Monday, August 11, 2008

Judges 4 - A Poetic Analysis

Prelude (vv. 1-3)
And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.
The fourth chapter in the book of Judges chronicles the role of the female judge, Deborah, in the life of Israel before the establishment of the Kingdom. In this story, Israel is yet in his sins and trespasses as the story opens with a refrain that re-occurs throughout the book: “[T]he sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord”.1 This invokes a narrative cycle of apostasy and repentance that will pervade the larger text. Typically the pattern involves:
  1. some sort of covenant breaking on behalf of Israel
  2. the curse of captivity, oppression, or enslavement
  3. Israel’s crying out to the Lord (which is a blended cry of anguish and repentance)
  4. and the Lord’s gracious act of redemption.
The narrator virtually informs the reader how the story will end by calling upon such a formula.2 Verses 1 and 3 follow this structure quite precisely. Of course, verses 4-24 will serve to illustrate the entirety of the Lord’s redemptive act.

In this passage the narrator introduces us to Jabin and Sisera. They represent Canaan and are introduced both as oppressive enemies of the sons of Israel and as agents of the Lord’s judgment upon them.

Here we see the firstfruits of various motifs that will be played upon throughout the chapter. They will be discussed more thoroughly below as they are expanded upon, but to briefly note, the selling language of verse 2, the crying out, the chariots,3 and the oppression over many years all participate in a fundamental exodus motif that undergirds much of this passage.

While discussion of the elements of the aforementioned exodus motif will continue later, there is one element which might best be discussed here: the time of judgment. The “20 years” of oppression may be significant. The standard length of exile that the Lord brings upon his own people is forty years.4 But here the Lord only judges for twenty years. I believe the narrator is making a point to show us the mercy of God. Israel only receives half of the punishment that they would normally receive. This reduced sentence foreshadows the greater graciousness of God that will be well-expanded upon throughout the chapter.

Deborah and Barak (vv. 4-10)
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. “‘And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him.
Judges 1-5“Deborah” means “Bee.”5 Barnabas Lindars believes the meaning of her name is insignificant to the narrative as animal names are not an uncommon feature in that cultural context.6 Lillian Klein, however, notes the possibility that Deborah’s name is in some way an allusion to the book’s focus on milk and honey.7 The possibility of symbolic significance notwithstanding, Deborah’s name is at least alluded to at later points in the book (most significantly in the Samson narratives, 14:8-10a).8

The concept of gender roles seems to be consciously played upon. The narrator’s introduction of Deborah bears these marks. Just as soon as we learn her name, we learn that she is a prophetess, a wife, and judge. She is emphatically female.9 This has the poetic value of, in some way, bringing shame upon Barak through the actions described below.

It is interesting that the narrator of Genesis 35 makes it a point to record the burial of Rebecca’s deceased nurse, “Deborah,” under a tree. In Judges 4, a different Deborah is noted as being under a tree (albeit under a different species of tree10). It is additionally of interest that both trees are in the vicinity of Bethel.11 (cf. Genesis 35:8 and Judges 4:5) It seems obvious that no firm conclusions about the relationship between the two Deborahs and their corresponding trees can be directly drawn from the text, but as the name is rare in Scripture, it seems valid to explore the topic more extensively elsewhere.12

In verse 6, the narrator introduces Deborah’s commander-in-chief, Barak. Commentators have suggested various possible significances of his name, “Lightning” or “Flash of Lightning.” The name of Deborah’s husband, Lappidoth, means “Torch” or at least “Flashes.”13 That Barak and Lappidoth are the same person seems unlikely,14 but the narrator may be playing on the similarities of the names to parallel the roles of the characters in relation to Deborah.15 Or this could be merely incidental.

The phrase “into your hand” (v. 7) may be the mere product of ancient Hebrew idiom (that is, it may only be a generic way of describing victory) or it may indicate a coming relationship reversal in which Israel is no longer “sold … into the hand of Jabin.” (v. 2) Whereas the Lord sold Israel into the hand of Canaan, now he may be promising (through Deborah) to put Canaan into the hand of the Israelites.

Deborah’s prophecy has a three-fold structure to it: exhortation, compromise, judgment. Noting parallels such as Joshua 1:9 and Ruth 2:8, Lindars explains that Deborah is not harkening back to a past command, but is employing an apparent rhetorical technique as “an idiomatic way of introducing the command itself”.16 Thus the first part of her prophecy is to issue a command.

