Sisera was the captain of the army of King Jabin of Canaan. Together, they and the powerful Canaanite army were enemies of Israel and often oppressed them and fought against them. One day, Jabin sent Sisera and the Canaanite army to fight against Barak, Deborah, and the Israelite army. To Sisera’s shock, he and the Canaanite army were defeated and Sisera fled from the battle scene on foot. He soon came to the tent of a man named Heber the Kenite. But Heber wasn’t home. Only his wife, Jael, was. Jael welcomed Sisera into the tent and gave him milk to drink. Tired from fighting, Sisera lay down and soon sank into a deep sleep. When Jael saw that he was sleeping, she took a tent peg and a mallet (which is a hammer) and used these items to kill him.
When Barak and Deborah found out how and by whom Sisera died, they sang Jael’s praises in a song which is recorded in Judges 5:24-27:
Most blessed among women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Blessed is she among women in tents.
He asked for water, she gave milk;
She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.
She stretched her hand to the tent peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple.
At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he sank, he fell;
Where he sank, there he fell dead.
The stanza following this one (Judges 5:28-31) makes mention of Sisera’s mother. Barak and Deborah imagine that when Sisera’s mother did not see him returning home victorious, she peered out the window and cried: “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?”
Barak and Deborah further imagine that a wise lady tried to assuage the concerns of Sisera’s mother by suggesting that he was dividing the spoils and captives of the Israelite army of which he had conquered. But this was not the case. It was not Sisera and the Canaanite army who had conquered, but Barak, Deborah, Jael, and the Israelite army.
We don’t know the exact response of Sisera’s mother to her son’s delay or how she reacted when she found out about his death. We can imagine, like Barak and Deborah, that she was initially worried and then grief-stricken when she learned of his fate. Sisera’s mother may have found it hard to believe that her son – a fearless warrior, mighty army captain, and all that jazz – was felled by a simple stay-at-home (or in those days, stay-at-tent) wife and an audacious female judge. What she probably did not realize was that it was not two women who defeated Sisera and the Canaanite army. It was the God in those two women. Continue reading