Women Heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures – Jael

Women Heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures – Jael

St Paul’s Canterbury , 15th September 2013, Pentecost 17 Fourth in a Series of Brief Homilies: Women Heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures The Rt. Rev’d John Bayton, AM Jael

I am sure you would all know by now that Galilee in northern Israel is one of my most favourite places in all the world.  It is a tiny piece of land by Australian standards, smaller than Victoria yet one of the most important places in the entire Middle East.  Lush, the bread and fruit basket of the M.E. in fact, so lush that it produces no fewer than three crops every year.  Despite the “little town of Bethlehem” Jesus was most probably born there; at least he grew up there in Nazareth and he ministered there for three years – Capernaum,

Beth-Saida, Megiddo, Tabor, Tel Dan and into present day Syria and Lebanon.

Tabor is where he was Transfigured.  Tabor lies in the Plain of Jezreel along with Megiddo where General Allenby defeated the Turks and took to himself the title ‘Lord of Armageddon’.   Halfway up the mountain to Tabor from the Plain of Jezreel is the beautiful village of El Debir – the site of the Palm Tree of Deborah, with its kiosk where one can purchase Coca Cola, Chocolate and ice-cream biscuit and beautiful crafted articles  such as this Bag.  El Debir.  Deborah who was a priest-prophet in ancient Israel at the time when the Israelites were under occupation by the Canaanite King Jabin.

The Lord told Deborah to go up and fight against Jabin, promising her that God would deliver Jabin into her hands.  She sent for Barak (no, not Obama) to fight against Jabin.  He told her “I wont go unless you go with me”.  She was a most powerful woman.  Please read the story in Judges  Chapter 4.  What a difference from Ruth whom we considered last week –“Whither you go I will go….”

Deborah with Barak went up against the Canaanite King and his army led by Sisera and defeated them.  Sisera, Jabin’s commander found his way to Deborah’s territory and into the tent of Jael the wife of Heber for enforced hospitality.  He is exhausted . He invades her tent.  He is snot a guest otherwise Jael would have washed his feet.  She throws a carpet over him.  He demands a drink of water.  He is not a guest but an enemy.  Jael gives him a drink not of water but of warm milk.  One of the early Jewish scribes says she ‘nursed him at her breast”.   Another ancient Scribe tells us that she gave him ‘Goat’s milk’ – the drink that husbands serve to their new-found wives at a Jewish  wedding (to this day).  He understands the symbolism and prepares for sex.  However he is  exhausted from the battle and the loss of his army and  falls asleep.  The powerful man is in the hands of a powerless woman. He is powerless and impotent.  It was “woman’s work” to erect and dismantle tents.  He intended to rape her, but now he “falls between her legs”  [Judges 5 v 27].  Jael knows how to drive a tent-peg.  She takes one and  with a large wooden hammer used to drive tent-pegs, smashes it through his temple into the ground beneath.

Israel’s warriors return to the Plain of Jezreel, to Deborah’s Palm tree where, with Deborah they sing a song of Praise to God.

At the end of the story, Sisera’s women tell his mother that he is delayed because he is looking for a fine  purple carpet for her.  He returns to his mother wrapped in a carped dyed with his own blood.