The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Deborah was an amazing woman. She is a beloved and honored Hebrew prophet, judge, and leader. She loves God and His people and wants to live in peace with those living around them. Unfortunately, the Hebrew people were seen as intruders. After a shaming encounter with Sisra, the military leader of the Canaanites, where she was attempting to obtain a peace treaty, she determines that not all people are as open to having women participate in politics. It is then that she decides to send the Hebrew army to war with Barak, a young soldier with new ideas. She made the right decision for her people, but at the cost of her marriage. Deborah had to learn to live and lead on her own with only her God as her guide.
I really loved the way in which this novel opened. Deborah, anxiously awaiting the outcome of the war she sanctioned, was juxtaposed against, Asherah, the young wife of Sisra. Both women wanted their commanders to be successful, but only one would get what she wanted. It set the tone of the novel and got me interested immediately. Given the title, the outcome of the war was not shocking to me, but that war wasn’t the end. Asherah and Deborah continue to be linked through Barak and both of their lives are impacted by Nogah, a Hebrew slave who was freed from King Jabin after the Hebrew defeat of the Canaanites.
The Triumph of Deborah is not what I would consider a typical of biblical fiction. In this novel, all of the characters were portrayed as true human beings, not superhuman beings powered by God. It is not tame and it does not show always show the biblical characters in the most positive, read moral light. The characters in this novel are sensual beings who find ways to rationalize their sexual behavior. The writing is as uninhibited as the characters, making this a novel that I could not recommend to my mother who would otherwise be interested in fiction with a biblical twist. In that way, however, it may open up the world of the Bible to others.
I was very pleased with my first experience in Eva Etzioni-Halevy’s rich early Hebrew world. If I had one complaint about the novel, it was that there wasn’t enough of Deborah in it. I loved her character and would have liked to have gotten to know her even more. The action within the story most definitely followed Barak, but I missed Deborah when she wasn’t front and center. I would have liked to have been with Deborah more as she planned her victory dance with Barak and felt her regret with her afterwards. That being said, I enjoyed Nogah and her story as well. I would highly recommend The Triumph of Deborah and look forward to reading more of Etzioni-Halevy’s fiction.
Have you read The Triumph of Deborah, The Song of Hannah, or The Garden of Ruth? I would love to hear what you think.
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