Composition of the Song of Deborah

0 Comment

Ackroyd, who mainly comments on the authenticity of the historical facts, starts his essay by pointing out the differences between the prose that narrates the story in logical sequences and the poetry, that picks up only the special, particularly selected scenes, both, according to him, are not unnatural and unprecedented. He mentions Carrington’s article that talks about King Alfred who as a fugitive was reprimanded by the farmer for allowing the cakes to burn in his royal preoccupations. He agrees with Carrington’s argument that in medieval times there was hardly any demarking line between the fact and fiction and it is difficult to authentically agree if such a situation ever arose during King Alfred’s fugitive status. Ackroyd finds the relevance of these points with the Song of Deborah and its study because poetry always picks up important points and leaves the rest. Another reason is that a period of a century lies in between the event and its poetical formation.
According to Gerlaman the date is an ‘unconfirmed presumption’ although the poem sounds rather primitive with its tribal sketches of scenes with Jael, Sisera and Sisera’s mother. The eye witness accounts might have been exaggerated or colourised. According to his visualisation of the battle, the stage was Israel in Canaan and the poetic glorification of Yahweh and over the years, accounts must have changed, diminished, improved upon, and hope for factual accounts dwindles. He feels that a more scientific historian might have tried to reconstruct the scene later dropping the unwanted elements out of it giving more coherence to certain dull points.
He argues that the song should be viewed as a preserver of traditions instead of trying to make it a historical and well-authenticated document. It is not possible to derive exact history of events from this song because the writer himself was confused between the Sisera of the tradition and the captain of Jabin of Hazer’s army. Still, the poem is invaluable as a document that could evidence for the days of the writer, and that means only one century this way of the real event.
This view is not accepted by all. According to Globe (1974), Song of Deborah is a literary unity. "The poem has a carefully composed structure employing a significant number of recurring literary forms. No detail of the subject matter is out of place in a victory ode of the late second millennium near East" (511).
Answering various contradictions about the literary context, recently Labuschagne said: "Like the poems in Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 32, the Song of Deborah in Judges 5 is an embedded hymn. It is not an inset hymn, because there is no indication whatsoever that the poem had a previous setting from which it was transferred and inserted into its present context" and mostly the scholars are agreeable with this context now.
The story of this fiery female judge who could prophesy, who is also hailed as the Mother of Israel, told once in prose and then in poetry in the book of judges, also tells that she was not a queen, but was equally respected and moved in the male-dominated world of arguably eighth century BC. In the patriarchal set up, this capable woman rises to tell that Israelites are not forgotten by God and guides them during an acute hour of need. Gerleman also says: "The emotional colouring, the ethos which irradiates the Song of Deborah and gives it an inner uniformity has a two-fold source, viz. the fusion of