[b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Nov 13 08:14:31 EST 2011

Based on its substantive content and the nature of its proper names, I myself see the Song of Deborah in chapter 5 of Judges as being a 12th century BCE composition that reflects the peculiar circumstances in Canaan in the 13th and 12th centuries BCE.  That has long been the majority view:

“A broad and longstanding consensus of modern biblical scholars holds that the so-called Song of Deborah in Judg. 5.2-31a…‘may be one of the most ancient works of the Hebrew Bible’.  Studies and commentaries, including those published in this century, overwhelmingly either argue or assume that this text came into being, as a whole or in part, in the eleventh or even twelfth century BCE….  Modern studies and commentaries routinely claim that the sociohistorical situation presupposed by Judg. 5.2-31a is that of the eleventh or twelfth century BCE….”  Serge Frolov, “How Old Is the Song of Deborah?”, JSOT, Vol. 36.2 (2011), pp. 163-164, 175.

The above-cited article, however, argues for a very late dating of the Song of Deborah.  Here’s the abstract for this controversial article:

“The article challenges the conventional view of the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5.2-31a) as an originally independent composition from the pre-monarchic period (twelfth or eleventh century BCE).  Based on a comprehensive examination of the fragment’s internal parameters (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, intertextual links, outlook, and agenda) as well as of the external conditions of its production and circulation, the article argues that the Song of Deborah best qualifies as a late pre-exilic, exilic, or early post-exilic piece and an integral part of the Deuteronomistic corpus.”

The article makes no analysis whatsoever [none] of the fascinating names in the Song of Deborah:  Shamgar, Ben Anat, Heber, Jael.  Thus the article never asks the most important question I would ask:  How on earth could an “early post-exilic piece” come up with the proper names that appear in chapter 5 of Judges?  Were post-exilic Jews capable of effortlessly coming up with a non-Semitic personal name like Shamgar that is redolent of the Late Bronze Age?

1)  How old do people on the b-hebrew list think the Song of Deborah is?

2)  In determining the date of composition of the Song of Deborah, how much weight, if any, should be given to the proper names in the received text?

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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