Barak immediately begins placing conditions on obeying what was divinely spoken to him. He says he will go to battle, but only if Deborah accompanies him. Aside from the fact that this exposes him as lacking in courage (seeming to be overly dependent on a woman), it also displays a hint of hubris. For reasons not clear in the text, Deborah accepts Barak’s bold demand. Given her position, it is an act of gracious condescension that she meets Barak halfway. However, the compromise is only the second structure: the third structure is judgment.

Deborah, then, speaks a new prophecy: she will go, but the glory over Sisera will now go to a woman. The implication in taking the glory and giving it to a woman is that Barak is not quite a man, thus, playing again on the concept of gender roles (see v. 4, which highlights Deborah’s femininity) As Lindars notes this should be understood as a sort of judgment on Barak for his cowardice.17 Boling ponders a double meaning of “by the hand of a woman” since ultimately Sisera is killed by Jael, not Deborah (as contextually one might expect).18 There is, of course, no reason why it cannot be both, given the nature of prophetic discourse. The phrase “and Deborah went up with him” (v. 9b) simply reiterates the fact that Barak is being escorted by a woman.

Heber the Kenite (v. 11)
Now Heber the Kenite had separated from the Kenites, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.
Lindars notes that the ultimate intention of this verse is to explain how Jael (Heber the Kenites’ wife) happened to be in a tent near the battle.19 Most notable about this verse, though, is that it causes a break in the rising tension of the (pre-)battle narrative (vv. 6-10). The battle immediately resumes in the following verse, almost as if the introduction of Heber the Kenite was a sort of “TV commercial break,” interrupting a television movie just as the action was about to break out, only to resume minutes later. But by the conclusion of the chapter, it is clear that the content of the Heber introduction is far from miscellaneous data. Lindars adds that rather than distract, the insertion of the Heber text “may be effective in preparing the reader for the climax.”20

“The Oak in Zaananim” is clearly playing off “the Palm of Deborah” (v.5).21 This produces a light juxtaposition of character, placing Heber in the (proverbial) camp of the enemy. The presence of a literary play on tree-locations increases the chances that the Palm of Deborah itself is an intentional allusion to “the Oak of the Weeping” near Bethel. (see above)

The insertion of this verse in the midst of the battle narrative brings the conclusion of the narrative into the literary present and foreshadows a resolve that somehow involves Heber and his tent.

The Battle (vv. 12-16)
When Sisera was told that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera called out all his chariots, 900 chariots of iron, and all the men who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
Old Testament TheologyDrawing upon the work of von Rad,22 Boling sees Deborah’s use of the word “day” here as an invocation of “day of the Lord” ‘holy war’ theology.23 Lindars finds this point noteworthy, though he neither affirms nor denies the validity of the claim. Given the amount of exodus imagery employed thus far, it would be unsurprising if this is the case, but more work would be necessary to confirm it. Consider Exodus 12:14, 12:41, 12:51, 13:3, and 14:30, just to name a few of many, many significant developments of the day motif in Exodus. The obvious development here is to see that this day will liken the Day in Egypt of the past – thus, Barak and his men will prevail.

That Deborah points out that the Lord will go out before Israel, also highlights the priority of role that the Lord plays in the victory which will be developed more explicitly in the following verses. Additionally, verse 14 is a plain reference to Exodus 14:19. the Lord is actively involved in bringing his people out of exile.

JudgesJ. Soggin removes ‘put to the sword’ from his translation of verse 15, commenting that it is an “inappropriate anticipation of what is to come.” Because he recognizes that the phrase is included in even the most ancient of manuscripts, he regards it as an ancient textual corruption.24 He may be correct, too, as it is a bit unclear how the Lord would wield a sword or how the army of Sisera could be put to the sword twice. But while the precise meaning of the verse itself is admittedly difficult to discern, there is a possibility of poetic intention behind the received inclusion of the phrase.

It is not an unusual technique in Scripture to summarize a whole scene before unveiling the details of how that scene unfolded.25 Perhaps verse 15 functions to summarize the events of verse 16. This is not an obvious reading of the text, though.

Perhaps the purpose of the “edge of the sword” phrase is to say that the sword of Barak’s army functions as a ministry of the Lord’s wrath. This is complicated, though, by the content of the “Song of Deborah” which seems to describe the Lord’s act as a sort of weather miracle involving a flood of water,26 not an act of arms. This would mean that the Lord’s “putting to the sword” would be a figurative description of the Wadi Kishon flood as his act of judgment that compliments the more literal use of the sword by Barak’s troops.

Or not. The presence of the phrase may merely be an accident of history, a “corrupt dittograph” as Lindars would have it.27

Twice in verse 15 “chariots” are mentioned, and they are mentioned once more in the following verse. The last is the seventh reference throughout the chapter28 and at this point it seems appropriate to drive home the point that this passage plays heavily on an exodus motif.

