Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh. (Judges 4:10-11 NASB)
Now Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.” And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him. He said to her, “Stand in the doorway of the tent, and it shall be if anyone comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there anyone here?’ that you shall say, ‘No.'” But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died. (Judges 4:17-21 NASB)
The account of Deborah and Barak would not be complete without Jael. You simply cannot get the point without her. We get so focused on the fact that Deborah led the Sons of Israel as a woman, that we forget that the enemy of God’s people was defeated by a woman from another people. Not only did God keep the victory from Barak, but also from the Sons of Israel.
Also, much is made about the fact that Deborah prophesies that Barak won’t be given the victory because he asked a woman to go with him. I think that has more to do with literary irony from the writer than some sort of indictment from God on women involved in leadership. Deborah remains the judge, and there seems to be no problem on God’s side with her in that role.
The irony for me derives from the layered issue. This Kenite, Heber, separates from his brethren in the south and is near Kadesh. He is at “peace” with Jabin, the enemy of the people of Israel. Yet his wife seems to be the enemy of Jabin and Sisera. She pretends to be friendly, like her husband, but then secretly assassinates the general.
So, a battle ensues with the chariots being less effective than foot soldiers. The general escapes on foot, and is killed by a woman while he sleeps. Just when he thought he was safe, among friends, he wasn’t. The battle followed him to the tents of his ally. In all of this, where was Heber, anyway?
I think God’s sense of humor peeks through here. Sure, the grisly nature of Jael’s actions is kind of gross. But a woman driving a tent peg through a guy’s head into the ground? When you consider he’s the chief warrior for the king of Canaan, it has to be the most embarrassing way to go. What do you put on that tombstone?
I suppose the point for this is that God uses whoever He likes, and uses them in ways that show off His work. A seasoned warrior killed in his sleep by a woman with a hammer and nail? Yeah, that would be God. Nine hundred chariots out run by foot soldiers? Yeah, that would be God. How does anyone else get credit? They don’t. They get points for participation.
So, what are we after? Recognition? Credit? Kudos? What? God doesn’t give points for anything other than participation. If we’re not okay with that, then there are s a few layers of problems with our relationship with God. God has to be the Main Character, the Hero, the One in charge. Who else can save? Through whom, other than God, can human creatures be saved from eternal death? If only Jesus saves, then isn’t it in everyone’s best interest that He get all the attention?
I like getting credit, for people to like me, think well of me, be impressed, and so on. I need to get passed that. People won’t be saved through any achievement of mine. My best day won’t get one more person into eternal life. Only Jesus accomplishes that. So, let my Master use Jael, Deborah, Barak, foot soldiers, and tent pegs. That should gain Him so notoriety, and that is the point, because that’s what brings people to Him.
So, what’s your view of God through the fence today?