Mark Leuchter, «'Why Tarry The Wheels of his Chariot?' (Judg 5,28): Canaanite Chariots and Echoes of Egypt in the Song of Deborah.», Vol. 91 (2010) 256-268
The closing verses of the Song of Deborah include a curious reference to chariotry (Judg 5,28) at a rhetorically potent moment in the poem. The present study examines the implications of the use of this image against the mythopoeic impulses in the poem, the larger historical background of early Israel's confrontations with Canaanite aggression in the 12th century BCE and the memory of Egyptian strategies of hegemony from the late Bronze Age. The effects of these memories and experiences leave profound impressions in the social and mythic matrices embedded in a broad spectrum of Biblical traditions.
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â€œ Why Tarry The Wheels of his Chariot?â€ (Judg 5,28):
Canaanite Chariots and Echoes of Egypt
in the Song of Deborah
The Song of Deborah (Judg 5), perhaps the earliest example of
verse in the canon of Biblical poetry, ostensibly catalogs an
encounter between the early Israelite tribal league and forces led
by the Canaanite general Sisera 1. Toward the end of the poem, the
author postulates the reaction of Siseraâ€™s mother as she waits for
the expected victory of her son ... only to eventually face terrible
disappointment. The quotation ascribed to her in this regard
warrants close attention:
Through the window she looked forth, and peered,
the mother of Sisera, through the lattice:
Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the wheels of his chariots? (v. 28)
The drama of the moment occurs at a climax within the poem.
The battle has just ended, Sisera has just been killed in the most
brutal way 2, and the society he would have otherwise championed
On the antiquity of the poem, see D.A. ROBERTSON, Linguistic Evidence
in Dating Early Hebrew Poetry (Missoula, MT 1972) 155; F.M. CROSS,
Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (London â€“ Cambridge, MA 1973) 101-102;
L.E. STAGER, â€œArcheology, ecology, and social history: Background themes to
the Song of Deborahâ€, Congress Volume Jerusalem 1986 (ed. J.A. EMERTON)
(VTS 40; Leiden 1988) 221-232; J.D. SCHLOEN, â€œCaravans, Kenites, and Casus
Belli : Enmity and Alliance in the Song of Deborahâ€, CBQ 55 (1993) 18-38.
C.L. ECHOLS views the original version of the poem as a 12th century victory
hymn secondarily expanded to include Yahwistic material; see his â€œTell Me, O
Muse â€. The Song of Deborah (Judges 5) in the Light of Heroic Poetry (JSOTS;
London â€“ New York 2008). R. DE HOOP views the the name of Deborah as a
secondary addition to an early poem; â€œJudges 5 Reconsidered: Which Tribes?
What Land? Whose Song?â€, The Land of Israel in Bible, History and Theology
(eds. J. VAN RUITEN â€“ J.C. DE VOS) (VTS; Leiden, 2009) 151-166. For a
review of alternate positions regarding dating, including scholars who view the
poem as post-10th century, see T. MAYFIELD, â€œThe Account of Deborah (Judges
4-5) in Recent Researchâ€, CBR 7 (2009) 324-325.
On the poetic emphasis and mythic resonance in the depiction of Siseraâ€™s
death at the hands of Yael, see S.A. ACKERMAN, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress,