Jael, a Hammer and a Nail
– Judges 4-5
4 When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. 3 And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.
Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of God. Notice, they did evil “in the sight of God.” Evil is not determined by other people, it is determined by God. Humans will always rationalize and minimize their own personal sin or the sin of those they favor. But God is perfectly holy and impartial and He as Creator sets the standard of what is evil.
Jabin led a confederation of Canaanites and his headquarters was in Hazor which is 15 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
“Chariots of iron” were the tanks of the day. Chariots could run over and crush people. They had sharp cutting blades on the spindle of the wheels to cut people and cavalry horses. They were a formidable weapon especially for those who were farmers like the people of Israel. This was a seemingly invincible army.
4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5
The name “Deborah” means bee.
The wax with which beehives are constructed is the most heat-resistant wax known to man and can withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees. However, at 141 degrees, the wax begins to melt. So when the hive nears the 141 degree mark, the bees begin to cluster around their hive and fan it by fluttering their wings 190 times per second, or 11,400 times per minute. No wonder bees are called industrious! They are also very discerning, with antennae containing between 2,000 and 3,000 plates through which they identify the proper flower from which to draw their nectar. Finally, bees are known for the sweetness of the honey they produce.
Like the bee Deborah was industrious, she was discerning in that she could sense the temperature around her, and she may have produced sweetness but she all packed a powerful sting.
And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 7 and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”
8 And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
9 So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him.
It isn’t common to find prominent female leaders amongst God’s people in the Bible. Here we see Deborah as judge in part because apparently there were no men willing to step up to the plate and lead God’s people. Deborah’s position of authority is a statement on the decline of God’s people. It is an indictment of the lack of male leaders in this time.
Deborah was a prophetess. She was the judge and leader of God’s people at the time. The people went to her for direction. When the oppression of king Jabin of Canaan arose, she sent for Barak from the tribe of Naphtali to lead the military response for God’s people. Barak said he would only go if Deborah went with him. This shows a lack of courage in Barak. Because of Barak’s lack of courage and faith God spoke through Deborah and told him he would receive no glory in the victory. Instead God would deliver Sisera, Jabin’s commander into the hand of a woman.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh.
The Kenites lived in the land with God’s people but were not Israelites. They were descendants of Moses’ father in Law (Num. 10:29). Interestingly, “Heber” means crossed-over. Heber literally crossed over in that separated himself from his tribe which was aligned with Jabin and sided with God’s people.
12 And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon.
14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him.
Mount Tabor is a mountain situated in the middle of the Valley of Jezreel, also known s, the Valley of Megiddo or Armageddon.
15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
The LORD moved on Barak giving him courage and faith to go out against Sisera and his 900 chariots. And God gave a great victory.
17 However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket.
Here is a brave and courageous woman of faith. She wasn’t afraid of Sisera. She invited him into her tent.
19 Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. 20 And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say, ‘No.’ ”
Sisera, like the “old man” of our sinful nature, tries to order us around like he did Jael. Give me some water. Stand watch and lie for me. Sisera is like the flesh that seeks to order us around. What did Jael do? She gave Sisera a jug of milk, which evidently put him to sleep and rendered him vulnerable. We too need to disregard what the old man flesh commands and feed him the milk of God’s word (1 Peter 2:2). It isn’t new born Christians alone who should feed on the milk of God’s word. It is all Christians who "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word.” Feed your flesh the word and your flesh will fall asleep and be in the perfect position to render it dead.
21 Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
Jael made her point to Sisera. And an effective point it was. And note, she simply used what was in her hand and God used that to defeat the enemy. God’s word is like a hammer that can smash the flesh to death (Jer. 23:29).
22 And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple.
23 So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. 24 And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
If Sisera is a type of the flesh, Jabin is a type of the devil. Both try to oppress and control. God is able to subdue both with His word. Jon Courson comments, “Consequently, once we apply the hammer of the Word and the nail of the Cross to our old sin nature in any given area of our life, like Jabin, Satan capitulates in that area as well.”
Just as God had said through Deborah, Barak would not get the glory. But God would defeat Sisera at the hand of a woman. God’s word always comes true.
5 Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying:
2 “When leaders lead in Israel,
When the people willingly offer themselves,
Bless the Lord!
God produces godly leaders. Therefore God should be praised when there are godly leaders.
3 “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!
I, even I, will sing to the Lord;
I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.
4 “Lord, when You went out from Seir,
When You marched from the field of Edom,
The earth trembled and the heavens poured,
The clouds also poured water;
5 The mountains gushed before the Lord,
This Sinai, before the Lord God of Israel.
God is the one who goes forth with the army of His people.
6 “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
In the days of Jael,
The highways were deserted,
And the travelers walked along the byways.
There was great fear in the land so that people avoided the highways. You know you’re in a
terrible state of affairs when you’re afraid to go outside.
7 Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel,
Until I, Deborah, arose,
Arose a mother in Israel.
God used Deborah as a poet, prophetess and judge and yet the thing she takes greatest pride in is
that she was “a mother in Israel.” There’s no higher calling than being a mother.
8 They chose new gods;
Then there was war in the gates;
Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.
