Song of Deborah

Song of Deborah

No Exodus, No Moses, No Joshua Mentioned

As important as the texts claimed to contain germ verses about a supposed “historical” exodus are various records of relevant eras devoid of such tales. For example, along with Psalm 78—which attributes the miracles in the Exodus account to Yahweh himself and never mentions Moses—a peculiar lack of the Exodus in the literary record occurs in the biblical book of Judges, which purports to record the first organized era after the Israelites’ arrival in Canaan. Moses and Joshua barely are mentioned in Judges, only briefly in order to give some “historical” basis.

Part of Judges (5:2–31), the “Song of Deborah” recounts the conquest of peoples in Canaan by the Israelites, representing a summary of germane themes in the Pentateuch. However, the actual foundational story itself is never mentioned in any specifics. Like the Song of the Sea, Deborah’s ditty contains anachronisms such as victory over the Edomites, reflecting once more the enemies of Hezekiah and Josiah centuries later.

The date of Deborah’s song has been estimated to be 1200 to 900 BCE, making it very old and predating the Hebrew script. The older date is based on internal evidence only, such as linguistic forms, the supposed “history” it contains and when Deborah purportedly lived (c. 1200–c. 1124/1067 BCE), according to the biblical chronology. In reality, these older linguistic forms could represent archaicisms from an underlying oral tradition, originally Canaanite, since they evidently were in existence before the emergence of Hebrew as a separate Semitic dialect.

No Moses or Joshua in Song

Neither of Israel’s purported national founders, Moses and Joshua, are included in Deborah’s song about Canaan’s conquest.

The limited discussion in Judges of Moses, the purported divine lawgiver who allegedly appointed Israel’s first judges, is very strange. Throughout the text, there were many opportunities that, had the writer known of the Exodus story and Moses’s receipt of the law on Mt. Sinai, he or she would have surely brought up these significant miraculous events. 

Moreover, the song contradicts or differs from a number of reputed “facts” in the preceding chapter 4 of Judges; hence, one or both of these accounts could not be historically accurate.

No Evidence of the Exodus

2 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you,      Judges 2:1

In the entire book, there are only a few references to Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, as at Judges 2:1.  There remains no extant, corroborating archaeological, or literary evidence for the existence of Israelites in any meaningful manner during Deborah’s purported time period.

Also, Deborah’s song provides no evidence of the Exodus event, which, if she were truly the great heroine of a mere generation later, is inexplicable. As Scholar Oblath points out:

...the Song of Deborah mentions nothing about an exodus from Egypt. Nor does the text say anything concerning Moses, nor a war waged between YHWH and Pharaoh. In short, the song does not describe how Israel arrived inside the land of Canaan. Given no biblical account of an exodus, such an event could not be concluded, or even inferred, from the text in Judges.

If genuinely ancient, the Deborah poem would represent only a repeated tradition of Israel in Canaan and would not prove any of the events of the Exodus.

Sisera and the Chariots of Iron

An example of where Moses surely would be recalled, were the Exodus historical and had involved the patriarch, can be found in the account of the Canaanite general Sisera’s defeat. In this story, Yahweh routes Sisera and his 900 “chariots of iron” (Jdg 5:15), a scene reminiscent of the Red Sea drowning of the pharaoh and his army in chariots. Yet, the writer of Judges appears to be oblivious to this important and decisive moment in Israel’s alleged history.

Instead, the figure of Samson is the book’s most famous hero, defeating the Philistines, into whose hands the Israelites had been delivered for 40 years (Jdg 13:1), the familiar length of time used repeatedly in the Exodus story. Samson may have been the epithet of a local solar, fertility and wine-vine god at Timnah, in the vineyards of which the hero kills a lion, to discover a beehive full of honey inside the animal (Jdg 14:5–9). It should be evident that this implausible tale does not reflect a historical event.

Astral Symbolism

The Song of Deborah has been analyzed as reflecting astral religion or astrotheology, focusing on the pericope (Jdg 5:20) which states that the stars were part of the victorious Israelite army:

From heaven fought the stars, from their courses they fought against Sis′era

עם־סיסרא נ ׃ מ לחמו ה מסלותם נ כוכבים מ לחמו ן־שמים

Here the Hebrew word for “heaven” is  שמים shamayim,369 the same term used to describe the “sky” as well as “God’s heaven,” along with the sky deities in Canaanite myth, previously noted. Shamayim appears over 400 times in the Old Testament, including at Isaiah 47:13, combined with the verb  הבר habar, “to divide,” indicating “astrologers.” The Hebrew term for “stars” in this passage is  כוכב kowkab, also used in conjunction with another word,  חזה chozeh, “seer,” to indicate “stargazers.” (Is 47:13) The same term  כוכב kowkab is employed to denote the “star of Messiah” or “star out of Jacob” (Num 24:17).

