A general in the army of Jabin king of Hazor, sent by his master against Barak and Deborah, who occupied Mount Tabor with an army. Being defeated, he fled on foot, and was ingloriously slain by Jael, Jg 4-5. See JAEL.
(Egypt. Ses-Ra, "servant of Ra"). (1.) The captain of Jabin's army (Jg 4:2), which was routed and destroyed by the army of Barak on the plain of Esdraelon. 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 butter" (i.e., lebben, or curdled 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." The part of Deborah's song (Jg 5:24-27) referring to the death of Sisera (which is a "mere patriotic outburst," and "is no proof that purer eyes would have failed to see gross sin mingling with Jael's service to Israel") is thus rendered by Professor Roberts (Old Testament Revision):
Extolled above women be Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite,
Extolled above women in the tent.
He asked for water, she gave him milk;
She brought him cream in a lordly dish.
She stretched forth her hand to the nail,
Her right hand to the workman's hammer,
And she smote Sisera; she crushed his head,
She crashed through and transfixed his temples.
At her feet he curled himself, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he curled himself, he fell;
And where he curled himself, there he fell dead."
1. Captain of the host of Jabin, the Canaanite king who reigned in HAZOR. (See JABIN; JAEL; BARAK; DEBORAH; KISHON.) Sisera resided in Harosheth of the Gentiles. (See HAROSHETH.) His doom was a standing reference in after times (1Sa 12:9; Ps 83:9). The "curdled milk", still offered by Bedouin as a delicacy to guests, is called leben.
It is not only refreshing to the weary, but also strongly soporific, and Jael's aim would be to cast Sisera into a sound sleep. In Jg 5:20, "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera," the reference is not only to the storm of hail beating in the enemy's face which Josephus describes, but also to the falling meteoric stars of autumn which descended as the defeated host fled by night. (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, July 1878, p. 115-116.) The divine approval of the faith of Jael in killing Sisera involves no approval of her treachery. So in the case of Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, God in approving their faithful zeal in executing His will gives no sanction to the alloy of evil which accompanied their faith (Heb 11:32). From this great enemy sprang Israel's great friend, Rabbi Akiba, whose father was a Syrian proselyte of righteousness; he was standard bearer to Bar Cocheba in the Jewish war of independence (Bartolocci 4:272).
1. In Jg 4:2 ff. Sisera is represented as captain of the host of Jabin, a Canaanite king; his army is overcome by the Israelites under Barak. In his flight after the battle, Sisera, overcome by fatigue, seeks refuge in the tent of Jael, who treacherously kills him while asleep. In another account (Jg 5, the older account) Sisera appears as an independent ruler, and Jabin is not even mentioned; the two accounts differ in a number of subsidiary details, but in two salient points they agree, namely, as to the defeat of Sisera and as to the manner of his death. It is clear that two traditions, one concerning Jabin and another concerning Sisera, have been mixed up together; in order to harmonize them Sisera has been made Jabin's captain (see Barak, Deborah, etc.). 2. A family of Nethinim (Ezr 2:53 = 1Es 5:32 Samerar).
W. O. E. Oesterley.
1. Captain of the army of Jabin king of the northern Canaanites. His army was overthrown with great destruction, through God's intervention, by Deborah and Barak. Sisera, thirsty and weary, sought shelter in the tent of Jael, who killed him with a tent peg driven through his head with a hammer
1. Captain of the army of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. He himself resided in Harosheth of the Gentiles. The particulars of the rout of Megiddo and of Sisera's flight and death are drawn out under the heads of BARAK, DEBORAH, JAEL, KISHON. (B.C. 1296.)
2. After a long interval the name appears in the lists of Nethinim who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel.
It doubtless tells of Canaanite captives devoted to the lowest offices of the temple. (B.C. before 536.)