Week 9 Make

The text for this week was Judges 5:2-Judges 5:31a. This passage is entitled: Deborah’s Song.

1) Who wrote this, why did they write, and when did they write it?

It is not known who the author of the passage is; based on the passage the author gives the account almost as if it were a narrative and the author was witness to the scenes taking place. Carol Myers, however, reminds us that oftentimes the authors of these texts were not witnesses to the event and were instead writing it down many years after the event occurred, for some, they may not have even been alive when the events took place (presuming they did). Secondly, after the last line of the passage, there is an aside of sorts that says “and the land was peaceful for forty years.” We do not know if this amount of time is accurate, we do not know if the length of time the author is referring to is meant to be a length of time, or if it is metaphorical. However, the mention of time passing, whether metaphorical or not suggests that there was a length of time between when the events occurred (if they occurred) and this passage being copied down.

The exact date of the document is unknown, however according to Bandstra, if we accept the traditional dates of Exodus being written (early to mid 1200’s BCE), then the Book of Judges would have occurred between 1200 and 1100 BCE. Bandstra also states that there is evidence that during this time there was unrest in Canaan. According to Myers, this would be a secondary source, at best. She states that events in the Hebrew Bible may not have taken place or at least did not take place in the form in which they are presented to us. Rather, this portrayal could have been to teach a lesson, ward off enemies, etc.

2) Does this source show bias? Are there other points of view? If so, how?:

According to Myers, biblical storytellers were not concerned with getting the information factually correct, rather they were concerned about making some sort of point or getting some sort of information across to their audience. Paula McNutt also makes the point that the biblical narratives were written in a sociopolitical time and they should not be taken out of that when doing an analysis on them. Based upon the points both of these scholars raise, when I reread the passage it became clear to me that there was some sort of bias in the source, but I am not sure what the bias exactly is. On the one hand, verse 31 says “May all your enemies perish like this, Lord!” Taking this verse out of context, it would seem that the author was a sympathizer to the Israelites. However, the author seems to consistently make known that Jael was a woman and calls her “blessed above all women” for her contribution by killing Sisera. In a patriarchal society, it is very interesting that the credit is allowed to go to a woman, granted the author might not have used a man, because for the storyline it would not make sense that Sisera would seek shelter with a man and would feel comfortable enough to fall asleep.

3) What can I learn from this?

This document is a great example of the point Myers was trying to convey: the biblical narrative may not be historically accurate, because it was being written down to convey a message or point to the audience. I think this is a great lesson to learn from the narrative that can also be applied to everyday life. How many times do we hear different slants of stories from news media. During a big, emotional event some news media outlets interview survivors or family members or first responders. Others, give just the facts, still others, take the approach of looking to cast blame and pulling some small thing from the event to make it a divisive issue, and there are those who refuse to report on the event all together. At first, reading this text it would appear that one could take it at face value and accept that the events occurred like they were written. However, that would be taking the original intention of the author away from the story. I can’t help but think of the some of the conversations I have had with people in some of the country churches I have pastored that are adamant that Moses wrote the Book of Exodus. I politely (or so I think) remind them that Moses died in the Book of Exodus. There are some out there that still think some sort of Zombie Apocalypse happened and Moses wrote the Book, but that is a rant for another day.

4) Overall, what is the main idea of the passage?

The main idea of this document appears to be that Israel was victorious and YHWH was happy with the people. We also see the mention of two women who were integral parts of the story and were named throughout the passage.

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3 thoughts on “Week 9 Make

  1. Daniel Nguyen says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. It was concise and insightful. You engaged very well with the materials of the class to present and softly argue for your stand. Like most parts of the book of Judges, this passage is designed to tell the heroic tale of someone, and it is about Deborah, an Israelite heroine. It is entitled Deborah’s Song. The author(s) of Judges are unknown to us, and many of the stories have a northern kingdom setting and then were included into the all-Israel story after this kingdom was destroyed. In the linguistic analysis, this narrative of Deborah appears to be one of the oldest pieces written or composed in the Hebrew Bible (Bandstra, p. 231, 235).

    I found it interesting that you mentioned the folks in your church believed Moses wrote the book of Exodus. I think not only your folks but also a lot of other folks think so as they are taught that the Pentateuch is attributed to Moses, and Exodus is part of it. I think that’s why we are here learning at seminary and should go back and teach them in a correct way. The Bible is not necessarily historically accurate, but it conveys a comprehensive message from God to man. Our task is to study it critically in order to understand and interpret what God means for humanity to be in connection with its Creator via nature, intellect, experience and his inspired word, called the scriptures.

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  2. Great post and great insight! I really appreciate how you tied Myers’ work into the analysis. Well done!

    I’d like to suggest another bias for your consideration: the author appears to me to be biased toward the tribes of Israel, casting those that joined the fight against the Canaanites in a positive light and those that abstained in a negative light.

    One aspect of this week’s assignment that I found so interesting is that this passage, Deborah’s song, is truly a piece of literature vs. history. More specifically, it is a victory hymn, similar in form and content to the victory hymns seen in the surrounding nations (e.g., Mesopotamia; credit New Interpreter’s Study Bible for this insight). It changes my whole feeling about the text when I recognize that it was written for a purpose decidedly different than conveying historical facts.

    One last shout out to you…I hadn’t mentally compared this passage to today’s media yet. I think it’s really interesting to look at what is reported, how it is reported, and perhaps what does not get covered! What a great way to bring questions from our modern world into the Hebrew Bible. Thanks for sharing! -D.

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  3. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I appreciated your depth of resources and your thoughtful answers to the questions regarding this text.

    I appreciate your reference to Myers’ ideas about history – “the biblical narrative may not be historically accurate, because it was being written down to convey a message or point to the audience” – in terms of how history can be used to convey a deeper ‘truth’ than what might have actually happened. I find this helps to make sense of many of the narrative passages in the Hebrew scriptures.

    Your comparison to the media is an excellent one. I find myself wondering in that regard what set various biases for the messages being communicated through the historical genre in these scriptural texts. Did they have political overtones? Or were they being used more often to convey religious ideas? Certainly there is evidence of both of these, but I wonder what other biases there were.

    Thanks again for the excellent post!

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