Capture or Kill?

Monday, May 9, 2011

One week after the raid on the compound of terrorist and master-mind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, some are questioning whether he should have been killed or captured. I’ve read with special interest these debates in light of the Bible study I taught this week about another terrorist.

The account of Sisera appears in Judges 4 when Deborah was a judge of Israel. Deborah was a prophetess and judge who ruled during the reign of Jabin, king of Canaan. Jabin had ruled Canaan for twenty years and made life miserable for the Israelites. Sisera was the commander of his army that claimed 900 iron chariots and thousands of trained soldiers. The Israelites called out to God for help from their oppression. The Lord spoke to Deborah and commanded her to gather troops and promised that He would defeat the evil commander, Sisera. The prophecy states, “The LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman”

Deborah’s brave army, led by Barak, assembled at Mount Tabor and faced Sisera with his terrifying force of soldiers and iron chariots. Imagine the deadly force that would be against Deborah’s rag-tag band of soldiers. Deborah roused the troops with her call for victory and declaration that God was marching ahead of them.

Sisera’s forces were pushed back, troops were slaughtered, and the Israelites were victorious. Their faith in their God was strengthened.

In fear for his life, Sisera fled from the battlefield towards the encampment of Jael the Kenite woman. When Sisera arrived at the encampment in the last stages of exhaustion and terror, Jael saw him and called him to her tent. Jael covered him with a rug suggesting that Sisera was afraid and wanted to hide. She gave him goat’s milk and Sisera fell asleep exhausted from battle and running.

Then occurred one of the most graphically described murders in the Hebrew Scriptures:

21 Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died. 22 When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him. She said, “Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he followed her into the tent and found Sisera lying there dead, with the tent peg through his temple. Judges 4:21-22

Clearly the prophecy was fulfilled. God heard the cries of the Israelites. He ended twenty years of oppression that had been led by Sisera’s army, and the commander fell at the hands of a woman.

This intriguing story raises many questions.
Is Jael seen as a cold-blooded murderer or heroine?
Should Jael have captured or killed Sisera?
What connections do you see between Sisera and Usama Bin Laden?

Perhaps the Psalmist sums it up best –
Let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous. The One who examines the thoughts and emotions is a righteous God. Psalm 7:9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)


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