When people share their favorite Bible stories, they might say, “David and Goliath,” or “Noah and the Ark,” or maybe even the story of Mary and Joseph and when Jesus was born. I have a number of favorites, but I have one favorite that is probably not on anyone else’s list — Jael and Sisera. I know that we normally cover a contemporary woman for Profile of a Woman, but after reading her story, I think she is a great candidate!
Jael is a woman that I’ve learned, after a great deal of study, is a lot of things I would like to be. Technically, she worked at home. She was the wife of a tentmaker, Heber the Kenite. Due to cultural expectations, she did not have a job per se, but she no doubt worked a great part of the day cooking, helping her husband, and keeping the tent picked up. Very intelligent — she was well versed in current events of her day, since she knew that there was conflict with King Jabin and that soon there would be a battle. Sharp cookie, this Jael. Now keep in mind that her husband had left his family and pitched his tent far away from the family. Fun fact: Moses was a distant relative. So she’s living away from her husband’s family and it seems like near battle. She could have lived in fear, but as the story unfolds, you’ll see that she did not.
So here’s the story: King Jabin had been oppressing the Israelites for about 20 years. At this time in the history of the Israelites, there were people called judges that, well, judged the Israelites. There was a woman named Deborah who was a judge, and one day she called a military guy named Barak, saying, “Didn’t God say to take about 10,000 men and go to battle with Sisera, King Jabin’s general?”
Barak was, in my interpretation, scared, and he said, “Well, if you go with me I’ll do it.” So Deborah agreed but told Barak that a woman would bring down the opposing general, Sisera. Culturally, this is really bad thing for Sisera and doesn’t look good for Barak either. So Barak goes to war with God on his side and the armies of King Jabin were wiped out and Sisera, the general, retreated and was looking for a place to hide. When he saw the tents of Heber the Kenite, he probably breathed a sigh of relief, because he knew that there was peace between King Jabin and Heber. So back to Jael….
She was undoubtedly brave — Sisera, the commander of the opposing army, approached her tent in his retreat from the slaughter of his troops (way to go, God) and she welcomed him into her tent just like– I want to think — I would welcome someone in for a cold glass of sweet iced tea. I’m sure he was an imposing figure who was likely covered in dirt and blood and sweat and mud. But she welcomed him into their tent, and she covered him up with a rug. He asked for some water, and she went one step better and gave him some milk. So she is very hospitable!
Sisera then asked Jael to stand at the tent opening and tell anyone who may have asked that he was not there, so she was trustworthy and sincere, and made a good first impression. It’s implied that he fell asleep, which is understandable, having gone to war and then retreated for his life.
In several versions of the Bible, it now describes how Jael SOFTLY went to Sisera. Why is this bizarre? Because she had a tent peg and a hammer in her hands! She took the tent peg and “drove it into Sisera’s temple” until it went down into the ground. ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIS HEAD. There is so much to say about this. To begin with, moving softly makes me think that Jael was quiet in spirit, yet either really brave or had a lot of faith! She was also very resourceful — she used the tools she had. As the wife to a tentmaker, there would have been tent pegs and hammers in her tent. She didn’t worry about what she didn’t have but relied on what she had at hand. This makes me reflect on my life, because I can rely on the gifts and talents that I have, rather than wishing I had different skills. Not to say that I can’t continue learning and developing, but I can use what I have right now to serve God and bless people in my life. God gives us the tools we need to do what he calls us to do.
Later, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said, “Come in, I’ll show you the man you are looking for.” I wonder if Barak was surprised when he saw Sisera lying in a pool of his own blood, and I wonder how quickly he remembered that Deborah had told him that Sisera would be brought down by a woman. I admire Jael’s loyalty to her people, the Israelites. She saw a way that she could make a difference and she took extreme action.
This story ends as the people of Israel were inspired to press harder against Jabin, the King of Canaan and eventually he was destroyed. But let’s review Jael — hospitable, resourceful, trustworthy, hardworking, intelligent, faithful, loyal, and one kind of a gutsy chick! Her actions also led to the freedom of the Israelites. She used her skills and talents, and that’s what we celebrate at That Domestic Chick.
Beautiful, creative, organized, people-lover – I am two or three of those things every day. I am also the wife of an amazing husband, the mother of three adult children I am very proud of, and would love to have a Corgi one day. I love to help people by bringing order to chaos, show hospitality through food and planning events, and I’m learning calligraphy and hand lettering. Other favorites include cheesy cheese pizza, re-purposing home decor, using the crevice tool on my vacuum cleaner, and talking to people wherever I go.