Judges 5:30

George Athas gathas at mail.usyd.edu.au
Mon Sep 27 18:31:01 EDT 1999


Henry Churchyard wrote:

> [...] I
> fail to see how a lexical contrast of _rah.am_ vs. _na`arah_ would be
> relevant to this.  The main meaning of _na`arah_ is "marriageable but
> unmarried woman", and so would apply to neither Jael nor Deborah;
> while the main meaning of _rah.am_ seems to be "woman as seen from a
> reductionist/objectified male viewpoint" (just as the main meaning of
> the English word "earthling" is "inhabitant of the planet earth as
> seen from a (hypothetical) alien viewpoint"), so that _rah.am_ doesn't
> necessarily contain imputations about inherent moral character (unlike
> some words which you proposed as possible English translations).

That's, in essence, my point. The root N(R does imply inexperience. Therefore, when it's
applied to the word _na`arah_, it implies a girl who has had no sexual experience - ie, a
girl who is not yet married but ready to be married. The fact that _raxam_ is used, rather
than _na`arah_ in Jdg 5:30 means that we cannot apply the nuance of _na`arah_ to the word
here. _Raxam_ obviously refers to "women", but the exact nuance of the word escapes us. I
think, though, that understanding the irony of the poem in regards to Ya`el may well
elucidate the nuance. If we are permitted to see Ya`el as a type of _raxam_ (from the
perspective of Sisera's mother's attendants) then we can pretty much get the connotation
as it's intended in Jdg 5. Ya`el's actions suggest that, on the surface, she is
promiscuous or at least a willing participant with Sisera. We know better, though. So,
from the perspective of the attendants, that "wench" that Sisera is supposed to have
cavorted with after the battle turns out to be much more than your average "bimbo". She
ended up being a major headache to Sisera! I think we can get these connotations from the
literary mechanics of the poem. _Raxam_ is, after all, a rare word.

Best regards!
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GEORGE ATHAS
 Dept of Semitic Studies,
 University of Sydney
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