Women in the Word – Jael

In days past, stories have reached the media about little old ladies who have thwarted off or fatally wounded an intruder intent on doing them bodily harm.  Even with women in the Military, it is still not the norm to picture women in a position of killing even the enemy.   We are introduced to a woman in the Bible who was placed in a situation whereby she took the liberty of killing a leader of Israel’s enemy.  Although her tactics were less than honorable, Deborah, Israel’s Judge at this time, bestowed upon her praise and honor, even stating that “Blessed above women shall be Jael.

Judges chapter 4 introduces us to Jael.  Her name means “wild or mountain goat, ‘  a seemingly fitting name for a Bedouin’s wife.   Being a tent dweller, these folk would travel wherever there was work.  These particular desert dwellers were tinsmiths who made tools, utensils and weapons.  Thus we find them dwelling near the battle between Israel and the Canaanites, supplying the armies with weapons.

She was the wife of Heber, the Kenite.  Bedouin women were responsible for making, pitching and striking tents..  Jael was an expert in all areas of tent making.  Her upper arm strength was sufficient enough to drive the tent pegs into the ground with one fell swoop.   One would think that the stakes needed to be long enough to sustain a tent in the sandy soil of the desert. Another of her responsibilities was being hospitable.  Hospitality was one of the most strictly adhered to of all the desert obligations, and was a matter of honor among the Hebrew women.  Perhaps this was because of the harshness of the environ on weary travelers that Bedouin women offered comfort and relief for those who came their way.

Jael was not a crude or coarse person.  In fact it is suggested that she was an  attractive woman as well as being strong and determined.  We are told that she had kinship ties with the Israelites through her husband, Heber, from Jethro, the father of Moses’ wife.  Thus, she had a fondness for the Jews and for their Judge, Deborah.  She must not have had any preconception that she would be the one person appointed by God to render stern justice on an enemy.  However, in doing so, she sinned.

The setting is evolved as Deborah and Barak fought against Jabin, the King of the Canaanites.  God intervened by unleashing the powers of nature which completely disorganized Jabin’s army.  Sisera, the captain of the Army escaped into the desert.   Sisera came to the tent of Heber, the Kenite and was met by Jael.  Knowing that Heber was on good terms with King of the Canaanites, Sisera sensed a measure of security in seeking out the hospitality of Heber.  However, it was Jael who invited him into her tent.  Perhaps he was lulled by her femininity or maybe he was just so tied and exhausted that he welcomed the first safe place to rest his weary bones.

Seeing how worn and weary he was she urged him not to be afraid and to come in and rest.  Jael set in motion her talent of hospitality by giving him a rug in which to hide and goats milk, not only quenching his thirst but supplying nutrients as well.  She falsely assured him that she would hide him from any searchers as he requested.   Being exhausted and having escaped death by sheer skill, Sisera welcomed the opportunity to rest and regain his perspective on the events of the day.  His eyes most likely became heavy, heavy, heavy………………

Jael patiently watched as her guest settled into a deep sleep.  She was keenly aware that he was an enemy of Israel.   Knowing that Israel was defeating the Canaanites, Jael realized the Sisera would be captured and killed.  The opportunity was at hand, she could cement her friendship with Deborah if she herself became Sisera’s executioner!  This irrational impulse to slay the persistent enemy of God’s people was less than honorable for she had not obtained her husbands consent to commit this act, let alone doing so in such a cruel manner.

As he slept Jael quietly came to his side.  Perhaps she stopped for a moment to look at the man who spewed so much wickedness to her friends, the Israelites.  I doubt if she considered whether he had a family.  The Bible records that Sisera’s mother was at home, watching for her sons chariot.   The one fact that she did know was that one way or another, this man was doomed to die.  Steadily she eased the tent staked toward the sun-bronzed temple of her victim.   Many times she had driven a stake into the ground as she pitched the tents.  She had an eye for hitting the stake firmly with the first blow.  Jael raised the mallet into striking position with her right arm and with one swift steady expertly maneuvered blow she pinned Sisera’s head to the ground.

Jael had broken the code of Hospitality when she treacherously murdered God’s enemy.   She did so without consulting her husbands wishes.   Yet these sins are dismissed in the seemingly more important fact of her courage, even though she did not attack Sisera fairly.   God had already proclaimed that Sisera would be shamefully killed at the hand of a woman, but Jael did not seek God’s wisdom in the execution of her plot to kill Sisera.   Instead, she resorted to trickery and  she slew him by foul and treacherous means.

Shortly afterwards, Barak arrived in his pursuit of Sisera.  Jael came out to meet him and said, “Come, and I will shew thee the man that thou seekest……..”  She did not boast of her accomplishment but rather let Barak learn for himself of her deed.  Later, in Chapter 5 of Judges we read of Deborah’s praise of Jael in her song to the Lord.

God fulfilled his prophecy that he would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman, a humiliating way to die.   One day the enemy of this world, Satan will be delivered into the hand of the “Seed of a Woman”  Christ Jesus, himself.


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