Judges 4-5, Pentecostalism, and the (de)construction of women ministers.
The development of Australian Pentecostalism from its embryonic stages in the early 1900s, has been marked by the prominent involvement of women. The impetus for public ministry in these formative years was the revival spirit reflective of Acts 2 in which the Holy Spirit would commission women and men to service (Chant 1999, p.39). As leadership and ministry appointment were based on ‘charismatic gifting’ (or divine ability for service) rather than official benediction, there were few gender restrictions. By 1930, twenty of the thirty-seven Pentecostal churches were initiated by women (Chant 1999, p.428).1 As Australian Pentecostalism grew, so did the need for an institutional framework to ensure its continued growth. In 1937, many of these churches joined the newly established fellowship of the Australian Assemblies of God (AoG). While women were constitutionally able to continue in leadership, a cultural pattern of ‘men only’ leadership emerged in subsequent years has continued to dominate the fellowship since (Grey, 2000, p.1). The voice of women has been marginalised in the shift to androcentric leadership. This has made it difficult for women to establish themselves as long-term ministers, rather than pioneers or assistants.
From such egalitarian beginnings2 the representation of women in ministry within the Australian AoG has declined. On a national level, women currently comprise 16.8 per cent of credentialed ministers,3 with only 3.7 per cent of women in the leadership position of senior pastor.4 However discouraging these statistics may appear, the recent emergence of scholarship addressing the marginalisation of women ministers in the movement globally offers hope for the future of Pentecostalism as it addresses the tension between its theology and practice. Yet in the meantime, there is a current generation of Pentecostal women who are deprived of examples of women ministers to model the egalitarian values of the Pentecostal tradition, rather than the androcentric culture present in the fellowship. To fill this void, many women look for models of female ministers in the biographies of the early female pioneers of Pentecostalism, such as Maria Woodworth-Etter. These historical figures provide illustrations of empowered women who overcame the external cultural restrictions of their era to answer the ‘call’5 to ministry.6 Although such biographical models are helpful for women from a social perspective, there has been little development of biblical examples of women in ministerial roles by Pentecostal scholars. It is crucial for the future of Pentecostalism to examine models of ministry from biblical texts to reinforce the values of charismatic empowering and ensure the relevancy of the fellowship to younger generations of women.
What I seek is a transformation of the current culture of Australian Pentecostalism and rediscovery of the traditional value of charismatic gifting in the biblical texts. This transformation looks to the egalitarian roots of Pentecostalism to form a vision of community: where the multiple voices of participants speak as they are enabled by the Holy Spirit rather than silenced by the current social practices. This is not a return to the past, but a retrieval (or in Fiorenza’s [1992, p.79] words, a "remembering of the past") through the reading of biblical texts of the traditions of Pentecostalism as a foundation for the transformation of the fellowship. It is the aim of this paper to explore reading strategies of Judges 4 and 5 that may assist the promotion of this Pentecostal tradition and the ministry of women in the fellowship.
The concern for the plight of women in Pentecostalism is not isolated to its constituents, but is also reflected in the writings of some feminist scholars. While Pentecostal scholars tend to display a distrust of feminism, the similarity of concern for women presents it as an ideal methodology to approach the reading of biblical texts. In the first section of this paper, I begin by interpreting feminist biblical criticism as the quest for a ‘voice’ for women and other marginalised persons. Using this metaphor of ‘voice,’ I will build an analytic framework from feminist biblical criticism that can contextualise the values of Pentecostalism. The traditional channel for Pentecostal women and men to voice their experience and ministry is through the ritual participation of ‘testimony,’ which I will adopt as my hermeneutical framework. This framework that I have labelled "femecostal criticism," allows each biblical text, such as Judges 4 and 5, to share its testimony and provide models of ministry for positive affirmation and transformative action. It also represents the reversal of strategies by which Pentecostal women have been marginalised as their ‘testimony’ of charismatic gifting creates more exposure and expectation for subsequent ‘testimonies’ of women’s ministry.
For the reversal of the marginalisation of women to actualise, the factors that instigated the cultural shift must be isolated. In the second section, I will suggest the sociological process of the "routinisation of charisma" as a major factor in the marginalisation of women in the Australian AoG. This theory suggests the charismatic basis of leadership can be undermined by the processes of institutionalisation; causing a tension between the need for stability and social respectability on the one hand, and the need for charismatic authority on the other. As Australian Pentecostalism has grown from its sect-like status to an institutional denomination it has adopted a culture of professionalism, and consequently paid the price by its relegation of women into socially restricted roles. This restriction of women is similarly represented in some recent interpretations of Judges 4 and 5, whereby the characters of Deborah and Jael have been undermined by the cultural assumptions of the interpreter rather than understood by their functions within the text.
With this in mind I will present alternate readings of Judges 4 and 5 as models of charismatic leadership and empowered women. In the third section, I will employ the framework of femecostal criticism of ‘testimony’ to hear the differing voices and cultural perspectives of the texts. These ‘testimonies’ will be explored through the literary approach of structural criticism to identify the different roles and relationships of the characters in the two texts. In this way, Judges 4 and 5 can provide alternative models in the process of liberation from the androcentric culture of Pentecostalism. The testimonies of Deborah and Jael, therefore become ‘mothers’ to a current generation of femecostals who have no ‘mothers’ to teach them of the tradition of prophetic ministry.
Who’s afraid of feminism?
Feminist criticism is notoriously difficult to describe; it employs various forms and diverse approaches to the study of a biblical text. A feminist critic may take a literary approach, or prefer a social-scientific discussion of a text, a meta-critical approach, or an historical perspective. A feminist critic may even prefer to utilize all four approaches. According to Mieke Bal (1988b, p.7) interdisciplinarity is one of the great accomplishments of women’s studies as it exposes the limitedness of scholarship to offer singular and removed solutions when confronted with reality. The present reality for women in Australian Pentecostalism is both a sociological and hermeneutical challenge. Therefore the interdisciplinary methods utilised in this paper to explore the possible transformation of the fellowship through the reading of biblical texts, reflects the reality of the situation for Pentecostal women.
While feminist biblical criticism is not bound to one system of thinking, it is bound to a singular focus of thought: women, and other marginalised ‘others’ (as represented by women). It is the over-arching concern for women that establishes its direction as a methodology. This focus keeps its plurality of approach free from the inherent dangers of eclecticism (Bal 1988b, p.7). Whether it is the abuse or use of women in a text or the subordination of ‘other’ concerns, such as ecological issues, feminist criticism focuses its plurality of approach on this central concern. From this focus, it can also endeavour to expose the strategies by which "others" have been marginalised, (Exum 1995, p.65) and consequently explore possibilities for their empowerment. Feminist concerns are not restricted by the gender, age, race, or even critical method of the scholar.
According to Cheryl Exum, (Exum 1995, p.65) the starting point for a feminist criticism of the Bible is not the biblical text itself but the concerns of feminism as a political system. By beginning with the social concerns of the interpreter, feminist criticism recognises the subjectivity of any interpretation and attempts to explicate these motives and interests. Biblical feminist criticism claims to demand a high degree of integrity and responsibility in readings to avoid using the text as a vehicle for expressing the ideologies of its interpreters (Smith 1997, p.113). It recognises the experiences and biases each reader subjectively brings to a text. While interpretations of Scripture that serve the patriarchal interests of a social group have been the object of condemnation by feminist criticism, it (ironically?) also seeks to serve its own interests in its interpretation of Scripture, namely the liberation of women. The difference, at least for feminists, is the self-conscious explication of their own agenda. Exum (1995, p.69) asserts feminist criticism as a methodology is (and presumably, should remain) "…suspicious of the notion that there is a "proper way" to read a text as an expression of male control of texts and male control of reading…" The experiences and voices of women provide alternative readings of biblical texts that can challenge the control of androcentric readings.
One of the ways this concern for women has been expressed in the diversity of writings among feminist biblical critics7 is by the metaphor of ‘voice.’ The voice represents for feminist scholars the ability of women to speak of their experiences: their desires, burdens, or knowledge as the ‘other’ of man (Chopp 1992, p.11). This is not to imply that all feminist biblical critics agree as to the nature, form or intent of their writing: they vary from Trible’s (1984) Texts of Terror which attempts to retrieve the lost voice of oppressed women (such as Hagar) in biblical texts, Exum’s (1983) exploration of the shaping of the Exodus history by women’s speech and actions, and Fiorenza’s (1992) re-voicing of tradition through her "hermeneutic of remembrance." Through this metaphor of ‘voice,’ scholars have proclaimed the importance of speech as empowerment for marginalised person’s and the previous silencing of their voices as a form of abuse (Chopp 1992, p.11). This represents the larger agenda of feminism to benefit all of society by equal value attributed to all people and all voices. As Rebecca Chopp (1992, p.16) asserts, "Feminism is somehow not just about women; rather, it casts its voice from the margins over the whole of the social-symbolic order, questioning its rules, terms, procedures, and practices." Feminism has also voiced its concern from the margins of Pentecostalism to challenge the tension between its tradition of egalitarianism and current androcentric culture.
The concern for the voicelessness of women in Pentecostalism has recently resulted in numerous studies by scholars, both inside and outside the global movement. Pentecostal scholars, such as Cheri Benvenuti, (2001) and Janet Everts Powers (1999) in North America, and Jim Reiher (2000) in Australia, have voiced their concern for the future of women in its indigenous fellowships, while feminist scholar Mary McClintock Fulkerson (1994) and sociologist Margaret Poloma (1989) are among those outside of Pentecostalism who have also questioned the marginalisation of women in its North American context. Fulkerson’s interest concerns women operating in a framework different to feminism, yet who were still able to function in an authoritative capacity as ministers within their Christian tradition (Powers 1999, p.315). Likewise, Poloma’s study concerns the dilemmas of institutionalisation in the North American AoG with reference to the decline of women in ministry.
While some Pentecostal scholars have interacted with research from outside their tradition, most tend to ignore its findings. Pentecostals, such as Powers, are sceptical of the contribution of scholars outside the movement, particularly feminist scholars. Powers (1999, p.315) writes,
But younger women are finding it difficult to reconcile their call to ministry with denominational and theological restrictions on the ministry of women. It is important that scholars from within Pentecostalism address these questions, since they understand the dynamics of Pentecostalism and are less likely to try to fit Pentecostalism into a secular or feminist grid which ends up misunderstanding or distorting the tradition.
Other Pentecostal scholars such as Sheri Benvenuti (2000, p.1) have disassociated themselves from the perceived aggressiveness of the feminist movement,
We, on the one hand, are not radical feminists who demand certain fights, suspicion patriarchal hierarchy as the greatest of all human evils, or refer to God as "she" at every turn. However, on the other hand, we are not simply passive about our call to ministry.
This disassociation from feminism by North American Pentecostals is also reflected in the writings of Australian AoG minister, David Cartledge (2000, p.309), who identifies the concerns of feminism as existing outside of Pentecostalism, but not particularly necessary in his own fellowship,
In non-Pentecostal churches there is considerable debate about the theology of women in ministry. It is likely that this denial is a prime cause of the rise of aggressive feminism that challenges the right of men to rule the church, and now results even in feministic designations of the Deity.
By ignoring the ‘voice’ of feminist scholars, Pentecostalism isolates itself from potential poignant critiques of its theology and culture, and more importantly segregates itself from dialogue with other segments of wider society.
