Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible

By Frederick J. Murphy | Go to book overview

7
Deborah: Biblical Antiquities 30-33

Deborah is one of the most remarkable figures in the Biblical Antiquities. Her importance is proven by the number of chapters devoted to her, as well as by the fact that some of Pseudo-Philo's most important ideas are put on her lips. Pseudo-Philo's treatment of her is a testimony to his high regard for women and to his determination to give them their rightful place in Israel's history.


Chapter 30: Deborah

The introduction to Deborah's story is considerably more detailed than in the Bible ( LAB 30:1-4; Judg. 4:1-3). Judges says simply that the Israelites "again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died" (4:1). Pseudo- Philo attributes the people's sin to the lack of a leader: "Then the sons of Israel did not have anyone to appoint for themselves as judge" (30:1). As a result they "forgot the promise and transgressed the ways that Moses and Joshua the servants of the LORD had commanded them, and they were led astray after the daughters of the Amorites and served their gods" (30:1). The reference to the ways commanded by Moses and Joshua typifies Pseudo-Philo's recollection of Israel's past as guidance for the present.

The people are said to have been seduced by the Amorite women and to be serving their gods. Consorting with foreign women and falling into idolatry are not mentioned in Judges 4, but it is part of Pseudo-Philo's condemnation of intermarriage and of its association of with idolatry.1 True to Pseudo-Philo's interest in Amorites, the women here are of that nation. In 30:2 the Lord becomes angry and delivers a speech through an angel. There is no indication that the speech is actually delivered to any of the other characters, so this is one of the numerous instances where the readers hear God's reasoning firsthand while the characters in the story do not.

God's speech is in three sections: (1) recollection of Israel's election; (2) proclamation of Israel's sin; and (3) prediction of punishment. Part 1 is in two subsections. The first recalls Israel's election, and the second remembers the

____________________
1
The language resembles Num. 25:1-2; see OTP, 343, margin and n. a; see LAB 18:13-14. In Numbers the women are Moabites.

-136-

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