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Palma il Giovane Giaele uccide Sisara

Yael Killing Sisera, by Palma the Younger.

Sisera (Heb. סיסרא) is mentioned in the Judges 4:2 in the Hebrew Bible. In the times of the Israelite Judges, Sisera was the captain of the army of Jabin, king of Canaan. According to Judges 4:3, Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. The leadership of the Israelite tribes at the time fell to the prophetess Deborah. She persuaded Barak to face Sisera in battle. This he did and Sisera was routed and destroyed by an Israelite force of ten thousand under Barak on the plain of Esdraelon. (Judges 4:10-13)

His name is usually regarded as Philistine, Hittite or Hurrian. Some speculated that its origins were Egyptian (Ses-Ra, "servant of Ra").

After all was lost, he fled to the settlement of Heber the Kenite in the plain of Zaanaim. Jael, Heber's wife, received him into her tent with apparent hospitality and "gave him milk" "in a lordly dish." Having drunk the refreshing beverage, he lay down and soon sank into the sleep of the weary. While he lay asleep, Jael crept stealthily up to him and, taking in her hand one of the tent pegs, with a mallet she drove it with such force through his temples that it entered into the ground where he lay, and "at her feet he bowed, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell down dead." ( Judges 4:18-21 and Judges 5:25-27)

After the battle, there was peace in the land for forty years. (Judges 5:31)

It was because Sisera's mother cried a hundred cries when he did not return home that the shofar is blown for a total of 100 blasts on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

Sisera in the Midrash

According to the Midrash (Yalḳuṭ Shim'oni on Judges 4:3), Sisera hitherto had conquered every country against which he had fought. His voice was so strong that, when he called loudly, the most solid wall would shake and the wildest animal would fall dead. Deborah was the only one who could withstand his voice and whom it did not cause to stir from her place.

Sisera caught fish enough in his beard when bathing in the Kishon to provision his whole army. According to the same source (lii., end), thirty-one kings followed Sisera merely for the opportunity of drinking, or otherwise using, the waters of Israel. The descendants of Sisera, according to B.Gittin 57b, were teachers of the young in Jerusalem.


This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

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