However to claim that Pentecostal women do not demand certain "fights" (Benvenuti 2000, p.1) or that the Australian fellowship is immune to the impact of feminism, is to ignore the source of the tide from which this stream of concern for women in Pentecostal ministry is flowing. It is questionable if these issues of marginalisation would be raised in Pentecostalism if the status of women in society had not been previously challenged by secular feminism. Likewise, the rejection of feminism by these Pentecostal scholars is consequently the acceptance of limiting stereotypes. This is not to say that some feminists do not call God "she," or view patriarchy as the greatest of all human evils, but that not all feminists do. Feminist criticism represents a diverse range of interests and presuppositions, yet are all linked to a similar concern for the freedom of women’s voice in society.
Charismatic Gifting and the Pentecostal Tradition
This suspicion of feminism, evidenced by Pentecostal scholars, suggests their reliance on an alternative ideological basis for the promotion of women ministers. During its embryonic stages, Pentecostalism not only had to defend the right of women to preach but also their own distinct theology of Spirit Baptism. As an apologetic tactic, early Pentecostalism brought the issue of women ministers under the umbrella of the doctrine of Spirit Baptism to counter both attacks (Powers 1999, p.324). Based on Acts 2, believers were empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister regardless of their age, gender, or race. The United Constitution of the AoG in Australia reads,
Believing that in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this dispensation of the grace the Lord has made no distinction in pouring out His Spirit both upon His handmaidens as well as His brethren, we recognise the right and privilege of those so called and gifted to minister, whether they be brethren or sisters in the Lord.8 (Cartledge 2000, p.294)
This tradition bases appropriateness of ministry position on spontaneous selection and divine giftedness rather than gender qualifications. Whether female, male, child or elder, one had merely to be called by God to legitimate their authority to speak (Fulkerson, p.259). The ‘call’ would usually be authenticated by the exercise of charismata,9 which evidenced the divine authority invested in the person with the display of spiritual gifts (such as those outlined in 1 Corinthians 12-13). Once the call was received, it outweighed all other social expectations, including the cultural or ecclesial roles normally expected of women (Powers 1999, p.319). The biblical texts concerning women were read through this Pentecostal tradition in which the Spirit empowers women and men to minister.
The early defence of women minsters was further emphasised by the listing of numerous examples of biblical women engaged in leadership functions. By producing an extensive roll of biblical evidence, Pentecostalism sought to overpower the few sections that explicitly forbade women from ministering;10 not by theological arguments or underscoring cultural context, but by sheer weight of example. Judges 4 and 5 are passages of Scripture that have often added extra weight to the endorsement of women ministers by one word: Deborah. By listing the multitude of Scriptures where women did minister, Pentecostals could outweigh the Scriptures that forbade them. The current official statement concerning ‘The Role of Women in Ministry’ by the North American AOG,11 continues this tradition by listing examples of women in leadership from the biblical texts (including Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah) to uphold women ministers.
Like Spirit baptism, the Pentecostal tradition highlights the leadership of women in biblical narratives as a normative pattern. This appeal to canonical authority is highlighted in a reading of Judges 4 by North American Pentecostal teacher, Judy Brown (1996, p.105),
Any determination that is made today regarding what women can and cannot do in the work of God must reflect the biblical account of this woman Deborah; otherwise, the conclusions are not fully reflective of Scripture.
This creates a bridge between the experience of the Pentecostal and the world of Scripture. The early Pentecostals saw themselves as recovering and re-entering the world of the biblical text (Land 1993, p.72) - not to discover a doctrine of belief but a reality known as personal, first-hand knowledge (Albrecht 2001, pp.14-15). From this tradition, Pentecostals continue to approach the biblical text to find a mutual reality by which the reader can understand their own encounter and pattern their experience according to the established biblical witness. Pentecostals tend to cognitively interpret their own experience through the language and events in the biblical text. Such knowledge only comes through direct encounter with a personal God. The testimony of Elizabeth Sisson’s (1928, p.2) experience at a Pentecostal meeting, recorded in the 1928 edition of the Australian Evangel,12 highlights this reading process,
As I staggered about the platform, filled with unutterable glory, I could but say to myself, "Oh, this is the Holy Ghost and fire. Glory!"
Suddenly there flashed in upon me the account of Acts 2: "These men are filled with new wine."
"No wonder," I thought, "they called them drunk!" There was new light on how they all appeared that morning in Jerusalem!
Sisson understands and verbalises her experience through the language of a biblical text.
While a Pentecostal reading begins with the experience of the reader it does not have a strict definition of what actually constitutes an ‘experience,’ but rather keeps the concept open for, what Moltmann (1992, p.11) calls, "the transcendent origin of experience." Being overwhelmed by God, or experiencing the power of the Spirit is more than a divine characteristic but a mode of God’s presence. For Pentecostals, God is present according to God’s will (Moltmann 1992, p.11). As Poloma (1989, p.11) writes, "This sacred worldview attributes all things to God rather than relegating the sacred to a particular time slot on Sunday mornings!" The transcendent experience of God encountered in daily life, is reinforced by the ritual of participation in the Pentecostal tradition of ‘testimony.’13
If, for Pentecostals, an experience of God’s presence is the hermeneutical basis for reading biblical texts, then it is the verbal expression of an encounter through ‘testimony’ that continues to reinforce this interpretive method within the Pentecostal community. The ritual participation of testimony, particularly emphasised in early Pentecostalism, provides a platform for all participants (female and male) to share through verbal account their experience of God’s work and God’s Word (Scripture) in their lives. Rickie D. Moore (1995, p.15) emphasises the narrative impulses of Pentecostalism as he writes, "Story or testimony had been the prime vehicle and mode of discourse in Pentecostal faith from its beginnings, long before it had become fashionable in academic circles." From this oral tradition, experience of supernatural reality is not perceived as solely beneficial for the individual but is for the profit and promulgation of the community. Poloma (1989, p.185) asserts that Pentecostal ritual is an institutional mechanism through which the Pentecostal reality may be constructed and maintained. This use of testimony, then, becomes a metaphor for the potential charismatic gifting of each person, regardless of gender, age, race or class, that challenges the status quo of current socio-political power structures. Although Poloma (1989, p.203) notes the current tendency in larger Pentecostal churches to professionalise testimonies by selecting persons to testify at the expense of charismatic spontaneity, the function of testimony still represents the potential for all community members to voice the experience of God in their own lives.
While the metaphor of ‘testimony’ may represent the egalitarian values of early Pentecostalism, there is a growing recognition of the tension between the tradition and contemporary situation. Australian Pentecostalism can no longer "fly beneath the radar" in ignorant bliss of its decline in the numbers of women ministers. The younger generation of Pentecostal women and men, including myself, tend to display an unconscious feministic attitude by which we expect certain levels of equality and opportunity in Australian society to be reflected in the church. This expectation and hope for the transformation of the status quo in Pentecostalism, is reflected in both feminist criticism and the Pentecostal tradition. As Pentecostal women are exposed to the testimony of women’s experience in biblical texts, they can break the cycle of decline. This cycle of decline may be described in the following way: less exposure of women to the testimony of women’s ministry in a Pentecostal community creates less expectation for women to experience a ‘call’ to ministry which, in turn, creates less exposure to the testimony of women’s ministry.
The loss of women’s testimony within Australian Pentecostalism has marginalised their voice and reinforced cultural expectations of (in)appropriate behaviour for women. This is represented in the assertion of Australian AoG minister David Cartledge (2000, p.323), "It is unfortunate that some woman preachers become mannish and aggressive in order to protect their ministry gift, or preserve their position." This assumes aggression is not appropriate for a woman (but may be appropriate for a man) thereby imposing cultural limitations even on the intonation of a woman’s ‘voice’ so that it cannot be perceived to be "mannish." If Australian Pentecostalism continues its path, it is certain that the reversal of the forces that have undermined women, anticipated by the younger generation as represented by myself, will not be a ‘natural’ phenomenon or a simple procedure; it will require a willingness of Pentecostals for the self-criticism and pro-activity reflective of feminist biblical criticism. The vision for a transformed culture of Australian Pentecostalism is represented by the united concerns of feminist biblical criticism and the Pentecostal tradition: a femecostal criticism. This criticism seeks not to just expose the strategies by which women have been marginalised, but to reverse those processes. And by joining the "fight" perhaps femecostal criticism will rediscover its other Pentecostal traditions of pro-activity from within the women’s suffrage and social reform movements.
This concern for the ‘voice’ of ‘others’ to be expressed through the ritual participation of testimony represents the similarity of interest in both the Pentecostal tradition and feminist biblical criticism. The egalitarian nature of charismatic gifting in the Pentecostal tradition and current concern of the marginality of women observed in some segments of the global movement is reflective of the on-going concern for ‘others’ expressed in feminist biblical criticism. Yet to highlight their commonality of interest is not to suggest a simple fusion of the two groups. Rather it is an amalgamation of particular values. The traditions, activities and reading processes of Pentecostalism and feminist biblical criticism have some sympathies, but numerous variants. Both groups reject the Evangelical quest for objectivity, preferring to explore the role of an individual’s experience in reading biblical texts. This allows plural interpretations of a biblical text as the experiences of readers highlights its multiple meanings. Yet while feminist biblical criticism explicitly recognises the subjectivity of its readings, this admission is not explicated in Pentecostal hermeneutics. Instead the role of experience in Pentecostal hermeneutics is verbalised through the language of a biblical text with little reflection of the cultural presuppositions of the interpreter. This critical awareness and self-reflection of feminist biblical criticism that femecostal criticism seeks to emulate forms the "feme" of its name. The creation of femecostal criticism appreciates the values of equality and self-reflection from the tradition of feminist biblical criticism, but does not adopt all the values of feminism - such as its rejection of the independence of the biblical text. While the hermeneutic of the Pentecostal tradition upholds the subjectivity of the reader to realise meaning, it similarly reinforces the independence and ability of the text to challenge, or speak back to the reader. Otherwise the text is merely a weapon in the femecostal armoury.14
Feminist biblical criticism, as represented by the writings of Fiorenza (1992, p.82), seeks to construct a different world of feminist (hi)story in which women appear and matter, rather than remain ensconced in a world projected by an androcentric text. In comparison, the strict adherence of the Pentecostal tradition to Spirit Baptism signifies the literalism inherent in its hermeneutic. While Pentecostalism upholds the inspiration of the bible, it avoids the suggestion of inerrancy (Fulkerson 1994, p. 248). Yet this literalism is not static but held in tension by the dynamic experience of the Holy Spirit. As Fulkerson (1994, p. 248) asserts,
The rules for reading depart from fundamentalist accounts of biblical inerrancy at a point one might expect, given their identifying practice: at the point of the power and work of the Holy Spirit.
It is this Spirit-authorised regime of Scripture that levels access to ministry and leadership roles (Fulkerson 1994, p.253). It likewise reinforces the possibilities for the Spirit to ‘speak’ through the text. This reading process by which the reader can be challenged by the text, forms the "costal" of femecostal criticism.
