The story of Deborah and Jael is intertwined with that of a man named Barak. As was the pattern in those days, the people of Israel would forget their God and sin against him. He would then hand them over to foreign rulers who ruled them with harsh cruelty and made them suffer. In line with human nature they would then remember their God and cry out to Him, and in his mercy He would send them a hero to deliver them. This was the case in Deborah’s time, a lady who was both a Prophet and a Judge. The Israelites had been under the reign of a violent Canaanite king for twenty years before they finally cried out to God.
Through Deborah, He sent a message to Barak to take 10,000 men and go into battle with Sisera, the Commander of King Jabin’s army. Jabin’s army had 900 iron chariots, a clear advantage in battle. Perhaps this was the reason Barak refused to go into battle unaccompanied by Deborah. He said, “I will go if you go with me, but if you don’t go, I won’t go either.” It’s not often we hear a story of a man who refuses to go into battle unaccompanied by a woman.
Deborah agreed to go with Barak, but because he refused to go without her, he would get no credit. Instead, the Lord would hand over Sisera to a woman. And that was how it became a woman’s job. Barak did conquer the army of chariots and kill them all, but Commander Sisera left his men and fled on foot where he came upon Jael’s tent. Jael was the wife of a man who had made peace with the Canaanite king and was thus deemed trustworthy. She gave the man a drink and a place to hide and when he fell asleep, she drove a tent peg through his head with a hammer.
Pretty gory stuff. She didn’t poison his milk as would be expected. She cracked his skull open. Despite having made peace with the oppressor, she knew what she had to do and she did it tactfully and decisively. This is a story of courage and faith. Deborah went into battle with an army of ten thousand men behind her because she had faith that God would give them victory while Barak’s confidence faltered. Jael did her part in delivering the Israelites by killing an Army Commander. In a way, she too fought in the war.
This story shows us that as women of faith, we can achieve great things if we have the courage to do so. Women don’t often get credit for their work, even now in the 21st century. But this story shows God’s fairness in His plans and that women should be awarded credit where it is due.
A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.
– Eleanor Roosevelt