“And Jael went out to call to Sisera, and she said to him, ‘Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.’ And he turned aside toward her tent and she covered him with a curtain.”
It is clear from the context that Jael is seeking Sisera out. God has ordained his defeat at the hands of a woman and here we begin to see it unfold. One may be tempted to ask, how is she justified in murdering Sisera in cold blood? Doesn’t the Sixth Commandment prohibit such action? Indeed, the Sixth Commandment does prohibit murder, but here we are in a time of war and Jael is simply acting as a combatant, bringing the escaped enemy commander to justice.
Sisera, of course, assumes that Jael’s invitation is friendly…his master does indeed have a pact with her husband…yet, Jael lives up to her name (which means, “Yahweh is On High” — note that “jael” can also refer to an ibex or a mountain goat, which may seem odd at first, but when you recognize the stubborn determination of a mountain goat, again, you see how significant her name is to what she has been called to do) and what follows is her plan to put this wicked man to death.
There is some discussion as to exactly what the term, hDkyImVv (semiykah), means. Some suggest that it refers to a mat or a carpet that might have covered the floor of the tent, others refer to it as a curtain that would have separated the male and female quarters in the tent, which indeed, would be an ironic use of the curtain, which would then have maintained the separation between Jael and Sisera. In modern Hebrew, the term refers to a blanket, which again fits the context, we just do not know for sure. What we do know is that Jael covered him up in a way that would not have been overtly obvious to a casual passerby and went forward with her plan to capture and kill this evil man.
The notion of covering, in the Old Testament, is also often tied to that of atonement. This, I believe, becomes more prominent in Deborah’s song in the next chapter, so we will leave it for then, apart from stating that there is symbolism in recognizing that atonement comes through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). The problem is that none of us can atone for our own sins as we are wicked and rebellious to the core (Romans 3:10; Micah 6:7; Isaiah 47:11). The wicked do not understand that, but we to whom the revelation of God has come not only know, but know the one who can and did make atonement for the sins of his people: Jesus Christ.