The so-called Song of Deborah celebrates a decisive victory during the era of the Judges, and praises Jael and the Israelites for their defeat of a Canaanite coalition led by Sisera. Despite generations of scholarship, virtually every aspect of the poem remains disputed, because it has been misunderstood in previous research. This study explains both the enigmatic role of Yahweh of the poem and its heroic ethos through a comparative study of heroic poetry.
Part I addresses preliminary critical issues, the most important being the poem's unity. Although the case for the poem's unity has merit, the stronger argument is that religious material was added. References to Yahweh occur in the original poem, but it is essentially profane, making it exceptional among comparable Hebrew poetry. How, then, do we account for a Yahwistic poem which primarily praises the human characters?
Part II establishes a basis of comparison for the original poem through a survey of heroic poetry. After determining that the original poem is not the narrative type, subgenres of the lyric family are analyzed. Of these, the victory song corresponds most closely to the poem. The results of the survey of heroic poetry are then used to determine whether the poem is heroic. The poem is assessed for heroic and non-heroic features, and the results indicate that it is indeed a heroic victory song. The refinement of the generic classification reveals a new literary genre in the Hebrew Bible and the social context from which the poem arose as well as explains the enigmatic role of Yahweh in the poem.