Mysteries of the Bible

"Unanswered Questions of the Bible"

How Jael Struck a Blow for Freedom

Posted by foryourfaith on December 23, 2011

 

The final episode of Deborah’s campaign against the detested Canaanite general Sisera belonged to another woman. Jael was a woman of the Kenites, a Midianite clan that lived a nomadic existence in the Negeb desert south of Judah. They claimed an affinity to Israel through their descent from Hobab, the Midianite father-in-law of Moses.

Jael’s husband, Heber, had separated from the main Kenite clan and “pitched his tent” in the north of Israel, where the king of Hazor held sway. As foreigners subject to the Canaanites, Heber and his wife apparently came to fear Sisera and his army of iron chariots as much as the Israelites did.

In any event, Jael’s tent happened to lie in the path of Sisera as he tried to desert his own defeated army and escaped from the pursuing Israelites. Jael evidently perceived Sisera as a deadly threat. Thus, she used all the guile she could muster to entrap and kill him.

The bait for the trap was the practice of hospitality, a custom of great importance to Bedouin clans such as the Kenites. To welcome a stranger into one’s tent meant that one was responsible for protecting that stranger. When Sisera came asking for water, Jael welcomed him by offering him milk instead. Sisera trusted her welcome as “she brought him curds in a lordly bowl,” and he rested in her tent.

Jael was no soldier, but as a nomadic woman she had set up her tent countless times – and therefore knew how to wield a mallet and tent peg. With these weapons she sprang her deadly trap. When her prey was asleep she struck and “drove the peg into his temple, till it went down into the ground” (Judges 4:21). Barak, in hot pursuit of Sisera in the hope of gaining glory for himself by killing his foe in person, found, upon arriving, that the deed had been done.

Certainly Jael’s act was one of treachery for she had betrayed both the Bedouin conventions of hospitality and the trust of Sisera. But as far as the Israelites were concerned, a far greater cause was at stake: freedom from Canaanite oppression. Thus they could sing in the “Song of Deborah:”

“Most blessed of women be Jael,

The wife of Heber the Kenite,

Of tent-dwelling women most blessed . . . “

 

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One Response to “How Jael Struck a Blow for Freedom”

  1. Very interesting details you have mentioned, regards for posting.

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