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Unwarranted criticisms by evangelical scholars of Deborah’s leadership in Judg 4–5 continue to devalue her work as “abnormal,” “wrong,” something done only in private or even in subservience to Barak. Some rabbinical scholars go so far as to brand her an arrogant woman who deserves God’s punishment. In contrast, this paper argues that a close reading of her story and song reveals an ’eshet hayil, a “woman of valor” (cf. Ruth 3:11, Prov 12:4, 31:10). This is evident not only in the direct references to her, but also in the narratives regarding her associates Barak and Jael.

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Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)

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No one says the word “failure” out loud, of course. No one would dare. But when marriage is the ideal that everyone is working toward, anything that falls short feels like you did something wrong.

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Recently, I was invited to participate in a panel on singleness at a Christian conference. I shared my experience as a single woman pastor and how single clergy can feel isolated in a church culture where marriage is the default. It was the first time since university that I had an honest, direct, public conversation about singleness in the church. 

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It is crucial that we women who don’t fit into the church’s too-neat “happily ever after” narrative share our stories. Because God sees our struggles and the church should too.

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Paul laments that the demands of family distract from serving the Lord; we teach that service to the Lord and the demands of family are one and the same. 

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As a single Christian woman in leadership, I often find that people are curious about my marital status.

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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.

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Fostering Relationships and Dialogue with Complementarian Friends: "My friend confided in me because she was 'tired — no, exhausted — of being single.'” 

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