Verse 24. "The hand of the children of Israel prospered" - ûltw ûwlh vattelech haloch, it went, going-they followed up this victory, and the consequence was, they utterly destroyed Jabin and his kingdom. IT will naturally be expected that something should be said to justify the conduct of Jael: it must be owned that she slew Sisera in circumstances which caused the whole transaction to appear exceedingly questionable. They are the following: - 1. There was peace between her family and the king of Canaan. 2. That peace was no doubt made, as all transactions of the kind were, with a sacrifice and an oath. 3. Sisera, knowing this, came to her tent with the utmost confidence. 4. She met him with the most friendly greetings and assurances of safety. 5. Having asked for water, to show her friendship and respect she gave him cream, and that in a vessel suitable to his dignity. 6. She put him in the secret part of her own tent, and covered him in such a way as to evidence her good faith, and to inspire him with the greater confidence. 7. She agreed to keep watch at the door, and deny his being there to any that might inquire. 8. As she gave him permission to secrete himself with her, and gave him refreshment, she was bound by the rules of Asiatic hospitality to have defended his life, even at the risk of her own. 9. Notwithstanding, she took the advantage of his weariness and deep sleep, and took away his life! 10. She exulted in her deed, met Barak, and showed him in triumph what she had done. Now do we not find, in all this, bad faith, deceit, deep hypocrisy, lying, breach of treaty, contempt of religious rites, breach of the laws of hospitality, deliberate and unprovoked murder? But what can be said in her justification? All that can be said, and all that has been said is simply this: "She might have been sincere at first, but was afterwards Divinely directed to do what she did." If this was so, she is sufficiently vindicated by the fact; for God has a right to dispose of the lives of his creatures as he pleases: and probably the cup of Sisera's iniquity was full, and his life already forfeited to the justice of God. But does it appear that she received any such direction from God? There is no sufficient evidence of it: it is true that Deborah, a prophetess, declares her blessed above women; and this seems to intimate that her conduct was pleasing to God. If Deborah was inspired on this occasion, her words are a presumptive proof that the act was right; unless we are to understand it as a simple declaration of the reputation she should be held in among her own sex. But we do not find one word from Jael herself, stating how she was led to do an act repugnant to her feelings as a woman, contrary to good faith, and a breach of the rules of hospitality. Nor does the sacred penman say one word to explain the case; as in the case of Ehud, he states the fact, and leaves his readers to form their own opinion. To say, as has been said in the case of Eglon, that "Sisera was a public enemy, and any of the people whom he oppressed might be justified in taking away his life," is a very dangerous position, as it refers one of the most solemn acts of judgment and justice to the caprice, or prejudice, or enthusiastic feeling of every individual who may persuade himself that he is not only concerned in the business, but authorized by God to take vengeance by his own hand.
While justice and law are in the world, God never will, as he never did, abandon cases of this kind to the caprice, prejudice, or party feeling, of any man. The conduct of Ehud and Jael are before the tribunal of God: I will not justify, I dare not absolutely condemn; there I leave them, and entreat my readers to do the like; after referring them to the observations at the end of the preceding chapter, where the subject is considered more at large.