David Harris

Mt. Tabor. Neat rows of evergreens march up the mountain where, according to the Biblical account in Judges 4, Deborah’s general Barak and 10,000 Israelites routed the Canaanite army.

The stirring Song of Deborah in Judges 5 names six tribes who answered Deborah’s call to arms; it also chastises four tribes who refused to fight the Canaanites. Why did Reuben, Gilead, Dan and Asher stay home? New archaeological evidence from hundreds of Iron Age sites in the Biblical hill country may provide a surprisingly modern answer: economic self interest. The four tribes probably depended on non-Israelites, including the Canaanites, for their livelihoods.