The Song of Deborah is considered one of the oldest parts of the Bible based on grammar and word usage.  It appears in Judges 5.  I am posting it below because it is a text with which any educated person should have some familiarity.  One of the practical arguments for biblical literacy – whether a person is a believer or not – is that a cultured person should know the great works of literature, and the Bible is surely one of them.  This is the RSV – revised standard version – English translation, and like all translations it is an interpretation.

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abino-am on that day:

2 “That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
that the people offered themselves willingly,
bless the Lord!
3 “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes;
to the Lord I will sing,
I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.
4 “Lord, when thou didst go forth from Seir,
when thou didst march from the region of Edom,
the earth trembled,
and the heavens dropped,
yea, the clouds dropped water.
5 The mountains quaked before the Lord,
yon Sinai before the Lord, the God of Israel.
6 “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, caravans ceased
and travelers kept to the byways.
7 The peasantry ceased in Israel, they ceased
until you arose, Deborah,
arose as a mother in Israel.
8 When new gods were chosen,
then war was in the gates.
Was shield or spear to be seen
among forty thousand in Israel?
9 My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel
who offered themselves willingly among the people.
Bless the Lord.
10 “Tell of it, you who ride on tawny asses,
you who sit on rich carpets
and you who walk by the way.
11 To the sound of musicians at the watering places,
there they repeat the triumphs of the Lord,
the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel.
“Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord.
12 “Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, utter a song!
Arise, Barak, lead away your captives,
O son of Abino-am.
13 Then down marched the remnant of the noble;
the people of the Lord marched down for him against the mighty.
14 From Ephraim they set out thither into the valley,
following you, Benjamin, with your kinsmen;
from Machir marched down the commanders,
and from Zebulun those who bear the marshal’s staff;
15 the princes of Issachar came with Deborah,
and Issachar faithful to Barak;
into the valley they rushed forth at his heels.
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
16 Why did you tarry among the sheepfolds,
to hear the piping for the flocks?
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan;
and Dan, why did he abide with the ships?
Asher sat still at the coast of the sea,
settling down by his landings.
18 Zebulun is a people that jeoparded their lives to the death;
Naphtali too, on the heights of the field.
19 “The kings came, they fought;
then fought the kings of Canaan,
at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
they got no spoils of silver.
20 From heaven fought the stars,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The torrent Kishon swept them away,
the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon.
March on, my soul, with might!
22 “Then loud beat the horses’ hoofs
with the galloping, galloping of his steeds.
23 “Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord,
curse bitterly its inhabitants,
because they came not to the help of the Lord,
to the help of the Lord against the mighty.
24 “Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
of tent-dwelling women most blessed.
25 He asked water and she gave him milk,
she brought him curds in a lordly bowl.
26 She put her hand to the tent peg
and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet;
she struck Sisera a blow,
she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 He sank, he fell,
he lay still at her feet;
at her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell dead.
28 “Out of the window she peered,
the mother of Sisera gazed through the lattice:
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?’
29 Her wisest ladies make answer,
nay, she gives answer to herself,
30 ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil?—
A maiden or two for every man;
spoil of dyed stuffs for Sis?era,
spoil of dyed stuffs embroidered,
two pieces of dyed work embroidered for my neck as spoil?’
31 “So perish all thine enemies, O Lord!
But thy friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.”


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