“Thus, Jael, the wife of Heber, went and seized a wooden stake for the tent and she took a mallet in her hand and went to him stealthily and drove the wooden stake into his temple and it went down into the earth. He was stunned, lost consciousness, and died.”
Nearly a decade ago, when I first taught the book of Judges to a group of High School students, one of the girls in the class, upon reading this account for the first time, exclaimed, “She is hard-core!” Yes, Jael is. But in another sense, aren’t we all supposed to be hard core — at least with our faith and not necessarily with mallets and tent pegs? Are we not to trust in God, do the right thing because it is the right thing to do while also having the faith that he will work the outcome to his glory?
And so, in the tent of Jael, wife of Heber, the man who was an ally of Jabin, Sisera, the wicked commander of Jabin’s hordes, was struck down. There indeed is irony in the retelling. Further, as Deborah foretold, the victory went into the hand of a woman — a woman who would otherwise have been utterly obscure, but whom God used to his glory. Even those who are obscure in the eyes of men, when used by the hand of God, move mountains.
The final sentence to this verse is worded somewhat differently than is found in many of our English Bibles. After the athnak (a Hebrew accent mark that divides the sentence conceptually), there are basically 3 verbal ideas expressed: He was in a deep sleep or otherwise incapacitated, he was unconscious, and he was dead. Our English Bibles tend to translate this clause as having to do with the way Sisera was while Jael snuck up on him under the coverings (he was exhausted from fleeing so fell asleep right away. Yet the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament made about 300 years before the birth of Christ) renders this as a description of the way in which Sisera died. As the LXX is an early Hebrew interpretation of the text, I have favored a translation closer to their rendering than to the rendering of our modern English Bibles, though either conception can be sustained by the text.
One might argue that the translation above lends more drama to the text as it implies that Sisera might still have been awake when she drove the tent stake through his temple. He just was unaware as he was hiding under the coverings. Either way, Sisera, the enemy of God’s people, lay dead by the deliberate hand of Jael. She is indeed, “hard-core.”