Sisera fled from the battle as fast as his feet could carry him. He headed straight for the tent of Heber, the Kenite. Heber was a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law. Heber and his clan had made peace with Sisera.
“Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.” (Judges 4:11-12)
The Kenites were known as metal smiths. It could be that these Kenites, Heber’s tribe, had been involved in “the making of Jabin’s 900 chariots of iron.”4 This would certainly explain the friendship between them and Sisera’s confidence that he would be safe among them.
Heber’s clan had given Sisera the inside scoop about Barak. “They shewed Sisera that Barak…was gone up to mount Tabor.” (v. 12) Because of this surely Sisera felt safe in the Kenite’s tent. Heber’s wife, Jael, met Sisera as he approached the tent and invited him in to take cover. “And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not.” (v. 18a)
She met him. She wasn’t just out casually picking fire wood when he strolled up. No, she was looking for him. The fact that he was fleeing from battle would have told her that the battle was not going well for him. I’d say she was pretty brave to meet this warrior. “She stepped out in faith, on purpose, and without fear.”5
He asked her for some water and she gave him better--milk. This wasn’t just fresh goat’s milk; this type of milk was fermented, and considered very special. The milk was put into skin bottles that wouldn't be rinsed out after each use, resulting in a curdled, fermented drink called “leben.”6
She covered him with a blanket and gave him a place to rest. He asked her to stand watch at the tent door and not tell anyone he was there. Weary from battle and comforted by Jael’s hospitality, Sisera fell fast asleep. Hospitality rules among Bedouin tent dwellers were “strictly adhered to…and a matter of honor”7 during this age in history. Once she had invited him in he would naturally assume to be cared for. Jael obviously broke this code.
At some point, whether it was when she deliberately went out to meet Sisera or at the very moment as he lay sleeping in her tent, the thought occurred to her that peace could come if this despicable general were dead. We have no way of knowing if she contemplated for minutes or a couple of hours, but surely she did contemplate. She probably thought, “What will my husband think?” “Will he be proud of me or appalled by me?”
Since Heber had made peace with Sisera, and Sisera was now fleeing from the battle, Jael most likely considered the fact that her clan could be in danger. Her husband in his peace treaty with Sisera had taken a stand against the Israelites. Now that the Israelites had defeated the Canaanites she realized her clan could be next.
Her Story - A Study on Biblical Women, by Susanna L. Jordan
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