By Kelly Carr
I’ll tell you a secret: though there are many great biblical narratives to dwell upon, if someone were to ask me one of my favorites, a particular Old Testament story comes to mind.
Yet I have a concern that you might think of me differently once I tell you what it is. No matter—I’ll take that chance and ask you to hear me out: it’s the account of Jael.
We find Jael in the book of Judges. This entire book is filled with examples of God using people who were insignificant or undervalued to do mighty things for him.
But first, we begin with two others: Judges 4 tells us that Deborah, a prophetess, was leading Israel and Barak was leading its military. God spoke through Deborah to give Barak a command—God promised to deliver the commander of the opposing army into Barak’s hands. Yet Barak was afraid to attack, asking Deborah to accompany him. Barak’s response indicated a lack of trust in God, thus Deborah told him a woman would receive the honor of taking down the enemy commander.
I’ve been around some macho guys before. I know that some would see it as a weakness for Barak to ask a woman to go with him into battle; they’d see it an insult that Barak’s chance at glory was given to a woman instead. If some males feel this today, I can only imagine what the guys around Barak felt back then.
As a female, part of me thinks, “Why is that an insult?” Another part of me thinks it’s funny. If the men thought this was a dishonor, then I find it amusing that God chose such a route to teach Barak a lesson.
Now to the payoff (warning—it’s a bit gruesome): Deborah went with Barak, God used Barak and the Israelite army to defeat the enemy, but then the enemy commander, Sisera, ran away. Sisera fled to the tent of Jael. Jael deceptively welcomed Sisera and gave him a drink and a place to nap. But while he slumbered, she crept up and hammered a tent peg through his skull. She then found Barak and showed him the dead Sisera.
I told you it was gruesome. So is it strange that I like this story? Perhaps. I don’t usually like gory tales. But here are my reasons:
1. Girl power. Yes, I get excited to see a female being heroic. As a female, stories like this really do enhance my faith. Even in a male-dominated society, God chose Deborah to lead his people. He chose Jael to defeat an enemy. This encourages me to know that God created all of us, male and female, with intention, and he has plans for every individual to take part in his kingdom.
2. Symbolism. When I learned some deeper symbolism, this story became even greater. Some scholars look at Judges 5:24-27 and see a parallel in Deborah’s song describing Jael’s tent peg action on Sisera’s head with Genesis 3 and the curse that the serpent/Satan would have his head crushed. Others have pointed out that the name Jael is a compound of two syllables—Ja or Ya, which is a shorthand for Yaweh, and El, which is shorthand for Elohim, or Lord. Yahweh Elohim is the name of God. The overarching message: God always gets his victory over evil. And that gives me hope.
What part of the Bible is God’s Spirit using to inspire you right now? Share your thoughts with someone today.
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