In this post, I will talk about David Aaron’s discussion about Judges 5:4-5 on pages 107-111 of Etched in Stone. Aaron’s argument is that the theophany at Sinai was a late (Diaspora) concept, which we know because so much of the Hebrew Bible outside of the Pentateuch does not mention it. But what about Judges 5:4-5’s reference to Sinai? The Song of Deborah in Judges 5 is an old song (according to many scholars), so doesn’t the presence of Sinai there demonstrate the antiquity of the association of YHWH with Sinai? Aaron argues that the reference to Sinai in v 5 is an interpolation.
Here is Judges 5:4-5—according to Dr. Aaron’s translation:
“O Yahweh, when you came out from Seir,
“When you marched forth from the fields of Edom,
‘The earth trembled and the skies dripped
“Even the clouds dripped water.
“Mountains flowed [like water?] from before Yahweh.
“This is Sinai, from before Yahweh, God of Israel.”
Dr. Aaron argues that the “This is Sinai” part reflects an attempt to interpret the events of vv 4-5 as the Sinaitic theophany. This interpolation does not work, however, since Judges 5 is about the battle in Deborah’s day—not the Sinaitic theophany. Moreover, YHWH coming from Edom to help Israel (which Dr. Aaron says is like God returning from a self-imposed exile, since he had left Israel’s side on account of her sins) is irrelevant to the Sinai theophany. The reference to Sinai in Judges 5, therefore, does not fit its context (the battle in Deborah’s day) and was thus an interpolation.
I’ve read scholars who have argued that Judges 5:4-5 is not about the Sinaitic theophany, per se, but rather concerns God coming from Sinai through Edom to help Israel in battle, during the time of Deborah. But “This is Sinai, from before Yahweh, God of Israel” still looks awkward. What is Sinai? I can see Dr. Aaron’s point that the phrase is trying to say that the earth trembling, the clouds dripping, and the mountains flowing—the theophany—are the events at Sinai.