Sis'era (Heb. Sisera', סַיסרָא, battle-array [Gesenius], or lieutentant [Furst]; Sept. Σισάρα v.r. [in Ezra and Nehemiah] Σισαρίθ, etc.; Josephus, ὁ Σισάρης. [Ant. 5, 5, 4]), the name of two men.
1. Captain (שִׂר) of the army of Jabin, king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. He himself resided in Harosheth of the Gentiles. As this is the only instance in those early times of armies being commanded by other than kings in person, the circumstance, taken in connection with others, intimates that Sisera was a general eminent for his abilities and success. All that we really know of him is stated in the Biblical account of the battle under the conduct of Barak and Deborah (Judges 5). B.C. 1409. SEE JABIN. The army was mustered at the Kishon, on the plain at the foot of the slopes of Lejjun. Partly owing to the furious attack of Barak, partly to the impassable condition of the plain, and partly to the unwieldy nature of the host itself, which, among other impediments, contained 900 iron chariots — a horrible confusion and rout took place. Sisera deserted his troops and fled on foot. He took a northeast direction, possibly through Nazareth and Safed, or, if that direct road was closed to him, stole along by more circuitous routes till he found himself before the tents of Heber the Kenite, near Kedesh, on the high ground overlooking the upper basin of the Jordan valley. Here he met his death from the hands of Jael, Heber's wife, who, although "at peace" with him was under a much more stringent relation with the house of Israel (Jg 4:2-22; Jg 5:20,26,28,30). His name long survived as a word of fear and of exultation in the mouths of prophets and psalmists (1Sa 12:9; Ps 83:9). SEE JAEL. The number of Jabin's standing army is given by Josephus (Ant. 5, 5, 1) as 300,000 footmen, 10,000 horsemen, and 3000 chariots. These numbers are large, but they are nothing to those of the Jewish legends. Sisera "had 40,000 generals, every one of whom had 100,000 men under him. He was thirty years old, and had conquered the whole world; and there was not a place the walls of which did not fall down at his voice. When he shouted, the very beasts of the field were riveted to their places. Nine hundred horses went in his chariot" (Jalkut, ad loc.). "Thirty-one kings (comp. Jos 12:24) Went with Sisera and were killed with him. They thirsted after the waters of the land of Israel, and they asked and prayed Sisera to take them with him without further reward" (Ber. Rab. c. 23; comp. Jg 5:19). See Stanley, Hist. of the Jewish Church, lect. 14.
It is remarkable that from this enemy of the Jews should have sprung one of their most eminent characters. The great rabbi Akiba, whose father was a Syrian proselyte of justice, was descended from Sisera of Harosheth (Bartolocci, 4, 272). The part which he took in the Jewish war of independence, when he was standardbearer to Bar-cocheba (Otho, Hist. Doct. Misn. 134, note), shows that the war-like force still remained in the blood of Sisera.
2. After a long interval the name reappears in the lists of the Nethinim as the head of one of the families who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:53; Ne 7:55). B.C. ante 536. Sisera is another example of the foreign names occurring in these lists, and doubtless tells of Canaanitish captives devoted to the lowest offices of the Temple, even though the Sisera from whom the family derived its name were not actually the same person as the defeated general of Jabin. It is curious that it should occur in close companionship with the name Harsha (Ezr 2:52), which irresistibly recalls Harosheth.