Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest post by the author ~ The Triumph of Deborah

Eva Etzioni-Halevy has written three novels about women in the Bible:  The Song of Hannah, The Garden of Ruth, and The Triumph of Deborah, the most recent.  Welcome, Eva!

What attracted me to write about the Biblical figure Deborah:
An Amazing Story, A Shining Role Model, and a Leader to Peace

Sometimes I am asked what made me decide to write a novel about the biblical figure Deborah and warrior Barak. Deborah was a religious and national leader and a chief justice all wrapped in one, arguably the most eminent woman in the Bible (Old Testament), and Barak was a renowned warrior. This in itself is enough of a reason to write about them.

An Amazing Story

In addition, the Scripture (Judges 4-5) tells the most amazing story about them.

In ancient Israel, war is looming. Leader Deborah orders warrior Barak to launch a strike against the neighboring Canaanites, who enjoy military superiority and threaten Israel with destruction.

The Bible tells us that when Deborah sent Barak to go out to war against the Canaanites, he did something rather unusual: he demanded that she accompany him to the battlefield. Over three thousand years ago -- a woman in the battlefield? Very strange. As I read the story over and over again, I asked myself: why did he really want her there?

The Scripture further recounts that she ended up going with him not merely into battle but to his hometown as well. Yet she was a married woman and a mother, and there is nothing to indicate that husband Lapidoth accompanied her.

I began asking myself: what did her husband have to say to that excursion? What would ANY husband say if his wife suddenly went off to distant parts with another man, leaving him to do the babysitting? It makes sense that this created marital difficulties for them. Would they be able to overcome those problems? Further, what transpired between Deborah and Barak when they were together with no husband in sight?

These were the aspects of Deborah and Barak and their story in the Bible that I found most compelling, and they prompted me to write the novel, in which I used my imagination and my identification to answer these questions.

According to the biblical story, against all odds Bark succeeds and returns triumphantly. The Bible also says: "Barak, capture your captives!" In my novel, those captives are (among others) two daughters of the defeated Canaanite king and a tumultuous love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses, while Deborah becomes part of the turmoil.

I wrote the story in a manner that is faithful to the Scripture, but makes for light, entertaining reading and can be enjoyed by Bible lovers, but no less by people who have never held a Bible in their hands.

Beyond writing about Deborah because her story in the Bible may serve as the basis of an intriguing plot, I also chose her as my heroine because I believe that women of today can find inspiration in her.

A Shining Role Model

Based on the account in the Bible and on my novel, which enlarges on it, Deborah may serve as a splendid role model for contemporary women.

Deborah lived in a male dominated society, where women were downtrodden: they had few legal rights and their position in the family was deplorable. Nonetheless she succeeded in attaining an outstanding position as an exalted leader, and was highly revered by both men and women.

Much has changed since then, but the circumstances for women are still difficult, although in a different way. Legally, the situation of women has improved out of all recognition. At the same time, today's women face difficulties in their lives, which are far from negligible. One of them is that of combining partnership with a man and motherhood with a career.

The lesson that women today can learn from Deborah is: I can do it. No matter how difficult the circumstances, I can overcome them. That does not mean that all women must become political leaders, or judges. Rather, the message in the Bible and in my Bible-based novel is that the limiting circumstances did not deter her from asserting herself and doing what SHE wanted to do. Present day women seeking to build lives of their own may derive inspiration from her in whatever THEY want to do, in whatever field they choose to do so.

A Leader to Peace

The Scripture concludes Deborah and Barak's story with the following verse: "And the land was at peace for forty years." So, as Deborah was the one who instigated war, she must also have been the one who brought about peace.

In my novel, I show how Deborah, aided by Barak and others, groped her way toward the greatest triumph of her life: the attainment of peace.

Here, too, there is a lesson for our times: Based on the Bible, my novel shows that a woman can be a brilliant national leader. She can lead her nation to war when necessary, and to peace when this becomes possible. The world is just about due for such a woman-leader.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy

 (Bonnie's note:  See the teaser from this book that I posted on Thursday.)

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