The song of Deborah is one of the most obscure parts of the Bible, and it may be one of the oldest. It celebrates the victory of God over Sisera. This victory was brought about by a sudden downpour that made it impossible for the chariots to move.
Judges 5.1-31

One of the most meaningful survival of the music from biblical times is it's lyrical material. The Bible gives no specific indications of actual melodies used in ancient times and only random references to range and character of the music, musical patterns and musical instruments.

Tradional music of Israel began in the premonarchic period. Israel's ancestors are portrayed as semi nomadic, traveling great distances within territorial boundaries looking for suitable grazing land and watering places for their herds of sheep and goats. This search ignited many conflicts and their disputes over territory are reflected in their war songs. ranging from shouts associated with the banner (Exodus 17:16) and with the ark (Numbers 10: 35-36) to the skillfully composed Song of Deborah. The purpose of the brief war shouts was to identify members of a tribe within their own groups.

The archeological record of random destruction correlates with the picture of political chaos that prevailed in the era of Judges. The miraculous victory over Canaanite chariots celebrated in the archaic Song of Deborah from Judges 5 may be the explanation of the destruction of the sites Taanach, when Megiddo was occupied and Tel Qedesh around 1123 BCE.

Most of Judges and 1 Samuel are centered around the conflicts between the Israelites and the Philistines living along the coast over the territory between them called Shephelah Evidence of the Philistine Temple overthrown by Samson (Judges 16:29) came to light with the discovery of such a temple with two column bases at Tell el-Qasile.

The book of Judges is a powerful story of Joshua's once powerful nation on a spiritual roller coaster-- at least six trips down into sin followed by invasion and conquest, and a string of courageous judges who took charge and led the Isrealites back to God and independence. These judges were volunteer military men who won victories for the Israelites, who were asked to hear cases and rule over certain areas. Guerrilla fighter Ehud, a tough woman named Deborah, self-conscious Gideon, maverick Jephthah, and even playboy Samson were used by God over a 175 year period to bail out the wayward Israelites. The last five chapters of the book are samples of the religious rackets and sexual perversions of the times. A rather grim record of what happened when 'everyone did whatever they wanted to--whatever seemed right in his or her own eyes. Judges 17:6.

The story of both Deborah and the commander Barak is told in both prose (Judges 4:1-23) and poetry (Judges 5: 1-31). The poem of chapter 5 is known as the Song of Deborah and is the most authentic literary source from the period of judges most likely composed a short time after the victory it celebrates. The story of Deborah and Barak details the disputes that took place when the tribes of Israel that first settled in in the mostly uninhabited highlands tried to make their way into the more populated and fertile valleys. The tribal forces led by Deborah and Barak defeated a Canaanite army and secured the Esdraelon Valley for Israel.

Deborah occupies a unique role in the history of the Israelites. Not only is she a judge in the sense of a military leader, but she is the only judge in the law- court sense of that title (Judges 4:5). Of all of the military leaders of the book of Judges only Deborah is called a prophet. She is also the only judge to sing of the victory illustrating the creative role of women as shapers of tradition. As a strong woman she is reflective of the relatively open phase of Israelite society during the period of the judges, a time of social and political crisis where able people of any status could contribute to group efforts. In the agregarian and rural setting the family was the dominant social institution, the important role of women in family was easily transferred to matters of public concern than during the monarchy, with its more formal and hierarchical power structures.

The triumphant Song of Deborah is one of the most ancient literary pieces in the Bible, perhaps composed in the 12th century BCE by Pseudo-Philo whose early Jewish work extant in Latin, probably written originally in Hebrew and emanating from Palestine. It is attributed to Philo (c.20 BCE–CE 50) because it circulated with his writings. The work is an imaginative re-telling of biblical narratives found in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, amd First Samuel.

Song of Deborah and Barak

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.

LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.

The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.

In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways.

The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.

They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?

My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.

Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.

They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.

Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.

Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.

Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.

And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.

Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.

Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.

Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.

The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.

They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.

The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.

Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.

Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.

Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.

He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.

She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.

At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.

The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?

Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,

Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?

So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.

And the land had rest forty years.

Sources

Holy Bible; King James Version

Joshua to Samuel: Possessing God's Promise
to http://www.spirit-net.com/jil/study4.html

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993

Song of Deborah and Barak:
http://www.frii.com/~gosplow

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