The Battle Against Hazor and Jael’s Deadly Hospitality (Judges 4–5)

  • Magdel le Roux University of South Africa
Keywords: Hazor, Jael, Debora, ideal and non-ideal bodies, Judges 4-5.



The story of the fourth judge (Judges 4–5) is full of surprises, just like the previous stories (Judges 1–3). In the dominant body ideology related to good order, an Israelite man without any blemish was the epitome of a pure, ideal, or whole body. Contrary to the “expected literary depictionâ€, it is again the “unwhole, different-functioning bodies†which are depicted as “producing survival for the corporate body†(Van der Merwe and Coetzee 2009). Deborah, an Israelite lawgiver and prophetess, and Jael, a Kenite woman, are used in an unexpected way. The juxtaposition of different-functioning bodies serves as a counterculture rhetoric in the form of a hidden polemic. Much attention has been paid to the roles of Deborah and Barak in the battle against Hazor, but Jael’s role has elicited limited reflection by scholars and has been overshadowed by her “questionable†hospitality. A socio-rhetorical approach will make it possible to identify rhetorical techniques that the writer uses to highlight social relations, regulations and ideologies in the text (Van der Merwe and Coetzee 2009, 678). Archaeological excavations at Hazor from the last 25 years provide valuable background information to this battle.