“Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.” Judges 5:24
Somehow, just somehow, I’ve been under the impression that as a believer, I ought to agree with God. Now maybe that’s a novel idea. Or maybe some believers think they can pick and choose when to believe, you know, like if it doesn’t agree with how they already feel about something. But if that’s the way I agree with You Lord, then it kind of makes me like a Pharisee toward Jesus, at least until I come to a point of surrender, and then my life changes. The truth of the matter is that You tell us “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ saith the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'” And that’s the truth. I am to line up my thoughts with You. You don’t line Your thoughts up with me. That would be silly. I mean, what do I know? Yet, You know everything.
And that’s what I’ve seen happen with this God story about this woman named Jael. I see this woman who is praised for her action and treated like a hero, not just by people, but by a prophetess. Here’s a woman who heard straight from God. She knewthat God was going to deliver this tyrant Sisera into a woman’s hands and when she found out which woman, praises were sung before Israel. Now here’s my question. If God chooses to praise her publicly before Israel and throughout time by His Scriptures, who are we to decide otherwise? If God knew, before Jael was ever born, that this deed or task would be assigned to her for the physical deliverance of His people, who am I to disagree with God?
Now the reason I ask is because as I’ve been researching and praying about Jael’s situation and the situation of Israel at the time, I’ve found that most commentators are extremely negative about Jael. The one that got me thinking was this one, “Jael did not kill Sisera as David did Goliath, a champion of the Lord bent on destroying His arch-enemies. While divine judgment fell upon Sisera, Jael erred in that she did not allow God to designate the means of punishment. Perhaps she felt an irresistible impulse to slay the persistent enemy of God’s people, but she remains forever censurable for the cruel way she killed Sisera, even though Deborah gloated over the act and praised it in poetic form. When Deborah said, ‘Blessed above women shall be Jael,’ perhaps she was only praising her faith and not her treachery.” Or perhaps this prophetess knew how God felt? I wonder why it is so easy to condemn others when God doesn’t?
So, let’s look at the story. The children of Israel have entered the promised land. Joshua has died. Some of the tribes obey God and pursue and destroy the surrounding people. Some of the tribes get comfortable and do not obey and live amongst the people as their tributaries. In Judges chapter 2 we hear from an angel of the Lord a message from God. “I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, ‘ I will never break my covenant with you. And you shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; you shall throw down their alters: but you have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?’ Wherefore I also said, ‘ I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.'” So, when the people forsook the Lord after Joshua died, His hand was against them. But when they would cry out to Him, He would raise up a judge to deliver them. Yet, after each judge, they would become worse than before. Even so, the Lord would continue to raise judges when they cried out and He would continue to deliver them. But Lord, You had a purpose in not allowing Joshua to drive out all the nations. This was a proving ground for Israel. “That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.” (Judges 2:22) Actually Judges 3:2 tells us that You left these nations “Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof…” Funny thing is, that because of sin, we live in a world where we are constantly at war. We are continually raging a spiritual battle. The danger comes when we forget that. And that’s what Israel was forgetting, with each succeeding generation.
So the children of Israel would cry unto the Lord and He would raise up a deliverer known as a judge. He wasn’t a judge like in the sense we think of. He was a deliverer. The first one was Othniel who prevailed against Chushanrishathaim. But then after his death the children of Israel did evil again. So God strengthened Eglon against them. The children of Israel cried out and God raised up another judge named Ehud, this left-hander who secretly hid a double edged dagger on his right leg, went before King Eglon with a present and then told Eglon he had a secret he needed to share. While alone in the room, he plunged the dagger deep into Eglon’s belly, locked the door behind him, and left Eglon to die in his chamber. After him came Shamgar. And after straying after Shamgar came the persecution of Jabin’s rule, the people crying out, and God raising Deborah as judge.
Now, unless you can show me evidence that God failed to raise a man and that’s how Deborah became judge, don’t even bring that up. The children of Israel cried unto the Lord and Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, judged Israel at that time. Now Deborah was not only raised up by You God to be a judge- a deliverer, but she was also a prophetess and so people would come to her when they needed right judgment. Don’t confuse the two. So she hears from God, from You. Yes, she’s a prophetess so she actually hears Your voice, God, sharing with her or has visions but this is real stuff and real direct communication from You. And she hears that You had commanded Barak to take 10,000 men to the river Kishon, and You would deliver Sisera, King Jaben’s warlord, into their hands. She calls Barak to her and reminds him these words because obviously You had shared them with Barak also. But instead of starting out on the way, Barak says, “If you go with me, then I will go. If not, I will not go.” So much for Barak’s confidence in You, Lord, huh? Now here enters what we think of as the beginning of Jael. Deborah answered, “I will surely go with you: notwithstanding the journey that you take shall not be for your honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
Do you really think that God was suprised when Barak wouldn’t go unless Deborah went? Do you think that God didn’t see that coming? Do we forget that You are omniscient, God? You know everything, even before it’s time. Do we think that all of a sudden, You changed Your plans, and found this woman and just all of a sudden directed things in her path? I don’t think any of this came by surprise. I think just as You raised up Esther for such a time as her own, You raise each of us up. I believe that Your raising begins before we were ever conceived in our mother’s womb. When You spoke these words to Jeremiah, Lord, were they only for him? Or were they for each of us to think about concerning Your calling on our lives? “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) So what if You already had placed a calling on Deborah and Barak and Jael and everyone else? What if none of this was a surprise? What if all of this was by divine narration?
