“The Hand of a Woman”: Deborah and Yael (Judges 4)

Elie Assis

Abstract


This article focuses on the role of Yael in Judges 4. It
argues that Yael’s central position in the narrative is meant to shed light on
Deborah's prophetic image. Yael is thus Deborah’s “hand” – an extension of
Deborah who carries out her prophecy: “for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the
hand of a woman” (v. 9). Yael overshadows both Sisera and Barak. She controls
both men; she decides who will be defeated and who will be victorious. Deborah’s
prophecy does not refer merely to the identity of the killer but also to the way
in which the woman achieves her victory. Yael confronts a strong warrior, a
general; physically she is inferior to him; she uses her femininity to defeat
him. "While sexuality is a featured element of the Deborah narrative, it is so
exclusively with reference to the actions of Yael. Deborah, the focus of the
story, is, to be sure, a womanly figure. But her role in the story is purely
that of a woman of God. It is she who reveals the hand of God in "the hand of a
woman".

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