Was Jael morally right in killing Sisera?


I was wondering about Jael. Was what she did right? It's shocking to our modern sensibilities (or at least to mine) to read story as presented in Judges 4. And yet Deborah and Barak (who seem to be relatively moral people?) praise her for everything she did in Judges 5.24-27. Just curious how you interpret the story.

When I hear people talk about the strong, godly women of the Bible, Jael's name doesn't come up. But when it comes to showing strength, at least, few could match Jael's achievement. If (and only if) what she did was morally right, too, then she could be a very interesting example of a woman who pleased God that most people overlook.


Deborah and Barak's song, recorded in Judges 5 is more than just their thoughts. It is a message inspired of God. So Jael is praised for what she did. "Most blessed among women is Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed is she among women in tents" (Judges 5:24).

Sisera was an enemy solider on the run. "So the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he harshly oppressed the children of Israel" (Judges 4:2-3). The destruction of Sisera and his army was punishment by God for their mistreatment of Israel. Sisera's death was prophesied, "for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Judges 4:9). While this was a slight to Barak because he would not lead Israel's army without Deborah, at the same time this was a total embarrassment to a warlord to die, not in battle, but at the hands of someone considered weaker. But it must be noted that Sisera is specifically under a death sentence by God.

"And the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot" (Judges 4:15). The route was so complete that Sisera abandoned his post, his superior weapons, and ran away. He took refuge with the Kenites. "However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite" (Judges 4:17). This does not necessarily mean there was a peace treaty, only that there was no prior hostilities between the two parties.

Jael did offer him a place to rest and something to drink. Perhaps her initial plans were to offer aid to any Israelite coming from the battle. One thing should be noted is that Jael is a Hebrew name meaning "mountain goat." It is strongly possible that Jael is an Israelite woman married to a Kenite man. Seeing Sisera instead, perhaps she thought to delay him until Israel's army caught up with him. Instead, when the hateful man was asleep, she took the opportunity to strike back at Israel's enemy.

We can't say that what Jael did was wrong. While she did offer him comfort, she made no promises about his continued safety. When Sisera commanded her to lie about his presence, she made no reply.

She didn't take personal revenge as far as we know. Sisera was under a death sentence by God and I would not be surprised if Jael had heard about Deborah's prophecy. The fact that she received inspired praise is further evidence that she acted as God's executioner in this particular case.