Jael (Hebrew יָעֵל֮, ibex or wild goat) (fl. 2744 AM/1260 BC) once killed a Canaanite general who had deserted his troops and was trying to escape from the battlefield. In so doing she struck the last blow in a major battle for the liberation of Israel.
Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. The Kenites were descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. The Kenites were also neutral in the wars between the Israelites and the Canaanites. (Judges 4:17 ) In 1260 BC, Heber the Kenite was at peace with Jabin, king of Hazor, who had been oppressing the Israelites for twenty years. (Judges 4:1-3 )
Battle of Kishon
The Israelite general Barak, incited by Judge Deborah, had recruited a force, ten thousand strong, to draw Jabin's forces into battle and destroy them. Jabin's general, Sisera, prepared to fight against Barak with nine hundred iron-armored chariots and an undetermined number of infantrymen. But on the day of the battle, torrential rains had swollen the Kishon River to overflowing and turned its banks into mud. Sisera's chariots couldn't move in the mud and thus were extremely vulnerable when Barak's troops rushed down from Mount Tabor and attacked them in full force. (Judges 4:12-16 )
Sisera deserted his troops and tried to escape. He ran to the camp of the Kenites and came to Jael's tent.
Jael invited Sisera to enter her tent. She covered him with a rug and even gave him milk when he asked for a drink. He then asked her to keep his presence secret from anyone who might ask after him. But instead she killed him by driving a tent peg through his skull as he slept. Barak later came into the camp in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael stepped out and told Barak that he could find the man that he was looking for in her tent. (Judges 4:18-22 )
Judge Deborah had nothing but praise for Jael's deed. (Judges 5:24-27 ) Modern commentators are divided. Some accuse her of violating the laws of hospitality, while others suggest that Jael was under no such obligation and that her act was entirely permissible in the context of the times.
- Jones, Floyd M., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, p. 278
- Konig, G, "Jael," AboutBibleProphecy.com, 2001. Accessed December 17, 2008.
- Schenck CE, "Entry for Jael," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, M.A., D.D. General Editor. 1915. Accessed December 17, 2008
- "Deborah and Jael," Women in the Bible, n.d. Accessed December 17, 2008.
- Hirsch EG and Price IM, "Jael," Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 17, 2008.