Women of the Bible: Jael – On the #InternationalWomensDay

Jael– The Kenite woman who killed the Canaanite army commander Sisera after his defeat by the Israelites under Barak and Deborah. The name is also found as an Amorite village in the Mari period.

Jael’s actions are recorded both in a prose account (Judg. 4:17–22) and the Song of Deborah (5:24–27), one of the oldest examples of Hebrew literature and probably the more authoritative of these versions. These accounts differ in major details, and neither reveals Jael’s motive. While the Kenites had long been associates of the tribe of Judah (cf. 1:16), they are not listed among those fighting the Canaanites; indeed, 4:17 indicates that Heber and Jabin were allies, so it is difficult to suggest that Jael killed Sisera out of a sense of obligation to Judah.

According to the Song of Deborah, Jael lulled Sisera into complacency by hospitably offering him milk and curds, only to drive a tent peg into his skull as he ate. The prose account provides more of a context for what took place. Jael invited the exhausted and pursued Sisera into her tent. When Sisera asked for water Jael gave him milk and then covered him with a blanket. Before collapsing into sleep Sisera charged Jael to keep watch near the tent entrance and to deny that anyone was in the tent. Then, as he slept, Jael hammered a tent peg into his skull and greeted the pursuing Barak with the news that his enemy was dead.*

She’s one of my favorites.

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*Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 547.