Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for these was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite . Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, "Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear." So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. Then he said to her, "Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty." So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. He said to her, "Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say, 'No.' " But Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground- he was lying fast asleep from weariness- and he died. Then, as Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, "Come and I will show you the man whom you are seeking." So he went into her tent; there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent peg in his temple. Judges 4:17-22 NRSV
Deborah has already informed Barak that General Sisera is going to be given into the hands of a woman, yet Jael does end up surprising us and having us wonder at her motivations for what she does.
To begin with, she invites the General into her tent. This almost seems like an invitation to a seduction - maybe that is why Sisera doesn't think twice. I have a feeling that few men would be invited into a woman's own tent.
In addition, there is peace between their two clans but Jael's actions really do seem to be premeditated. Sure she is the hand of God in this story but what has made her willing to commit murder in a fight that isn't her own?
Jael acts like she is protecting Sisera. But in reality she is actually keeping him blind and captive. She brings him in the tent, then covers him with a rug. He can't see what she is doing and he can't really go anywhere without being exposed.
Then Sisera asks for some water. Jael gives him a "skin of milk" - really this would be like buttermilk. Surely he would have been clued in that something is up! I know I wouldn't want buttermilk when I was thirsty!
But Jael must know what she is doing: the milk has made him sleepy. He is not only blind but now helpless. Jael takes a hammer and a tent peg and murders Sisera. Maybe she is a bit squeamish as she leaves the rug over him during the murder.
The final act is to call Barak to come see the body, obviously killed by Jael. Not only has God placed the general into the hands of a woman, but it isn't even an act of war. Sisera has been killed by trickery by someone who is not even known to be his enemy.
As much as I like to see the woman winning, I don't like the way in which it was done. I don't think anyone wins in this situation.
God, sometimes we are faced with situations in which the outcome is great but the means make us uncomfortable. We are left confused, uncertain and sad. Just be with us and sustain us during these times. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Question of the day: When have you had to resort to trickery in order to do what you feel God calling you to do?
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims