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Some Points of Contact between the Biblical Deborah War Traditions and Some Greek Mythologies*

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image of Vetus Testamentum

This paper examines three features common to the biblical narrative of Deborah and Cretan myths. In the biblical story two heroines, Deborah and Jael, bear names of fauna, bee and ibex (mountain goat), respectively. Deborah/bee’s prophetic gift enables her to determine the auspicious moment for a victorious battle. Jael/female ibex, gives milk in a special vessel to Sisera, who, fleeing for his life, ironically takes refuge in the tent of Jael, who kills him. In ancient Greece, “Melissa”, which means “bee”, is a common epithet for prophetesses, especially those who provide oracles to military commanders, as did the prophetess of Delphi. In Cretan versions, Melissa has a sister named Amaltheia, which means “mountain goat”. When a prominent fugitive, the deity Zeus, takes refuge in her cave, she likewise gives him milk in a special vessel. In both tales the word for the special vessel expresses plenty.

Affiliations: 1: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Beer-Sheva Israel


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