domingo, 14 de febrero de 2016



This is a continuation of my previous Judges post on Ehud the Lefty and Eglon the Hefty (this is regarded as ancient Israeli history, the Judges being contemporary of the Trojan War). 'Cuz the Book of Judges is so gory and full of surprises... Next Judge after that slick southpaw smoothtalker Ehud was Shamgar, of whom we only know that he was a foreigner who massacred 600 Philistines... armed with a cattle prod on the battlefield. And I'm not talking about a modern-day taser prod, but one with a pointy end, since this was the olden days.
Not much else is said about Shamgar, but what happens next is the appearance of some women with positions of REAL POWER in those days' patriarchal society. They're femmes fatales, advisors, guile sheroes: LADY KILLERS. And this was also the time of Barack, i.e. Lightning, for whom the current Prez of the US was named. Like his present-day namesake, he avoided confrontation, hiding behind the skirts of these LADY KILLERS and pretending to be a coward. But fortunately, these women were the brains to Barack Nobama's brawn, and they knew ten times better. Of how to defeat the fearsome Canaanite General Sisera, the invader du jour, these women had a clue. And pretty clever plans...
A dashing young man this general was, but as ruthless as he was hot-blooded and good-looking! Now Sisera was a really redoubtable foe, armed with an army 300.000 strong... and 900 iron chariots, the horse-driven Panzer of those days (the Israelites knew not how to work iron, and mostly had sticks and stones and a little bronze to defend themselves).
As his formidable host swept across the Holy Land like wildfire, dividing the spoils, orphaning and capturing maidens for each soldier to do as he pleased with his allotted captive, I'm pretty sure most Israeli mothers used him as the boogieman to scare their children into submission ("If you don't behave yourselves, General Sisera will come and whisk you away!").
And yet, extremely ironically, he would be defeated by a downpour and a nomad woman. The way it sounds. And how did it come to this?

Ah, Deborah, Devorah, Debra, Debbie, Debi, Honeybee (to say what her name means). What's the buzz (pun intended) about her? She sat all day and all night in the shade of a palm in the hills of Ephraim (where Lefty Ehud fought his battle in the previous installment) and saw visions, and everyone asked her for advice and to settle disputes. A real IRON LADY.
No surprise that she was the Chooser of the One who picked Barack Nobama, the cowardly lion du jour, to save the Holy Land. And he was like :O. Got cold feet, chickened out, said that he was merely a wimpy average fellow with a cool name (for isn't "Lightning" badass?). Muggle, bourgeois, plain vanilla. She told him that the LORD had chosen him to recruit 10.000 men of his home tribe and added: "I will lure Sisera into open battle at the Kishon. Then I will help you win the battle." Basically, Deb was the brains and Barack was the brawn. So Barack says... "OK, but only if you go with me." And she replied: "I will definitely go with you to the battlefield, but you will not get any honour or glory. After all, you will hand over Sisera to a woman." (This woman is not Debi, but Yael: read below. Did we mention Deb could see the future?).
The battle was fought, with even fewer odds in Israel's favour than those Sweden had at Breitenfeld... and the Israelites won, the enemy army was decimated (the surging stream, due to the heavy April showers, drowned those who had escaped from enemy steel, encumbered by their heavy iron "Panzer-tanks" and weaponry: think Spanish Armada or Blackwater, but inland), leaving its leader as the sole survivor, taking to flight with the Chosen of the LORD in hot pursuit.
Think autumnal downpour or April showers in the Mediterranean, as Schiller puts it:
Da gießt unendlicher Regen herab, 
Von den Bergen stürzen die Quellen, 
Und die Bäche, die Ströme schwellen. 

Da reißet die Brücke der Strudel hinab, 
Und donnernd sprengen die Wogen 
Des Gewölbes krachenden Bogen. 

Kein Schiffer lenket die Fähre, 
Und der wilde Strom wird zum Meere. 

Doch wachsend erneut sich des Stromes Wut, 
Und Welle auf Welle zerrinnet, 
Und Stunde an Stunde entrinnet. 

hinein in die brausende Flut 
Und teilt mit gewaltigen Armen 
Den Strom...

Things were looking pretty bleak for Sisera (utterly defeated, fallen from grace, with the enemy hot on his heels), but fortunately he had friends up north (or were these really his friends?) and hoped to find a hearty welcome there. And so would it be, but only for a while...