Soggin calls the analogy between the language of Exodus and the language of this passage “precise.”29 Remember (above) the initial “sold into the hand” language (v. 2), recalling Israel’s previous enslavement and comparing it with their current situation to show that they have been re-“sold into the hands” of a new pharaoh, Jabin. Verse 3 has the Israelites “crying out to the Lord.” We hear the same language in the beginning of Exodus: “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.”30 But even more prominently consider the similar pattern of chariot references in Exodus 14, the crossing of the Red Sea. The narrator mentions the presence of chariots nine times.31 One would have to consciously ignore the author’s diction to miss his emphasis that the story of Judges 4 is the same sort of story as Exodus 14. It may even be significant that both passages are followed by extensive celebratory song.

A comparison between the Wadi and the Red Sea can be made with enough ease,32 but as the specific reference to weather miracle is not made until chapter 5, it is beyond the bounds of this analysis to discuss it further. However, whatever is dually occurring in both situations, the narrator of Judges 4 lets us see yet another parallel. In both passages (Judges 4 and Exodus 14) the Lord throws the enemy troops into panic. Exodus 14 explicitly says that he did this by causing the ground to become muddy, disabling the chariots, but we can only speculate as to whether or not that actually happened to Jabin’s soldiers. Whatever the case, both the Egyptians and Sisera got down from their chariots and fled.33

The Flight and Death of Sisera (vv. 17-22)
But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’” But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.

And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.
Picking up on a comment made two verses earlier, the narrator restarts the account of Sisera’s flight, drawing from the brief discussion of Heber the Kenite that appeared in verse 11. Heber’s wife, Jael, is introduced to us and we find that there was a state of shalom between Heber and Jabin. Few commentators offer insight into how the presence of this fact furthers the author’s poetic agenda. My own observation is that, at the least, it causes the reader to detect a sort of awkwardness, if not inappropriateness, about her actions towards Sisera. What intent lies behind this feature is unclear.34

The play on gender role picks up again in verse 18. But rather than highlighting the femininity of a glorified individual, the narrator this time highlights the boyishness of a man to show he is really not much of one. Sisera, General of the Army of Jabin, now twice mentioned as fleeing, seeks sanctuary in the tent of a woman, Jael. Jael tells Sisera to “turn aside to [her]” and to not be afraid.35 This is the language of a mother speaking to a small child and the narrator will richly draw from this motif for the next few verses. The once proud Sisera, who only a few verses ago led an army of 900 iron chariots, has ironically been reduced to a child. The infancy motif is teased out further as the narrator tells us that Sisera accepts the (figurative) “cover” of a woman, by being (literally) “covered” in a blanket (as a woman would cover her child).36

Judges: God's War Against HumanismThere is nothing apparently significant about Sisera’s request for water as he had just finished fighting in a battle. It plays into the nurture motif still being developed, but only insofar as it has him depending upon his “mother.” The request for water is negatively significant in that it is not what Jael brought to him. Jordan notes that giving milk is an especially womanly task37 and milk is what was served. It is not an uncommon reading of this text to see that the milk is not merely milk, but curds.38 Whether milk or curds, what is noted in the text is the soporific effect of the drink,39 and so the child Sisera is shortly shown to become exceedingly tired and in need of rest. Before drifting into sleep though, he tells his mother to guard him from any pursuers by deceiving them.40

In a remarkably sudden and shocking turn of events, the narrator departs from the mother motif and re-characterizes Jael as a murderer. This is baffling to many commentators and the interpretations of this passage and its significance are diverse.41 One peculiarity of the text is that in the murder account, the author restates that Jael is Heber’s wife. While it is true enough that naming the wife according to the husband’s name was customary, not every mention of her name relates her to Heber (e.g. v. 18), and she has already been introduced as his wife in verse 17.

Recalling the above comment that Heber (and thus Jael) and Jabin (and thus Sisera) were in a relationship of shalom, Jael’s acts are startling even more on account of the element of contractual treachery. It would be akin to an American killing a British soldier in Iraq. The repetition of the fact that Jael is Heber’s wife, especially at the point when the slaying takes place, magnifies the approximate bloodguiltiness of Heber and all of the outrages it implies.

Between verses 17 and 22 we have a parallel of Sisera and Barak. In both verses (though, obviously, on two separate occasions), Jael comes “out to meet” them and invites them in. In both cases the men do so with no apparent objection as she offers to meet their respective needs. However, while the first incident offers Sisera safety, the second incident reveals him dead.

Conclusion (vv. 23-24)
So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
The narrator says that on that day God subdued Jabin. The story shows no signs of daily progression between at least the beginning of the battle and the slaying of Sisera. Textually, the narrator immediately follows that day, referring to “that day,” and so it makes good sense to assume that it was in the slaying of Sisera and his army of iron chariots that we are to view God as having subdued Jabin king of Canaan.

Verses 23-24 bear a notable parallel to verses 1-3. Whereas chapter 4 opens with an introduction to Jabin as the pharaoh-ic oppressor of Israel, the Deuteronomist closes with Israel being the oppressor of Jabin. These thematic poles contain the story, but it would be a mistake, perhaps, to work the interior content into a chiastic structure. While there is a clear block structure to many segments of the text, the most obvious chiasm places the introduction of Heber the Kenite (verse 11) at the center of the text. Having no real central place in the narrative, it would be misguided to contort the analyses thus far made in order to conform to an Heber-ic structure.

JudgesBoling makes the valuable observation that the text alternates use of the Lord within the narration and Elohim in the redactor’s comments (in the conclusion). He asserts, then, that Elohim is being used confessionally to make the point that the Lord is God.42

One final comment. It is of interest that the word used for “destroyed” in verse 24 is the same word that is used for circumcision, karath, “to cut off.” This may be standard description for the wiping out of entire royal families, but if it is not, it may be an extended play upon the earlier comment that the Lord put the armies of Sisera to the sword (as a sword, obviously, cuts).


The fourth chapter of the book of Judges tells the story of the Lord who, upon their repentance, brings his people out of exile, who frees them from their oppressors, and who does his work in spite of his people’s sinfulness.

The chapter progresses initially through an exodus motif, but following the main battle, the story begins to spend more energy showing how the Lord has humbled his enemy.

We see glimpses of this humbling throughout the narrative, though, and the most obvious breakpoint is in verse 11 when we are apparently sidetracked by seemingly miscellaneous information.

The mighty Sisera (Israel’s enemy) is dethroned from his chariot, and regresses into childish cowardice, seeking salvation from a treacherous woman.

The chapter opens showing that Israel has been re-enslaved, but this is reversed by the end of the chapter, having Israel oppress their oppressor and ultimately destroying him.

1 This refrain occurs first in 2:11 and repeats in 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, and 13:1.
2 This is comparable to the fact that if somebody today begins “Once upon a time…” we have good reason to believe that the conclusion will be “and they lived happily ever after.”
3 Commentators seem relatively silent on the matter of the 900 chariots. To be sure, some commentators discuss the validity (or invalidity) of the number 900 to describe the actual number of chariots that were present, but few seem to consider the poetic significance of the number. It seems unique to most symbolic numbers in Hebrew (e.g. 3, 7, 10, etc.), but it is probably not meaningless (it is noted twice: once in verse 3 and again verse 13). Assuming that Judges 4 is largely an exodus passage, consider that according to Exodus 14:6, pharaoh sent his 600 best chariots plus the remaining chariots in Egypt. It is possible that the narrator is indicating that the size of the pharaoh’s army and Jabin’s army are roughly equivalent.
4 Note that the flood was forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:4) Israel was in the wilderness for forty years. (Exodus 16:35) When Israel decided to return to Egypt, the Lord made them to wander for forty more years. (Numbers 14:33). There are, of course, too many references to the number forty in the Bible to presently give a full account of all them, but it is fairly easy to establish that the duration of exile, wandering, or suffering tends to be built around the number forty.
5 Soggin, J. Alberto, Judges: A Commentary, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981), p.64; Lindars, Barnabas, Judges 1-5: A New Translation and Commentary, ed. A.D.H. Mayes (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), p.181; Robert G. Boling, Judges, The Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman (Garden City: Doubleday, 1975), p. 94, “honey bee”; Klein, Lillian R., The Triumph of Irony in the Book of Judges, Bible and Literature Series, ed. David M. Gunn (Sheffield: The Almond Press, 1988), p.41.
6 Lindars, p. 181.
7 Klein, p. 41.
8 Boling, p. 230. That is, “bees” are referenced.
9 Boling (p. 95) notes that the placement of the pronoun “she” before the verb “was prophesying” drives this point home.
10 Rebecca’s nurse was buried under an oak. Here, Deborah sits under a palm.
11 Soggin makes this observation (p. 64), but finds no significance. Lindars, too, observes the homonymy (p. 183), but ultimately concludes that, at most, the symbolism of the tree of Deborah is built upon in later books (e.g. 1 Samuel 10:3).
12 See James B. Jordan’s brief exploration of the subject in his commentary Judges: God’s War Against Humanism (Tyler: Geneva, 1985), pp. 75-76. Boling (p. 98-99) sees that this may be an assertion “that the latter day Deborah had turned a venerable place of lamentation into a little oracular oasis.”
13 Lindars, p.182.
14 At least, so comments Lindars (p. 182). “The idea … has nothing to commend it.” Klein (p. 216n8) as well states that the general consensus is that they are different men.
15 So suggests Klein (pp. 40-41):
The Triumph of Irony in the Book of JudgesDeborah is said to be the wife of Lappidot, but the narrative discloses her in association with another man, her military leader. That name of that man, Barak, means ‘flash of lightning’. Thus Deborah seems to function on the social level (as wife) and on the spiritual (as prophetess), uniting both as judge; and she does so between two poles of light and fire.

