By Reuben Archer Torrey
It is frequently argued against the divine origin of the Bible that it defends and glorifies the treacherous murder of Sisera by Jael, and that any book that defends so violent and cruel and deceitful an action as this cannot have God for its author.
The very simple answer to this objection is that the Bible does not defend or glorify the action of Jael. The Bible records the act in all its details. It also records the fact that Deborah, the prophetess who judged Israel at that time (Judges 4:4), predicted that the Lord would sell Sisera into the hand of a woman (Judges 4:9). It also records the fact that Deborah and Barak, in their joyful song of praise to the Lord after their deliverance from the cruel oppression of Sisera did say: "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent" (Judges 5:24). But it is nowhere hinted in the Bible account that Deborah and Barak were speaking by divine inspiration in this song of thanksgiving and praise. The Bible, by speaking of Deborah as a prophetess, no more endorses every action and every utterance of Deborah than it endorses every action and utterance of Balaam, of whom it likewise speaks as a "prophet" (2 Peter 2:16). In the very passage in which it speaks of Balaam as a prophet, it speaks about his being rebuked for his iniquities. It is not the teaching of the Bible that every utterance of every prophet is the inspired Word of God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that a prophet may tell lies (1 Kings 13:11-18).
The Bible nowhere justifies Jael's action. It records the action. It records Deborah and Barak's praise of the action, but it nowhere endorses this praise. We are under no necessity, therefore, of trying to justify all the details of Jael's conduct, nor indeed of trying to justify her conduct at all.
But on the other hand, we must not unjustly judge Jael. We cannot judge her in the light of New Testament ethics, for she lived some 1,300 years before Christ. She lived in a cruel age. Furthermore, she had to deal with a cruel oppressor who was working ruin among the people. It was a time of war, and war not conducted according to modern ideas of war, and we must judge her in the light of the conditions in which she lived. But even if her conduct were absolutely without excuse, it does not in the least affect the proven fact of the divine origin of the Bible. For that Book makes absolutely no attempt to defend her conduct. It simply describes it.