The West face of Judges : Greek influence on early Israelite Bat-Jephthah, Samson, Deborah and Jael.


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The traditions in the Hebrew Bible (HB) were not created in a vacuum. Israel’s stories grew out of a larger ancient eastern Mediterranean context, and were influenced by the surrounding world including the Aegean. When biblical traditions present as unique in the ancient Near Eastern texts, but have numerous parallels from Greek myth or practice, Greek influence on the biblical traditions can be established. This study examines the northern Israelite traditions of Bat-Jephthah, Samson, and Deborah and Jael and concludes that all three show evidence of Greek influence. Elements of these stories are unique in the ANE but have several counterparts from Aegean tradition. Bat-Jephthah is modeled on Greek traditions of self-sacrificial heroines. Samson, while similar to other ANE wild men, participates in wedding traditions common in Greek story and practice, and, like many Greek heroes, is betrayed by the women to whom he is closest. Deborah, in Judg 4, is stylized like the Delphic Pythia, and the narrative of Deborah and Jael is reminiscent of infancy narratives of Greek Zeus. Moreover, this work proposes a date range for this west to east influence, with a terminus post quem at the fall of the Mycenaean Empire (c. 1200 BCE) and a terminus ante quem at the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel (721 BCE). Evidence from the biblical texts and Israel’s and Greece’s history helps to further narrow the date of influence down to a most convincing possible date to sometime during the ninth–eighth centuries BCE.



Bat-Jephthah. Samson. Deborah. Jael. Magic hair. Pythia. Heroines. Judges.