Femecostal criticism represents the values of self-criticism and equality inherent in feminist biblical criticism as expressed through the Pentecostal tradition of charismatic gifting. It also represents the vision of feminist biblical criticism to deconstruct the processes by which women have been marginalised. In the next section I will consider the cultural strategies by which Pentecostal women have been marginalised using the sociological theory of the "routinisation of charisma." These same cultural processes are perceived to be active in some readings of Judges 4 and 5 which marginalise the ‘testimonies’ of women in the text. In the third section I will approach the biblical texts of Judges 4 and 5 from the multi-disciplines of structural criticism and sociological analysis. The texts will be considered as two alternate voices of women’s experience as the potential interests of both the androcentric culture and charismatic testimonies of the texts are explored. These readings aim to hear the voices of women empowered to minister, and allow these texts to construct the reading of femecostal criticism as models of charismatic leadership.
Practice versus Theology
It is the vision of femecostal criticism to investigate the strategies which have contributed to the marginalisation of the ‘testimonies’ of women ministers in Australian Pentecostalism. It has been perceived in the previous section that while Pentecostal women are endorsed as ministers theologically and constitutionally, this doctrine has not necessarily been applied in practice. Since this decline in women ministers cannot be attributed to theology, the alternative strategies by which they have been marginalised must be explored. I will suggest the sociological theory of the "routinisation of charisma" as the dominant process by which the testimony of women’s ministry has been marginalised. This same strategy is also observed in the silencing of the testimonies of women within the biblical text of Judges 4 and 5 as interpreters subjectively impose their androcentric concerns onto the text.
The Routinsation of Charisma
While the Pentecostal tradition of charismatic gifting recognises the spontaneous ‘call’ to ministry of any believer regardless of their age, gender, or race, it is too unpredictable as a basis for the perpetuation of a religious organisation. Instead, a socialisation process begins by which leadership and attitudes becomes routinised and regularised. According to O’Dea (1970, p.243), routinisation is an "unavoidable social process" and necessary to give an objective form to the emerging religious movement. This process also ensures its permanence. O’Dea describes the routinisation of charisma as a "complex paradox" (1970, p.243) as it struggles with the radical elements of both necessary (and permanent) institutionalisation and temporary charisma. He offers five dilemmas of institutionalisation,15 which express the antinomy of the routinisation process. Of these five dilemmas I will isolate one in particular, the "dilemma of mixed motivation," (Poloma 1989, p.101) to demonstrate how the routinisation of charisma has directly affected the role of women in Australian Pentecostalism.
According to O’Dea, during the pre-institutionalised stage of a religious movement the motivation of adherents is characterised by a single-minded concern for the religious values which are embodied in the charismatic leader (O’Dea 1970, p.244). This "motivation" is complicated by conflicting desires for recognition, prestige and formal structure which have usually come as the result of the values of the charismatic leader. O’Dea (1970, p.244) writes,
The religious movement does satisfy complex needs for its adherents, but it focuses their satisfaction upon its values and their embodiment in the charismatic leader. The charismatic call receives a wholehearted response. With the emergence of a stable institutional matrix, there arises a structure of offices – of statuses and roles – capable of eliciting another kind of motivation, involving needs for prestige, expression of teaching and leadership abilities, drives for power, aesthetic needs, and the quite prosaic wish for the security of a respectable position in the professional structure of the society.
This "dilemma of mixed motivation" is demonstrated in the Australian AoG by the professionalisation of ministry. The routinisation of charisma has produced a new professional clergy that undermines the values of charismatic leadership: the very tradition on which the fellowship was founded. The dilemma of "mixed motivation" is expressed in the tension between the satisfaction received by, on the one hand, office and prestige, and the values of charisma gifting on the other. By adopting the cultural concern for prestige and position of its surrounding culture, Australian Pentecostalism has traded charismatic gifting for professionalism. Concerning the similar situation of women in the North American AoG, sociologist Margaret Poloma (1989, p.120) writes, "Without officially changing its ideology, one could argue, the Assemblies of God has permitted its very success as an institution to block avenues once open to women."
These cultural processes of institutionalisation are witnessed by the restriction of previous freedoms and opportunities for women to minister in the Australian AoG. As ministry has become a profession rather than a charismatic gifting, Pentecostal women have tended to be denied access to positions of authority based on the cultural division of labour and economic power. This is particularly evident in the adoption of Australian Pentecostalism of conservative requirements of women to submit to a male authority. Jim Reiher (2000, p.8) cites the example of Mrs Pauline Heath (known as Sister Joy) in South Australia, who led a Pentecostal church from 1927 to 1933 until, as the newspaper of the congregation recorded, "a woman is not permitted to be a pastor according to the Scriptures [so Sister Joy] who has humbly, under God, led this work for some years, laid down that title nearly a year ago, and took instead the title of evangelist." Such examples highlight the ongoing tension within the fellowship between its ideology and practice as it appropriates cultural roles thinly disguised as theology. The cultural concern for the division of labour and professional prestige results in the marginalisation of the ‘testimony’ of women’s ministry.
In a recent survey of credentialed female ministers in the Australian AOG (Grey 2000, p.12), over eighty per cent agreed that women should be in submission to their husbands. However, this tendency to agree with submission decreased the less the participant was employed full-time in a ministerial capacity (Grey, 2000, p.13) emphasizing the strong links between the economic control of women and power - a concept highlighted in some feminist writings. The professionalisation of ministry is expressed in the Australian AoG by this relationship between the economic control of women and the adoption of encultured roles of behaviour for women and men (particularly the division of labour). These same forces that have sought to marginalise women in Australian Pentecostalism, are also perceived to be active in some interpretations of Judges 4 and 5.
The Routinsation of Charisma in Judges 4 and 5
The processes of institutionalisation that have silenced the ‘voice’ of women in ministry is also prevalent in some readings of biblical texts. The "motivations" that have instigated the routinisation of charisma in Australian Pentecostalism, such as the desire for order, respectable position and "professional structure" (O’Dea 1970, p.244) can be observed in these interpretations. The professionalisation of ministry within some readings of Judges 4 and 5, is evidenced by the supposed division of labour perceived by interpreters. In particular, the separation of ‘deliverer’ and ‘judge’ functions by scholars such as Barry Webb (1987) challenges the charismatic gifting of Deborah for leadership. Webb (1987, p.143) writes of verses 4-5,
This scene serves to introduce the character who will set the plot in motion in v.6 by sending for Barak, and to provide certain relevant information about her, in particular that she is a prophetess and hence the vehicle by which Yahweh’s word enters the story to summon Barak to fulfil the role of ‘saviour’ (the term does not occur in the text but this is certainly Barak’s role). Hence for the first time ‘judging’ and ‘saving’ are clearly distinguished from one another.
The character of Deborah evokes little interest from Webb, who is more concerned with creating the separate category of ‘saviour’ for Barak. Yet, it seems Deborah is more than just Webb’s catalyst for this saving event, she has single-handedly divided the role of judge into the two functions of legal judge and deliverer judge. Mieke Bal (1988a, p.27) questions the process by which this schism of role and function has occurred by challenging the ideologies of differing interpretations. She suggests the schism of ‘judge’ and ‘deliverer’ functions are based on androcentricism thinly veiled as "objective textual criticism." Bal (1988a, p.54) cites the assumption of A.D.H. Mayes (1974) who distinguishes between characters nominated as judges and actual judges who are deliverers.16 According to Mayes’ theory, Deborah cannot be a true judge; she is neither included in the list of Judges 10: 1-5, nor an autonomous deliverer as she enlists the support of Barak. Therefore for subsequent scholars such as Richter (1963), the designation of Deborah as judge in 4:4 must be a textual corruption. The (Aristotelian) logic of this argument maintains that a woman cannot be a deliverer (due to, of course, textual evidence), and as a deliverer is a judge therefore a woman cannot be a judge. The cultural assumptions inherent in this reading force many commentators such as Webb (1987) to maintain that Deborah and Barak shared the role of ‘judge’ and ‘deliverer.’ Yet, as Bal (1988a, p.57) asks, what if the textual evidence on which this logic is supposedly based is not substantial? What if the text citing Deborah as judge is more accurate than the list of judges?
While some scholars cite textual evidence to sanction their assumptions of Deborah’s judgeship, other commentators are less subtle in their rejection of her role. Lindars (1983) rejects Deborah’s judgeship based on the limited formality in which her role is represented in the text. Lindars (1983, p.173) writes,
However the Song of Deborah does not really confirm Deborah’s formal governmental position as imagined by the Deuteronomic editor, even if limited to her own tribe of Ephraim. The poem suggests no more than a prophetic charisma, which was remembered because of her intervention at a crucial moment in Israel’s history. And for this she is rightly celebrated as a mother in Israel.
Yet, this exclusion of Deborah based on the limited formality and temporality of her position would exclude all judges of the pre-monarchic period. As the leadership of this period was based on divine selection for a particular circumstance (acting on behalf of Yahweh) and temporality of position (it was not a hereditary position) there was no absolute criteria for leadership or formal governmental position in the modern sense, except the decree of Yahweh. This process of appointment of leadership is consistent for all of the judges in the texts of the pre-monarchic period.17
According to Jo Ann Hackett (quoted in Ackerman 1988, p104), during historical periods of cultic instability, the gender roles and distinctions that would usually govern Israelite religion and society tended to be eroded. During these times, women were more likely to be portrayed as exercising public religious power in the religious or social spheres. As there was no centralized bureaucracy based on a kingship society in pre-monarchic Israel was centred round tribal ties. The tribes were governed independently and tended to be an extension of the familial ties. Likewise warfare tended to be tribally based; military forces were both recruited from and motivated by protection of the local tribe (Yee 1993, p.110). These conditions also provided opportunities for women to lead during this period, as government was not based on hereditary (male) kingship, but rather based on charismatic authority in the tradition of Moses.
In comparison, during periods when the Yahwistic cult was stable and highly centralised, the gender conventions and distinctions were active, so women were less likely to be depicted as holders of power, but tended to be either vilified or ignored18 (Ackerman 1998, p.104). However it must be questioned why the Spirit has included the selection of a woman for leadership historically during times of instability, and only selected men during times of stability, such as during the early monarchic periods. Is the Spirit also biased against female leadership, or does the Spirit move among people biased by their own cultural presuppositions? Femecostal criticism would suggest the latter.
Although some readings of Judges 4 and 5 may accept Deborah’s position of judge, they throw suspicion on her ability to function in this position. Gale Yee (1993) quotes the speculations of Clovis Chappell during WWII on the judgeship of Deborah. Chappell (quoted in Yee, 1993, p.119) writes,
I have an idea that she was not highly successful as a homemaker. Perhaps in spite of her greatness she was not quite great enough to succeed in two careers. Few woman are…If she undertakes to run a home and to run her nation as well she is mighty apt to make a mess of one or the other.
While Chappell asserts her "greatness," it is undermined by her alleged disastrous domestic life (assuming she was married with a family) in which she is "not quite great enough." Such assertions are based on modern assumptions that a woman’s domain is in the private realm of ‘homemaker’ rather than public life.
According to O’Dea’s theory on the "dilemma of mixed motivation," as the socialization process develops the different roles (such as judge, leader and deliverer) become structured and static: as typified by kingship. While it is not the intent of this paper to define historical and sociological reasons for the institution of the monarchy, it may be noted that the centralized form of government established through the monarchy was inevitably modelled on a Canaanite precedent (Day 1988, p.72). Hence the dilemma of mixed motivation is also evidenced in the quest for respectability by adoption of Canaanite kingship, division of labour and professional army eventually replaced the defensive and voluntary tribal military system. As witnessed by Judges 5, the socially superior, military oppressors and technologically advanced Canaanites separated women from men in their class (in 5:28 they are immobilized behind the lattice) and denigrated others of a supposedly lower social status (the men are imagined as gathering "uteruses" in 5:30 (not women) from among the Israelites). As charismatic leadership was increasingly routinised, so was the status of women. Opportunities for women to exercise leadership and influence were increasingly marginalised by the socialization process.
