Judges 5:26: Jael Takes Sisera's Head

Updated: Mar 19, 2018

Verse 26:[1] (Judg. 4:21) She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer (Heb. she hammered[2]) she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.


[She put her left hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammers, יָדָהּ֙ לַיָּתֵ֣ד תִּשְׁלַ֔חְנָה וִֽימִינָ֖הּ לְהַלְמ֣וּת עֲמֵלִ֑ים] She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the hammer of workmen (Munster), or, of those laboring (Pagnine). Her hand took hold of the nail, and her right hand the hammer of those laboring (Tigurinus), that is, workmen and other artisans. Verbatim: Her hand (understanding, left [Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Septuagint, Drusius]), to the nail they shall send themselves, and her right hand to the hammer of those laboring. The order is disturbed, and the future/imperfect is put in the place of the perfect: Her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the hammer of those laboring, sent themselves, that is, sought a nail and hammer, that is, took hold of (Vatablus). Her left hand to the peg, but her right to the mallet of those laboring, extended themselves (Junius and Tremellius). The left hand is called the hand κατ᾿ ἐξοχὴν, par excellence: Mekhilta[3] 8:4, There is no hand in any place except the left. Thus, my hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand, etc.[4] (Drusius). תִּשְׁלַחְנָה, they put forth, is plural, although the speech concerns only one, Jael (Martyr). Therefore, either, 1. it is to be referred to כּוֹחוֹת, the strength animating the hands (Munster). The skills and strength of Jael, which extended her hands to those things (Martyr). Or, 2. תִּשְׁלַחְנָה, they put forth, is in the place of תִּשְׁלַח, she put forth (Munster, Drusius), with the נ and the ה added superfluously, as in מִסְדְּרוֹנָה[5] and פַּרְשְׁדֹנָה,[6] contrary to the usage of the words (Drusius). Perhaps the נָה is added for the sake of the song (Malvenda). [Others resolve the difficulty in the manner of construal, as has already been shown.] I think that תִּשְׁלַחְנָה, they put forth, is put in the place of תִּשְׁלַחֶנָּה, she put it; and I do not doubt that, if the text were without vowels, one ought to read it in this way. Verbatim: Her hand to the nail she put it, in the place of, to the nail she put, with a pleonasm of the suffix, quite common among the Hebrews (Dieu).


Her hand, that is, her left hand, as appears from the nature of the thing; and from the right hand, which is opposed to it.


[Seeking on his head a place for a wound, מָחֲקָ֣ה רֹאשׁ֔וֹ] מָחֲקָה is not found elsewhere in Scripture (Malvenda, Bonfrerius). They translate it, she removed (cut off [Pagnine], pierced [Septuagint], or, broke through [Syriac], crushed [Jonathan], split [Arabic], knocked off [Junius and Tremellius]) his head (Munster, Tigurinus).


Smote off, or, struck through, as the Septuagint and Syriac render it; or brake, as the Chaldee hath it.


[And powerfully piercing his temple, וְחָלְפָ֖ה רַקָּתֽוֹ׃] And she penetrated his temple (Montanus); she pierced (Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Vatablus). That is, after she had pierced and penetrated his temples (Vatablus). He transfixed (pierced through [Malvenda, Buxtorf]) his temples (Junius and Tremellius); the nail passed through in his temple (Jonathan); it pierced through to his other temple (Arabic).


When she had pierced; Hebrew, and she pierced; or, and the nail pierced.

[1] Hebrew: יָדָהּ֙ לַיָּתֵ֣ד תִּשְׁלַ֔חְנָה וִֽימִינָ֖הּ לְהַלְמ֣וּת עֲמֵלִ֑ים וְהָלְמָ֤ה סִֽיסְרָא֙ מָחֲקָ֣ה רֹאשׁ֔וֹ וּמָחֲצָ֥ה וְחָלְפָ֖ה רַקָּתֽוֹ׃


[2] Hebrew: וְהָלְמָה.


[3] The Mekhilta is a work of halakhic midrash on the Book of Exodus. It was originally the work of Rabbi Ishmael, a Tanna contemporary with Rabbi Akiba (late first-, early second-century), but it was augmented and edited by later hands.


[4] Isaiah 48:13.


[5] Judges 3:23: “Then Ehud went forth through the porch (הַמִּסְדְּרוֹנָה, with a lexical form of מִסְדְּרוֹן), and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.”


[6] Judges 3:22: “And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt (הַפַּרְשְׁדֹנָה, with an expected lexical form of פַּרְשְׁדֹן) came out.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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