Reading in Judges 4 yesterday and I come upon this:
Judges 4:21 – But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.
It’s a pretty well known story, probably because of its brutality, bravery, and unusual way of dealing with one’s enemy. The fact that it was done by a woman grabs our attention as well. What grabs you most about this account of Jael’s act? The fact that she was able to do it? Could you drive a tent peg through a sleeping man’s head? Does her loyalty get your attention? Her deception in getting Sisera to trust her? How about the last three words of the verse? “So he died”.
Well duh. She took a tent peg and hammered it through his skull and actually drove it right through his head and into the ground. She wanted to leave no doubt as to the success of her mission. And she succeeded. So he died. The text is so matter of fact. It is so massively understated. No fanfare. It is one of the greatest understatements in the Bible. But not the greatest understatement. That is reserved for this account:
Ezekiel 37:7-8 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And I looked … .
So, you are preaching to a congregation of bones that have been lying in a valley for a very long time. You are preaching to them because God has commanded it. As you preach the bones start to move. They start to join together. They start to form whole skeletons and sinew and flesh. They are returning to their living humanness. This all happens while you are exegeting a text of Scripture and explaining to – whoever – the truth of the Gospel. Would you look? You’d look all right. Your lower jaw would be hitting the ground. Your eyes would be as big as saucers. Your heart would be be visibly pounding its way out of your chest. But all the text says is “And I looked…”.
Back to Jael.
And Sisera died. Of course he died. His brains are pouring out of its container onto the ground. In the next verse, Jael will tell the commander of Israel’s army that she has something to show him. “Come see this”, she says. As if she has an oddly shaped potato to show him.
So what’s the point? Hard to say. It is more than a little humourous that such a violent act and such a sure way to put a man to death is just recorded as “so he died”. Sisera is not the main point of the account and maybe that is the point. We probably have the story because it is a little unusual and it is a tremendous act of loyalty and bravery. And it shames the men. We don’t need more. Jael nailed him good and he died. Now let’s get back to the main point. The main point? The main point is found in verse 23 with another “so”. “So on that day God subdued Jabin the King of Canaan before the people of Israel.” The whole episode is God at work. Does God nail men’s head to the ground? That and more. God defended His people. God honoured the bravery of a woman of faith. God used her actions for the good of His people. To merely sing the praises of Jael would be to miss the point big time. The whole next chapter of Judges is Deborah’s song of praise to God for the victory that was won that day. Jael figures pretty big in it too. But it is a song of praise to God for what He did.
But the understatement is funny and it is worth mentioning.