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Literature and Religion of Ancient Israel


Admission requirements

In addition to the general rules set out for admission, students are expected to have a good knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis.


From Song to Story? The accounts of Debora to Judges 4 and 5

Judges 4 and 5 both recount the battle between Barak, assisted by Deborah, and the Canaanite army captain Sisera. Judges 5 is an archaic, poetic text, belonging to the oldest chapters of the Bible; Judges 4 is put in ‘ordinary’ prose. The relation between both versions is complex. Can they be taken as two versions of the same story, or are the agreements too vague? Is one of them dependent on the other? How can the striking differences between the two versions be explained? The course will include (a) a detailed analysis of these chapters to determine what they are about, what they have in common and what we can we say about their literary-historical relationship; and (b) discussion and evaluation of a selection of scholarly publications on these chapters.

Course objectives

Through a case study (in this case: Judges 4–5), the participants of this course will get acquainted with major issues in Old Testament scholarship and with various methods of historical-literary analysis, and be trained in critically reviewing scholarly publications.


Time Table Religious Studies

Mode of instruction

Seminar (lecture elements, discussion, presentations)

  • weekly meetings: 24 hours (12×2)

  • reading assignments: 36 hours (12×3)

  • presentation: 20 hours

  • term paper: 40 hours

  • Graduate seminar “Abraham Kuenen” (20 hours)

Total: 140 hours

Assessment method

The assessment will be based on:

  • Participation in weekly meetings (20%)

  • Reading assignments and short presentations (30%)

  • Major presentation (20%)

  • term paper (30%)


Blackboard will be used for general information about the schedule, study material, and the term papers.

Reading list

  • Halpern, Baruch, ‘The Resourceful Israelite Historian: The Song of Deborah and Israelite Historiography’, Harvard Theological Review 76 (1983) 379–401.

  • Kwawshima, Robert S., ‘From Song to Story: The Genesis of Narrative in Judges 4 and 5’, Prooftexts 21 (2001) 151–178.

  • Mayfield, Tyler, ‘The Accounts of Deborah (Judges 4–5) in Recent Research’, Currents in Biblical Research 7 (2009) 306–335.

Other literature will be announced in class.


Via uSis.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr.W.T. van Peursen


Participants are required to make a working translation of Judges 4 before the first meeting.

At this moment it is not sure whether the graduate seminar “Abraham Kuenen” will be given in this academic year. If not, an alternative assignment will be given .