The two versions of the story of Sisera’s defeat at the hands of Yael in Judges 4 and 5 are among the most iconic episodes of the Hebrew Bible, with a long and colourful history of interpretation and reception. This lecture will present a new understanding of Sisera’s fate in the poetic version of Judges 5,25-27. On the basis of a reassessment of the meaning of Biblical Hebrew raqqā (“cheek”, not “temple”) and the verbs describing Yael’s attack on Sisera in v. 26, it is suggested that the focus of this episode is not on the killing of Sisera but his stigmatization. Scars of holes inflicted in the face were a visible trace of the Assyrian practice of leading foreign rulers on facial hooks into captivity that is also well documented in texts of the Hebrew Bible. The proposed military submission and humiliation of Sisera sets the poetic version of the encounter of Yael and Sisera apart from the prose version in Judges 4 as an account that is factually and literarily independent.


Thomas Schneider (University of British Columbia)

Thomas Schneider is Professor of Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He studied at Zurich, Basel, and Paris, earning a Master’s degree (Lizentiat), a doctorate, and a habilitation in Egyptology at the University of Basel. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna (1999) and the University of Heidelberg (2003-4). He was a Junior Research Professor of the Swiss National Science Foundation at the University of Basel (2001-20015) and Professor and holder of the Chair in Egyptology at the University of Wales, Swansea (2005-2007). Schneider was a visiting scholar at New York University (2006) and UC Berkley (2012).  He has published six books and more than 100 journal articles, book chapters and book reviews, and edited or co-edited another six books in his main areas of research: Egyptian interconnections with the Levant and the Near East (including Egypt and the Bible), Egyptian history and chronology, Egyptian historical phonology, and the history of Egyptology in Nazi Germany. He is founding editor of the Journal of Egyptian History, as well as editor of Near Eastern Archaeology. He was the editor-in-chief of “Culture and History of the Ancient Near East” (2006-2013), and area editor history for the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology.

Moderator: William Schniedewind

Sponsored by:
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies

Cosponsored by:
UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion