BRAY, Salomon de
(b. 1597, Amsterdam, d. 1664, Haarlem)

Jael, Deborah and Barak

Oil on panel, 87 x 72 cm
Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht

According to the Biblical story, the prophetess Deborah summoned the army captain Barak and ordered him in the name of God to take arms against Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite forces. Barak agreed to do so providing that Deborah accompanied him. She consented but warned Barak that the honour of the battle would not be his 'for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.'. Barak's troops won a resounding victory. Sisera himself fled to the tent of Heber, a member of the Kenite tribe with whom the Canaanites lived in place. Heber's wife Jael went out to welcome Sisera and after returning to the tent she covered him with a robe and gave him milk to drink. But as soon as the exhausted Sisera fell asleep, she took a hammer and drove a nail into his temple, pinning him to the ground. Shortly afterwards Barak arrived at the tent in pursuit of Sisera and saw that Jael had killed him. On that day, Deborah and Barak sang a song praising the virtues of Jael.

In de Bray's painting Jael is not depicted in the act of killing Barak, she is seated holding the tent peg and hammer. The painting is rather like a group portrait of the victors.