Harosheth Haggoyim

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The Defeat of Sisera by Luca Giordano shows Sisera in battle.
The Mother of Sisera looked out a Window by Albert Joseph Moore.

Harosheth Haggoyim (Hebrew: חרושת הגויים‬, lit. Smithy of the Nations) is a fortress described in the Book of Judges as the fortress or cavalry base of Sisera, commander of the army of "Jabin, King of Canaan".[1]

Sisera is described as having had nine hundred iron chariots with which he fought the Israelites.[2] In Judges 5, the mother of Sisera is poignantly described looking from a window, presumably in Harosheth Haggoyim, and asking "Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?" when he does not return from the battle where his army was defeated by the Israelites, and he was killed by the Biblical heroine Yael.[3]

Modern identifications[edit]

Hariss in Lebanon[edit]

In the late 19th century, Victor Guérin identified the southern Lebanese village of Hariss with Harosheth,[4] a location with which the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine seems to agree.[5]

El-Ahwat in Israel[edit]

Archaeologists Oren Cohen and Adam Zertal of the University of Haifa propose that the site of El-Ahwat, between Katzir-Harish and Nahal Iron, is the site of Harosheth Haggoyim.[6][7]

The site was excavated from 1993-2000 by teams from the University of Haifa and the University of Cagliari in Sardinia. The dig was headed by Professor Zertal.[7] The dig revealed a fortified place dating to the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age (13th-12th centuries BCE). The style of the fortifications, walls, passageways in the walls and rounded huts is very different from Canaanite cities of the era, leading Zertal to propose that the site may have been occupied by the Shardana, one of the Sea-People who invaded the Levant in the Late Bronze Age.[7] Zertal based his 2010 Hebrew language Sisera’s Secret, A Journey following the Sea-Peoples and the Song of Deborah, (Dvir, Tel Aviv) on this theory.[6]

Chariot linchpin[edit]

Among the more intriguing objects uncovered by the dig is a small, round, bronze relief measuring about 2 cm. in diameter and 5 mm. thick. The bronze shows the "face of a woman wearing a cap and earrings shaped as chariot wheels." It was found inside a structure identified by the archaeological team as the “Governor’s House”. It is clear that the bronze was once the finial or end of an "elongated object" from which it had been broken off in antiquity.[7]

It has now been identified as a linchpin from the wheel of a war chariot belonging to a high-ranking personage.[7] It would have appeared on the side of a chariot in much the position as a modern hubcap.

Professor Zertal explained the significance of the discovery, “This identification enhances the historical and archaeological value of the site and proves that chariots belonging to high-ranking individuals were found there. It provides support for the possibility, which has not yet been definitively established, that this was Sisera’s city of residence and that it was from there that the chariots set out on their way to the battle against the Israelite tribes, located between the ancient sites of Taanach and Megiddo.”[7]


  1. ^ Judges 4
  2. ^ Judges 4:3
  3. ^ Judges 5:28
  4. ^ Guérin, V., 1880, pp. 386-387
  5. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, Survey of Western Palestine I, pp. 96 and116
  6. ^ a b Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy (July 2, 2010). "Long time archaeological riddle solved, Canaanite general was based in Wadi Ara". Jerusalem Post. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Archaeological Mystery Solved". University of Haifa. July 1, 2010. Archived from the original on July 5, 2010.