18 May 2015

Jael: I Am No Man

Judges 4-5

And [Deborah] said [to Barak], “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)

I am no man,
I am no soldier,
but today I won your war.
Not with the sword,
nor the strength of horses -
today I won your war.

With a sip of milk
and a comfortable bed
I brought your foe to his knees.
There he lies dead -
a tent peg through his head.
Today I won your war.

Who says a housewife
cannot be an assassin?
Who says hospitality
can't be battle strategy?
Who says household items
cannot become weapons?
Who says a great man
cannot die at woman's hands?

I am no man,
I have no sword,
but today God won your war.
Through the hands of a woman
and the weapons of a housewife
today God won your war.

What is low in your eyes,
what you would have ignored,
the Lord has made high
and used for his work.
The mighty are shamed
at the hands of the weak,
as God shows forth his glory
in a woman like me.


[18. May 2015]

And yes, the Éowyn references are deliberate. ;-) "I am no man!"

What I find really interesting about the Deborah/Barak/Sisera/Jael story is that all the men in the story get away rather badly and appear pretty weak, while the women are the ones keeping a clear head and being in charge. Though that happens way more often in the Bible than certain people like to admit (just some examples: Tamar, Rebecca, Rahab, Ruth)!

Quick sum-up of the story: the Israelites are being oppressed by the Canaanites, so through the leading of the prophetess Deborah they fight back. While Barak's army fights the Canaanites, Sisera (the Canaanites' commander) runs away and Jael (who by the way is not an Israelite but a foreigner) invites him into her tent, gives him milk when he asks for water (i.e. very hospitable) and covers him with a blanket. When he goes to sleep, she takes a tent peg and hammer and WHAM.

What fascinates me about Jael's story is her hospitality - and how she ended up using hospitality as her "secret weapon". Which shows to me that God can work through anyone, through any means - women don't have to "act like men"; we can use our own gifts, our own ways of doing things. Or rather: let God work through them.

As I was writing this poem (dwelling in particular on Judges 4:9), I had to think of all those instances where God uses what society would think "weak" or inconsequential to bring about his victory. His glory is shown all the stronger in those "unexpected" places which put our all-too-human expectations to shame.

A few texts were at the back of my mind while writing:
  • Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)
  • The song of Hannah (1. Sam 2:1-10): The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. (v.4)
  • The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55): He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. (v.52)

 Picture by Jan de Bray

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