Jael’s headstone should read ‘Condemned Without Trial’. She was a unique woman, widely condemned without a trial. According to some, Jael committed an extraordinary cruel act. But was it an act of cruelty, or an act of extreme bravery?
Heber, Jael’s husband, was a relative of Moses’ father-in-law. He left his family and dwelt as Bedouins in the desert of Canaan.
Israel was chaffing under the severe rule of the Canaanite king, Jabin. Sisera, his army commander, led a powerful enemy. He possessed 900 iron chariots.
Deborah, an Israeli judge and prophetess, went to war against Jabin, alongside Barack. Compared to Jabin’s army, they only had 10,000 men who were barely armed.
Heber wanted to curry favour with King Jabin, so he informed on Barak. He needed to secure his position, as he was only an itinerant Bedouin.
Sisera’s iron chariots became stuck in the mud. An impediment, not a help. The Canaanite army was soundly defeated and annihilated.
Sisera alone escaped on foot and fled. Eventually, he made his way to Heber’s tent in the desert.
Jael had to play hostess as her husband, Heber, was still away. The unwritten law of hospitality in the desert was strictly adhered to.
When Sisera appeared at her tent, Jael knew the battle had turned against the Canaanites. Particularly, as Sisera was alone and on foot.
Jael urged the exhausted Sisera to rest. She gave him royal sustenance and tucked him snugly into bed. Jael assured Sisera she would shield him from all searchers.
Jael had heard of Deborah’s prophecy, as news travels fast in the wilderness. “The army commander would be sold into the hands of a woman.” Jael had no idea she was that woman.
Act Of Expediency
Jael knew that Heber’s actions would place their entire family at risk. She would do anything she could to secure her family’s wellbeing.
Jael couldn’t stop to consider what her husband’s reactions would be when he returned. It was a now or never situation.
Lying asleep at her feet was a widely recognized and powerful enemy. Deborah and Barak had obviously won the battle and her husband had colluded with this enemy. The conquerors would pay out vengeance on Heber and his family.
Jael had one opportunity to gain a favourable position for her entire family. Did she have the courage to do one daring and deadly act?
Condemned Without Trial
Jael’s task was to make, pitch and strike the tents every time the group moved camp. Handling a tent peg and maul was second nature to her. Could she drive a tent peg through a sleeping man’s forehead until it pinned the head to the ground? The alternative was unthinkable. The penalty for colluding with the enemy was death.
Her husband would be executed for having informed on Barak. It would be impossible for Jael to get back to her husband’s land and they wouldn’t be welcome. The future was beyond bleak.
Driving a tent peg through the temple would be quick. Sisera would barely know what was happening.
Four bones meet at the temple, creating the weakest part of the skull. Directly below the temple lies the meningeal artery. Damage to it leads to a deadly brain bleed. That is why warring Maori warriors crafted a special weapon to deliver a fatal blow to the temple.
Jal knew it would take enormous courage. If she stopped to think about it, she wouldn’t do it. She didn’t accept women’s limitations.
Joel used a nail to defeat the enemy, just as Deborah had prophesied. At Calvary, nails helped fulfil the prophecy given to Eve in the Garden of Eden. ‘He would crush the head of the serpent and the serpent would bruise his heal’.
Creating A Bond
Jael would be sending a simple message to her husband. “I don’t want to be just a Bedouin. I want to belong.”
Her action would form a bond with Deborah. It would ensure her family’s safety and survival. Heber had no loyalty to anyone. Their situation was precarious.
Jael risked the wrath of her husband, but she would be condemned without a trial. She would be breaking the sanctity of the law of hospitality. Jael was between a rock and a hard place.
Jael decided. She was familiar with the instruments. She had to move before she lost her nerve, or Sisera woke up.
With the dreadful deed complete, Jael had no choice but to sit and wait. It was time to regret what she had done or not. Time to recover from the shock of her actions.
Jael did not hide the body. She simply had to wait until someone turned up. Hopefully, it would be Barack, or someone from his army. Not her husband.
Barak turned up first. Jael showed him the body and was placed under Barak’s protection. Jael and her family were safe.
Nothing is said about Heber’s behaviour when he finally turned up. Because of Barak’s protection, he couldn’t condemn Jael.
It altered their relationship forever. Jael was capable of murder. That’s a lot for any husband to cope with, particularly someone as proud as Heber.
Condemned Without A Trial
Jael was a heroine, far from being guilty and condemned without a trial.
Prophetess Deborah composed and sang a long victory song about the defeat of the Canaanites. There was also a special mention of Jael. “Blessed above women shall Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, be. Blessed shall she be above women in the tent.”
Women rarely go about slaying men, let alone a commander of an army. It took extreme courage and fortitude to do what she did. Eve also is condemned without a trial. Rahab and Hannah are two other women who showed incredible courage. People can do something extraordinary when necessary.
Repeatedly, women are called upon to show extreme courage and fortitude. Dealing with a troublesome person, caring for a sick child, or facing financial burdens. Being a friend when someone is facing difficult circumstances. Not allowing tragedy to define who they are. Women have a voice in their sphere of influence. It is a valuable voice.
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