Judges 5:6ff—How can Jael be commended for such a cruel act of murder?
Problem: The story of the death of Sisera at the hands of Jael depicts a violent and cruel murder (Jud. 4:21). However, the song of Deborah recorded in Judges 5 commends Jael for killing Sisera. How can Jael be praised for committing such a violent murder?
Solution: First, it should be remembered that Sisera was a mighty warrior. When he came to Jael’s tent, Jael was hardly in a position to refuse him entrance. Although it was Jael who went out to meet Sisera to encourage him to find refuge in her tent, it is clear from 4:17 that he was already planning to go to Jael’s tent.
Second, Sisera was a cruel warrior who had viciously oppressed God’s people. If Sisera had escaped from the battle, he would most certainly have lived to brutalize God’s people again. If Jael had not acted, she would have been party to any future slaughter or oppression of God’s people by this godless man.
Third, Jael’s own commitment to the Lord God of Israel dictated the only course of action she could take. The enemies of the Lord and the Lord’s people were Jael’s enemies. She had to kill him. She could not hope to face such a warrior in combat. Her action had to be swift and certain. She could not take a chance on failing to kill him and perhaps merely wound him. She had to take decisive action that would result in the certain and sudden death of Sisera. Faced with the alternatives, Jael chose the greater good. To prevent the future slaughter and oppression of the people of God, Jael killed Sisera.
Fourth, although there is no place in the Bible where God honors or praises Jael for the manner in which she killed Sisera, the song of Deborah certainly praises her for her decisive action. Jael was an instrument in the hands of God to bring judgment upon this terrible enemy of God’s people.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.