Here we learn that God’s people didn’t have a shield or a spear to go up against the 900 iron
chariots of Jabin’s army. But why didn’t they have a shield or spear? Because “they chose new gods.” God’s people lost their protection as they left God for other gods. That is part of God’s discipline when we leave Him. He lowers and removes our defenses and allows the enemy to come in against us.
9 My heart is with the rulers of Israel
Who offered themselves willingly with the people.
Bless the Lord!
God is able to do great things when people offer themselves to Him and His will.
From before the turn of the century into the days of the Great Depression, a colorful evangelist named Billy Sunday preached with an intensity unrivaled to this day. A professional baseball player before his conversion, Sunday caroused continually, partied frequently, and experienced the effects of sin most definitely. No doubt that is why he said, “I am against sin. I will kick it as long as I’ve got a foot. I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes to perdition.”
10 “Speak, you who ride on white donkeys,
Who sit in judges’ attire,
And who walk along the road.
11 Far from the noise of the archers, among the watering places,
There they shall recount the righteous acts of the Lord,
The righteous acts for His villagers in Israel;
Then the people of the Lord shall go down to the gates.
12 “Awake, awake, Deborah!
Awake, awake, sing a song!
Arise, Barak, and lead your captives away,
O son of Abinoam!
There is a time when God calls us to action. “Awake, awake, Deborah!” Are you awake and
ready and available to be used by God?
13 “Then the survivors came down, the people against the nobles;
The Lord came down for me against the mighty.
14 From Ephraim were those whose roots were in Amalek.
After you, Benjamin, with your peoples,
From Machir rulers came down,
And from Zebulun those who bear the recruiter’s staff.
15 And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
As Issachar, so was Barak
Sent into the valley under his command;
Among the divisions of Reuben
There were great resolves of heart.
And stayed by his inlets.
16 Why did you sit among the sheepfolds,
To hear the pipings for the flocks?
The divisions of Reuben have great searchings of heart.
The Reubenites didn’t join this battle because of their “great searchings of heart.” The idea is that Reuben heard the order to awake and go forward but because of their pondering the situation missed their opportunity to join in the battle and ultimate victory. There is such a thing as the paralysis of analysis. We can think so much about something that we missed the opportunity to act. Watch out for that.
17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan,
And why did Dan remain on ships?
Asher continued at the seashore,
And stayed by his inlets.
Gilead didn’t help out because they didn’t see this as their fight. They were on the other side of the Jordan. Their attitude was, “It’s not my territory.” It’s like us saying, “That’s not my area of expertise, I’m not getting involved.” Or, “That’s not my territory, I’m not getting involved.” And we miss joining in the battle and victory of the LORD.
Dan was out sailing and missed the battle all together! Recreation was more important than fighting in the Lord’s battles. O how the church is filled with Danites today! Soccer, football, baseball, dance lessons and martial arts, all important in their place but should never be all important before the things of God. Too many Christians are fishing for recreation instead of fishing for the souls of men.
Asher was resting on the beach and missed the battle and the victory! Some people miss out on the victories of God because they are laying on the beach, their heads in the clouds. “Look, I think I see the face of Jesus in that cloud!” they say. And all the while they miss out on the battles and victories of the Lord.
18 Zebulun is a people who jeopardized their lives to the point of death,
Naphtali also, on the heights of the battlefield.
Thank goodness for those like Zebulun and Naphtali who are willing to give of themselves even
unto death. Those are people God can use. John Wesley once said:
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen; they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.
19 “The kings came and fought,
Then the kings of Canaan fought
In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
They took no spoils of silver.
20 They fought from the heavens;
The stars from their courses fought against Sisera.
21 The torrent of Kishon swept them away,
That ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon.
O my soul, march on in strength!
Apparently God brought rain that cause the field of battle to be muddy and then bog down the
chariots. Notice, the victory was from God not men.
22 Then the horses’ hooves pounded,
The galloping, galloping of his steeds.
23 ‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord,
‘Curse its inhabitants bitterly,
Because they did not come to the help of the Lord,
To the help of the Lord against the mighty.’
Those who do not come out to answer God’s call were cursed by God. The cures is missing out on God’s victories. Why is attending church so low on the list of our priorities? Why do devotions and serving the Lord so frequently take a back seat to other things? What will you have to show for your life when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ?
24 “Most blessed among women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Blessed is she among women in tents.
25 He asked for water, she gave milk;
She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.
26 She stretched her hand to the tent peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple.
27 At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he sank, he fell;
Where he sank, there he fell dead.
28 “The mother of Sisera looked through the window,
And cried out through the lattice,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarries the clatter of his chariots?’
29 Her wisest ladies answered her,
Yes, she answered herself,
30 ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil:
To every man a girl or two;
For Sisera, plunder of dyed garments,
Plunder of garments embroidered and dyed,
Two pieces of dyed embroidery for the neck of the looter?’
31 “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord!
But let those who love Him be like the sun
When it comes out in full strength.”
So the land had rest for forty years.
God is able to work through the weak. He is able to do great things. All He asks is for us to be available and to step out in faith when He calls. How many times have we missed great victories and blessings because we didn’t answer God’s call or obey His word? Too many times God is calling, “Awake, awake!” Will you answer His call and share in His victory?
Are you struggling with the flesh? Is there a Sisera ordering you around in life? Do what Jael did. Take the hammer of God’s word and nail the flesh.
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 736
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 738
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 736