Hazor: The Beginning and End of Israel in Canaan

Hazor (spelling based on Hebrew = hatzor) is not the most famous biblical city to modern readers, but it is linked to some famous biblical people and events.

  • At its peak in the Late Bronze Age, Hazor’s population is estimated to have been between 15,000 and 20,000 – easily the largest in Canaan. It covered more than 200 acres. Joshua 11:10 states that Hazor “was the head of all those kingdoms” in northern Canaan.
  • Around the time of Joshua’s conquest, the archaeological record shows the city was destroyed in a massive fire. Ash deposits from the conflagration have been located all across the ancient site.
  • Prior to the destruction by fire Hazor had an upper and a lower city, all inhabited and fortified. The upper city was rebuilt and inhabited for several more centuries, but the lower city was never rebuilt.
  • Jabin, king of Hazor, was Israel’s chief antagonist during the time of Deborah and Barak. (Judges 4) His top general was Sisera, whose forces included 900 chariots.
  • Solomon fortified the upper city of Hazor and turned it into his northern administrative center. (1 Kings 9:15)
  • Hazor was captured and its inhabitants carried into captivity by Assyria. (2 Kings 15:29) This was the beginning of the Israelite captivity.

Hazor’s current archaeologist, Amnon Ben-Tor desribes Hazor as “Number One” in the Bible. It was number one in size. Its destruction by Joshua opened the way for the Israelite settlement of Canaan. Its capture by the Assyrians was the beginning of the captivity.

    The ash layer from Hazor's fiery destruction in the ceremonial palace. This ash layer exists throughout the site. The fire that produced it occurred around the time of Joshua's destruction of the city in Joshua 11. Photo by Royce Chandler

    Excavation has revealed the junction between Hazor's upper and lower city. The junction shows dark paving stones, a gate entrance and an altar. This dates to the time of Joshua's destruction in Joshua chapter 11.

    This short video from Hazor reveals a few more details about the biblical site.

    I am now at the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, but my internet connection has been difficult to establish. Next time I will save trouble and time and simply rent a wireless card!

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    About LukeChandler

    Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
    This entry was posted in Biblical Archaeology, Interesting places to visit, Israel, Short videos and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

    2 Responses to Hazor: The Beginning and End of Israel in Canaan

    1. Nick Brett says:

      So why do you write that that Jabin was the chief antagonist during the time of Deborah and Barak? Jabin is mentioned in Chapter 4 of Judges but was also was destroyed by Joshua (Chap11).

      Jabin is not mentioned in the Song of Deborah – Judges Chapter 5. The Song of Deborah is generally accepted to be one of the oldest extant passages of the scriptures nad presumably more historically reliable, whereas Chapter 4 was written later by the Deuteronomic Historian. As it has been proven beyond doubt that Ai and Jericho were ruins before the age of Joshua (and therefore the text in Josha is a pious fraud) why should Hazor be considered any different?

      Deborah (Bee) has the characteristics of the Egyptian godess Neith – look up the ,meanings of the names Barak and Lappidoth – which indicates Deborah is a mythical character.

      Perhaps there should be an archeological expedition to find the jawbone of the donkey which was used by Samson to kill the 1,000 Philistines (Judges 15:15).

      • lukechandler says:

        Nick,

        If you have studied archaeology, then you should know that the phrase “proven beyond all doubt” is loaded. You’re never really 100% sure in archaeology. How many times have textbooks been rewritten and new theories/explanations developed for things that were once considered “beyond all doubt”? I’ll go ahead and mention a few things anyway:

        – “Jabin” could be a dynastic name (similar to Ramses, Henry, et al.), so it’s not unreasonable for it to appear in different generations. The name doesn’t appear in the Song of Deborah? No big deal. The text mentions a coalition of unnamed kings, which is certainly reasonable. Sisera was the commander on the field of battle. Many battle accounts ancient and otherwise name the antagonists/protagonists who were present on the actual field of battle.

        – It’s reasonable that the Song of Deborah predates the final text of Judges. The Bible text names numerous source documents that are no longer extant. In the end, we just don’t know the full list of source materials that may have been used to help prepare the text we have. It’s presumptive to assume that information in Judges is unreliable simply because we don’t know for sure if there was access to other source material.

        – You’re suggesting that Hazor, like Jericho and Ai, should be assumed to have been in ruins before the age of Joshua? Have you studied Hazor? The final destruction of the Bronze Age city (the lower city, anyway), has been dated to ca. 1200 B.C. The city was there in the biblical period of Joshua (ca. 1400 B.C.). The final (not necessarily the only) Late Bronze destruction looks to have happened in the Joshua/Judges period.

        – Speaking of Jericho, excavations in the 1950’s and the 1990’s have not settled everything. The destruction layer in question shows evidence of collapsed walls, a short siege (storage jars full of untouched grain), and widespread burning followed by a period of abandonment. These details synch with the biblical account. The question is the date… and archaeological dating is frequently flexible. The details on this issue are too numerous for this space, but it’s fair to say that absolute conclusions from the archaeological evidence are risky.

        – As for Ai, the traditional site (et-tell) seems to have been misidentified. The traditional location was suggested over a century ago and was not based on archaeological excavations. There is another candidate site nearby but excavations have not yet reached the Early Iron or Late Bronze periods.

        – Your remarks seem to indicate “absence of evidence = evidence of absence” thinking. The problem with this is that someone may eventually find something. It has happened many times. Think about it… most identified archaeological sites in the southern Levant have yet to be touched by an excavator’s trowel.

        As for the jawbone jab, I know you are trying to be snarky but this one doesn’t really work, does it? Just be careful – belittling comments can speak more about their source than their target. Besides, it’s just not very scholarly.

        Best wishes,
        Luke

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