Three Very Different Women

Deborah (a prophetess and judge)

Jael (most blessed of women)

Sisera’s Mother (wailing through the lattice)

Jael finishes the battle that Deborah began. In between the actions of these two women, God empowers Barak to defeat Israel’s enemy. Only Sisera, the leader of the wicked Canaanite army is left alive. Of what import is this story to Christians today? In Judges 4 and 5 we read of the fulfillment God’s message prophesied through Deborah. As it all comes to pass a window is opened on the lives of three women whose dissimilar places in society touch for a brief moment in the history of Israel.

But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the King and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug . . . but Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the tent peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.

(Judges 4:17-18, 21b)

Because the Lord routed Sisera’s army not one man but him was left alive. Sisera’s standing army and all the charioteers from 900 chariots would have lay slain between the foot of Mount Tabor and a place called Harosheth-hagoyim. Deborah’s song in chapter five describes dead Canaanite bodies as swept away by the ancient torrent of the Kishon River. Sisera, weary to the point of exhaustion, thinks of a place to hide and rest in the tent of Heber the Kenite. As a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law, we don’t know why Heber was thought of as friendly to the Canaanites. Apparently, Heber’s wife, Jael, had no such friendly thoughts.

Jael would have known it was wrong to invite a man into her tent with no male family member present. She seems to entice the weary Sisera, with the welcoming, personal invitation “turn aside my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” Did she already have a plan in mind, or did the plan to kill Sisera arise as the opportunity presented itself when he fell asleep? In trust, Sisera enters, lies down and Jael comforts him with a rug and a drink of milk. Surely Jael knew the Israeli army was after Sisera, but she did not wait for help. This strong, determined woman took a tent peg and using a mallet, drove the peg right through one side that military general’s head to other and down into the ground. You may imagine what would have happened to Jael had Sisera awoken! Jael had now placed herself and Heber’s family firmly in the camp of the Israelites—a very good place to be since they were the victors on this day that “God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel (Judges 4:23).”

Deborah’s song ties up loose ends by painting a picture of a forlorn Canaanite mother whose son is never returning home. While his smashed head lies between Jael’s feet, Sisera’s mother listens for that particular pounding of horses’ hooves as they strain to pull the chariot of the proud victor home to her.  Princess servants attempt to soothe the anxious mother with tantalizing thoughts of the spoils of war by crudely referring to captive women as wombs, women meant to be used as slaves and worse. To Sisera’s mother these are comforting thoughts.

Deborah and Jael used by God for specific purposes, and Sisera’s mother; three women born into ancient Middle Eastern cultures dominated by men and war. I see Sisera’s mother as being used in Scripture by the Holy Spirit to contrast her with Jael. Jael, is a tent-dwelling woman of no social standing, while Sisera’s mother appears to live in a home with lattice-worked windows, has servants, and approves of her son’s vicious, vulgar, ungodly life. In contrast, Jael knows her husband made a wrong choice by fraternizing with the enemy and uses her own two hands to not only bring final victory to the nation of Israel, but to rescue her family from the shame of being on the wrong side. Jael may lack Deborah’s social and judicial power and prestige, but she certainly does possess her bold-faced courage in the face of danger.

Question: Do I believe that every person, of every tribe, tongue and nation are presented with choices that align them either God or with the evil one?

Answer: Yes! I believe these chapters in Judges recount God-given opportunities to choose for him at just the right moment in these women’s various lives, just as we do in ours. Did Deborah ignore God, agree with Barak, and allow the powerful Canaanite army to continue its abuse of Israel? No! Did Jael faint away, rather than using her physical strength and guts to take down a man who would have killed her if he had not remained asleep before she could kill him? No! Could Sisera’s mother have raised a less blood-thirsty son? Or, at least one not so inclined to violence and greed? Quite likely.

Question: Am I ready to always make the right choice for God? Are you? Would you like to share an event in your life where you chose for God, not fearing the possible negative consequences? Or an event in a friend or family members life? Don’t worry, you won’t be bragging. I think every reader would love to hear of current circumstances where a man or woman was willing to make a stand, or seemingly fight to death, either physically or spiritually for the cause of Christ!