Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Jael and Sisero, by René Klarenbeek, Conterfeyter

Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
Judges 4:21

Following Ehud's death the Israelites again commit evil in the sight of the Lord and become enslaved and mistreated by the Canaanite king, Jabin of Hazor and his captain, Sisera, whose strength in battle comes from his nine hundred iron chariots. The prophetess Deborah sends the military commander Barak to confront Sisera, but he refuses to go unless she accompanies him. She agrees, but prophesies that due to his weakness it is a woman who will take the glory in the forthcoming battle. After God produces torrential rain that has the chariots disabled in the mud, Sisera escapes and arrives at the tent of Jael the Kenite. The Kenite tribe was friendly with Jabin's kingdom, but Jael herself was an Israelite sympathiser. She draws Sisera in with refreshment and a place to lay his head, then drives a tent peg through his temple, killing him instantly, and taking, as predicted by Deborah, the glory of victory.

Here we have another Old Testament example of a woman saving Israel. As in the story of Rahab1, this is not victory won in the men's territory of the battlefield, but in the women's territory of the home. The Hebrew history recognises the importance of women in their struggle, and that the quality of faith they bring to the story is different to that of men. What makes these stories even more interesting is that both women are gentiles. Tamar too was a gentile2, as of course was Pharaoh's daughter3, both of whom also played important roles in the history of the Israelites, and both through their femininity.

Today we talk a lot about the importance of women in government and in the workplace, but as we push and promote women within the ruling patriarchy we may gain more women in positions of power, but we lose womanhood. We find ourselves with women rulers and leaders who behave as men. They enter men's spaces and act with male energy, believing that to lead means to be hard, unbending. We all believe that. It takes going back thirty-two centuries or so to be reminded that women can bring—indeed have brought—something very different to the societies in which they dwell. We think of Biblical times as a time of oppression of women, and in some ways of course it was, but these old testament stories are glimpses into a different attitude, one of reverence and respect, one that recognises the essential, and very different, much softer, more gracious power of femininity. We'd do well to revive that spirit in our world today.

1 Harlot
2 Feminine
3 Subterfuge