Headline: Judge Deborah, Barak, Late Bronze Age Collapse, Merneptah Stele, Medinet Habu Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, Trojan War Solar Eclipse, Sea Peoples, Battles of the Kishon River / Djahy / Delta.

Image: Judge Deborah

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfa4WePudyo

Date Range: 1213 BC – 1177 BC

People: Barak, Deborah, Jabin, Merneptah, Ramesses III, Sisera

Merneptah was the 4th pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty and son of Ramesses II. He came to power upon his father’s death in 1213 BC. Unlike many of the other pharaohs, there was little to no co-regency between Ramesses II and Merneptah. The Merneptah Stele describes two military campaigns during his 5th year in Libya and Canaan (c. 1208 BC). Although this stele describes great victories, evidence suggests that the text suggests political propaganda as opposed to historical accuracy. The Merneptah Stele does specifically mention Ashkelon, Canaan, Gezer, Hatti, Israel, Libya, and Memphis. TheBiblicalTimeline.org provides a detailed explanation and conclusions related to a Biblical timeline. This site reaches the conclusion that the Battle of the Kishon River (Deborah v. Sisera) occurred somewhere between 1200 BC and 1225 BC. For the purposes of this lesson and website, we use 1208 BC as the date of this event.

Sisera of Harosheth-hagoyim was the military commander for Jabin of Hazor. It is often difficult to link Biblical characters to historical people because the Bible often uses metaphors as names. For example, the literal meaning of Sisera of Harosheth-hagoyim is Battle Array of the Nation’s Woodlands. Is this Biblical name related to who he is in reality or what he represents (or both)? Similarly, Jabin may either be a Canaanite title based on a position of authority (such as pharaoh) or a dynastic family name (such as Ramesses). Because of this, it is difficult (but not impossible) to link specific people to these events.

Outside of the Merneptah Stele from 1208 BC, there are a handful of items that help date events during this time period. The Medinet Habu is the mortuary temple of Ramesses III (1186 BC – 1155 BC). It contains many details related to his reign. In Year 8 of his reign (c 1178 BC), he fought against a confederacy of Sea Peoples (i.e. Denyen, Peleset, Shardana, Tjekker, Weshesh) in the Battle of Djahy and the Battle of the Delta. Papyrus Harris I was written during the reign of Ramesses IV (who was the son of Ramesses III). It contains similar information to that of Medinet Habu. It is important to note that the Philistines mentioned in the books of Judges and 1 Samuel are direct descendants of these Peleset. The Philistines established themselves in prime lowland cities around the Levant starting in 1177 BC. There was an annular solar eclipse on January 21, 1192 BC. There was also a total solar eclipse on April 16, 1178 BC, and is associated with the Trojan War.

There were a number of significant events throughout the region between 1210 BC and 1150 BC. This time period is known as the Late Bronze Age Collapse. This is a time when a number of civilizations were either significantly weakened or disappeared altogether, including: Hittite Empire, Kassites, Minoans, Mitanni, Mycenaeans, and Troy. Scholars are still working out the details, but something happened, and 1177 BC is often used as the pivotal time period for this collapse.

Bible Verses: Joshua 11, Judges 4, Judges 5:31

Annular Solar Eclipse: January 21, 1192 BC
Archaeologist Ben-Tor Talks About Hazor Video
Battle of the Delta
Battle of Djahy
Book of Judges Timeline Chart
Book of Judges Timeline
Late Bronze Age Collapse
Medinet Habu Mortuary Temple
Merneptah Stele
Merneptah Stele Translation
Papyrus Harris I
Total Solar Eclipse: April 16, 1178 BC

Topic Questions:
1. What is the Merneptah Stele?
2. What was the importance of the city of Hazor?
3. How did the Philistines end up in Canaan?
4. What is the Medinet Habu?
5. Briefly describe the Bronze Age collapse.

When first researching deeper into the life and times of prophetess and judge Deborah, the detail that stuck out is the 900 chariots of iron mentioned in Judges 4:3. If this is a literal count, this represents a substantial military force. As a comparison, the Battle of Kadesh, which occurred shortly before in 1274 BC between the forces of Ramesses II (Egypt) and Muwatalli II (Hittite Empire), had a combined total military force of about 6000 chariots and 50,000 men. The battle described in Judges 4 matches well with the battle described in the Merneptah Stele. This artifact describes an event in Year 5 of Pharaoh Merneptah (c. 1208 BC) where Egypt was involved in military battles in Libya and Canaan. This monument specifically mentions Israel. There is good evidence to suggest that Deborah and the nation of Israel was involved in a military campaign against Canaan and Egypt c. 1208 BC, and it was these 900 chariots of iron that were involved in this military campaign. This is where the research started. The search continued for other details related to this significant event in history which transcended an individual nation. This lesson consolidates critical information related to the life and times of Judge Deborah.

Timeline and Chronology:
1177 BC: Late Bronze Age collapse.
1178 BC, April 16: Solar eclipse associated with the Trojan War.
1178 BC: Battle of Djahy / Battle of the Delta.
1192 BC, January 21: Annular solar eclipse.
1208 BC: Merneptah Stele / Year 5 of Merneptah
1208 BC (+/- 5): Deborah v. Sisera at Kishon River.

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