Saturday, December 24, 2016


Women of Israel's Heroic Age

Jael: "She Has Slayed an Enemy"

Key Scripture: Judges 4:17-22; 5:6, 24-27

Her Name Means: "A wild or mountain goat"

Her Character: A woman whose physical strength, faithfulness, patience, and discernment were praised in the very first poem of the Hebrew Bible: “The Song of Deborah.” She was decisive and courageous, she seized the opportunity to slay an enemy of God's people.

Her Joy: To be lauded by Deborah and Barak for her art in a decisive victory. A woman who rose from obscurity to greatness, and becomes synonymous with the likes of other well-known tentdwellers: Sarah, Hagar, Leah and Rachel.

Pre-Story: During Jael’s adult life, the Israelites were being horrifically oppressed for over twenty years by the Canaanites’ King Jabin. The Israelite army, led by General Barak and under the prophecy of Judge Deborah, planned a surprise attack against their oppressors and rescue Israel from the bonds of slavery. The Israelite army, however, had strategically no chance of success since they were sorely lacking in soldiers and weaponry. Only an act of God would make this plan work.

Her Story: Jeal was the wife of a man named Heber, who was a mercenary and opportunist Herber, who was a Kenite, a nomadic tribe, some of whom lived in close proximity to the Israelites. It is evident that the tribe of Heber was regarded by both parties to the struggle as being neutral. They were descendants of Jethro, and hence, had the confidence of the Israelites. For years Jabin the king of Canaan had oppressed Israel.

Jael and Herber, along with their nomadic clan traveled whenever they could find work. Her campsite must have been close to the battlefield because her family was making and supplying weapons for the army. At this period in Israelite history it was still common for several women to be married to one man. In such a case, each wife had her tent which she made, pitched and maintained herself. When Sisera arrived at the encampment in the last stages of exhaustion and terror, Jael saw him and called him to her tent. Jael offered help to a fleeing enemy general, but not ritual hospitality.

Sisera went into Jael’s tent. He ask her;“Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty." She opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him with a rug. He said to her “Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you “Is anyone here?” say “No”. Judges 4:17-20 and 5:24-25.

Then occurred one of the most graphically described murders in the Scriptures: "She put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the worker’s mallet; She struck Sisera a blow, She crushed his head, She shattered and pierced his temple. He sank, he fell, He lay still at her feet."Judges 4:21-24 and 5:26-27 Faced with a man who was far superior to her in physical strength, Jael used her wits and courage. She took the wooden hammer used to put up her tent and one of the pegs that held the tent ropes, then with one expert blow she drove the peg deep into the side of Sisera’s head.

The story does not tell us Jael’s motive for killing Sisera. Whatever her reasons, the Israelites celebrated her as a national heroine, who together with Deborah had saved them from their mortal enemies. They also relished the irony of the situation: Sisera the mighty general fell not into Barak’s hands, but Jael’s, a woman.

Her Place in God's Divine Plan:
By Jael’s one act, she saves Israel from oppression, demolishes the law of rape under the guise of hospitality, saves her own reputation, becomes a woman warrior in her own right, and fulfills Deborah’s prophecy.

Her Challenges Along the Way: Women, especially Jael, then had every reason to be terrified for fear of being raped at the hand of her “guest.” And Jael was living amongst the Canaanites, harboring a Canaanite general, knowing full well the evil he was capable of.

Her Victories: Jael plays an important role in the story of Israel’s wars with the Canaanites. Jael was blessed among women by all who loved Israel. “Blessed is she among women.” A distinctive honor not just given to the Virgin Mary, but also to a little-known nomadic warrior.

Lesson We Can Learn from Her Legacy: Behind the story of Jael and the death of Sisera is a God who promised never to forget His people and who holds to that promise today. When hope seems dim and the prospect of victory close to impossible, God is at work, bringing about His divine plan. We so easily move forward on our own, thinking we can handle it all, until we run up against something too hard for us. Only then do we run to God for help. What is amazing is that God is always there. Always willing to rescue us when we call. Always willing to forgive.

Born: 1125BC
Married to: Herber

Note that the death of Sisera was unusual because the general of the Canaanite army lost his life by the hands of a woman, which in the culture of the Ancient Near East, was considered to be the greatest humiliation a soldier could ever experience.

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