Many of the epic tales of Biblical women focus on Christian virtues like purity, forgiveness, chastity, and piety. Others are more subversive and praise a woman for prophecy or trickery. However, Jael stands out in quite another way: brutality. In the tale of Deborah, she prophecies that no man will bring the head of Sisera to their hands and that the glory will be woman’s alone. The brave and robust Jael fulfills her prophecy.
In Judges 4, as the battle is soon to commence between the Canaanite and Israelite armies, Sisera approaches Jael’s tent. Jael, a Kenite, is sympathetic to the Israelites who often inter-married with Kenites and lived closely alongside them. She welcomes the general Sisera into her tent with kind words. He soon falls asleep, believing he is safe within her tent. While he sleeps, Jael takes a tent stake and drives it through Sisera’s skull, killing him instantly. Upon hearing of her deed, Deborah sees the prophecy fulfilled and hails Jael’s bravery, stating, “Blessed above women shall be Jael.” Jael’s physical strength and courage truly set her apart, especially in an era where feminine virtue was almost entirely passive and docile.