For egalitarians, the book of Judges clearly demonstrates God’s approval of women leaders. Yet many who view women’s leadership as unbiblical dismiss the pattern of God-affirmed female authority in Judges.
1 Peter 3 is a tricky passage. It’s often been twisted to pressure abused women to stay with their husbands as a sign of submission. But this passage is not meant to subject women to fear or violence; it is supposed to encourage primary loyalty to Christ, not to husbands.
If we want to see women free, we have to challenge the message that passivity is godly. We have to encourage women to boldly exercise their God-given authority. We must image Bible women who took direct action to further God’s vision for the world.
Christians who struggle to believe that God would intentionally appoint a woman to lead often argue that Deborah was chosen because no men stepped up to fill the role of judge. But the text does not support this.
There are several passages in the New Testament that list the spiritual gifts believers receive for the purpose of building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). Much has been written about these lists and their implications, particularly for how we ought to recognize and understand spiritual gifts in the church.
Hebrews 11 is widely known as a chapter that acclaims the men and women heroes of the faith—powerful, bold, and courageous. Led by that strong faith, these heroes "shut the mouths of lions," "conquered kingdoms," and "quenched the fury of the flames."
I have always admired Deborah. She is a woman, but she embodies both “traditionally” male and female characteristics. She just doesn’t fit into stereotypical boxes of masculinity and femininity. Further, Deborah’s relationship with Barak is a beautiful picture of biblical equality that I deeply appreciate—as well as both leaders’ relationships with their communities.
Many times the leadership of certain women in the Bible is deemphasized because they are in conflict with a pervading thought concerning what women can and cannot do. One notable woman who has needed some explanation from those who say women cannot lead is Judge Deborah.
What the example of Deborah reveals about gender authority: As women have gained increased influence in society, and as Bible scholars offer a consistent egalitarian interpretation of Scripture, gender traditionalists have had to work harder and more creatively to justify the subordination of women within the church and family—even to themselves.