This month, we’re on an Advent journey, focusing on women who served an integral role in God’s redemption plan. Today’s post comes from one of those stories in Scripture that can leave your mouth hanging open. It is such a gruesome and unlikely event that we spent yesterday’s post preparing for this. So if you missed it, please click here to check it out and get some context before you read Jael’s story.
When we left Deborah on Wednesday, she was singing a victory song and praising God for Israel’s deliverance! She praised Jael, a unique woman who played a major role in that story, and I want us to return and take a look at her today. Let’s revisit that battle scene.
Spoiler alert: this isn’t going to be pretty!
Deborah has just summoned Barak to ask him why he’s delaying to obey God. She challenges him to get his men together and head out for battle!
[box]Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman. (Judges 4:8–9)[/box]
This is God’s prophetic word—before the battle occurs—promising to deliver the wicked Canaanite General into a woman’s hands. God will come through on that promise quite literally. This prophecy wasn’t about Deborah, but Jael. Barak’s cowardice forfeited his opportunity to have the honor of crushing God’s enemy.
Barak’s insecurities and lack of faith prevented him from experiencing God’s blessing.
God displayed His justice by bringing down Sisera’s army and added further humiliation to him at his death.
Let’s step back into the scene as the battle has just ended:
[box]The LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. (Judges 4:15)[/box]
The mighty Canaanite commander, Sisera, put his trust in his nine hundred iron chariots, which were no help to him at all when God showed up. And now he is running for his life! He runs straight for Jael’s tent and thinks he’s found safe refuge there. Her people (the Kenites) were at peace with the Canaanites, so he had no reason to feel any concern about seeking shelter there.
Now, don’t miss the important detail that Sisera is a Canaanite. Do you remember when God first delivered Israel from slavery? Remember how He said He was going to give them a homeland?
God warned the Israelites about the pagan people there and promised to drive out their enemies:
[box]Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. (Exodus 34:11–12)[/box]
This can sound pretty harsh until you find out that these people groups practiced gruesome religions that included serving their gods through child sacrifice and all kinds of sexual perversion. Israel was in danger of adopting their gods or attempting to mix the worship of Yahweh with the worship of these demonic “deities.” The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and his character is seen in the pagan religions that needed to be wiped out.
The enemy would seek to thwart the redemptive plan of God by corrupting His chosen people through the avenue of pagan worship.
God’s gracious and merciful character demanded protection for His people (and the Messianic line of redemption) from this evil. Just as he preserved a remnant when He destroyed mankind with the flood, God was preserving His people (and those who He would redeem) through ordering the destruction of wickedness.
For two decades the Canaanite General Sisera severely oppressed the men, women, and children of Israel. God determined that time of oppression should cease. And He chose to use a woman to deliver His people from their oppressor!
This is how it went down:
[box]Now Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.” And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.”
So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him. He said to her, “Stand in the doorway of the tent, and it shall be if anyone comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there anyone here?’ that you shall say, ‘No.’”
But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died.
And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” And he entered with her, and behold Sisera was lying dead with the tent peg in his temple. (Judges 4:17–22)[/box]
If you’re repulsed and sickened by Jael’s actions, remember that Sisera was more than just an abusive bully. Sisera was a wicked and cruel military leader who tormented God’s people for two decades. When scripture tells us that he “severely oppressed” God’s people, that oppression probably included rape, mutilation, torture, and extermination. That is why Jael is viewed as a heroin.
Jael was one fierce woman. Or perhaps she was a quiet and gentle woman who was simply chosen by God for this gruesome task. A task that would deliver the Israelites from oppression, preserve the messianic line, and bring God great glory.
After the battle, Deborah wrote a poem and sang of Jael:
“Most blessed of women is Jael . . .”
Deborah depicts the gory details in poetic song. It may seem bizarre to the world that there would be singing and celebrating after such a violent incident—but God’s righteous judgment truly is a gracious action.
This was a celebration at the conquering of evil oppression.
Sound familiar? We’ll be joining in a similar type of celebration one day. And that is what we are waiting for—the second Advent, when our Savior rides out in victory!
Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net