We're studying Jael this week, the wife of Heber the Kenite - her husband was a business man and made supplies for the Canaanites. In our narrative in the book of Judges, we see Deborah, the prophetess, accompany Barak to the battle. She tells him, though, that the glory for the victory will not be his, for his opponent would fall "by the hand of a woman."
When the battle turns into a rout, Sisera flees the scene, and approaches the tent of Jael. Notice again, he did not approach the tent of her husband -- to do that would have ensured a completely different outcome, since that would have been a more ritualistic hospitality, and as a guest, he not only would have received food and drink, but would also have received protection.
Anyway, back to our story . . . When Sisera approaches her tent, Jael greets him and invites him inside. He's in a bad way. He's exhausted and fearful. He must be looking over his shoulder just about every other second. Jael covers him with a blanket or rug -- he must have been wanting to hide. She also hands him something to drink when he requests it.
He tells her to respond "no" if anyone comes to the tent and asks if anyone is there . . . he sinks into an exhausted sleep. As he lies asleep, Jael picks up her hammer and a tent peg, and drives it through his temple into the ground. (This is a strong woman. She is accustomed to erecting her own tent, where she and her children reside, each time the tribe moves to a new spot. She can swing that hammer quite well, and place her pin expertly.) A very graphic description of a murder. Whatever her motivation, the story and the song in chapter five both consider her actions the will of God.
Jael fulfills Deborah's prophecy, but she raises some questions. If we were reading this story and didn't already know the outcome, we might have been apprehensive for the safety of the woman, after the general came into the tent. Jael did offer to help him, and gave him something to drink -- was she perhaps irritated by his attitude? The Bible doesn't mention his gratitude, just that he told her to lie if someone asked his whereabouts . . . maybe he was imperious, or rude, and that made her mad. Or maybe she felt that kinship with the Israelites, because her husband was related to Jethro, Moses' father in law.
Whatever her motives, she is an instrument of God in this story. She fulfills prophecy, and she shames both Sisera (killed by a woman), and the living Israelite general, who didn't slay him. She is regarded as a national hero.
Faced with a man who was her superior in size and physical strength, Jael used courage and her wits. She brings to mind the young shepherd boy, David, when he faced Goliath.
Both Jael and David were smaller and weaker than their opponent, and both of them used unusual weapons to accomplish their purposes. Both of them used their wits instead of the usual military methods (remember how David rejected the armor that was offered to him?). And both of them were successful in the slaughter of their enemies (both were pretty gruesome, too!).
We'll conclude our study of Jael tomorrow.