Friday, December 12, 2008

you had me at 'tent peg': jael

Most Blessed of Women? Jael » Shawna R. B. Atteberry

via my Twitter (PrincessDing is my 'public' Twitter; if you'd like my personal, less bitchy Twitter, just email me) i came across this post, an interesting reading of Jael.

Just as my current feminism was informed partly by my dislike of cooking vast amounts of food on Thanksgiving, it was also created in part by the stories I read of interesting women in the Bible who either reminded me of something in myself or made me want to be something more. Leah, who was plain; Esther, who was beautiful and canny; and Jael, who drove a tent peg through Sisera's temple (who i've written about before.)

I didn't like this story because I, too, wanted to drive a spike through a man's head (though, in college, it resounded in a rather militant virgin feminist way with me) but because I liked the contrasts within it. There's Deborah, riding into battle with Barak and there's Jael, the woman alone in her tent. There's the fierce action of the battle scenes against the quiet domestic sphere of a woman's darkened tent. There's the sweaty man in his battle gear, asking for sanctuary; and there's the woman, giving him aid and some milk.

These contrasts mostly balance one another, making easily recognized binaries: battle/peace; action/inaction; man/woman; politics/domesticity. But when Jael takes the tent peg and nails Sisera to the ground, that's a pretty big disruption of balance. (Not to mention the disruption of a female envoy of God, Deborah.)

I'd sit in church and hold my mother's white leather bible on my lap and flip through until I came to this story and I'd read it again and again, and look at the illustrated plate showing Jael in her robes standing over a sleeping Sisera in his armor, with a spike in her hand. Thrilling. That female figure was to me strength, action and duty.

And, I have to admit, it also made me giggle.
The idea of a dude being nailed to the ground while he slept struck me as hilarious and I'd show it to my sister and we'd laugh and laugh until our mother pinched us to be quiet.


Shawna Renee said...

Thank you for linking to me and your own thoughts on Jael. I've always liked both Deborah and Jael: they're aggressive, make up their own minds, lead, and protect their own.

Molly Malone said...

years ago, at a church halloween party, i remember a pair of divinity students, who were dating each other, came dressed in biblical garb. he had a stake "jabbed" in his forehead and she carried a mallet. i asked about their costume and she explained that she was Jael and he, Sisera. i never knew that story before and it cracked me up. i should go back and read it sometime soon. do you have a scripture reference?

ding said...

that's hilarious.
you can find the deborah/jael/sisera story in Judges 4, i believe.

(the good stuff happens around Judges 4.22)