The Song of Deborah and Barak & The Philistines

Finger Pointing UpRemember I said You should write a book, this could be a movie.

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,
ven 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 colors, a prey of divers colors of needlework, of divers colors 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 (Jud 5:1-31).

The Philistines

During the period of the Judges the Philistines appear to have been at the height of their power. Their five cities or city-states controlled the coastal plain from the southern end of what is now the Gaza Strip to the northern outskirts of modern Tel Aviv.

They oppressed the Hebrews for 40 years, denying them access to iron so they couldn’t manufacture weapons or make or maintain agricultural implements. Samson struggled with them with little real effect. And at the beginning of the monarchy Saul met defeat and death at their hands. After David’s defeat of Goliath and the later rise of his kingdom, Philistine power began to decline.

They, however, remained strong during the days of Solomon and the subsequent kingdom of Judah. For a few years they paid tribute to Judah but then became independent. Later the Assyrians fought them effectively and wrought great destruction in the Philistine cities.

Finally, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the kingdom of Judah and deported much of the population, he also destroyed the Philistine cities and carried off their people.

The questions of the origin of the Philistines, their early history and the nature of their culture go far beyond the scope of this article. It is enough to say that excavations in Philistine land are beginning to bring to life this dead civilization.

Of special importance among the newer literature are:

Trude and Moshe Dothan, People of the Sea: The Search for the Philistines (1992);
Trude Dothan, The Philistines and Their Material Culture (1982); and
Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze Age (1993).

1. Debora Heroine
Deborah was a Hebrew heroine: prophetess, judge of Israel, warrior and the wife of Lapidoth.

The Song of Deborah is actually a victory hymn, sung by Deborah and Barak (the commander of the army of Deborah), about the defeat of Canaanite adversaries by the tribes of Israel.

The song can be found in the Book of Judges chapter 5.

The song of Deborah is recognized as one of the oldest parts of the Bible, dating in the 12th century B.C., based on its grammar and context.

The song itself contains a number of challenging differences from the events described in Judges 4.

The song mentions 6 participating tribes (Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir, Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali) as opposed to the 2 tribes in Jdg 4:6 (Naphtali and Zebulun).

The song also describes Sisera’s death in a different way.

Though it is not uncommon to read a victory hymn in the Old Testament, the Song of Deborah is truly unique.

It is the first Biblical hymn that celebrates a military victory helped by two women: Deborah & Jael.

2. Debora and Barak
Deborah and Barak headed one of the greatest last battles of the Israelites over the northern Canaanite armies.

The battle is known as the “battle of Deborah”, was fought during the late 12th C B.C.

It brought an end to the mighty Canaanite city of Hazor, and completed the conquest of Canaan, several dozen years after Joshua first entered Canaan and conquered most of the land.

This great battle echoed in other sections in the Bible, indicating its major role in the conquest of Canaan.

The map of the battle is seen on the following view of Jezreel valley, with the red lines showing the Canaanite movements and the blue lines belong to the Israelite forces.

This is the sequence of the battle of Deborah (the numbers are indicated on the above map):

1. Israelites forces assemble near the Tabor. They are based on two tribes, with volunteers from other tribes

2. Canaanite forces assemble near Megiddo from many north cities, commanded by Sisera

3. Israelites take the high ground position on Mt Tabor, giving them advantage

4. Canaanites rush to crush the Israelites below the Tabor, but their chariots cannot climb the high mountain

5. Israelites wait for rainy day, then attack from Mount Tabor

6. The Canaanite forces break in panic; their chariots stuck in the mud

7. Since the Kishon river blocks them from retreating south, they go west along the Kishon

8. The Israelites wipe them out, reaching as far as Mt Carmel (near Horoshet of the Gentiles, Sisera’s home about 30KM west of Mt Tabor)

9. Sisera runs away, but is killed in Yael’s tent on his way to the east.

3. Tell Meamer
Tel Mea’mer is a biblical city on the eastern side of Mt Carmel, identified with “Harosheth of the Gentiles”.

4. The Philistines

The Philistines were a people who inhabited the southern coast of Canaan, their territory being named Philistia in later contexts.
Their origin has been debated among scholars, but modern archaeology has suggested early cultural links with the Mycenean world (Mycenaean Greece, the last phase of the Bronze Age in ancient Greece).
Philistines are to be identified as one of the “Sea Peoples.”
The Sea Peoples is the term used for a grouping of seafaring raiders of the second millennium B.C. who sailed into the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty, and especially during Year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty.
In Egypt, a people called the “Peleset”, generally identified with the Philistines, appear in the Medinet Habu (Medinet Habu is an important Egyptian archaeological and tourist locality on the West Bank of the modern city of Luxor) inscription of Ramesses III, where he describes his victory against the Sea Peoples, as well as the Onomasticon of Amenope (The Onomasticon of Amenope is an Egyptian document from the late 20th Dynasty to 22nd Dynasty, a compilation belonging to a tradition begun in the Middle Kingdom) and Great Harris Papyrus , a summary of Ramesses III’s reign written in the reign of Ramesses the forth.

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