However, it seems it is the aggressive portrayal of Jael that proves most distressing to commentators. Cundall (1968, p.90) calls the murder of Sisera by Jael an act of "treachery." It is interesting to note that these commentators are quick to justify the immoral deeds of other male heroes such as Shagmar and Ehud, but not the hero Jael. The morally questionable acts of the men are perceived as part of the social anarchy of the period (represented by the often repeated term: "everyone did what was right in their own eyes"), yet Jael is excluded from these symptoms of social anarchy. Webb (1987, p.17) asserts,
It is Jael who finally emerges as the real hero of the narrative. But she is not an orthodox hero on the Othniel model, as Barak was destined to be; she partakes rather of the unorthodox qualities of Ehud and Shagmar….Her action is morally ambiguous, but her courage and the sheer virtuosity of her performance are sufficient to silence criticism on that score (5.24). The crowning aspect of her unorthodoxy as a hero is her sex: Yahweh sells Sisera into the hand of a woman.
For Webb, it is the identification of Jael as a woman that testifies to her unorthodoxy.
Even more startling is the depiction by scholars of Jael’s act in which Jael becomes identified as the enemy. Halpern (1983) portrays Jael in images of criminality as she entices, steals, pounds, and murders while Sisera is portrayed as an innocent fugitive who humbly asks for water and peaceably slumbers, rather than the captain of the Canaanite army who has fled from an attempt to annihilate the Israelite forces. According to Bos (1988, p.56),
Commentators generally view Yael’s actions with varying degrees of condemnation. She is said to have violated customs of hospitality while pretending to keep them, thus to have gone overboard in her deception of "poor" Sisera whom she killed while he was fast asleep. Such negative judgments arise most likely because of unspoken assumptions about proper feminine behaviour and acceptable codes of social intercourse.
However, I propose that these representations are not reflective of the function of Jael in the texts of Judges 4 and 5, but demonstrate the cultural assumptions of interpreters who have undermined her role.
The process of the "routinisation of charisma" in readings of Judges 4 and 5 is observed in other biblical texts that tend to interpret Judges 4 and 5 through its androcentric culture. At the coronation of Saul,19 described in 1 Samuel 12:11, the prophet refers to deliverers of the previous period sent by Yahweh. Among this prestigious list features Barak. It is an interesting insertion - from a femecostal reading, presented below, Barak is clearly not the deliverer or hero yet he features in this list by Samuel with no mention of Deborah as the judge or prophet, or Jael’s heroic act. It is, perhaps an example of the influence of the prevailing androcentric culture to marginalise the voices of women. This reading of Judges 4 and 5 in the Old Testament is compared to Hebrews 11. The writer of Hebrews, recalls the ‘heroes of faith’ from Israel’s past. While some women such as Sarah and Rahab are mentioned, Deborah is strikingly absent. Instead Barak appears as the paradigmatic ‘looser turned hero’ in the episode of the Hebrews text. It reads in 11:32,
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of aliens. (NIV)
While Deborah is absent, the author of the Hebrews text is not simply reading Judges 4 and 5 through the androcentric culture.20 In contrast, they cite the failures in the Old Testament pilgrimage. Deborah, who does not fit this category of faithlessness or failure, is not suitable for the purpose the author of Hebrews selects material.21
Therefore the sociological process of the "routinisation of charisma" has been identified as a strategy by which women have been marginalized. This process, that equates male leadership with respectability and undermines female leadership, is perceived in both current attitudes to Pentecostal women in ministry and interpretations of the roles of Deborah and Jael. However, identifying the problem does not reverse its impact. This still requires the pro-activity of Pentecostal women in promoting both ministry opportunities and readings of biblical texts reflective of their tradition. While models of women reversing the cultural assumptions of (in)appropriate behaviour of women are rare in the current context of Australian Pentecostalism, I will now explore readings of Judges 4 and 5 as alternative testimonies for Pentecostal women in which Deborah and Jael embody the femecostal values of charismatic gifting.
The Testimonies of Judges 4 and 5
One of the difficulties in reading Judges 4 and 5 is the use of both narrative and poetry in the presentation of their testimonies to describe the rout of the Canaanite army. The poetic account is usually read as an adjunct to the narrative version. Yet as they both recall the same events, do the different accounts testify of alternative perspectives and perhaps even different traditions, or is it simply a case of deja vu of the narrator? This difficulty is intensified not only by the differences and similarities of each account, but also by the presuppositions and stereotypes evoked by the alternative genres of poetry and narrative adopted by the texts. Considering the poetic form of chapter 5, Coogan (1978, p.165) recognizes its potential as a source for delineating the facts of the event by writing "In a sense the Song of Deborah is a long episodic introduction to and reflection on one event: the rout of the Canaanite armies and the death of their general." Yet he dismisses the Song as "a poor substitute for history," (Bowra quoted in Coogan 1978, p.143) preferring reliance upon the narrative for supposed objectivity and historical accuracy. Likewise, James Ackerman (1975, p.9) writes "The song is full of transitions and flashbacks, making it difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct the battle sequence."22 Other scholars, such as Freedman (quoted in Bal 1988a, p. 30), question its historical viability yet still recognise its advantages in capturing the mood of the contemporary event. This quest for the ‘truth’ of the event tends to subordinate the interests and traditions of the alternative testimony of Judges 5. The alternative testimonies compete as sources of factuality. Once the more factual account is located, the lesser ‘truthful’ account is subordinated as fictional.
According to Mieke Bal (1988a), the delineation of sources is an example of the power of androcentricism to subordinate women’s concerns and interests. She (1988a p.21) writes, "What to do, then, with a text where this "virile" aggressiveness belongs to a woman, and where the man is less heroic than the genre could wish? Separate the sources." Is the choice of testimonies a battle of the sexes in which the interpreter must choose between "Woman’s song - man’s epic"? (Bal 1988a, p. 2). Bal expresses great interest in the focalisation, or interested perspective, of each text. A comparison of the battle scene, for example, reveals the vital differences; while Deborah seems to disappear at this point from the narrative (4:14), in the lyrical account she appears active throughout the battle. Although the poetry of the Song of Deborah is generally considered to be one of the oldest texts in the Hebrew Bible,23 it is discarded as an informative source by most scholars in preference for the more ‘historical’ narrative version. Halpern (1983) suggests the narrative was actually constructed from the poetry by an Israelite historian, albeit a clumsy one.24 He (1983, p.400) writes, "The hermeneutic involved in creating Judges 4, after all, indicates that this text was composed as a companion piece for SongDeb." In contrast, Caquot (1986) considers the Song to be of a later date than the narrative. Although the origins of the texts are uncertain, they represent two separate perspectives and traditions from which the same event is testified –regardless of the historical origins of each text. Yet, while interpreters continue to subordinate (subjective) ‘experience’ to (objective) ‘truth’ the alternative testimonies of Judges 4 and 5 will still compete for a voice. However, the impact of Judges 5 for testifying of the experience of Ancient Israel may be far more significant than the mere evocation of a mood or feeling as it presents alternative models of leadership and cultural values.
To compare the alternative testimonies of Judges 4 and 5, I will adopt various approaches from structural criticism to help recognize the roles and relationships of the characters in the texts. Structural criticism assumes that all texts and readers create meaning through patterns and relationships, whether "in" the world of the text, or "in" our minds (Jobling 1995, p.91). The human mind automatically looks for patterns of meaning by which to process a text. Structural criticism attempts to make those processes explicit, or to greater self-consciousness (Jobling 1995, p.116). David Jobling (1995, p.116) asserts,
If the structuralist account of the mind is correct, "structural analysis" is what you do all the time, as you look for significant patterning in the data you perceive, and create models that make the data workable for you.
By establishing distinct patterns in the testimonies of Judges 4 and 5, I will apply three structures from structural analysis upon which the interests of the testimonies are built. The actantial model25 reveals a pattern of plot complications that propel the narrative version of Judges 4. While this model outlines the functions of the characters, it does not isolate the cultural code on which these roles, particularly the differing roles of women and men, are defined. The second structure explores the cultural code of honour-shame that dominates the testimony. It has been intricately explored by Mieke Bal (1998a) utilising the model of the semiotic square26 which I will adopt to explore the role of the prophetic utterance of Deborah in the marginalisation of women and ‘others.’ This use of charismatic gifting in the text of Judges 4 is of particular interest in developing a femecostal criticism as it observes the values of the Pentecostal tradition modelled in an androcentric culture. These patterns will be compared to Judges 5 to examine an alternative pattern (the third structure) of charismatic gifting and empowerment of women.
Testimony of Judges 4
The testimony of Judges 4 begins with reference to the cycle of the sin of Israel and the death of Ehud (the judge named as predecessor to Deborah) as indicated by the opening of the testimony: "and again." It highlights the pattern of behaviour by which each judge emerges: a cycle containing four elements of evildoing, punishment, outcry, and deliverance (Sternberg 1985, p.271). Concerning this contextual frame, Sternberg (1985, p.271) asserts "…the oppressor’s overthrow is foreshadowed by paradigm and analogy even before Deborah lifts a finger." The account of Judges 4 can be divided into four scenes according to the spatial transitions that propel the story towards its conclusion. These scenes can be described sequentially as the command to fight (vv1–10), the ensuing battle (vv11-13), the emergence of Yahweh (vv14-16), and the death of Sisera (vv17-24).27 While the evildoing, punishment and outcry of the cycle are predictable elements, the identity of the oppressors may alter throughout the book of Judges: in this case it is Jabin, king of the Canaanites, and Sisera, his army chief.28 However, the question driving the testimony of Judges 4 is how this deliverance will come, and who it will come by. This contextual frame also locates the voice of the witness as the narrator/redactor of Judges, and indicates their concern to identify a deliverer. From this paradigm, the storyline of Judges 4 is propelled by the mystery of the identity of the deliverer (Sternberg 1985, p.271). Who will carry out the deliverance? And who will help? The outline of this concern can be structured as seen in Diagram 1.
In the first scene of Judges 4 which depicts the command to fight, the first candidate for the role of the mysterious deliverer is Deborah. With impeccable credentials she emerges as the potential deliverer; she is an established political figure with recognisable religious functions. Deborah is described in vv.4-5 sequentially as "prophetess," "women of Lappidoth or torches," and "judge." While most commentators infer tS' to be a description of her marital status, Boling (1975) notes the difficulty of this interpretation. Lapidoth has a feminine inflection, is a rare word, and is not noted as a proper name elsewhere; it could equally be translated as woman of "torches" or "flames."29 Boling (1975, p.95) construes this meaning of "flames" to be a reference to Barak, meaning "lightning"30 concluding Deborah must be the wife of Barak. However, the actions of Deborah reveal her to be of independent and spontaneous character. Coupled with her first name, usually translated as "bee,"31 these images add a quick-tempered and possessive element to her persona. Such a description is appropriate for a "woman of flames," who is also a torch of guidance for Israel. However, it seems this flame is lying dormant, and must be ignited by a prophetic spark.
