Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jael, Ancient Jewish Heroine

When Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanite army, whose commander was Sisera, they composed and sang a song reciting the victorious events of the day.  At one point they sing of the woman Jael's singular accomplishment of befriending the enemy Sisera and then killing him.  There's something beautiful in this simple poetic description of such a grisly, though necessary, act.

He asked water and she gave him milk,
   she brough him curds in a lordly bowl.

She put her hand to the tent peg
   and her right hand to the workmen's mallet;
she struck Sisera a blow,
   she crushed his head,
   she shattered and pierced his temple.

He sank, he fell,
   he lay still at her feet;
at her feet he sank, he fell;
   where he sank, there he fell dead.

(Judges 5:25-27 NRSV.  You can read the narrative of Jael and Sisera in Judges 4:17-22.)

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