Patriotic Treachery
Judges 4:21
Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly to him…

I. OPPRESSION ROUSES THE DARKEST PASSIONS OF THE OPPRESSED. Jael's treacherous murder of Sisera did not occur in an age of peace and comfort, but after her nation had been terribly crushed by the Canaanite power. The worst evil of tyranny is not found in the mere distress which it brings on those who suffer from it, but in the bad passions which it provokes. The oppressed are degraded morally; they grow revengeful; unequal to open resistance, they become treacherous; misery blinds them to the claims of humanity Slaves are too often cruel and treacherous. This fact, instead of excusing slavery, is its heaviest condemnation.

II. CRUELTY MAY EXPECT TO BE REWARDED WITH TREACHERY. Sisera was no innocent soldier falling in the discharge of loyal service to his country. He had "mightily oppressed the children of Israel." Harshness may appear to silence all opposition, but it really provokes the most dangerous enmity - secret and treacherous enmity. Sisera meets with a just doom. There is something cowardly in brutal oppression; it is fitting that the man who descended to practise it should not fall in honourable warfare, but meet his miserable fate at the hands of a deceitful woman.

III. THE GUILT OF A CRIME MUST BE MEASURED BY THE MOTIVE WHICH INSTIGATED IT. A cold-blooded crime committed for low ends of personal profit is far more wicked than the same deed done in the heat of provoked passion. The act which is committed for the good of others is less wicked than that which is entirely selfish in its motives. The motive of Jael was patriotic. She anticipated no danger to herself from Sisera, but she thought to rid her country of a great and cruel enemy. So far she was brave and noble.

IV. THE UTILITY OF THE END WILL NEVER EXCUSE THE WICKEDNESS OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED TO SECURE IT. Jael was no vulgar murderess. Her patriotic motive mitigated the guilt of her crime, but it did not destroy that guilt. She was guilty of a breach of the sacred rights of hospitality. Did she meditate murder when she welcomed Sisera into her tent? Possibly not. It may be that the sight of the sleeping man suggested the temptation to an easy way of delivering her nation from a great enemy. If so, her treachery was so much the less guilty. But the very warmth of her ostentatious hospitality offered to such a man as Sisera suggests only too forcibly that she meant treachery from the first. That grim scene - the weary soldier trusting himself in the hands of the murderous woman, while she lavishes her hospitality on him with fearful schemes working in her brain - is surely no picture of womanly glory, in whatever age we set it, with whatever provocations we mitigate its dark horror. Jael is plainly guilty of a gross breach of trust. We must not shut our eyes to her criminality because she did a deed on the side of the Jews which we should have condemned with loathing if it had been committed by a less enlightened, heathen, Canaanite woman. Reverence for the teaching of Scripture does not require us to excuse the faults of the Jews. - (Jael the Kenite was practically a Jewess.) It is most degrading to the conscience to read the dark pages of Hebrew history with the understanding that we must condemn nothing done by an Israelite. It is also false to the intentions of Scripture. In the Bible we see the failings of good men and the personal wickedness of some who took their stand on the right side. The merit of their cause does not destroy the guilt of their individual conduct. Deceit and cruelty have sometimes been practised in the interests of Christianity, of liberty, of humanity; but the only service God will accept must be fair, and true, and pure. - A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

WEB: Then Jael Heber's wife took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him, and struck the pin into his temples, and it pierced through into the ground; for he was in a deep sleep; so he swooned and died.

Thou Shalt Say, No
Top of Page
Top of Page