MemberFebruary 28, 2021 at 8:37 pm
A new article by Jacob Wright on the ASOR blog draws attention to the divide between prose and poetry. https://www.asor.org/anetoday/2021/02/genderbending-performances Just like the story of the Red Sea crossing which appears first as narrative (Exodus 14) and then as Miriam’s victory song (Exodus 15), so the story of Jael and Sisera appears first as narrative (Judg 4:17-22) and second as Deborah’s victory song (5:24-27). Wright notes the difference in rhetoric between the accounts:
In the prose version of the account, Jael goes out of her tent to meet Sisera and lures him into her tent: “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.” Later, displaying maternal hospitality, she covers him with a blanket. When he asks for water, she serves him milk. He orders her to stand at the entrance lest a man come looking for him. When he falls fast asleep, confident that he has found a secure place to rest, she drives a peg into his temple, pinning him to the ground.
The song makes Jael’s deed even more daring and Tarantinoesque. Instead of waiting for him to sleep, she straightaway crushes his skull with a hammer so that he topples over and then falls dead between her legs.
What might be judged as exaggeration or even lies is allowed by “poetic license”. We should know this and interpret such accounts appropriately according to the literary genre. The dividing of the Red Sea was caused by wind that blew all night as per the prose account. This clearly describes a wind-setdown effect with a bore-wave when the wind ceases, as explained by Prof Sir Colin Humphreys @colin-humphreys and not a spectacular cleft through a deep-sea bed with vertical walls of water some 100s of metres deep.