Sunday, April 11, 2010

Judges, Chapters 4 & 5

This little story, of Deborah, the only female Judge, and Jael, the dominatrix who's handy with a tent peg, was so popular among the ancient Israelites that they wrote it down twice, once in prose, once in what is probably the original poetry.

Chapter 4

The prose version. God gets angry with the Israelites following the death of Ehud. He enslaves them to the Canaanite king Jabin, who lives in Hazor. His general is Sisera, who has 900 iron chariots that he uses to oppress the Israelites. So this is like, a hundred years they've been watching their enemies' iron chariots defeat them, and they've never once thought to make them themselves?

Anyway, Deborah is a prophetess and the only female Judge, and she calls on one of her generals, Barak, and tells him to raise an army of 10 000 to defeat Sisera. Barak the 'fraidy cat refuses to go unless Deborah comes, too. Deborah, disgusted, tells him fine, she'll go, but a woman is going to defeat Sisera. So they go together to raise their army.

Now we go over to a Kenite man who has pitched his tent near the battlefield. That's all, back to the armies. God finally gets the better of the iron chariots, but Sisera gets away on foot. The rest of his army is slaughtered.

Sisera manages to escape and comes to the Kenite man's tent. Jael comes out and invites him inside, where she covers him with a blanket. He asks for water, but instead she gives him milk, which may or may not be breast milk. They may or may not have sex then, and he goes to sleep, asking her to stand guard. As soon as he's asleep, she takes a tent peg and hammer and nails him through the head with it. Or possibly through the scrotum. Or possibly through another orifice. It's not clear.

Barak comes along and Jael shows him her handiwork. The army kills the rest of Jabin's people.

For those wondering, yes the Christian right has picked up on the similarities between the Barak in the story and the US president. Alas, they do not consider Deborah to be Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin, but as generic 'messengers of god', most particularly Rick Warren. Everybody else, of course, is an agent of Baal.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 is a rehash of the last chapter, written as a song sung by Deborah and Barak in praise of Jael. I like to hum 'Camptown Ladies' while reading it. We do get a few extra details, Jael is now to be praised above all women, unseating a certain blue-robed someone Catholics are so fond of, who is only blessed among women.

We also find out that Sisera's mother looked out the window for her son, and her ladies-in-waiting reckon he's tarrying in the fields with the Israelite women before ripping off their gowns to bring them home. Happy Mothers' Day, mom! Here, have this dress from the woman I raped last night. Sorry it's a bit bloody.

Anyway, Israel was then at peace for 40 years.

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