This story follows on the heels of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, which is demonstrably fictional and is omitted from Judges, and there is little reason to suspect that the song of Deborah itself is historical.

Nonhistoricity of Deborah

In this regard, Deborah herself may represent not an ancient historical personage but a mythical character, possibly a demoted goddess or anthropomorphized divine epithet. This sort of mythmaking turning tribal gods into demigods, heroes, patriarchs, prophets, elders, saints, disciples and so on was common in antiquity, as cultures and ethnicities merged, and as monotheistic supremacism or henotheism were developed.

Massey equates Deborah, along with her seven princes and companions, with the “goddess Seven” of Egypt:

Deborah was the first, the primordial Word, the oracle of the beginning, identical as such with Tep (Eg.), the tongue, and Teb, a name of Typhon, the living Word; one with Wisdom of the seven pillars, and Arke of the beginning. Her name also identifies Deborah with the north, or hinder part. Before her time, we are told that the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through the byways. There was no celestial chart, no roads mapped out, no inhabitants in heaven. Hers was the time of the SHEPHT, the judges (princes) the seven companions who are the Elohim of Genesis, whose judgment-seat was the mount, and who rode on white asses. Following Deborah, “They chose new gods; there was war in the gates.” [Jdg 5:8] Hers was the reign of Peace. Hept (Khept) means peace and plenty. Hers was the time when mankind were of one tongue, the golden age associated with the name of Sut or Saturn.

Her consort is Lapidoth ( ,)לפידות the lightner; his name signifies lightnings. Another Hero is Barak, whose name has the same meaning. Barak is Sutekh; Bar the Son, the Ar, is one of Sut’s names. Sutekh or Barak was the glorious war-god, fierce as fire, the fulminator against the powers of darkness, one of the first, as the star Sothis and son of the Sabean mother, to pass through the Hades of death...370

Massey was of the opinion that, like much else in the Bible, this story takes place not on earth but in the heavens, in emulation of Egyptian myth. The number seven, it should be recalled, frequently represented in antiquity the Pleiades or “Seven Sisters.”

The Bee Goddess

Deborah also may be the bee goddess who came with the tribe of Issachar when the early Iron Age hill settlements were established.371 Honey, it should be noted, was a “substance of resurrection-magic,” with the dead embalmed in it and “ready for rebirth.”372 In this regard, independent scholar of mythology Barbara G. Walker relates:

Myths presented many symbolic assurances that the Goddess would restore life to the dead through her magic “bee-balm.” Worshippers of Demeter called her “the pure mother bee,” and at her Thesmophoria festivals displayed honey-cakes shaped like female genitals. The symbol of Aphrodite at Eryx was a golden honeycomb. Her priestess bore the name of Melissa, “Queen Bee,” the same as the Jewish Queen Deborah, priestess of Asherah, whose name also meant “bee.”373

Elsewhere Walker states:

“Queen Bee,” a ruler of Israel in the matriarchal period, bearing the same name as the Goddess incarnate in early Mycenaean and Anatolian rulers as “the Pure Mother Bee.” Deborah lived under a sacred palm tree that also bore her name, and was identified with the maternal Tree of Life, like Xikum, the Tree of Ishtar. The Bible
called her a “prophetess” or “judge” to disguise the fact that she was one of the governing matriarchs of a former age (Judges 4:4).

One of Deborah’s alternate names was Jael, “the Goddess Jah,” possibly the same one patriarchal Persians called “Jahi the Whore,” an earlier feminine form of Yahweh.374

Writing about Jael (Jdg 4:22), Walker further states:

“Wild She-Goat,” alternate name for the Israelite queen Deborah as a mate of the scapegoat-god, Baal-Gad or Pan, Ja-El was the same as the Persians’ primal Goddess Jahi, adopted by tribal queens of the pre-patriarchal period. Jael sacrificed Sisera in a strange way, nailing his head to the ground (Judges 4:21), which may be likened to the priestess of Artemis Tauropolis nailing the heads of their victims to crosses.375

Fig. 33. Jael killing Sisera. (Speculum Humanae Salvationis, c. 1360)

Concerning the Persian goddess Jahi the Whore, Walker comments:

Oddly enough, some of the earliest forms of the name of the Jewish God seem to have been masculinized versions of the name of Jahi. Variations include Jahu, Jah, Yahu, Iau, Jaho. Some myths indicate that this God like Ahriman once had a serpent form and may have played the part of the Great Mother’s serpent.376

The emergence of Yahweh as perhaps a masculinization of the old Persian serpent and fertility goddess Jahi is significant, as is his possible early role as the serpent of the Goddess.

As part of her magical and godly attributes, Walker contends, Jael/Deborah was said to “cast victory spells” for the Israelites (Jdg 4:8). She was said also to rule for 40 years, another usage of the ubiquitous number 40, discussed below.

 

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