Jael was the Kenite woman who slew Sisera the Canaanite chieftain after inviting him into the sanctity of her tent. It was this action of Jael that gives cause for a controversy over the ethics of her action.
Judges 4:17-22, Judges 5:6, 24, Isaiah 55:7-9
It is essential as well as helpful to understand the time period that Jael lived in. It was a troubled period, after Israel had entered the Promised Land. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25).Once again the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. The LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
The children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he greatly oppressed the children of Israel. Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, judged Israel at that time. (Judges 4:1-4).
Deborah moved herself to action. She summoned Barak of the tribe of Naphtali, who was considered the best military leader. Deborah encouraged Barak to raise a force of ten thousand men to challenge Canaanite king, Jabin. The battle had been fierce and long. The Canaanites apparently considerably outnumbered their opponents and had in addition the advantage of nine hundred war chariots. Israel was armed only with bows and spears. Barak, however, was a great military leader. The song of triumph by Deborah tells how the Canaanite army many of whom were drowned in attempting to get across the river. The rest of the army ran with the Israelites in hot pursuit.
When the Canaanites were defeated by Deborah and Barak, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, fled and sought refuge with the friendly tribe of Heber, beneath the oaks of Zaanaim. When he drew near, Jael invited him to enter her tent. He did so, and as he lay wearied on the floor he fell into a deep sleep. She then took in her left hand one of the great wooden pins (“nail”) which fastened down the cords of the tent, and in her right hand the mallet, or “hammer,” used for driving it into the ground, and stealthily approaching her sleeping guest, with one well-directed blow drove the nail through his temples into the earth (Judges 5:27). She then led Barak, who was in pursuit, into her tent, and showed him what she had done.
Sisera had been fighting a losing battle all day and had lost his army. He had been pursued by Deborah and Barak. Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. Sisera asked her for a little water to drink; for he was thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Once again Sisera gave Jael instruction to stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man does come and enquire of her, if there were any man here? She was to say, no. (Judges 4: 18-20).
Sisera used Jael as the watch for any of Barak men came by. It certainly does look like Sisera was not prepared to trust anyone fully. This would include the men from the house of Heber the Kenite. Even though there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite they were not excluded from the instruction “if there were any man here? She was to say, no.”
We do not know why Sisera went to the tent of a woman and not to the tent of Heber. It could be that Sisera was just worn out and exhausted from the battle and the pursuit, and just desired nothing more than something to drink and a safe place to sleep. Maybe he didn’t even consider if it was a man or woman’s tent.
Jael is considered a devout woman. The Biblical narrative is somewhat unclear as to precisely what happened between Jael and Sierra in the tent before he fell asleep. Judges 4:18 relates: “So he entered her tent.” Jael was the Kenite woman who slew Sisera the Canaanite chieftain after inviting him into the sanctity of her tent, and in so doing gave cause for a controversy over the ethics of her action. Deborah praised Jael in Judges 5:24 when she said: “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.” This indicates there were others hiding in their tents. Jael was blessed because she took an action.
Jael can be used as an example to be a strong and determined dedicated woman of Christ. Many times young girls and women are told that strength and determination are solely for strong men. Jael was resourceful and brave to kill the enemy of the Israelites. This was done without the consent of her husband. We can even say it was against her husband’s wishes. Judges 4:17 tells us, “Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite.” Sisera served Jabin and Heber was at peace with Jabin.
Deborah was a prophetess and obviously a woman determined in her dedication to the LORD God. Deborah was known as a woman of great wisdom and spiritual depth whose decisions and her choices were guided by her capacity as a prophetess. Deborah was a woman of her times and it was from her point of view Jael had done the appropriate action going above and beyond what other women would do. Jael was considered blessed above women thing and was worthy of all praise. Jael demonstrated her loyalty to Israel with the killing of Sierra.
The victory of Israel was a good thing. It helped to switch the Canaanite rule over them that was degrading and humiliating. This victory can be a warning to the wicked that the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man this thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD and He will have mercy upon him; and to our LORD God, for He will abundantly pardon. For the thoughts of man are not the thoughts of the LORD. Neither are the ways of man the ways of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are the ways of the LORD higher than the ways of man, and the thoughts of the LORD than the thoughts of man. (Isaiah 55:7-9).
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MLA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne “Jael the wife of Heber: .” Becker Bible Studies Library Jan 2015.< https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=1844,>.
APA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015, January) “Jael the wife of Heber:.” Becker Bible Studies Library. Retrieved from https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=1844,.
Chicago Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015) “Jael the wife of Heber:.” Becker Bible Studies Library (January), https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=1844, (accessed).