Some points of contact between the biblical Deborah war traditions and some Greek mythologies

Daniel Vainstub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
JournalVetus Testamentum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 22 Jun 2011


  • Amaltheia
  • Deborah
  • Jael
  • Melissa
  • prophetess

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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