Now let’s look at Jael. Her husband was Heber the Kenite who was a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law who had come with the people of Israel. But Heber had seperated from them and was a friend of King Jabin. Jabin’s main man, Sisera, was losing this battle and running for his life. So he ran toward a friend. But Heber wasn’t there. And let’s not think that Sisera is some good guy. I mean, on one side we have this woman and wife and mother who is not trained in warfare. On the other side we have this desperate warrior known to treat people terribly. Let’s just put this in perspective here.
Sisera is coming under God’s judgment. Because he was Jabin’s number one general, he was the one responsible for all the atrocities and oppression the children of Israel had been suffering. He’s the enemy of both God and Israel. He hated women and was a rapist. Here’s the attitude of his mother- “to every man a damsel or two…” Women were prey. A woman was a thing to use. And here is Jael, standing face to face with this kind of man, who could do atrocities to her. But I’m thinking that Jael knows something of God and knows that God has already pronounced a death sentence against Sisera and that is why he is at her door, running in terror.
So I keep hearing how treacherous Jael was because she invited Sisera in under the pretense of hospitality and then kills him brutally in his sleep, this man who was trusting her. But what about this man Sisera? What is he actually requiring of Jael? What danger is he putting her in even by coming to her? Do we stop to think about that? What if, just by Sisera being there, Jael’s life and the life of her people was now endangered and she knew it? Is it right to bring the battlefield to your ally’s door? Sisera did. Was it right to deal with someone’s wife rather than the husband? Sisera did. Was it right to enter the tent of a married woman? Sisera did. He even did that while Jael was alone. Was it right in those days to make requests of Your hostess? Nope. Sisera did. Is it right to ask someone to lie for you? Sisera did.
Here’s the thing. This guy was terrifying. Jael could have been terrified. She had every right to run when she saw him coming. But maybe he would have slaughtered her and her people in anger. She could have been fearful, fainted, or acted hysterically, but she didn’t. She could have submitted to him. But God had Sisera submit to her. And being wise as a serpant and gentle as a dove, she did what she could and what she had to in order to side with You God. She risked her life.
Jael was weaker in strength. How could she ever fight against Sisera? Are you people for real who call her treacherous and heartless? If she didn’t side with God, all of Israel would have come in and slaughtered all of those siding with Sisera. But she sided with God and the people of Israel. I have no idea where her husband was. I have no idea who’s side he was on. Maybe he was staying away in fear. But not so Jael. She accepted her God-given responsibility for her family, her people, and her life. She did the hard thing. And God, You praised her for it.
“So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.” (Judges 4:23) Deborah offered this to begin her song of praise, “Praise you the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.” Isn’t that what Jael did? Didn’t she willingly offer herself, despite her weakness, despite her fear? “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. “ Certainly that’s not a pretty picture. But stop to think of all the blood and gore and rape and everything that preceeded this picture. Think of what Jael knew. What if you were a woman in that situation during that time period and in that culture? What would you do to obey God and stop further travesties? You know, it’s one thing to have the praise of men or women. But it’s a whole other thing to have You, God, speak through someone to pronounce Your blessing upon someone. For Jael, You spoke blessing over her through Your prophetess Deborah. For Mary, You spoke the same blessing, “Blessed are you among women,” through Your angel. And Elizabeth, who was sensitive to Your Holy Ghost, agreed with that blessing. So the question is, will I choose to be sensitive to Your Spirit and agree with You or choose my own way?
If we stop and think about it, this really isn’t such a foreign story. It doesn’t take a general or a king to abuse other people. But it does take an attitude of condemnation and apathy to allow it to continue. My prayer is that we as a people of God would really start agreeing with God and seeing things Your way, Lord. My prayer is that we would start seeing that living together isn’t about a male/female heirarchy. What if we started remembering that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” Maybe if we stopped showing favoritism, we could actually love each other the way we were created to. It’s funny how when a spy in God’s army uses deception, no one condemns him, but a woman is held to a higher standard. Well, God, I’m just grateful that I only have to live up to Your standard and not the standard of other people. So just help me to learn Your standard more and more every day. And whatever standards I’ve set that don’t match up with Yours, teach me to drive the nail right through their head.