Judges 5:26
She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
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(26) Nail. . . . workmen’s hammer.—See on Judges 4:21.


Smote off his head.—Rather, shattered his head. The Hebrew is onomatopoetic, i.e., the sound echoes the sense, recalling the smashing and crashing blows of the hammer. The repetition of these terrible alliterative verbs, “hammered,” “shattered,” “battered,” “transfixed,” the signs that the imagination of the prophetess seems to revel in the description, have been ascribed to “the delight of a satisfied thirst for revenge.” This is hardly a right view of her character. It must be remembered that the feelings of modern times are far more refined and complex than those of previous ages. The sense of tenderness, the quickness of compassion, the value set on human life, are immeasurably increased, and with them the power of realising by universal sympathy the position and sufferings of others. In ancient days no close moral analysis was applied to acts of which the general tendency was approved as right and beneficial. Caesar was not inherently a cruel man, yet he records without a shudder the massacre and misery of multitudes of Gaulish men, women, and children at Alesia; and he suffered the brave Vercingetorix to be led away from his triumph, to be strangled in the Tullianum, without the slightest qualm of pity. Deborah, in the spirit of her day, seems to regard with pitiless exultation the wild throes of Sisera’s death, and the agonising frustration of his mother’s hopes. only because she views those events in the single aspect of the deliverance of Israel. The tenderness of the Mother of Israel was absorbed in the thought of her own long-afflicted, but now rescued, race. “She was a mother in Israel, and with the vehemency of a mother’s and a patriot’s love, she had shot the light of love from her eyes, and poured the blessings of love from her lips on the people that had jeopardised their lives unto the death against the oppressors, and the bitterness awakened and borne aloft by the same love she precipitates in curses on the selfish and cowardly recreants who came not to the help of the Lord against the unjust” (Coleridge); and we may add, on all connected with the cruel oppressor.

Jdg 5:26. She smote off his head — Or rather, smote through his head, for there is not the least hint given in the story that she cut off his head. The latter part of the verse, When she pierced, &c., may be rendered, She wounded and pierced through his temples.

5:24-31 Jael had a special blessing. Those whose lot is cast in the tent, in a low and narrow sphere, if they serve God according to the powers he has given them, shall not lose their reward. The mother of Sisera looked for his return, not in the least fearing his success. Let us take heed of indulging eager desires towards any temporal good, particularly toward that which cherishes vain-glory, for that was what she here doted on. What a picture does she present of an ungodly and sensual heart! How shameful and childish these wishes of an aged mother and her attendants for her son! And thus does God often bring ruin on his enemies when they are most puffed up. Deborah concludes with a prayer to God for the destruction of all his foes, and for the comfort of all his friends. Such shall be the honour, and joy of all who love God in sincerity, they shall shine for ever as the sun in the firmament.Rather "she smote his head, and she struck and pierced through his temple." 25. butter—curdled milk; a favorite beverage in the East. Her hand, i.e. her left hand, as appears from the nature of the thing; and from the

right hand, which is opposed to it. Smote off, or, struck through, as the LXX. and Syriac render it; or brake, as the Chaldee hath it.

When she had pierced, Heb. and she pierced; or, and the nail pierced.

She put her hand to the nail,.... Her left hand, as the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate Latin versions express it, and as appears by what follows; she having taken up a pin from her tent, with which it was fastened to the ground, she clapped it to the temples of Sisera:

and her right hand to the workman's hammer; in her right hand she took a hammer, such as carpenters, and such like workmen, make use of, and workman like went about her business she had devised, and was determined upon, being under a divine impulse, and so had no fear or dread upon her:

and with the hammer she smote Sisera; not that with the hammer she struck him on the head, and stunned him, but smote the nail she had put to his temples and drove it into them:

she smote off his head; after she had driven the nail through his temples, she took his sword perhaps and cut off his head, as David cut off Goliath's, after he had slung a stone into his forehead; though as this seems needless, nor is there any hint of it in the history of this affair, the meaning may only be, that she struck the nail through his head, as the Septuagint, or broke his head, as the Targum:

when she had pierced and stricken through his temples; that being the softest and tenderest part of the head, she drove the nail quite through them to the ground, Judges 4:21.

She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
26. While he was standing (Jdg 5:27) and about to drink, Jael dealt him a shattering blow with a wooden implement. We are tempted to suppose that, if he had drunk, he would have been protected by the laws of Eastern hospitality. So in The Talisman, Sir Walter Scott makes Saladin dash the cup from the hand of the Grand Master of the Templars before assassinating him; had he tasted it, he would have been safe. Talisman p. 535 (ed. 1879 A. and C. Black). In Jdg 4:19, however, Jael has no scruples about killing Sisera after he has partaken of her hospitality.

According to the parallelism of Hebr. poetry her hand and her right hand mean the same thing; and so should nail and workmen’s hammer. But can the latter term be thus rendered? workmen ought rather to be sufferers, worn out with toil and misery, Job 3:20; Job 20:22; the meaning labourer is only found in Proverbs 16:26 (late); moreover hammer (a doubtful form, and a different word from mallet in Jdg 4:21) can hardly be another name for nail or tent-peg. What is meant by this synonym we do not know; but it is clear that Jael used one weapon, not two. The account in Jdg 4:21 gives a different version of the tradition. Translate the last two lines:

And she hammered Sisera, shattered his head,

And crushed and clave his temples.

The word rendered clave might perhaps mean caused to pass away, made to vanish; properly it = pass on, or through, here apparently in the sense of piercing, cf. Job 20:24. The description is that of a heavy, crushing blow.

Verse 26. - With the hammer. These words are not in the Hebrew, and should be omitted. She smote (not smote off), yea, she wounded (Psalm 68:21); she pierced through his temples. Judges 5:26"Her hand," i.e., the left hand, as is shown by the antithesis, "her right hand," which follows. On the form תּשׁלחנה, the third pers. fem. sing. with נה attached, to distinguish it the more clearly from the second pers., see the remarks on Exodus 1:10. עמלים הלמוּת, hammer or mallet of the hard workers, is a large heavy hammer. For the purpose of depicting the boldness and greatness of the deed, the words are crowded together in the second hemistich: הלם, to hammer, or smite with the hammer; מחק, ἁπ. λεγ., to smite in pieces, smite through; מחץ, to smite or dash in pieces; חלף, to pierce or bore through. The heaping up of the words in Judges 5:27 answers the same purpose. They do not "express the delight of a satisfied thirst for revenge," but simply bring out the thought that Sisera, who was for years the terror of Israel, was now struck dead with a single blow. כּרע בּאשׁר, at the place where he bowed, there he fell שׁדוּד, overpowered and destroyed. In conclusion, the singer refers once more in the last strophe (Judges 5:28-30) to the mother of Sisera, as she waited impatiently for the return of her son, and foreboded his death, whilst the prudent princesses who surrounded her sought to cheer her with the prospect of a rich arrival of booty.
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