Judges 4:17
Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet 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.
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(17) Fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael.—In a different direction from that taken by his army, which fled towards Harosheth (Kimchi). The expression is probably used by anticipation. He could hardly have meant to fly to Jael rather than to Heber, until Jael came to meet him, unless there are circumstances unknown to us. Women had separate tents (Genesis 18:6), and these were regarded as inviolably secure. He thought that there he would lie unsuspected till the pursuers passed (comp. Genesis 24:67). The name Jael means “gazelle” (like Tabitha, Dorcas), “a fit name for a Bedouin’s wife—especially for one whose family had come from the rocks of Engedi, the spring of the wild goat or chamois” (Stanley).

For there was peace.—This enabled Sisera boldly to appeal to these nomads for dakheel—the sacred duty of protection. A poor strolling Bedouin tribe might well be left by Jabin to its natural independence; tribute can only be secured from Fellahîn—i.e., from settled tribes. Three days must have elapsed since the battle before it would be possible for Sisera to fly on foot from the Kishon to “the nomad’s terebinth.” It may well be conceived that the unfortunate general arrived there in miserable plight—a starving and ruined fugitive.

4:17-24 Sisera's chariots had been his pride and his confidence. Thus are those disappointed who rest on the creature; like a broken reed, it not only breaks under them, but pierces them with many sorrows. The idol may quickly become a burden, Isa 46:1; what we were sick for, God can make us sick of. It is probable that Jael really intended kindness to Sisera; but by a Divine impulse she was afterwards led to consider him as the determined enemy of the Lord and of his people, and to destroy him. All our connexions with God's enemies must be broken off, if we would have the Lord for our God, and his people for our people. He that had thought to have destroyed Israel with his many iron chariots, is himself destroyed with one iron nail. Thus the weak things of the world confound the mighty. The Israelites would have prevented much mischief, if they had sooner destroyed the Canaanites, as God commanded and enabled them: but better be wise late, and buy wisdom by experience, than never be wise.Sisera went, not to Heber's tent, but to Joel's, as more secure from pursuit. Women occupied a separate tent. Genesis 18:6, Genesis 18:10; Genesis 24:67. 17, 18. Sisera fled … to the tent of Jael—According to the usages of nomadic people, the duty of receiving the stranger in the sheik's absence devolves on his wife, and the moment the stranger is admitted into his tent, his claim to be defended or concealed from his pursuers is established. To the tent of Jael; for women had their tents apart from their husbands, Genesis 24:67 31:33. And here he thought to lurk more securely than in her husband’s tent.

There was peace; not a league or covenant of friendship, which they were forbidden to make with that cursed people, but only a cessation of hostilities, which he afforded them because they were a peaceable people, abhorring war, and wholly minding pasturage, and were not Israelites, with whom his principal quarrel was; and especially by God’s overruling disposal of his heart to favour them who were careful to keep themselves uncorrupted with Israel’s sins, and therefore are preserved from their plagues.

Howbeit, Sisera fled away on his feet,.... Got off, and made his escape

to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; before spoken of, Judges 4:11; and he made to that, because he might think himself safer in a tent than in a town; and especially in the tent of a woman, where he might imagine no search would be made; for women of note, in those times, had separate tents, see Genesis 24:67; and the rather he made his escape hither for a reason that follows:

for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite; which Jabin might the more readily come into, because these were not Israelites, nor did they make any claim to the country, and lived only in tents, and attended their flocks, and were a quiet people, and not at all disposed to war; and it might be so ordered by the providence of God, as a rebuke to the Israelites for their sins, when those who were only proselytes kept close to the worship of God, and so enjoyed liberty, peace, and prosperity.

Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of {h} Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.

(h) Whose ancestors were strangers, but worshipped the true God, and therefore were joined with Israel.

17. Clause a taken with Jdg 4:22 implies that Sisera, as he fled from the battle, found a place of refuge close by; but according to clause b taken with Jdg 4:11 Jael’s tent was in the north, near Kedesh-naphtali, 40 or 50 miles from the Kishon valley. The inconsistencies of the narrative can only be explained by supposing that the two stories of Jabin and Sisera have been combined by a sentence designed to harmonize them, 17b. Jael certainly belongs to the story of Sisera; it has been suggested that Heber belongs to that of Jabin. But we cannot separate Jael from Heber; it would be irregular to name a prominent Bedouin woman, living in an encampment with her family, without mentioning her husband. Probably we must separate Heber from Jabin, and suppose that the connexion between them is merely editorial; see above on Jdg 4:11. The composite character of Jdg 4:17 is responsible for another difficulty. In Jdg 4:17 Sisera aims for Jael’s tent because of the friendly relations between Heber and Jabin; but in Jdg 4:18 he comes upon it while he is flying, and is persuaded by Jael to turn aside. By inserting after fled away on his feet a verb and came we gain some relief, but it is better to regard clause b as not belonging to the original form of the narrative. ‘Jael’s tent’ is mentioned because as the wife of a Bedouin chief she would have a tent of her own.

Judges 4:17Sisera took refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, to escape the sword of the Israelites, as king Jabin lived at peace with the house of Heber, i.e., with this branch of the Kenites.
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