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Women Who Made History

March 30, 20235 min read

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. - Judges 4:21 NKJV

In ancient times, women were oppressed and held in low regard. It was highly uncommon for a woman to hold a position of leadership, especially if that included authority over men. Women were rarely given any type of platform or power, which is why the story of Deborah and Jael is so wonderfully intriguing.

Jael Sisera Amigoni

Over 1,000 years prior to Jesus walking the earth, before they experienced the rulership of kings over them, the Israelites had a series of judges who presided over matters and discerned godly guidance to decide outcomes. In that time, men were almost exclusively the only ones to hold these influential offices. That is, until Deborah came along.

WHO WAS DEBORAH THE JUDGE?

As a woman, Deborah may not have been who the children of Israel expected God to appoint over them, but they viewed her as a wise matriarch who was trustworthy in matters regarding righteousness and justice. Deborah was known to perch beneath a stately date palm tree as she oversaw the affairs of her fellow Israelites, hearing their disputes. Her wisdom, partnered with divine revelation, allowed her to rightly assess situations and decide appropriate outcomes. Known as an astute, godly mediator, Deborah gained the respect and admiration of the people.

Whether researching historical literature or studying the book of Judges in the Bible’s Old Testament, stories about Deborah refer to her as a prophetess, judge, heroine, and even an army commander. Deborah was also a wife to Lappidoth, and an advisor to General Barak of the Israeli army, as well as a mentor to a woman named Jael. Being an incomparable female leader in that day, Deborah’s position as a coach and teacher to Jael might have been her most impactful role, as we discover through further exploration into this fascinating tale.       

DEBORAH ADVISED AN ARMY GENERAL

During Deborah’s reign, Israel faced perilous times. The Canaanite king Jabin had been oppressing the nation of Israel for two decades. Guided by heavenly acumen, Deborah had prophetic insight into how to trap the commander of the Canaanite army, Sisera, and his well-equipped troops. She confidently communicated with Barak what the Lord reveled to her and instructed him to gather 10,000 men to battle against the virile adversary and his brigade, with a supernatural guarantee of victory.

Barak scoffed at the suggestion he take his company into combat with the heavily armed unit under Sisera’s command. Sisera had access to the most advanced technology of the times, which meant his troop boasted 900 iron chariots among its battle gear. Barak explained to Deborah he was not willing to face such a formidable foe unless the prophetess herself accompanied him to assist in leading the brigade. Deborah agreed to partner with Barak, but with a caveat. “All right,” she replied, “I’ll go with you; but I’m warning you now that the honor of conquering Sisera will go to a woman instead of to you!” (Judges 4:9a, Living Bible)

SISERA GETS STUCK – TWICE

Barak and Deborah rallied Israel’s 10,000 troops, marching alongside them when they came up against the robust enemy army. During the battle, Sisera’s iron chariots became bogged down in a marshy area, and their leader abandoned his carriage and his caravan, stuck in the mud. Just as Deborah had declared, Israel was victorious over their opponent. 

As his battalion was being demolished, Sisera fled the bloodshed and found his way to the tent of Heber the Kenite’s wife Jael. Heber was not at odds with Jabin and Sisera, but Jael was sympathetic to the sufferings of the people of Israel, and her allegiance was with Barak and Deborah who were among the assemblage of troops annihilating Sisera’s army. The general, however, was blinded by desperation for a place to hide, and he did not realize he was seeking refuge with the enemy.

Jael was sharp, and her prudence provided her with a plan of what to do as she engaged the adversary. With a quick wave of her arm she beckoned Sisera to enter her tent and hide under the bed. The dignitary degraded himself to being tucked beneath a blanket on the floor, and he pled with his hostess to give him a sip of water to quench his thirst. Judicious Jael offered him a sumptuous slug from her jug of curdled milk, which acted as a sedative sending Sisera off to sleep.

As he was dozing off, Sisera assigned Jael to stand at the entrance to the tent with the express instructions to deny anyone was in her home. While she verbally agreed to follow his command, Jael had no intention on harboring her opponent for very much longer.

Once the man was unconscious, Jael uttered a prayer for God to guide her shaking hands. Taking a hammer in one hand and a 2-foot-long tent peg in the other, she swiftly stuck down Sisera, driving the stake through his temple all the way into the ground beneath him. He had indeed been slain by a woman, and he was once again stuck with his head fastened to the floor.


SONG OF VICTORY AND PRAISE

Deborah sang a song praising and blessing God and specifically thanking Him for causing rain that created mud and mire, trapping the enemy, and making them easy pickings for the Israelites. The song also celebrated the cunning and craftiness of Jael. Deborah’s hymn detailed the way she lulled Sisera to sleep with the luxury of a gulp of milk and included a graphic description of the head-crushing blow she dealt with the mallet and peg.

Jael and Deborah were mavericks, and their stories of bravery and valor are still inspiring both men and women to this day. After millennia the song and story are still being recited, and these mighty matrons are solidified among the great women of history who will be celebrated long into the future.

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Sandy Storm

Sandy Storm is an author, speaker, and abolitionist. Generously gifted with a creative spirit, Sandy is an inspiration to many. She shares her story of great love, hope, forgiveness, and redemption, and her presentations have been called educational, inspiring, and powerful. Attendees leave feeling empowered to bring positive change to their circles of influence. Sandy is also a published author, having written a trilogy about her experiences with child abuse, addiction, abortion, human trafficking, and the industry of commercial sexual exploitation, available at FootprintPub.com. Sandy has experienced a powerful transformation, going from victim to survivor, and now she is truly thriving, now living what can only be described as a brand new life.

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