Praising Jael for Murder


Why does Deborah praise Jael for murder? - Judges 5:24


Judges 5:24 Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women.

Sisera was put to death by Jael (Judg. 4:17-23). For years, Jabin, the king of Canaan (Judg. 4:2), had oppressed Israel. Israel's oppression in a large part was due to Sisera, the king's general, the "man of the iron chariots" (Judg. 4:13). Since Sisera survived battle would he not come after Israel again?

Sisera was coming to Jael's tent (Judg. 4:17). How would she survive such an encounter? Could she refuse Sisera entrance? Who was Jael, a woman, against such a great adversary? Indeed, Jael devised a cunning plan to defend both herself and Israel. As Geisler comments:

Jael's own commitment to the Lord God of Israel dictated the only course of action she could take. The enemies of the Lord and the Lord's people were Jael's enemies. She had to kill him. She could not hope to face such a warrior in combat. Her action had to be swift and certain. She could not take a chance on failing to kill him and perhaps merely wound him. She had to take decisive action that would result in the certain and sudden death of Sisera. Faced with the alternatives, Jael chose the greater good. To prevent the future slaughter and oppression of the people of God, Jael killed Sisera.

Was this murder or the continuation of the war? (see links below). I view Jael's action as a continuation of a sanctioned Just War - an assassination (see below). I compare this to God's sanctioned war in Joshua, when Rahab the harlot lied to protect the children of Israel (Josh. 2, 6) and God's perspective in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 of Rahab.

Please see:

Is Assassination Ethical?
Violent Resistance
Violence in Old Testament
Violence in Old Testament II


Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (147148). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).