16 Lindars, p. 185.
17 Lindars, p. 189.
18 Boling, p. 96.
19 Lindars, p. 191.
20 Lindars, p. 191.
21 Boling (pp. 96-97). But see Lindars (p.192). Contra Boling, Lindars believes that what Boling sees “clearly” is “scarcely probable”. Given the aid to understanding that seeing the Oak as “play” offers, and given that Lindars offers no argument for his statement, I side with Boling.
22 von Rad, Geerhard, Old Testament Theology II, trans. D.M.G. Stalker. (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), pp. 119-25.
23 Boling, p. 97.
24 Soggin, p. 66. Lindars (p. 195) agrees and asserts that this is the general position of scholars. Boling omits the phrase from his translation of the text (p. 93), but offers no comment on his rationale.
25 One clear example of this would be Genesis 1:1 and the subsequent verses in the first chapter.
26 Judges 5:21.
27 Lindars, p. 195.
28 vv. 3, 7, 13, 15, and 16.
29 Soggin, p.76.
30 Exodus 2:23.
31 Exodus 14:6, 7, 9, 17, 18, 23, 25, 26, and 28.
32 Soggin p. 76.
33 Exodus 14:25b, 27b; Judges 4:15.
34 One interesting suggestion is noted by Boling (pp. 197-8):
The sexual interpretation of Alter (1987) and Zakovith (1981) presupposes that she was on the lookout for passing strangers. For sur as the invitation of the seductress cf. Prov 9.16, and for the whole scenario Prov 7.6-23. This interpretation should not be dismissed out of hand, as it may well be a conscious irony that Sisera’s position is comparable to that of the proverbial young man who falls into the clutches of a harlot. Moreover Israelite tradition knows of the harlot Rahab who harboured the spies (Joshua 2).
Plausible and interesting as this understanding might be, details in the context don’t really seem to bear it out. For just one example, Boling notes (p. 198) that the rug is used to cover Sisera – not laid out for intercourse, as would seem more sensible under Alter and Zakovith’s interpretation.
35 Boling (p. 97) has noted a parallel here to the battle language of Deuteronomy (1:29, 7:18, 20:1) and Joshua (11:6). The phrase l’ tyr’ and ’l tyr’ (respectively) are both commands to the soldiers of Israel to not be afraid. The author of Judges may be calling upon that language, but whether or not he does is irrelevant to whether or not the language plays into a mother-child motif. Even in the post-battle context, the larger and clearer development of the mother-child motif throughout the paragraph overcomes subordinate allusions. Additionally (and finally), it is not impossible that Israel is both a child and a warrior. Thus, the development of a dual characterization, if done properly, could be entirely appropriate.
36 There is hardly consensus on what the actual word interpreted “blanket” means. Translations vary from “rug” to “fly-net” to “coverlet” to “carpet” to “curtain.” While there may be some value in having an accurate understanding of what the object of covering is, it is important not to become overly bogged down in by the possible meanings and focus on the fact that he is being swaddled by a sort of cloth.
37 Jordan, p. 86.
38 Jordan, p. 86; Klein, p. 42; Soggin, p. 67.
39 Boling (p. 97-8) cites a point made by one scholar that “certain goat milk products have a strongly soporific effect.” It may be that the provision of milk, especially of the sort that causes drowsiness, is a play on Jael’s name (“mountain goat”), but as was noted above, animal names were common in this setting, so there is a very live option that this a historical incidental. Still, the prominence of animal names in no way requires that the author cannot or does not wax literarily upon them.
40 This seems to make her a type of Rahab (see above note on Alter and Zakovith’s sexual interpretation), but rather than protecting the people of God and honoring her guests, Jael seems to more actively deal with YHWH’s enemies (as we will see shortly).
41 Though it does seem to further the Alter/Zakovith view of Jael as the “treacherous harlot.”
42 Boling, p. 100.