Biblical People
Deborah. [Heb. Deborah, "bee."]

1. Rebekah's nurse, who went with her to Canaan. She either later returned to Haran and then followed Jacob back to Canaan or left Isaac's home and joined Jacob's family after their return from Haran, because we find her a member of Jacob's household at Bethel when she died. She must have been exceedingly old at that time. She was buried at the foot of the hill near the town, and the oak over her tomb was called Allon-bacuth, "oak of weeping" (Gen 24:59; 35:8).

2. A prophetess who judged Israel at a place called "the palm of Deborah" (Jgs 4:5, RSV) in the hill country of Ephraim between Ramah and Bethel. After the long oppression by the king of Hazor, Deborah called upon Barak and commissioned him to liberate Israel from the foreign yoke. She accompanied the army to battle, and later, with Barak, composed a victory hymn (Jgs 4:4-10; 5:1-31). This "Song of Deborah," a magnificent Hebrew poem, is generally considered one of the earliest examples of Israelite poetic literature. In its structure it shows close parallelism to ancient Canaanite poetic texts from Ugarit.

Lit.: W. F. Albright, JPOS 2 (1922), 69-86, 284, 285.

Sign Up for our Newsletter