachings. Obviously, Timothy couldn't carry the load of leadership all by himself, but would need other men to help him; but first, they would need to be tested. Not just any man could be a leader in the church.

      Of course, the instruction on women keeping silent does indeed pave the way for the instruction on leadership, since it establishes that women are not to be the leaders. After establishing this, Paul develops the concept by telling us who ARE supposed to be the leaders, and what kind of men we should be looking for.

      Since the teaching on women being silent seems to be tied both to the "eldership" issue and the "outreach" issue, I would say that the take-away for us is meant to be that women are supposed to be "silent" in all sorts of situations in a general sort of way, not only as it relates to leadership, but to outreach, as well. We are in "outreach" situations at many times, not just at church.

      Of course, by "silent," are we talking about "never saying anything," or are we talking about "the sort of speaking that would involve teaching men and being in authority over them"? I think the latter makes more sense, since verse 12 says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority OVER A MAN, but to be in silence." Being OVER a man, I think, is the key for being able to understand these verses. However, I do believe, in keeping with other verses I've read, that women can share the gospel, give their testimony, praise the Lord with music and song, and speak to women on topics related mainly to women.

  6. Another thing I've been thinking is that in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul might have had articulation of the NT truths in mind. Preaching the word of God and discerning prophesies include articulating what is the truth and what is not. You see, in his days, they had no completed NT. All they knew was some of the apostolic teachings and the OT at large. So elders of each NT church needed to articulate the biblical truths in order to know God properly and to apply the truths to their daily lives. But women should not participate in the articulation. If they did that, it would obviously transgress the creation order. I think that was part of the reason Paul prohibited women to judge prophesies in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12.

  7. Thanks for your response, Kinuko. In fact, the church I was part of before was gifted with prophesy. Many of the members were practicing the gift, including my wife. In order to utilize the gift, we naturally needed to judge all the prophetical words we received. Because of this backdrop, I know well about the relationship between the prophecy and judging/discerning. This helps me to understand the background of 1 Corinthians 14:34.

    Also I have pioneered a so-called house church after I left the former chuch. This helps me to understand about the significance of 1 Corinthians 14:26. For at HC meetings we all participate in the meeting and open our mouths, and that includes women. It's not very difficult for me to imagine how the 1st century NT churches were like. There should have been no observer. All the attendants should have been contributors, in other words, speakers.

    God makes every experience work together for our good.

    1. Bro. David, thank you for your explanation. Yes, as I read the context closely, it does seem that women are to keep silent in connection with the evaluation of prophesies.

      And thank you for sharing with us your church experiences, including the prophecy and judging/discerning. Honestly, I don't know about this area very well and things which I don't know, it is better not to say anything. (If the Lord willing, I might know in the future...) God bless you and your sincere effort to live up to what the Bible actually says! It is so adorable and praiseworthy.