Deborah is also designated as judge, and prophetess. It is this function of judge that is most questioned by commentators such as Webb (1987), who prefer to separate the ‘judge’ and ‘deliverer’ functions. According to Bal (1988b), as a representative of Yahweh, the purpose of a judge is to establish order from chaos. She (1988b, p.210) writes,
When chaos is caused by external threat – war or occupation – the first task of the judge is to liberate the people from its enemies. When no external enemy but internal chaos threatens, the actual work is different, but the idea remains the same: to create order in chaos.
The symbolic height of Deborah to which the people hyl' wlvyw "go up to her" (4:5) implies her respected position and authority.
So it appears the plot-mystery can be represented by the actantial model as Yahweh potentially provides a deliverer in Deborah for the people of Israel who are crying out for deliverance:
As Deborah is a respected judge, her leadership has already been sanctioned by Yahweh. And since she is also a designated prophet, her authority comes from Yahweh directly and not through the intermediacy of another. However, a problem with this initial proposal develops as Deborah enlists the help of Barak in v.6. It is no longer Yahweh necessarily providing the deliverer but Deborah also assumes divine initiative as she calls for Barak. It seems then she has passed the role of deliverer to another while maintaining her role as intermediary between the divine and human realms. Exum (1985) compares Deborah’s newly reactivated role as prophet with another prophet and judge: Samuel. She (1985, p.84) writes, "Barak appears accountable to Deborah in the way that Samuel holds Saul accountable to him (and the Lord)." Barak, meaning "lightning," seems a likely candidate for deliverer, having been sent by Deborah who promises Yahweh’s assistance to complete the task (diagram 3).
Yet, just when the identity of the deliverer seems certain, it is once again complicated. This time, it is the reluctance of Barak to deliver Israel that disqualifies him.32 While Deborah prophetically announces this role and honour will go to a woman (4:9) it is not clear if she is referring to herself, another, or until this prophecy is actualised, she is possibly even falsely prophesying. So the mystery is suspended at the close of the first scene and the identity of the deliverer remains unknown.33
Through the development of the second scene, testifying of the ensuing battle, the candidacy for potential deliverer is again opened to Deborah. She forcefully rouses Barak and the voluntary army to mobility and initiates the ensuing action. This idea is suspended, however, in the third scene as Deborah suddenly vanishes (4:14). Amit (1987, p.94) proposes she disappears because the narrative at this point is presented as a report made to Sisera that reflects his interest in the identity of the military general rather than the prophet alongside. So while Deborah is not mentioned she is certainly alongside Barak.34 Yet Deborah’s dismissal by the narrator after the battle cry eliminates her candidacy as active deliverer. Barak then, has the potential to usurp the role from the mystery woman of whom Deborah has prophesied (as no mention is made of her in the ensuing battle), and potentially discredit Deborah’s prophetic reputation. However, the subsequent description of battle in which Yahweh emerges, also eliminates Barak. He proves reluctant (again) as he passively awaits the battle cry of Deborah. The sting of Deborah’s prophecy is from behind (the scenes of the battle) like a bee. Sternberg (1985, p 276) writes, "Since God has "gone out before" Barak, Barak’s eventual descent "and ten thousand men after him" sounds a mocking note: the nominal leader is himself a follower." The irony of Barak’s name is felt; he seems to be bolted down rather than lightning-bolt quick.
An alternative use of structural analysis is exemplified by Stephen Hanselman (1989), who develops a structure based on summons and commands in each of the primary scenes. For example, in the first scene, Hanselman distinguishes Deborah as the primary actant. Deborah summons Barak in v.6, commands him in vv6-7, to which Barak responds in v.8 (1989, p.101). This pattern of summons and commands is reciprocated in the second scene with Barak once again proving a reluctant leader. From this pattern of summons, commands and response, Hanselman (1989, p.105) concludes "The male actants should be read in subordinate roles of opponent and helper, commensurate with their place within the narrative structure." So at the close of the third scene of this ‘testimony’ the plot continues to thicken as Barak is reduced to helper, Deborah has been removed, and the identity of the (presumably) female deliverer remains a mystery:
The fourth scene opens with Sisera fleeing the battlefield as the focus shifts to a third candidate for the role of deliverer. The demise of Sisera expected from the outset of the story is marked by gradual physical descent; although he had entered the story from the height of his chariot and superiority of weaponry, he then descends to a place of equal standing as he abandons his military rank and immobilised chariot to eventually abandoning his losing army to lie hidden under a curtain. At this point enter Jael; the third candidate for the role of deliverer with the essential credential of (in)correct gender. However a complication is immediately raised by the narrator: Jael’s family is allied with the enemy through her husband’s relationship to King Jabin as a nomadic mercenary (Margalit 1995, p.633). This suspension of the mystery is increased by the reassurance and hospitality of Jael (Sternberg 1985, p.282). The mystery resolves in climatic urgency as Jael, the third candidate for the role of deliverer, executes the Canaanite enemy. Barak is also her helper as he physically drives Sisera into the platform of Jael, as prophesied by Deborah and Yahweh. Therefore, the testimony of chapter 4 witnesses the functions of the actants to be as in diagram 4..
The final murder by Jael is depicted with escalating aggression and sexual overtones as she conquers Sisera with climatic efficiency.35 Barak the "lightning bolt" is once again too slow and arrives only after the culmination of the plot tension has occurred. In fact, Barak has already been eliminated by the pun on his name when Jael hammers the tent peg "into him [Sisera]." The structural analysis also suggests Barak’s passive role as helper is unlikely to excite a dramatic confrontation. Yet instead of receiving the honour promised of Barak (4:9) for her act of deliverance, Jael receives only silence from the witness of Judges 4. This is reinforced by the adoption in the text of the cultural code of honour-shame.
This cultural code is evoked by the prophetic word of Deborah as recorded by the narrator of Judges 4. She declares that Barak’s supposedly unmanly reluctance to lead the military coup will result in his shame: Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman (4:9). This cultural code of honour-shame is explicitly linked, by the prophetic speech, to the separation of the sexes. Feminist critic Mieke Bal, (1988a, p.117) portrays this code utilising the semiotic square of structural analysis (diagram 6).
By this cultural pattern men are associated with honour, women with shame. While charismatically gifted women may hold positions of influence in the leadership of the community, their equality is undermined by the androcentric culture. From Bal’s model, men and women are not diametrically opposed, but culturally separated. The cultural relationship of honour and shame is not a simplistic code - it is a complex web as Bal’s model indicates – however, it is simple by its implicating logic. A male victim may be associated with either honour or shame, depending on the circumstances of his death (military battle or domestic death). Although Deborah is active in ministry (as both prophetess and judge) her military role is questionable, she appears to be confined to local (domestic) roles by the androcentric culture in 4:4-6. This correlates her social function with the shame of her gender, rather than military glory.
As the testimony of Judges 4 begins, after twenty years of oppression, Deborah calls Barak to her seat of judgment to deliver a prophetic charge of a strategic military ambush (4:6) which will liberate Israel. Barak falters with a conditional statement that im' "if" Deborah is with him he will go, but if she is not with him he will not go. It is this statement that marks the opportunity for Deborah to reverse cultural expectations and participate as a military leader. It also marks what I have termed, a moment of "prophetic crisis." The prophetic crisis is an event that reverses the natural order: it is marked by ambiguity (Bal 1988a , p.116) and a reversal of usual assumptions. A logical assumption may be, for example, that the superior weaponry of the Canaanites would overcome the Israelites, however during a prophetic crisis this natural order is reversed. Another logical expectation assumed by this cultural code of honour-shame is that Barak will be brave and fight - as men are warriors who are brave. However, as Barak behaves in a "womanly way," showing uncertainty, (Exum 1995, p.71) he overturns these expectations. The indictment against him by Deborah (4:9) reinforces this cultural code.
Barak’s conditional statement for Deborah to accompany him to battle anticipates a response from Deborah; he expects her action. Instead, Barak receives speech. The "prophetic crisis" reverses expectations. Deborah responds verbally with a prophetic utterance that will reverse cultural norms (4:9): the glory normally attributed to a man will go to a woman. Deborah reverses Barak’s present expectations with her prophetic speech and overturns the future expectations of Barak’s honour by her prophetic utterance.37 Only after she speaks, does she act to fulfill Barak’s request. The previously immobilized and physically passive Deborah is empowered; she arises to lead the army. The prophetic crisis is the spark that ignites the "woman of flames." The prophetic crisis continues to flout expectations: the woman Deborah is active to give the summons and battle cry (4:14); the sophisticated Canaanites are routed by the Israelites (4:15) and Sisera is indeed sold into the hand of a woman (4:21).
The observation of the "prophetic crisis" in this reading challenges femecostal criticism: while charismatic gifting empowers women and ‘others,’ the Spirit still works through the presuppositions of human (in this case, androcentric) cultures. While the prophetic crisis, which reverses the natural order, empowers Deborah as a leader the cultural code that restricts women is still in place. The charismatic gifting of Deborah challenges the androcentric culture, yet also ironically reinforces it; Deborah’s ministry can only be authenticated as charismatic because it is a reversal of supposedly normal expectations. Women can be charismatically empowered as leaders as it reverses the ‘natural order.’ It may also be observed that Barak also actualizes the prophecy as he drives Sisera to the tent of Jael, and also reverses the cultural norms to act as a "helper" and recipient of shame. The cultural code that subordinates women is also reversed by Jael.
Jael is introduced in the testimony of Judges 4 not as a leader of Israel – although she is potentially the mystery deliverer - but more concretely, she is described as a wife of Heber the Kenite, leader of a nomadic group. Her female domain of the tent is approached by the chariot-less Sisera. She responds in a manner appropriate to the cultural code by offering help and subservience. She speaks imperatively and respectfully, asking for him, the ynd' "lord," to accept her assistance. The involvement of Jael would seem unexpected except if explained by her (unconscious?) actuation of an established plan, as set in motion by the previous prophecy of Deborah (4:9) and reversal of expectations it requires.
While Sisera continues to order the subordinate Jael by demanding water, he also demands she "keep watch" at the doorway (4:20). The pattern of prophetic crisis, noted in the exchange between Deborah and Barak, is again repeated as Sisera speaks a conditional statement marked by "if" im' (4:20): if a man comes to ask of a man, she is to say there is none. Sisera demands speech, Jael gives action. Jael complies wordlessly as she takes her weapons of domestic use and silently executes him (4:21).38 The natural expectations are reversed and the one expected to protect now attacks. The intentions of Jael are not revealed; it is not known if she greeted Sisera with intent to kill or if this action was not premeditated.39 However, this moment presents a choice to Jael; the prophetic crisis presents the opportunity to either protect or attack the enemy of Israel.40 Once she has acted, Jael subsequently begins to fulfill Sisera’s request by speaking to the "man" (Barak) who comes to ask of a "man" (Sisera) in v.22. However, while Jael encountered Sisera with subservience and humility (calling him "lord"), she encounters Barak with language of equality. She reverses the request of Sisera by telling the "man" there is a "man" inside, who is "man" no longer. Jael is empowered by the prophetic crisis as she d'r'w (hiphil verb) - causes Barak to see what he is looking for.
