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Who was Jael in the Bible?

Jael was a woman in the Bible who helped the Israelites subdue Jabin the Canaanite king by single-handedly killing the commander of his army, Sisera. Her story is found in Judges 4:17–24.

At that time, Deborah was the ruling judge in Israel. She commanded Barak to fight against Jabin's army in the Valley of Jezreel along the Kishon River. He refused to go unless Deborah accompanied him. Deborah agreed to go, but told Barak that "the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory" (Judges 4:9). She elaborated in saying that Barak would not have the honor of killing Sisera; instead a woman would be given that honor.

Deborah and Barak's army of 10,000 men defeated Jabin's army soundly, but Jabin's commander, Sisera, escaped and fled on foot. Jael, the wife of a Kenite man, went out to meet Sisera and invited him into her tent. Because her husband, Heber, was an ally to King Jabin, Sisera believed Jael's tent would be a safe hiding place. He asked for water, but she gave him milk and covered him with a warm rug. He sent her to guard the entrance to the tent and then fell asleep.

Jael took a tent peg and hammer in her hand and snuck up going "softly to him" (Judges 4:21). She then "drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died" (Judges 4:21). Thus Deborah's prophecy that "the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" came true (Judges 4:9). When Jael saw Barak pursuing Sisera, she went out to him and brought him to see the dead commander (Judges 4:22).

After relaying the actions of Jael, Scripture records "So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel" (Judges 4:23). God's plan had been to bring Israel victory, and the leadership of Deborah and the actions of Jael were crucial components of the plan. Two women were to be instrumental in bringing about the forty years of peace that Israel then enjoyed (Judges 5:31).

Jael's contribution is memorialized in the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges chapter 5. The portion referring to Jael says,

"Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
of tent-dwelling women most blessed.
He asked for water and she gave him milk;
she brought him curds in a noble's bowl.
She sent her hand to the tent peg
and her right hand to the workmen's mallet;
she struck Sisera;
she crushed his head;
she shattered and pierced his temple.
Between her feet
he sank, he fell, he lay still;
between her feet
he sank, he fell;
where he sank,
there he fell—dead"
(Judges 5:24–27).


Related Truth:

Why do women seem to have a small role in the Bible?

Who was Abigail in the Bible?

Who was Esther in the Bible?

What is the basic timeline of the Old Testament?

Why is knowing about the various characters in the Bible important?


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