Fired by the attitude of Deborah, Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men with him, and all the hosts of Sisera were discomfited before them. Those that escaped the sword were swept away by the river; there was not a man left of all that mighty army, and Sisera, the captain, was in full flight. Barak, as Deborah had foretold, was not to have the honour of capturing the leader of the foe; his fate was to be left in the hands of a woman.
Sisera was on friendly terms with Heber, the Kenite, and to the tent of Heber he now fled in his extremity. As he reached it, footsore and weary, Jael, the wife of Heber, greeted him with words of anxious welcome: "Turn in, my lord; turn in to me; fear not." She gave the exhausted fugitive milk to drink from a bottle, and covered him with a mantle as he lay down to sleep, and received with apparent acquiescence his request that she should stand on guard at the door of the tent and deny that he was there to all comers.
We are not told whether Deborah had communicated in any way with Jael, or by what means the woman was moved to her revolting deed. Her act must be judged in accordance with the spirit of that rude age, when a life for a life was the moral code.
Sisera was a tyrant who had oppressed Israel for twenty years; he had shown mercy to none, slaying helpless women and children. We may surmise that Jael regarded him with terror and aversion. She was alone in the tent, and stretched before her in exhausted slumber lay the man whose deeds of violence had kept the district in alarm. Should he awake strengthened and refreshed, he might menace her life or her honour. Jael made a swift decision. There were no instruments of war to her hand, but Jael was resourceful. She "took a nail of the tent and took an hammer in her hand," and went softly up to Sisera. He slept heavily, there was no stirring of his wearied form. Action must be prompt, his pursuers might enter the tent at any moment. Jael placed the nail to the temple of Sisera, and with one determined stroke of the hammer pinioned him to the ground.
So he died.
Thus Barak found him when thirsting for revenge; he came in hot pursuit to the tent. Then the words of Deborah must have
Religion flashed upon him: "The Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman."
The stirring episode culminates with the song of Deborah and Barak, the words of which may have been the result of joint authorship, but unquestionably bear the impress of Deborah's exalted nature. The triumph of the day was undoubtedly hers. Barak was a discredited warrior, not permitted to receive the surrender of his antagonist.
The song of Deborah is one of the oldest and the greatest of the Hebrew poems, a triumphal ode which has few equals in the world's literature. It reveals the author to have been a woman of martial and determined spirit, with a mind rich in strong and picturesque imagery. She opens with a poem of thanksgiving: "Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel," and proceeds to picture the misery which the oppressors of Israel had brought upon the land in that matchless description of a desolated country: "The highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways, the inhabitants of the villages ceased."
She denounces the idolatry of the people, shows their need of a deliverer, and calls herself and Barak to the task: "Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, utter a song: arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive!" She chicles the tribes who did not join in the struggle against the enemy and with fine scorn admonishes Reuben: "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleat-ings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart." Gilead, too, "abode beyond Jordan," and came not to the help of their oppressed kinspeople, and why, she asks, "did Dan remain in.ships and Asher continue upon the seashore?"
The poet and prophetess then turns from denunciation of the fainthearted amongst her people to the tribes which were valiant and brave: "Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death," their kings came and fought the kings of Canaan, and at memory of their valour Deborah breaks out into a song full of magnificent imagery.
The song concludes with a tribute to Jael, and with dramatic effect Deborah contrasts the scene in the tent when the tyrant is laid low by that deftly driven nail, with the anxiety in the home of the mighty captain when he returns not from the battle.
The anxious mother, communing with herself, pictured the scene of her son's victory. Little she thinks, with her proud anxious face against the lattice, that the army of Jabin is routed and Sisera the captain lies in the tent of Jael with a nail through his temple.
Deborah, the prophetess. A poet and lawgiver, this wonderful woman judged Israel at a crucial period of its troubled history. Her prophetic insight and wise counsel inspired her nation with courage to rebel successfully against their oppressors
We have no record of the after career of Deborah, but we are told that "the land had rest for forty years," and it may be assumed that she who had wrought the deliverance of her people returned to her palm-tree at Mount Ephraim and continued to judge Israel.
Women students of the life class at the Edinburgh College of Art. They compete on equal terms with the men students, and compare most favourably with them as regards the winning of prizes and scholarships