From the cultural code described in the semiotic square (diagram 6), Barak is automatically shamed as a man because a woman has executed the military leader. Sisera is shamed from his annihilation by a woman in a secret battle (Jael’s’ animosity was not public) in a domestic setting. These factors reinforce the reversal of cultural expectations by the prophetic crisis that empowers the women. The testimony of Judges 4 gives no indication of Jael’s acceptance into the Israelite community, or her receipt of Barak’s glory apart from the separate testimony of the Song’s praise of her embedded into the narrative. This testimony claims possession of the Song, yet as it testifies of the same basic material, it will be considered by this study as a separate source of information.
According to this reading, the "prophetic crisis" reverses cultural expectations and challenges the status quo. Yet the event is conditioned by the men’s speech and reluctance to lead. The pattern of prophetic crisis that empowers Deborah and Jael is available only after the men have faltered (and presumably lost their right to be a "man"). It would appear from this testimony of Judges 4 that a woman is the second choice as the recipient of honour; she is chosen only after the man has rejected the opportunity. This is also reflected in some ‘testimonies’ of Pentecostal women. Popular writer and Conference speaker, North American Pentecostal Cindy Jacobs (1993) writes of her ‘call’ to leadership of a prayer network. She records her experience of revelation from God that she was not the first choice for leader, but the second choice since the original choice, a man, had refused the role. While she is gifted as a charismatic leader for this network that has grown to become an international organisation (which includes the membership of her husband), her testimony reflects both the cultural marginalisation of women in the North American context, and the Pentecostal tradition of what Fulkerson (1994, p.263) describes as "radical dependence" on God. Fulkerson (1994, p.265) describes this dependence:
Only God can authorise their ministry, according to their tradition. Thus these Pentecostal women combine utter security in their vocation with the denial that their will is the source of the call or that they amount to anything without God’s working through them.
The pattern of "prophetic crisis" in Judges 4 provides a model of charismatic gifting and women’s ministry to challenge femecostal criticism. The reversal of the forces of marginalisation and confront the status quo of the androcentric culture represented in Judges 4, requires a radical dependence on God. For Jael and Deborah to reverse cultural expectations through prophetic words and deeds, requires radical dependence on God. Jael demonstrates implicit trust in Yahweh as she rejected the expected alliance with the Canaanites, instead aligning herself with the Israelites. Deborah also explicitly trusts in the prophetic gifting of Yahweh as she sounds the battle cry (4:14). This radical dependence functions as a form of resistance to the status quo of the androcentric culture as the women act according to the prophetic crisis rather than expected roles. For Pentecostal women and ‘others’ in a similar cultural climate, the challenge of this biblical text is for daring speech and radical dependence on God. When the vision of femecostal criticism has been achieved and the ministry of women is no longer perceived as a reversal of the ‘natural order,’ the prophetic crisis will seek to overturn the expectation of events rather than the expectations of the messenger, as Judges 5 demonstrates.
The testimony of Judges 5
Judges 5 has numerous similarities and differences to the narrative version of chapter 4 in voicing its ‘testimony.’ The major characters (Deborah, Barak, Sisera and Jael) and basic actions are mostly the same in the two descriptions (apart from Deborah’s military role which will be discussed below).41 Likewise the basic plot of oppression and liberation of the ancient Israelites corresponds. However, its literary form as Song does not parallel the narrative form of Judges 4. Although it still expresses the meaning of the event, it reverses the expectations of what a testimony should be like. The poetic voice of Judges 5 challenges the expectations of femecostal criticism that a testimony should be expressed in narrative form, or even present a single voice. This testimony also differs from the narrative version by its emphasis on the dual voice of Deborah and Barak who "sing" the account, rather than a single voice of a narrator.
The drive of the plot function, represented in the narrative version of chapter 4 by the quest for the knowledge of the deliverer’s identity is distinctly absent in the poetic form. Although the basic structure of events remains the same, it is presented through the construction of community involvement. The poem accentuates the plurality of participants to achieve the common purpose of liberation. This poetic testimony has no interest in isolating a particular character as the glorious ‘deliverer,’ but praises all who participated in the event. Although Jael receives specific commendation for her extraordinary act, it is not the focus of the song - nor is her praise based on the cultural assumption that she has usurped the glory of Barak, rather she receives the praise on her own merit. According to Hauser (1980, p.84), the poetic representation of Jael hammering Sisera to death provides the main emotional outlet for Israel’s bitter hared of the Canaanites, thereby symbolising in the actions of an individual the emotions of the group. In this way, the character Jael, becomes a metaphor for the liberation of the community of Israel. In contrast to the narrative, the Song also symbolises a "death of the superstar" (both the deliverer and Sisera) as it focuses on the cooperation42 of Israel.
The centre of the poem is generally asserted by scholars to be the descriptive catalogue of the tribes (Coogan 1978, p.152),43rather than the mystery deliverer of Judges 4. Coogan (1978) counters a previous assertion of Blenkinsopp (1961) that the unity of the poem is theological rather than literary. According to Coogan, the form and meaning of the Song of Deborah are complementary (1978, p154). Therefore the poetic form of Judges 5 that develops the testimony through literary devices such as parallelism and the use of communal images, may also suggest its meaning is the concern for unity and participation of the tribes. Likewise, the distribution of the actors (as subject of the verb)44 between the possible options of singular and plural, masculine and feminine, reinforce this concern. While 48 of the actions are completed by individual subjects, 42 of the verbs have a plural subject. Of the singular actions, 24 of the verbs have a masculine subject and 20 verbs have a feminine subject. This structure of words, images and form of description suggests a unique experience of the ‘testimony.’ It is concerned with the focus of the communal involvement of characters in the liberation of Israel, and not just the actions of individuals.45 The praise for the characters is not based on gender or hierarchy, but rather participation. Those who helped realise the liberation are praised, while non-participants are vilified.
While the emphasis of the Song may concern plural participation, the role of individuals in initiating and promoting this unity are far from maligned. The ability of Deborah as a poet and co-author of the song reinforces her portrayal in the testimony of chapter 4 as a charismatic authority. The inherent capacity of Deborah for judgeship is represented in the Song by Deborah’s poetic ability. Bal (1988a, p.209) asserts,
In the Song of Deborah, poetry is related to judging in both the military-political sense and in the juridical sense. Deborah’s song is full of judgements, of praise and curse.
Brenner (1985, p.53) lists her qualifications for charismatic authority in the tradition of Moses as: her ability for sound judgment; capacity to inspire loyalty and respect; her gifts of oratory, rhetoric, literary composition; and proficiency in music.46 However, while she is portrayed as a leader, she does not dominate or impose her authority. Instead, she leads by guiding the community and harmonizing the various actions of others. She uses her prophetic leadership to encourage the community of participants through song (5:12). This does not deny the importance of leadership within a community, but differentiates the facilitation of Deborah from dictation.
The testimony of Judges 5 speaks from the margins of the meta-narrative of Judges. It stands firm in its tradition of female leadership to offer a model of resilience from the androcentric interests represented by Judges 4. This is not to deny the relevancy of Judges 4, but to emphasise the significance of the testimony of chapter 5 to contemporary leadership models based on co-operation. Even the limits of grammar are stretched as Deborah’s voice is almost indistinguishable from the community in the translation of 5:7:
hrwbd ytmqw dv
l'rSyb m' ytmqS
While some scholars, such as Coogan (1978) and Boling (1975), suggest the subject of the verb "arose" is the second person singular "you arose." Other scholars such as Bal (1988a), consider this a subordination of Deborah’s voice and prefer the alternative of "I arose." According to Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis (quoted in Rasmussen 1989, p. 83) "The emphasis on ‘I’ draws attention to the fact that the judge and deliverer of Israel is a woman, a weak person, presumably, but one who turns out to be the people’s strength." As Rasmussen observes, there is no evidence for this relegation of weakness to Deborah, only an androcentric assumption based on the association of weakness with the female gender of Deborah (1989, p.83). Alternatively this ambiguity of voice in Judges 5 can suggest a strength of character, as Deborah is able to interconnect with others to be a powerful model for human leadership based on mutuality. Therefore, to remove the ambiguity is to lose the interest of the poem in partnership; the pattern of association between the "I" and "you" of the verb. This pattern is likewise perceived in the united voices of Deborah and Barak, Yahweh with others, and the partnership of Israelite tribes united under the leadership of their ‘mother’ Deborah. Therefore the testimony of Judges 5 reveals a pattern which essentially dissolves the legality of an actantial model: all of Israel are helpers, all are subjects and all acted as deliverers to achieve the goal of deliverance and worship of Yahweh together. This value is reflected in the Pentecostal tradition of charismatic gifting based on Acts 2.
This model of leadership portrayed in Judges 5 does not separate roles by gender or impose a hierarchy of institutional functions. Instead, it prioritises a common vision to challenge the established powers and a new unity of relationship under the leadership of Deborah (5:7-8). Walter Brueggemann (1989, p.69) asserts,
The people sing because there is a new God who confounds the rulers of this age. There is also a new mother in Israel who permits these social losers to be new people - a new family of covenant. The peasants are mobilized, and life begins again. When life begins again, Israel can only sing. Singing in Israel is never "mere" religion. Praise is always an act of political reality, daring a new way in the world.
As the co-author of the Song, Deborah centres the testimony on the communal effort of the tribes, and concludes with the unified worship of Yahweh. This unity of praise for Yahweh in Judges 5 is an "act of political reality" (Brueggemann 1989, p.69) as Israel is freed from the bondages of Canaanite dominance. It is also represents an "act of political reality" for femecostal criticism as the vision for an egalitarian community based on Acts 2 and a voice for ‘others’ is represented.
The emphasis of community and mutuality corresponds to models of leadership emphasized in Feminist and Pentecostal theologies particularly those developed from theological implications of the social trinity. Feminist scholar, Patricia Fox (1994, p.276) asserts,
….the world needs a leadership that witnesses to inclusive participation, dialogue and partnership. I believe that the world today needs from the church a proclamation of the Trinitarian God revealed by Jesus, a God whose very essence is one of life in communion, of mission as invitation and inclusion.
The symbol of perichoresis47 has recently been made popular in theological circles by scholars such as Johnson (1992), LaCugna (1991) and Moltmann (1992) as a powerful model for human communion based on mutuality and interdependence (Fox 1994, p.289). Like perichoresis, Judges 5 rejects institutional structures and individualism while still recognising the roles and gifts of individuals. The individual role of Deborah as a charismatic authority does not subvert mutuality or exert excessive power but celebrates diversity. This model implies mutual subordination in interdependent ministry.
The different presentations of the leadership of Deborah in the alternative testimonies of Judges 4 and 5, emphasises their traditions and cultural biases. One of the puzzling features of the previous narrative version, is the sudden disappearance of Deborah in 4:14. She gives the command for battle, then seems to vanish from chapter 4. Considering such detail concerning Deborah’s roles and importance is represented in 4:4, it is surprising she disappears so easily. This is one of the key differences between the two testimonies. In both testimonies, Yahweh is portrayed as the divine warrior. The military success of Israel in the narrative version of the battle scene appears to represent a strategic ambush from the elevation of Mt Tabor. However, when the battle is re-called in the poetic account, a different emphasis is discerned as it highlights the spiritual battle waging above the physical opponents. The action of the physical battle in chapter 5 parallels the action presented in the spiritual realm.
