A Canaanite warlord named Sisera had recently been trounced by an Israelite strongman named Barak and was heading for the border to save his skin. On the way, he was invited to hide out with a Kenite woman named Jael, who belonged to a tribe that had not been involved in the skirmish at all. This was his second bad break that day.

Jael was all smiles as she issued her invitation and gave him the red-carpet treatment. She fixed him a drink and suggested he stretch out for a while on the couch. While he was asleep, she crept in and disposed of him by the ingenious if cumbersome technique of hammering a tent peg in one temple and out the other.

The female judge Deborah wrote a song in her honor in which she referred to her as "most blessed among women" for the job she had done, and Jael has been remembered as a great hero and patriot ever since.

In view of the fact that her victim (a) was her guest and (b) was asleep and (c) had never harmed a hair of either her head or her people's, it would seem that to call her deed heroic is to stretch the term to the breaking point. As for calling it patriotic, if she had done it for love of country-maybe. But (a) her country had no quarrel with Sisera and (b) if she killed him for anything but kicks, it was out of love for nothing more exalted than the idea of maybe getting a payoff from the Israelites the next time they hit town. It is not the only instance, of course, of how people in wartime get medals for doing what in peacetime would get them the chair.

Judges 4-5

~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words

To receive daily Quote of the Day emails, sign up here.