Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; blessed is she among women in tents. He asked for water, she gave milk; she brought out cream in a lordly bowl. She stretched her hand to the tent peg, her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; she pounded Sisera, she pierced his head, she split and struck through his temple. At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead. The mother of Sisera looked through the window, and cried out through the lattice, ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarries the clatter of his chariots?’ Her wisest ladies answered her, yes, she answered herself, ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil: to every man a girl or two; for Sisera, plunder of dyed garments, plunder of garments embroidered and dyed, two pieces of dyed embroidery for the neck of the looter?’ Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord! But let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength. So the land had rest for forty years. (Judges 5:24-31)
The Story Of Three Women
Judges is a book filled with stories of the early days of Israel before the kings. It was a time of great turmoil. The period of Judges is characterized by a cycle of rest, rebellion, rejection and redemption. When the people served the Lord there was rest. In time the hearts of the people turned away from God and the Lord rejected them to the plight of an oppressive army. Pleading for mercy the land would be redeemed through the hand of another judge. This story would repeat itself throughout the writings of the judges.
Early in the judges a woman named Deborah, a prophetess, was judging Israel. The people forgot the Lord and He sent Sisera commander of the army of Hazor, the Philistines, and the king of Moab to punish the people. Through the leadership of Deborah and Barak the Lord routed Sisera and all his army with Israel defeating them completely. However Sisera escaped from his chariot and fled on foot. In his retreat the commander came by the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite. She implored Sisera to come into her tent to rest and find safety. Covering him with a blanket the commander asked for a drink of water. Instead Jael brought him warm milk to drink to help him sleep. Filling himself with the cream Sisera fell fast asleep.
It was the practice of the women to pitch the tents and break them down when moving. These were large tents requiring great skill and strength to manipulate. Jael was not unfamiliar with the use of a hammer and a tent peg. Silently coming to where Sisera lay fast asleep she places the tent peg over the temple of his head and with a great blow drives the stake into his head. She strikes the peg with such force it penetrates the brain and comes out the other side into the ground. In an over simplistic manner the Holy Spirit writes, “So he died.” Deborah’s song illuminates the manner of his death.
Meanwhile a third woman awaits the return of her son. The army of Sisera has been decimated. No one has been left alive. As the mother of Sisera anxiously looks out the lattice her maidens comfort her that he will home soon. They tell her he is busy plundering the possessions of Israel and taking captive girls. The wait stretches into days and then weeks when they realize none of their men are coming home. She grieves the death of her son.
Three women. Deborah who judged the people in the righteousness of God’s will. Jael who had the courage to execute judgement upon the enemies of Israel. A mother who would never see her son alive again. Three different stories. Three very different women. What a great story.
p. s. Heber must have treated Jael very nice from that day forward. Just saying.