Susan Ackerman (1998) highlights the use of paralleled temporal cola to indicate the two spheres and two characters by which the war is fought. She (1998, pp.36-37) asserts, "…there are also two kinds of actors who will be involved: the divine commander Yahweh and the human commander Deborah."48 In chapter 5, Deborah does not disappear from the battle sequence, but is active in speech and proclamation. The call to "awake" by Deborah (5:12) has a militaristic function, as presented in other biblical passages such as Ps 7:7 (Ackerman 1998, p.45), suggesting Deborah’s unity with Yahweh. Scholars such as Craigie (1977) and Taylor (1982)49 suggest the imagery of Anath, the Canaanite goddess of war, underlies the depiction of Deborah in Chapter 5. These images may have been adopted to mock the Canaanite religion, as Taylor (1982, p. 104) asserts,
Finally, this striking example of early Hebrew poetic skill served to communicate a powerful religious message: cosmic power far beyond that which the Canaanite goddesses allegedly had was available to all who were willing to join Yahweh the day He met the champions of Canaan by the waters of Megiddo.
While the testimony adopts these religious images from ‘other’ sources, it concurrently adapts them for the purposes of serving Yahweh. This suggests a cultural plurality that does not fear the ‘other,’ but recognises other forms of religious traditions. However the testimony of Judges 5 does not simply adopt ‘other’ religious images, or assimilating them into its own religion. Instead it revises these images for the purpose of praise of Yahweh. The importance of this choice of expression will be discussed below.
The disappearance of Deborah in Judges 4, noted by Rasmussen (1989, p.79), coincides with the emergence of Yahweh’s own actions and speech as distinct from Deborah.50 Rasmussen suggests Deborah’s role as warrior is deliberately usurped by Yahweh in the text by the transmitters of the story to hide the imagery of the Canaanite goddess Anath, representing a political program (1989, p.86). In comparison, the lyrical version suggests that Yahweh, who single-handedly routed the Canaanite army in chapter 4 (leaving Barak to clean up the mess), chooses to act in partnership with ‘others’ who are normally excluded by class, age or gender restrictions such as women and even (M)other Nature (who is both ‘other’ and ‘mother’). Yahweh and nature act together to overthrow the superiority of the iron-clad Canaanites as the earth trembles and stars drip rain (5:4).
Like the "prophetic crisis" of chapter 4, the Song of Deborah presents a reversal of expectations, thereby authenticating its role as prophetic utterance. However, instead of being based on the cultural code of honour-shame and gender separation, the expectation reversed by chapter 5 is the event of political liberation rather than the gender of the messenger. That the Canaanites were expected to overcome the Israelite army is expressed in the concern of Sisera’s mother (5:28-30). The idea of Canaanite defeat is incomprehensible to her as she attributes his lateness to the abundance of plunder (5:30). Similarly the reversal of expectations initiated prophetic crisis of Judges 5 is the eminence of voluntary participation over individual exploits. As co-authors of the Song that celebrates the partnerships of Yahweh, Deborah and Barak are unified to Yahweh’s purpose of partnership. Yet Deborah is not just praised for her leadership, but also for her ‘other’ role as a woman: she is a "mother in Israel." While this title infers her leadership of Israel, it also reflects the fluidity of roles and absence of cultural definitions that subordinate particular functions (such as mother or wife). Most notable is the absence of the honour - shame code in the testimony of the Song, which defines behavioural norms and social roles based on gender rather than charismatic gifting.
This absence of defined social roles allows an interfusion of roles and functions by the characters. If Deborah is a prophetic ‘mother,’ then Jael acts as a prophetic ‘other.’ As the margins are fluid, the isolation of ‘others’ breaks down. This also allows a recognition of the movement of Yahweh outside of the confines of the community, as symbolised in the character of Jael. The role of Jael represents the interest of femecostal criticism in the experience and testimony of women both outside and within institutional ministry roles. Jael is an ‘other’; she is a woman outside the community of Israel, and possibly outside the definition of the Yahwistic religious involvement. Yet her involvement in the liberation of Israel, reinforced in 5: 24 - 28 as the work of Yahweh, suggests she has collaborated with Yahweh to achieve this purpose. While Jael’s decision to align herself politically with Israel may suggest her transfer to Israelite community and religion, this can only be surmised. What is certain, is that Jael is praised in the community for her act which consequently results in the worship of Yahweh. While reading a biblical text through the symbol of ‘testimony’ allows the Pentecostal tradition of charismatic gifting to be observed in the text, the text reciprocally challenges the femecostal reading. Is it possible for God to move outside the domain of the self-identified community, indeed even outside the fellowship of the Australian AoG? Femecostal criticism utters a resounding "yes." This presents a challenge from the testimony of Judges 5 that such cultural margins and stringent definition of roles limits the recognition of the work of God.51
This embracing of Jael as an ‘other’ presents a tension in the Song as other ‘others’ remain excluded. While Jael, an outsider, and Deborah, an insider, are liberated from the confines of cultural expectations, such as the honour-shame code, not all women are liberated. At the conclusion of the testimony, Sisera’s mother and her companions still remain oppressed (5:28-30). The Canaanite women are both vilified by the Israelites, and physically subjugated in their own community behind lattice walls (5:28). While the honour-shame code is absent from the liberated tribes, Sisera’s mother is still defined by this code as she is imagined contemplating the potential fate of the Israelite women - she supposedly visualises the "uteruses" her son is ravaging (5:30). Instead, it is Sisera who lies plundered between the feet of Jael (5:27). This taunt of the Song to Sisera’s mother is viewed by Bal (1988b) as an indictment on women who propagate the cultural code of androcentricism.52 Bal (1988b, p.208) asserts,
This indifference to the fate of daughters in the situation of war as opposed to her rejoicing in the son’s gibbor-like power over daughters can be read as a pointed critique of the sort of mothers of sons who collaborate in the horrible fate of daughters
As Jael reverses this potential rape to find freedom, so does Israel find rest as worship of Yahweh is re-established.53
This indictment of the Canaanite women suggests the existence of certain limits on the adoption of pluralism presented in the ‘testimony.’ The Song identifies women (from both within the Israelite community and outside) in partnership with Yahweh who are released from the cultural association of shame, while those rejecting Yahwistic religion remain bound to the code. With the rejection of separate social roles based on gender, the testimony of chapter 5 establishes the criteria of participation with Yahweh as the basis for this liberation and acceptance into the community of Israel. The Canaanite women of 5:28-31 are not vilified because of their gender or race, any more than the non-participating tribes are disparaged; rather it is their rejection of Yahweh that justifies their exclusion from the Israelite community. While this testimony challenges the development of femecostal criticism to embrace the plurality and diversity of Yahweh’s activity, it is also challenged to recognize the possible boundaries of these actions. This boundary represents the divergent paths of femecostal criticism from elements of feminism. While feminism tends to emphasize plurality of religion verbatim, femecostal criticism (based on the challenge of this text) would recognise plurality within certain boundaries. Although the Yahwistic religion in the text may be expressed in various forms and plurality of perspectives (including non-verbal and non-human), it accepts a boundary of definition as alliance with Yahweh.
If femecostal criticism embraces diversity, it also requires unity. By this commonality of participation with Yahweh in Judges 5 some ‘others’ may be included within the margins of the community, while some ‘others’ may remain outside. This definition of the communities identity is not based on gender or race or ability but by participation with Yahweh. From the example of this ‘testimony,’ while other forms of religion are recognized, these forms are not adopted but potentially adapted by the community. The importance of the community is consistent throughout the Song, and its identity defined by participation with Yahweh.
From this reading, the empowerment of Pentecostal women is achieved within the boundaries of participation with Yahweh, but not the current androcentric culture of Pentecostalism that restricts women. While the women of Judges 4 and 5 are observed in a variety of social functions, such as leader, mother, military general, and assassin, it is their association with Yahweh (and the community of Yahweh) that empowers them. Deborah provides a model of charismatic leadership as she facilitates the participation of the community in battle and praise of Yahweh. The ‘testimony’ of these biblical women represents the opportunity to reverse the cultural expectations adopted by Australian Pentecostalism that limit women and men: not by adopting the cultural code of gender separation, but by embracing the models of charismatic gifting. These testimonies similarly represent alternative voices within biblical feminist criticism that seek to challenge androcentric assumptions of the prevailing culture. While these voices speak from the context of Pentecostalism they participate in the wider dialogue of feminist and biblical criticisms.
The development of biblical models to promote opportunities for women in Australian Pentecostalism is crucial to the future of the fellowship. As these testimonies of women are voiced, Pentecostal women are given the opportunity to follow their example to construct an alternative culture based on the tradition of charismatic gifting. In this way, the women of Judges 4 and 5 become ‘mothers’ of the prophetic tradition. Cheryl Exum (1985, p.85) describes a mother in Israel as one who "…brings liberation from oppression, provides protection, and ensures the well-being and security of her people." A prophetic mother also ensures the security and well-being of her people by modelling the function of a charismatic leader. In this way, Judges 4 and 5 can provide alternatives models in the process of liberation from the oppression of gender inequality in Pentecostalism. The testimonies of Deborah and Jael, therefore become ‘mothers’ to a current generation of femecostals who have no ‘mothers’ to teach them to find their ‘voice.’ By continuing the prophetic tradition established in these texts, femecostal criticism can deconstruct the cultural expectations within the Pentecostal community of appropriate behaviour of women and consequently construct a value system based on charismatic gifting and communal participation.
Mothers do not just comfort, but also discipline. These prophetic mothers in the text challenge femecostal criticism to embrace ‘others.’ By exploring the margins they will recognise the activity of God inside and outside the community: namely the prophetic work of the Spirit among ‘others.’ By embracing unity, they will recognise the existence of boundaries to their Christian tradition. However, determining the markers of these boundaries is another question.54
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1. It is noted that these figures are based on current knowledge. It is possible that the figure for the number of churches pioneered by women is higher.
2. While there has been some dispute of the supposed ‘egalitarian’ roots of Pentecostalism, it has become a symbol of equality to the contemporary movement, whether this understanding is reflective of the historical period or not.
3. While ordination is not the only avenue for ministry within Pentecostalism, it represents the recognition by the Pentecostal community of both the minister and the ministry. The concept of ordination within Pentecostalism is discussed by Randall Holm, (1995) who suggests the significance of ordination is not uniform within Pentecostalism (globally nor locally), but does communicate two fundamental convictions. He writes, "First, ordination is somehow symbolic of God’s setting apart an individual for full-time service. …Second, ordination places an onus on adherents to stand behind and support their pastors." (Holm [1995, Chapter 7, p.1]).
4. Statistics supplied by AoG Australia.
5. That is, divine selection for a service or ministry.
6. While models of ministry for women were readily available to the early pioneers of Pentecostalism by the prominent example of women in the Methodist and Holiness movements, from which Pentecostalism emerged, there has been a sharp decline in examples of women ministering from within the Pentecostal fellowships for subsequent generations to pattern.
7. The use of this metaphor is not isolated to feminist biblical scholarship, but is observed in feminist theology, psychology and sociology. Its use in biblical scholarship has been particularly highlighted as it is the discipline in which this paper is focused.
8. My thanks to John Capper who has interestingly noted the usage of the term "handmaidens" and "brethren" in this statement. While attempting to uphold egalitarian principles, the statement undermines its own values by this implication of the servitude of women ("Handmaidens") and equality of men ("brethren").
9. The endowment of spiritual gifts outlined in 1 Cor 12 is usually called by Pentecostal and charismatic theology as charismata.
