Judges 7-9

B

ecause Richard Elliott Friedman is a literal reader, he cannot discern hidden transcripts, or the veiled verse of subversives who despised God’s draconian doctrines, which explains why in The Hidden Book in the Bible he fails to ascribe to the J Source portions of Judges (7.2-8, 16-22; 8.10-13).

Let us turn now to these texts. Dependent as he is on his reputation as a warlord, God pre-empts the warriors’ tall tales of exploit by telling Gideon he must thin the fighting ranks: the fewer the men in the battle to be won, the lesser the plausibility that they had prevailed by their own hand, which, of itself, suggests even the warriors do not believe God leads them. As much as the mind is trained to gloss over them, the jibes are there. God tells Gideon to direct the frightened men to go home, and twenty of the thirty thousand gathered heed Gideon’s call to disband. Of the ten thousand remaining God puts them to a test. Only those who cup water from the river and lap it like dogs will become God’s warriors. Because in reality humans do not lap, but rather slurp cupped water, the bizarre test points to it being a burlesque. And that burlesque has been set up already as a J motif: God is a persecutory dog, thus all who fight for him are dogs. The J scribes have good reason to portray Gideon, whose name means “hewer,” as the pack leader of the dog warriors: Gideon cut down Asherah’s likeness (Jgs 6.26-28). The rest of the J story is just filler to distract the Yahwists, God’s dogs, from the embedded satire.

So Gideon fights the battle and returns from it, which brings us to Jgs 8.30-32 that Richard Ellott Friedman in The Hidden Book in the Bible ascribes to J. He is mistaken in ascribing Jgs 8.30 to J. In J the “body begotten,” yârek, is the euphemistic ‘thigh’ that means “the generative organ.” In 8.30 the Hebrew reads “yârek yâtsâ’,” or “from his thigh came out.” J does not deploy this type of speech, using instead the verb yâlad, or “born” instead of yâtsâ’ and never in conjunction with yârek. Because, according to Friedman in Who Wrote the Bible?, the Redactor wrote (Ex 1.5) yâtsâ’ yârek,” or “came out from his thigh,” 8.30 should be attributed to the Redactor. It is for the J scribes’ use of yâlad, or “born,” that Friedman rightly ascribes to J Jgs 8.31. Gideon’s concubine bore him his son Abimelech. And Gideon died in a good old age (8.32).

In The Hidden Book in the Bible Friedman assigns the bulk of Jgs 9 (1-16, 18-57) to J, but the J scribes did not refer to Gideon as Jerubbaal. Friedman’s Jgs 9 attributions fall away in light of the Redactor having written that Gideon had seventy sons (Jgs 8.30). Since the birth of Gideon’s seventy sons does not belong to J, it follows that the J scribes would not write of the avenging of the death of Gideon’s seventy sons at the hand of Abimelech, their half- brother. Certainly the goddess-worshiping scribes would not have avenged the death of Gideon’s seventy sons in light of Gideon’s cutting down Asherah’s likeness.

It cannot be stressed enough that to ascribe portions of the Hebrew Bible to J, you look not only at the words the J scribes chose, but how the scribes deployed the words, and how the words reflected on other J documents; through your laborious process of careful scrutiny you acquire insight into J’s religious ideology that from Genesis on adhered to a pattern of mocking God; therefore, to free later J texts from the Redactor’s conflation you must always ask three things: Does this piece mock God and/or the patriarchy; does this piece voice a feminist perspective; does this piece defend or promote goddess worship? If none of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, it is not a J document. Being the literal reader Friedman is, he cannot see J’s subversive agenda; therefore he cannot possibly appreciate what texts do and do not align with J’s religious ideology.

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