This is not dealing with just the Judges 4:4 reference, already asked; but we see throughout that the word is translated "woman" or "offering by fire," especially in Leviticus. In fact, it looks like the translation there could be intimated that God wants a Woman for Sacrifice. I see why that would be a problem, but the etymology of that word, ishshah, does go back to "fire" and "offering," moreso than if a yud or nun was deleted by the dagesh of the shin or some other folk etymology to get the word "out of Man," "ish," which is merely an assonance similarity. I do see where the plurals look like the cognate 'nsh, however that doesn't explain why God may have been talking about sacrifice with "woman." After all, He "built" "her" or something in Genesis 2:22.
Welcome to the world of Hebrew homographs. אִשָּׁה, with a kamatz under the shin is "woman", and אִשֶּׁה with a segol under the shin is a sacrifice that was burnt in its entirety. The first is a simple noun, the second is a noun based on אֵשׁ, fire, with a suffix ה indicating "of". There is no etymological connection between these words despite the famous sayings in Jewish folklore linking אִשֶּׁה, אִשׁ and אֵשׁ. These word differ markedly in their pronunciation, אִשָּׁה sounding like i'Shoe and אִשֶּׁה sounding like i'Shaa. The accent is on the final vowel, so the difference is crystal clear.
In a text without Hebrew diacritics (vowel points) the context indicates which word is intended. There is no verse in the MT in which the meaning is in doubt regarding אשה. The MT is very clear about human sacrifice in any form, God doesn't want it and we don't do it.
In Judges 4:4, it is clear that "Deborah was a woman of prophecy, the woman of (wife of) Lapidot.
Regarding the phrase "before vowel points" in the OP question, I suspect that this indicates a common misconception regarding the fact that is often misleadingly presented as "the vowel points were added later, by the massoretes, in the sixth century, and are not part of the original text".
This presentation is misleading because it gives the impression that the consonantal text is open to wider interpretation without the vowels. Although the massoretes did canonize the diacritics of the MT in the sixth century in manuscript texts, they did so according to a zealously preserved oral tradition that is as old as the consonantal texts themselves. The books of the OT were recited orally in Jewish communities for centuries. This was the main method of transmission of the tradition. The pronunciation and intonation were key to transmission. In fact, there are very few verses in the OT where an alternative pointalization would make sense and fit the context.
Lapidoth. Lapid = torch, oth = sign (ot is a root word for fire across several languages). This does not pertain to the details of this conversation, but it does pertain to the essence of this story concerning the usage of a "fire" word. Deborah's husband is name Lapidoth/Lapidot. It would be interesting to research for more "fire" signs or words through out this passage and story.
I red: The Hebrew word for “woman” is אִשָּׁה (isha) and for “man” אִישׁ (ish). What is interesting, however, is that these two words, “man” אִישׁ (ish) and “woman” אִשָּׁה (isha), although they sound similar do not share a common Hebrew root. The word אִישׁ (ish) comes from the root אִוֵּשׁ, connoting “strength”, while the word אִשָּׁה (isha) comes from the root אֲנָשׁ (anash), meaning “fragile”...
But I do have serious doubt... It seems as the nun leads to an other root I found in the Gesenius that ישה could mean "assist" - "support" Which make sense in the context of the entire Bible.