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The story may be gruesome, but Jael is a hero nonetheless. She single-handedly slew the commander of the Canaanite forces who were battling God’s people.
During the days of Deborah, a judge of Israel, a Canaanite king named Jabin was oppressing God’s people, and the commander of his powerful army was named Sisera. Through Deborah, the Lord raised up a man named Barak to fight against Sisera, and the Israelites were victorious.
Sisera, however, fled from the battle on foot. He stopped to rest and hide in the tent of a woman named Jael, because he was on friendly terms with her husband’s family. Sweet Jael kindly poured him some milk and tucked him into bed like a tired child after a hard day—and then crept up to him while he slept and drove a tent peg through his temple!
When Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, Jael simply flagged him down to show him what she had done. As jarring as it is to read her story, Jael is a woman to be celebrated and praised as a deliverer of God’s people just as we praise young David for killing mighty Goliath. For the sake of God’s people, she mustered up her courage and did the unthinkable—bringing an end to twenty years of their oppression.
Jael’s husband is described as a Kenite, a group of people apparently the same as the Midianites (see Numbers 10:29 and Judges 1:16). This group, whose name means “smiths,” were not related to the Israelites—but they lived in peace among them at the southern edge of the Promised Land.