When a weary Sisera fled up north after having lost the decisive battle, he did not stop until, at twilight, he entered the encampment of some Kenites or Northerners (think Westerosi Northerners in Dornish clothing) and staggered into the tent of the wife of an ally, a certain Northern woman by the name of Yael (or Jael). Now at least safe from the enemy (for now), the warlord thanks his friendly hostess for such a hearty welcome.
"Trust me, my lord," she says. "If the Israelites arrive, I will lie to them and say you're not in this tent, or anywhere else in this encampment. There are no men around here, I will say, only me. I haven't seen anyone." Reassuring, right?
Little does he know that Yael knows how to drive home a point.
"Oh, after ages with the enemy in hot pursuit, you must be exhausted..." "And rather thirsty," the general replied, short of breath and ablaze as he was, as his lovely hostess poured him a cupful of creamy buttermilk, which Sisera drained at one fell swoop. A real blessing for his throat. Then, suddenly, reeling, he collapsed like a sack of flour. The Good Book does not specify if his drink was spiked or if it was because of fatigue / burnout (from both the battle and the flight), but the snag is that the great general suddenly fell unconscious, collapsing right at her feet.
Then, Yael took a tent peg and a hammer, and, armed with remarkable sang-froid, unabashed by the sharp features of the weary warlord at her feet, she hammered home a point. Literally. She nailed the peg into Sisera's head, driving it straight into his limbic system, and the warlord could not live any longer with such a cranial injury.
(Cue ominous Psycho strings and the murder staged like the shower scene!)
Bang, bang, Yael's wooden hammer came down upon his head...
(turoo turoo...)
Bang, bang, Yael's wooden hammer made sure that he was dead...
(Nice refrain for a filk...)
Thus he died, not upon the field of battle nor by a male hand, and when he had lowered his guard completely. General Sisera would, moreover, never find out who had slain him in cold blood, for he would never awaken... Such scrumdiddlyumptious irony!
Just then, Barack Nobama entered, in pursuit of his quarry. Imagine his surprise when he found the enemy general already stone dead, with a tent peg through his head. And Yael showed him what she had done, maybe pulling the curtain aside with a theatrical flourish.
After this event, the decapitated Canaanite host was easily curb-stomped and subjugated.

To celebrate their victory, Barack and Deborah sang a Victory Song of which I give you the final and most interesting verses:

Kings came and made war;
    the kings of Canaan fought
        at Taanach by Megiddo’s waters,
        but they captured no spoils of silver.
20 The stars fought from the sky;
    from their orbits they fought against Sisera.
21 The Kishon River swept them away;
    the advancing river, the Kishon River.
    March on, my life, with might!
22 Then the horses’ hooves pounded
    with the galloping, galloping of their stallions.
23 “Curse Meroz,” says the Lord’s messenger,
    “curse its inhabitants bitterly,
    because they didn’t come to the Lord’s aid,
    to the Lord’s aid against the warriors.”
24 May Yael be blessed above all women;
    may the wife of Heber the Kenite
    be blessed above all tent-dwelling women.
25 He asked for water, and she provided milk;
    she presented him cream in a majestic bowl.
26 She reached out her weaker hand for the stake,
    her stronger hand for the worker’s hammer.
She struck Sisera;
    she crushed his head;
    she shattered and pierced his skull.
27 At her feet he sank, fell, and lay flat;
    at her feet he sank, he fell;
    where he sank, there he fell—dead.
28 Through the window she watched,
    Sisera’s mother looked longingly through the lattice.
“Why is his chariot taking so long to come?
    Why are the hoofbeats of his chariot horses delayed?”
29 Her wisest attendants answer;
    indeed, she replies to herself:
30 “Wouldn’t they be finding and dividing the loot?
    A girl or two for each warrior;
    loot of colored cloths for Sisera;
    loot of colored, embroidered cloths;
    two colored, embroidered cloths
    as loot for every neck.”
31 May all your enemies perish like this, Lord!
    But may your allies be like the sun, rising in its strength.
And the land was peaceful for forty years.
Men had done the fighting, but women did the real strategy behind the frontlines. Definitely, the moral in this story is, IMOHO, that often behind every successful man there is a fish with a bicycle. And woe to those who lack a fish with a bike! Even when their guard is low, their more feminine opponents are sure to strike them!

PS. Another, more modern rendition of Deborah's Song is here:

When the leaders all come forward,
And finally take the lead,
The Lord is strong, he’ll tag along,
And help to do the deed.

The mountains quake and shimmy,
And bow before a Lord,
Who has the grit, to swear and spit,
And bring along his sword.

You villagers in Israel,
Just stared at one another,
The greatest babe, since the days of Abe
Came along to be your mother.

God chose new leaders wisely,
When war was coming near,
But what the people did, was ran and hid,
And shunned both shield and spear.

Oh you who ride on donkeys,
Or walk along the road,
Should sing and croon, to Deborah’s tune,
And the Lord will share your load.

Wake up, oh mommy Deborah.
Wake up and sing a song.
So many sleep, like a bunch of sheep,
And refuse to sing along.

Now y'all can carry a tune,
And y'all can carry a grudge.
But you can't carry on, asleep past dawn,
Cuz look out, here come da judge.

Remember our blessed Yael,
The quick thinking wife,
With a blanket of silk, and a bottle of milk,
She said I’ll save your life.

Her right hand grabbed a hammer,
Her left hand grabbed a nail,
She pinned his head, to the rail of the bed,
And lived to tell the tale.

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