Holy Prophetess Deborah
One of the most clear ways that Deborah fulfills the role of a prophetess can be seen by just how much she embodies the God of Israel. The way Deborah’s judgments are given heavily implies that she’s the mouthpiece of Yahweh, given she doesn’t need to consult with Him in order to speak on His behalf (cf. Judg. 4:5-7). And Deborah’s association with Yahweh goes even deeper when it’s recognized that, just as Yahweh’s presence in the Ark of the Covenant was key to Israel’s prior military victories (Num. 10:33-34), so now is Deborah’s presence necessary for their successful conquest. This explains why Barak is so insistent on never leaving Deborah’s side, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judg. 4:8). This is because, “Deborah functions as the alter ego of Yahweh. Her very presence guarantees victory in the same manner as the presence of a divine emissary of Yahweh” (Gafney, “Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel,” pg. 91).
In this respect, Deborah is clearly being portrayed as a new Moses, to whom the Lord previously said, “I have made you God to Pharaoh” (Ex. 7:1), for which cause he was also a necessary component to Israel’s military success (cf. Ex. 17:8-13). This is further confirmed by the fact that, after defeating God’s enemies, Deborah and Barak sang a song to commemorate their victory (Judg. 5:1-31), reminding us of Moses and Miriam’s prophetic song in Exodus 15:1-18. Just as Moses was generally seen as “the father” of Israel (as was Elijah after his exodus-crossing of the Jordan, cf. 2 Kg. 2:12), so is Deborah shown to be “a mother in Israel” (Judg. 5:7), or more precisely, the mother of Israel. The main difference between her and Moses, of course, is the fact that she’s a woman, something that’s (almost redundantly) highlighted throughout the narrative. As such, Deborah seems to emphasize the maternal imagery surrounding Israel’s divine Protector that we saw in places like Deuteronomy 32:10-11.
With this understood, the echoes of Deborah in the NT’s portrait of our Lady become quite apparent. Just as Deborah was, in a sense, a stand-in for the Ark of the Lord, so does Luke 1 vividly portray Mary as the Ark who bears the personal presence of Yahweh in her womb. Likewise, just as Deborah was a military leader, so is Mary portrayed as a warrior of sorts, given she’s told “the Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28), something that was also said to great military leaders like Joshua (Josh. 1:9) and Gideon (Judg. 6:12). And of course, Deborah being the mother of Israel is ultimately fulfilled in Mary’s role as the mother of Jesus the new Israel, and His Body the Church.