There’s two women on my mind today: Athaliah and Deborah. These two ladies of ancient history have challenged me. And I hope my sharing does something for you as well.
As many of you know, Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel and King Ahab.* Jezebel was famous for her wickedness, and Athaliah was raised to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She was manipulative and cunning and her ultimate goal was to control the known world of her time. Many have said that she ruled while her husband was alive, as well as for the time while her son ruled and even after that. She was a leader in Judah, and her leadership was not good.
Deborah is the only female judge of Israel. While there are lots of debates about Deborah, there is one thing for certain, she led Israel, and she led them well.
So what makes me think about these two women? Well, the both led Israel, each with different fates. In the end, one woman led the people to God and the other led people away from God. But I think that their methods and desires were what give us a lot more insight.
Athaliah was always struggling, always needing to control. She used her influence and authority to seek this control. In contrast, Deborah never wanted control. She was content to have influence. And I think it’s because she entered into leadership with one idea. Judges 5:7 tells us that she looked around at her, looked at the spiritual apathy of men, looked at the state of her home of Judah, and she “arose as a mother.”
I’m a mother. Let me tell you what “I arose as a mother” means. It means that she was concerned and she stepped in. Not to control the situation, but to invite God in. It means that she was scared, but she courageously and cautiously chose her words. It means that she knew that her affirmation meant life or death. It means that she knew that speaking life into the men was essential. And it also meant that she would sacrifice and not get credit.
Deborah understood that to have influence meant that she could give life, and that she could rely on God’s sovereignty. It’s something that Athaliah just never understood. And it’s something that challenges me as a woman seeking to be a woman of God.
*Some scholars think she was Ahab’s sister, but it doesn’t really matter what you view for the purposes of reading this. And I would believe strongly, given other text, that she is his daughter.