Elie Assis, «The Choice to Serve God and Assist His People: Rahab and Yael», Vol. 85 (2004) 82-90
This paper presents a series of analogies between Rahab and Yael, both gentiles, who unexpectedly choose to assist Israel against the Canaanites. The analogies are designed to illustrate the surprising and unanticipated means through which divine providence operates. Noteworthy differences between the two heroines indicate the specific significance of each story. Rahab’s conduct is motivated by her recognition of God’s absolute power. Yael’s motives, however, are unclear. Their concealment is meant to detract attention from Yael’s appealing character and focus on the prophetic role played by Deborah who had predicted Yael’s behaviour.
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The Choice to Serve God and Assist His People 85
fashion. In the Rahab story the soldiers are sent to her to find the spies and she
disrupts their mission when she sends them out of the city:
And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab,â€¦ and she said: pursue after
them quickly; for ye shall overtake them (Josh 2, 3.5).
The spies have been sent by Joshua; they come to Rahab who sends them
to hide in the mountains and assists them in their mission:
And Joshuaâ€¦sentâ€¦ two men to spyâ€¦and came into an harlotâ€™s
house, named Rahabâ€¦And she said unto them, Get you to the
mountain, lest the pursuers meet you (Josh 2,1.16) (11).
Similarly, Yael stands against Barak and Sisera and she decides whom to
assist and whom to defeat, achieving both her goals. The womenâ€™s encounters
with these two men are described in a similar way (12).
Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, â€˜Turn in, my lord, turn
in to me; have no fear.â€™ So he turned in to her into the tent (4,18). Jael
came out to meet him, and said to him, â€˜Come, and I will show you the
man whom you are seeking.â€™ So he went into her [tent] (4,22).
Yaelâ€™s dominant role is intensified especially since Sisera and Barak are
rivals. And the organization of the two armies by their generals is described
in a similar manner to the description of Yaelâ€™s interaction with the men (13):
Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up by
foot with ten thousand men behind him (4,10).
Sisera summoned all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and
all the troops who were with him (4,13).
The two descriptions use the same phrase â€œSisera/Barak summonedâ€ but
they contrast Siseraâ€™s advantage â€œnine hundred chariots of ironâ€ with Barak
marching by foot. In the battle scene the two forces are compared:
â€œBarak went down from mountâ€ (4,14). After Siseraâ€™s army was
defeated it is said:
â€œSisera went down from his chariot and fled away on footâ€ (4,15).
Barak goes down from Mount Tabor to his victory; Sisera goes down from
his chariots, the symbol of his power, and flees on foot. Now the reader is
under the impression that the battle is reaching an end. But at this point Yael
appears on the scene and she overshadows both generals, Sisera and Barak.
(8) Finally, it might be added that both stories deal with wars of Israel and
(11) See NELSON, Joshua, 40.
(12) D.F. MURRAY, â€œNarrative Structure and Technique in the Deborah-Barak Story,
Judges iv 4-22â€, Studies in the Historical Books of the Old Testament (ed. J.A. EMERTON)
(SVT 30; Leiden 1979) 172; R.H. Oâ€™CONNELL, The Rhetoric of the Book of Judges (SVT
63; Leiden 1996) 129.
(13) These parallels are discussed by L. Alonso SchÃ¶kel (â€œErzÃ¤hlkunst im Buche der
Richterâ€, Bib 42 (1961) 160-167) mainly on stylistic grounds. They are developed and
viewed in the context of their narrative function by MURRAY, â€œNarrative Structure and
Technique in the Deborah-Barak Storyâ€, 169-171. In the present discussion the emphasis
is on the function of these parallels in the characterization of the figures in the narrative.