The Triumph of Deborah

Written by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Review by India Edghill

It’s the early Iron Age, and the Hebrews, surrounded by enemies, struggle to survive in the Promised Land. Judge and prophetess Deborah persuades the warrior Barak to try and destroy the Canaanite king Jabin and his city, Hazor. Barak defeats Jabin’s army, and its general, Sisra, flees, only to be killed by Jael when he takes refuge in her home. Barak captures Jabin’s fortress and takes Jabin’s beautiful daughter Asherah, Sisra’s widow, as his prize. Also taken to Barak’s home is Nogah, Jabin’s daughter by a Hebrew slave.

The rest of the book is a rather formless ramble through Barak’s love for Asherah and his lust for Deborah, Asherah’s hatred for Barak and her yearning to escape, Nogah’s love for Barak and her desire to be his wife, and Deborah’s longing for her home—her husband Lapidoth divorced her because she might commit adultery—and her lust for Barak. (It’s almost as convoluted as A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) Oh, yes, and the attempt to make peace with the new Canaanite king…

I found this book very difficult to get through. Most of the characters are either unpleasant or unlikable, especially the womanizing Barak. Although Torah law is frequently invoked, Barak seems to think leaving a captive alone for thirty days to mourn her losses still lets him forcibly kiss and fondle her. There are a lot of sex scenes that I found irritating because they truly are gratuitous. (Princess Asherah’s pink-tipped breasts almost seemed to be extra characters.)

As for historical accuracy—this is supposed to be Canaan in the late Bronze/early Iron Age. Yet there are iron grates on windows, iron chariots, castles, and violins. There’s also some seriously awkward writing: one character is of “pretty, but unprepossessing appearance.” This book was a major disappointment.