10. Passages generally used to inhibit opportunities for women to minister are: Ephesians 5:21; 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 14:34; 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6.
11. There has not been a parallel statement officially produced by the Australian AOG to address the issue of the decline of the number of women ministers in its own fellowship. This statement was produced and endorsed by the North American commission of all male membership.
12. The Australian Evangel is the official publication of the AoG in Australia.
13. The use of testimony in creating and maintaining a Pentecostal worldview is not exclusive to Australian Pentecostalism but common to the global movement in groups such as Catholic Pentecostals and Holiness sects (Poloma 1989, p.202). The use of "testimony" as a reading strategy is also adopted by Walter Brueggemann (1997) to describe Israel’s report of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. While the Sitz im Leben of a Pentecostal testimony is located in the ritual participation of weekly worship, Brueggemann appropriates the setting of his metaphor to a court of law (1997, p.120).
14. My thanks to Shane Clifton who has "challenged" me to explicate this value in Pentecostal hermeneutics.
15. These five dilemmas of O’Dea (1970) are all discussed by Poloma (1989) in relation to the institutional dilemmas of the North American AoG. The five dilemmas include: ‘The Dilemma of Mixed Motivation,’ ‘The Dilemma of Administrative order,’ ‘The Dilemma of Power,’ ‘The Dilemma of Delimitation’ and ‘The Symbolic Dilemma.’
16. The basis for this distinction can be discovered in Judges 10:1-5 which lists six men of whom it records they ‘judged’ (Bal 1988a, p.54). However, this list is interrupted by Jephthah, who Mayes assumes is meant to be included in this list and concludes that the judge must be a deliverer as well as a legal judge (Bal 1988a, p.54). Bal asserts, "Jephthah is the exception that proves the rule." (1988a, p.56).
17. Interestingly, Lindars (1983) seems more determined to remember the only female judge recorded as a mother in Israel rather than a judge.
18. It is only during another crisis during the reign of Josiah that another women is valorized in the Hebrew Bible - the prophetess Huldah also appears in a similar period of social instability.
19. While most scholars recognise Saul’s coronation as a primitive version of kingship, it still represents the introduction of institutional roles.
20. Though this reading of Hebrews 11 is literary, the cultural context of patriarchy of the Early Christian period must be noted.
21. Once again thanks must be attributed to David Parker for his insights into the absence of Deborah in the Hebrews text.
22. This also assumes that the sequence of the battle is the intention of the poet, which I would suggest is subordinate to the interest and promulgation of communal involvement in the victory by Israel.
23. While there are various suggestions by scholars as to the origins of Judges 5, most accept it as the earlier version. The most viable theory of its origin, after Halpern’s theory, appears to be the proposal of Lindars (1983) who suggests the Song was an epic poem or ballad shaped for a liturgical setting to evoke worship of Yahweh (as developed by Weiser). Therefore he considered the Song must be stripped of its artistic artifice. He (1983, p.175) describes it as "…a ballad aimed at producing a powerful emotional effect, referring obliquely to the well-known facts…" However, Lindars assumes that ‘emotional’ cannot be ‘accurate’.
24. Halpern (1983) mostly bases his thesis on the dependence of the prose account upon the poetic version in describing the annihilation of Sisera while creatively adapting the characterisation of Deborah and Jabin.
25. The actantial model, described by A.J. Greimas, can describe actions within a narrative by the following grid (diagram 7). The action is initiated by the ‘sender’ whose purpose is to transfer some ‘object’ to the ‘receiver’. The action is carried out by the ‘subject’, who is aided by a ‘helper’ and/or opposed by an ‘opponent’ (Jobling p.101). The roles of helper and opponent are not obligatory. The classic example of the actantial model in action (in the English language) used by structural critics, is to describe the story of Little Red Riding Hood (diagram 8). According to David Jobling (1995, p.102), such a model may seem to be little more than common sense, however deep insight can be gained by the explication of actual roles of characters in a text.
26. The semiotic square is based on contrary semantic categories, "…typically the categories of human experience that function as binary opposites in Levi-Strauss’s view of myth" (Postmodern Bible , p.80) Levi-Strauss analysed these differences into a system of binary oppositions, such as earth/water and night/day. However, these are not absolute opposites but distinctions (Bal 1988a, p.111).
27. Hanselman (1989) prefers to divide the story into three scenes, whereas Amit (1987) divides the story into six parts highlighting not only the place of focus, but also the stye of the reporting.
28. Both the oppression of Israel and dominance of Jabin are emphasised in the passage by the placement of the subject (Jabin) before the verb (to squeeze). However, it should also be noted that the interpretation of the actions of the Canaanites are influenced by the political ideology of Israelites-versus-Canaanites that describes their actions (by the "Israelites") as ‘oppression’ (Exum, 1995, p.71).
29. Bonner (1993, p.80) notes that the Talmud "…contains a brief statement the Deborah was called thus (‘set lappidot) because she made lampwicks for the sanctuary."
30. Boling (1975, p.95) considers this usage to be a possible "nickname" of Barak.
31. Bronner (1993) highlights the androcentric interpretation of the Talmud in its denouncement of the character of Deborah in translating her name as ‘hornet.’ It states, "Haughtiness does not befit women. There were two haughty (arrogant) women and their names are hateful, one being called a hornet, ziborata (Deborah), and the other a weasel, kurkusita (Huldah). Of the hornet it is written ‘And she sent and called Barak, instead of going to him’. Of the weasel it is written, ‘Say to the man’, instead of ‘say to the king’" (Bronner 1993, p.82).
32. The LXX adds a reason for refusal of Barak to engage in this independent role without the assistance of Deborah, by inserting "I know not if the angel of the Lord will prosper me" (Dumbrell 1987, p.2).
33. According to Lindars (1983), this is the real point of the narrative - "…the connection between Deborah’s taunt to Barak and the fulfillment of her prophecy in Jael’s deed" (1983, p.162). While it is certain that Deborah’s prophecy (reduced by Lindars to a ‘taunt’) adds impetus to the action, it is not the central interest which propels the plot. The conclusion and resolution of the testimony emphasises the restoration of peace to Israel and the victory of Yahweh as the object of the story.
34. However, it may be noted this disinterest in the location of Deborah in chapter 4 reinforces the focalisation of the text on androcentric concerns.
35. The sexual allusions in Jael’s act have been of particular interest to a number of scholars, such as Alter and Niditch. Likewise scholars such as Bal prefer to discuss the Freudian references of the mothering of Sisera and the sexual appeal of Jael.
36. The semiotic square is described by Jobling (1995) (diagram 9). In this model, A and B are opposites (such as A =cold and B=hot). Their relationship is described by Jobling as contradictory. In comparison, non-A is whatever is contradictory to A (such as ‘not cold’), and likewise for non-B (‘not hot’), related by implication (Jobling 1995, p.103).
37. According to Webb, the denial of honour to Barak is a punishment for trying to manipulate the prophet of Yahweh (Webb 1987, p.17).
38. According to Susan Niditch, what the author may fear most – both death and his own sexuality - he turns outward against his enemy (1989, p.52). Yet, Jael is the archetype of both the ‘woman assassin’ and ‘raptor’, as well as the symbol for the marginal’s victory (Israel) over the establishment (Canaanites). (Niditch 1989, p.45-52).
39. This disinterest in the Jael’s thoughts or point of view, reinforces the focalisation of the text on androcentric concerns.
40. This choice represents the empowering of Jael, the ability to choose outside cultural sanctions, but not her authority as she acts outside the formal or legal tradition and leadership (Meyers, p.41).
41. In a comparison of the two texts of Judges 4 and 5, Athalya Brenner (1993) emphasises the similarity of characters, structure and functions in the two testimonies by the symbol of triangles. Brenner defines the texts as a "single narrative," due to their supposed commonality of plot structure (1993, p.108). However such a view ignores the separate traditions and perspectives from which the "constants" of characters and plot are presented.
42. The paradigm of co-operation is also recognised by Fokkelien van Dijk-Hemmes (1993), who links it with a paradigm of competition. While the possibility of competition between Deborah and Sisera’s mother as forms of wisdom, I suggest the theme of competition does not dominate the poem, whereas solidarity is evidenced throughout it.
43. Concerning the catalogue of tribes that corresponds to the poetic style of alternative lists in Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33, Coogan notes the emphasis in Judges 5 of listing the tribes according to participation, rather than geographical location (Coogan, 1978, p.164).
44. It may be noted that the object of the verb has not been studied due to the high number of intransitive verbs; while a verb must have a subject, it does not need an object. The focus of highlighting the subjects rather than the objects is to highlight the activity rather than passivity of the characters.
45. ADH Mayes considers the unity of the tribe as a historical epoch for the transition from tribal warfare to unity. He (1969, p.360) writes, "…it is legitimate to see in the battle against Sisera a stage in the course of transition by which the Israelite tribes progressed from acting as independent units to employing their combined strength in time of battle."
46. Brenner (1985, p.53)writes, "The list of desirable traits included a ‘spirit of prophecy’ which assures the leaders of divine inspiration and a direct line to God, sound judgment, juridical knowledge and the ability to administer justice, military prowess, cultic responsibilities, the ability to inspire loyalty and respect, and finally, the gifts of oratory, rhetoric, and literary composition (perhaps even proficiency in music)."
47. Defined by Fox as "being-in-one-another, permeation without confusion" ensure the individuality of the person is maintained but without separation (1994, p.289). As a term and a concept, perichoresis has a much longer history, particularly in the Eastern church.
48. Webb (1987) also emphasises the equation of Yahweh and Deborah in the second strophe of the first stanza. He (1987, p.142) writes, "…the power of Yahweh, mythically described in the theophany, is historically revealed in the arising of Deborah as ‘a mother in Israel.’ "
49. Taylor (1982) also pairs the use of imagery of Jael with the liberator Athtart.
50. Rasmussen (1989) suggests Deborah’s role as warrior is deliberately usurped by Yahweh by the transmitters of the story to hide the imagery of the Canaanite goddess Anath, representing a political program that reinforces the cultural code.
51. The role of ‘others’ is also pursued by Susan Ackerman (2000) in which she addresses the question: what if Judges had been written by a Philistine? For further discussion on the violence of exclusivity perceived in monotheism, see Regina M. Schwartz. (1997). The Curse of Cain: The Violent legacy of Monotheism. UCO: Chicago
52. According to Fewell and Gunn, by imposing these words onto the Canaanite women, implies their approval of their own imminent rape. Exum (1995, p.74) writes, "There is no reason to expect the Israelite victors to treat the defeated men’s women any better than their Canaanite counterparts are pictured as doing."
53. Danna Nolan Fewell (1992, p.70) suggests that just as Jael appeals to violence for survival, that "…perhaps Yahweh too does what must be done in order to save the family of Israel and is lauded, like Jael, not for who he is but for what he has done to benefit Israel." However, this separation of character from act limits their portrayal - who they are is defined by what they do.
54. While it is not the intent of this paper to determine the theological boundaries of faith in Pentecostalism. There is however a burgeoning interest and debate regarding this issue of pluralism and faith in Pentecostal theologies. While this issue is by no means resolved, a close analysis of texts such as Judges 4 and 5 can assist in "broadening the horizons" of a theology that suggests an exclusivity of the Spirit. For further discussion see Amos Yong. (2001). Discerning the Spirits: A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology. JPT Series, SAP: Sheffield.