Questions From Readers
● In view of Judges 4:4, can Deborah be viewed as one of the judges of ancient Israel, along with Samson, Gideon and others?
The Bible account at Judges 4:4 reads: “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that particular time.” Earlier, the account at Judges 2:16 says: “Jehovah would raise up judges, and they would save them out of the hand of their pillagers.” Thus the main work of a judge would be to save Israel from their enemies. It appears, then, that the phrase at Judges 4:4 about Deborah “judging Israel at that particular time” does not mean that Deborah was usurping the place of a man and that she was fulfilling all the duties of a judge in Israel. Unlike Samuel, Gideon or other judges she did not judge all Israel and act as their deliverer or “savior.” In fact, at Nehemiah 9:27 the term “saviors” is used rather than “judges.”—Compare Judges 3:9, 15.
Being a prophetess, Deborah told Barak what Jehovah’s will was in the matter. She was used by Jehovah to call Barak to serve as judge for the overthrow of the enemy. Barak served as the “savior” provided by Jehovah, not Deborah, although Barak asked that Deborah go with him. So it is most unlikely that Deborah performed all the duties usually associated with the office of a judge in Israel, the most prominent of which was leading the tribes in warfare against Jehovah’s enemies.
Thus, while Deborah can properly be described as a prophetess, it is only in a general sense that she was doing a measure of judging in Israel; she was not taking the full place of a male judge in Israel. Judges 4:5 says: “She was dwelling under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the mountainous region of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel would go up to her for judgment.” As for the matter of giving the Israelites Jehovah’s answer to difficult problems that would come up, this she could do because of Jehovah’s spirit being upon her.
In contrast, Barak certainly was one who effected deliverance for the Israelites. The reasonable conclusion to draw is that Barak was a judge in the full sense of the word, and this is in accord with Hebrews 11:32, where he ranks among the judges of ancient Israel. Thus the book Aid to Bible Understanding, on page 980, in listing the judges of Israel, does not include Deborah.
● Does the missing of Christian meetings in itself constitute an unforgivable sin, since, at Hebrews 10:24-29, the apostle Paul speaks of this sin right after discussing the importance of meetings?
Failure to heed the command to attend Christian meetings is serious and could lead to disastrous consequences for a servant of Jehovah. However, more is involved in committing the unforgivable sin.
Reading the full 10th chapter of Hebrews will be helpful in understanding the matter. The apostle first points out that sacrifices under the Law provided no forgiveness of sins, but were a shadow of good things to come, involving the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jehovah provided Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice to take away sins. This is a specific provision of the “new covenant.” The apostle gives encouragement to “hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering.” (Heb. 10:23) How can this be done? He points out the necessity of gathering together regularly to incite to fine works, not giving in to the custom of some to slight Christian meetings. Rather, we should be attending such meetings “all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb 10 Vs. 25.
It is in this setting that the apostle continues: “For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition. Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified?”—Heb. 10:26-29.
Hence, the conjunction “for” that begins the paragraph at Heb 10 verse 26 is not just a connective to the exhortation to attend Christian meetings, but ties back to all that is said prior thereto. One must accept God’s way of salvation through Christ and continue to appreciate this provision, while having in mind that the attending of meetings is one of the ways Jehovah has provided to keep one strong in faith and active in good works. That this is the case is further confirmed by what the apostle says in Heb 10 verse 29, where he shows what punishment is due one who “has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified.”
So we should not discuss Hebrews 10:24, 25 out of its setting and imply that failure to attend the meetings regularly is in itself what the apostle is talking about in discussing those who commit the unforgivable sin. Of course, when a person has “the custom” of not attending the meetings, he is working against his own spiritual interests and is in grave danger of growing weak in faith and becoming inactive in Christian works. This, in turn, could lead to a person’s actually denying or not taking seriously the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his thus losing out on everlasting life.
The sin mentioned at Hebrews 10:26-29 does not apply to one from which the sinner is able to repent in sincere grief, appealing to God through Jesus for divine mercy. The sinner has actually renounced the Son of God as his savior and esteemed his sacrifice as having no redeeming value.—Compare Hebrews 6:4-6.
Such a person is sinning against accurate knowledge and the operation of God’s holy spirit, and there is no possibility of his repenting and availing himself of God’s provision for salvation through Christ. God has made no other means available for saving such a willful sinner.