Wife of Heber the Kenite, slew Sisera, general of the Canaanitish army, who had fled to her tent, which was then temporarily on the western border of the plain of Esdraelon. Jael took her opportunity, and while he was sleeping, drove a large nail or tent-pin through his temples, Jg 4:17-23. The life of Sisera was undoubtedly forfeited to the Israelites by the usages of war, and probably to society by his crimes. Besides this, the life or honor of Jael may have been in danger, or her feelings of hospitality may have been overpowered by a sudden impulse to avenge the oppressed Israelites, with whom she was allied by blood. The song of Deborah celebrates the act as one of justice and heroism, and as a divine judgement which, as well as the defeat of Sisera's host, was the more disgraceful to him for being wrought by a woman, Jg 5:1; 25'>21:25,25.
mountain-goat, the wife of Heber the Kenite (Jg 4:17-22). When the Canaanites were defeated by Barak, Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, fled and sought refuge with the friendly tribe of Heber, beneath the oaks of Zaanaim. As he drew near, Jael invited him to enter her tent. He did so, and as he lay wearied on the floor he fell into a deep sleep. She then took in her left hand one of the great wooden pins ("nail") which fastened down the cords of the tent, and in her right hand the mallet, or "hammer," used for driving it into the ground, and stealthily approaching her sleeping guest, with one well-directed blow drove the nail through his temples into the earth (Jg 5:27). She then led Barak, who was in pursuit, into her tent, and boastfully showed him what she had done. (See Sisera; Deborah.)
See DEBORAH on the "blessing" pronounced on her notwithstanding the treachery of which she was guilty in slaying Sisera who sought refuge with her. Besides the commendation of her real faith, though not of the treachery with which her act was alloyed, we should remember that the agents who execute God's righteous purposes are regarded in Scripture as God's "sanctified ones," not in respect to their own character and purposes, but in respect to God's work; so the Medes who executed His vengeance on Babylon (Isa 13:3; Ps 137:9). Moreover Deborah anticipates a fact, namely, that Jael would be regarded as a heroine and praised as a public benefactress above her fellow women). Wife of Heber the Kenite, head of a nomad elan who, migrating from S. Canaan where his brethren had settled at the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, had encamped under the oaks named the "oaks of the wanderers" (KJV "plain of Zaanaim," Jg 4:11), near Kedesh Naphtali in the N. (See HEBER; ISSACHAR.)
He kept a neutral position, being at peace with both Jabin and Israel (Jg 4:17) Her tent, not Heber's, is specified as that to which Sisera fled, because the women's tent seemed a more secure asylum and Jael herself "went out to meet" and invite him. She covered him with the mantle (Jg 4:18, Hebrew), and allayed his thirst with curdled milk or buttermilk (Jg 5:25), a favorite Arab drink. Often Palmer found in asking for water none had been in an encampment for days; milk takes its place. The "nail" with which she slew him was one of the great wooden pins which fastened down the tent cords, and the "hammer" was the mallet used to drive the nails into the ground. In Jg 5:6 "Jael" is thought (Bertheau) to be a female judge before Deborah; but as no other record exists of such an one the meaning probably is, "although Jael, who afterward proved to be such a champion, was then alive, the highways were unoccupied," so helpless was Israel, "until I Deborah arose."
The wife of Heber, the Kenite (Jg 4:11,17). The Kenites were on friendly terms both with the Israelites (Jg 1:16) and with the Canaanites, to whom Jabin and his general, Sisera, belonged. On his defeat by the Israelites, Sisera fled to the tent of Jaei, a spot which was doubly secure to the fugitive, on account both of intertribal friendship and of the rules of Oriental hospitality. The act of treachery whereby Jael slew Sisera (Jg 4:21) was therefore of the basest kind, according to the morals of her own time, and also to modern ideas. The praise, therefore, accorded to Jael and her deed in the Song of Deborah (Jg 5:24-27) must be accounted for on the questionable moral principle that an evil deed, if productive of advantage, may be rejoiced over and commended by those who have not taken part in it. The writer of the Song of Deborah records an act which, though base, resulted in putting the seal to the Israelite victory, and thus contributed to the recovery of Israel from a 'mighty oppression' (Jg 4:3); in the exultation over this result the woman who helped to bring it about by her act is extolled. Though the writer of the Song would probably have scorned to commit such a deed himself, he sees no incongruity in praising it for its beneficent consequences. This is one degree worse than 'doing evil that good may come,' for the evil itself is extolled; whereas, in the other case, it is deplored, and unwillingly acquiesced in because it is 'necessary.' The spirit which praises such an act as Jael's is, in some sense, akin to that of a Jewish custom (Corban) which grew up in later days, and which received the condemnation of Christ, Mr 7:11; in each case a contemptible act is condoned, and even extolled, because of the advantage (of one kind or another) which it brings.
In Jg 5:6 the words 'in the days of Jael' create a difficulty, which can be accounted for only by regarding them, with most scholars, as a gloss. See also Barak, Deborah, Sisera.
W. O. E. Oesterley.
Wife of Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, who was head of an Arab clan which was established in the north of Palestine. When Sisera's army was defeated by Barak and Deborah, he left his chariot and fled on foot to the tent of Jael, whose husband was at peace with Jabin. Jael invited him into her tent, and bade him not to fear, gave him milk to drink, and covered him up. Being weary he fell asleep, and Jael with a hammer drove a tent-peg through his temples till it entered the ground. Jg 4:17-22; 5:6,24.
Great indignation has been expressed at this act of Jael, and even Christians have blamed her severely; but it was foretold that Jehovah would "sell Sisera into the hand of a woman;" and immediately after the deed, it is added, "So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel." And Deborah, in her song of praise, pronounced Jael to be "blessed above women." It is clear from this song that Sisera was an enemy not only of God's people, but of the Lord Himself, for she prophetically utters the words, "So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord." Compare Nu 10:35. Hence God empowered Jael to take his life
(mountain goat), the wife of Heber the Kenite. (B.C. 1316.) In the headlong rout which followed the defeat of the Canaanites by Barak, at Megiddo on the plain of Esdraelon, Sisera, their general, fled to the tent of the Kenite chieftainess, at Kedesh in Naphtali, four miles northwest of Lake Merom. He accepted Jael's invitation to enter, and she flung a mantle over him as he lay wearily on the floor. When thirst prevented sleep, and he asked for water, she brought him buttermilk in her choicest vessel. At last, with a feeling of perfect security, he feel into a deep sleep. Then it was that Jael took one of the great wooden pins which fastened down the cords of the tent, and with one terrible blow with a mallet dashed it through Sisera's temples deep into the earth.
She then waited to meet the pursuing Barak, and led him into her tent that she might in his presence claim the glory of the deed! Many have supposed that by this act she fulfilled the saying of Deborah,
and hence they have supposed that Jael was actuated by some divine and hidden influence. But the Bible gives no hint of such an inspiration.