Bible Study

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

Deborah - The First Woman Pastor

by Dr. Reve' M. Pete

The question of women in ministry has long been a controversial one. Should women assume the office of pastor? A look at the life and ministry of the Old Testament prophetess, Deborah will shed light on the answer to this question.


After the death of Joshua, the Israelites forsook the Lord and followed other gods. Because of this, God allowed other nations to oppress them. Grieved by their oppression, the Israelites cried out to God. As a result of their cry, God raised up judges to deliver them. (Judges 2:7-8) Deborah was one of those judges. She was both a judge and a prophetess. (Judges 4:4)


The word prophet comes from the Hebrew word navi. It means “a speaker of oracles, one who [is] activated by a divine Spirit”. A prophet of God is authorized to speak for God. He or she does not speak his own words, but what he or she hears from God. He announces a message at God’s direction [and discretion]. A prophet is a preacher. Therefore, Deborah was a preacher.

The word judge comes from the Hebrew word shaphat. It means “one who governs, decides matters and pronounces sentences”. It also means, “to administer the right to rule”. In Israel, judges ruled between the times of Joshua and Samuel. Judges decided matters, pronounced sentences, governed equitably and kept the land free of injustice.

The Hebrew word for judge is comparable to the Greek word kubernesis. It means “government or dictatorship”. (1 Corinthians 12:28) It also means “one who rules with diligence”. (Romans 12:8) The word kubernesis is the same as the Greek word episkopeo, which means “taking the oversight”. (1 Peter 5:2)


The words kubernesis and episkopeo, used in the New Testament, refer to the function of the office of pastor or bishop. Therefore, judges in Israel were comparable to New Testament pastors. Hence, Deborah was an Old Testament pastor.


Hayford, Jack W., ed. Spirit-Filled Life Bible. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

Zodhaites, Spiros, ed. The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible. King James Version. Red Letter Edition. World Bible Publishers.

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