[b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

Dora Smith villandra at austin.rr.com
Sun Nov 13 14:28:53 EST 2011

My church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, so I bet a lot of people
read atleast part of the story of Deborah in church this morning.   At my
church, the lesson left off where we're waiting with baited breath to learn
what is going to happen once Deborah draws the enemy to them, so of course I
picked up the Bible and reviewed the rest of the story, especially since the
sermon took up the theme that the master was right to throw the servant who
merely kept the master's money safe to the outer darkness.  How to make sure
the woman sitting in the pew in front of the pulpit has her nose buried in a


-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Dora Smith
Sent: Sunday, November 13, 2011 1:18 PM
To: jimstinehart at aol.com; b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

OF COURSE the Song of Deborah was written in the post-exilic period like the
entire rest of the foundation of the Old Testament.   

It is believed to have been passed down from a much earlier point in time.
The middle eastern archeologist who taught my Hebrew class said it was
typical of the poetry in that region at that time to have the kind of
strange, repetitive phrasing used in the Song of Deborah.   

We could drop dead in astonishment if some 5th century author didn't rewrite
the poem in the "living" language of his time.  I don't know why every race
of humanity that has ever lived has been innately inclined to do that,
especially when the original writing was superior poetry.  So it would be
odd if not a single later language feature appears in the poem.   

Very little was not redacted at that time in terms of the concerns of the
religious and political agenda of the people who shaped the Pentateuch as it
was handed down.   

I read the song (in English) in church this morning, as the lesson was from
the beginning of that chapter.  You will readily notice that the poem is not
even internally consistent.  Several poems could have been merged together.
The poem depicts Deborah singing at herself to get up!   Deborah is the
speaker in the poem, but by the end of it we have "Arise, arise, Deborah".

Some parts of the poem make no sense at all if they were written in the 5th
century, such as questioning why the tribe of Dan stayed by its ships.  In
the 5th century noone had any memory of what was behind that.  The golden
calf episode, though instigated by the tribe of Dan, was about something
very different.  Only in the 20th century have we recovered the information
that Dan was a sea people, actually refugees from Hittite/ Luwian territory.
They were late in joining the tribes of Israel.   I think that fact is
preserved in the timing with which they even come to be listed among the
tribes of Israel and sons of whoever.  Their religion was Indo-European,
hence the attachment to worshipping cattle.  Dan's loyalty to Israel was
always problematic, particularly during the time of the Judges. 


-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of
jimstinehart at aol.com
Sent: Sunday, November 13, 2011 7:15 AM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

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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