Hazor – Largest Archaeological Site in Israel
Hazor is located northwest of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The ancient city is located on the southwestern edge of the Hulah Valley, and in ancient times it was situated south of the powerful city of Kadesh, and controlled a major trade route of the ancient Near East. The upper city of Hazor encompasses about 20 acres, and the lower city a massive 180 acres, making it the largest archaeological site in Israel besides Jerusalem.
Hazor – The Legacy of Kings and Civilizations
Hazor was the last and largest city that the Israelites destroyed by fire (Joshua 11), the Canaanite city state was later defeated by Barak (Judges 4-5), Solomon built here (1 Kings 9:15), and later the Assyrians conquered the Israelite city of Hazor (2 Kings 15:29). Several large Canaanite Middle and Late Bronze Age administrative buildings have been discovered on the acropolis, and high, thick stone walls also surrounded the Bronze Age city making it easily defensible and imposing to attackers. Although because of its size and influence, it is believed that there was an archive (library) at Hazor, none has yet been discovered. However, excavators are optimistic that it will soon be found. Under Solomon building was done, and a 6 chambered gate structure known as a Solomonic Gate has been excavated at Hazor, dating to the 10th century B.C.
The Amarna Letters state that the King of Hazor broke away from Egyptian vassal rule and attempted to form a northern Canaanite alliance, and the ruler of Hazor is the only vassal ruler called “king” throughout all of the Amarna Letters (EA 227). Hazor is described as "the head of all these kingdoms" by Joshua (Joshua 11:10). This “king” of Hazor demonstrates how powerful the ruler of Hazor was in the region. In both Joshua and Judges, the king of Hazor is called Jabin/Yabin (Joshua 11:1, Judges 4:17). The king of Hazor is called Ibni (etymological origin of Yabin) in a cuneiform tablet found at Hazor (dated 2000-1550 B.C.) and a tablet from the Mari letters (ARM VI, 236). This indicates that Yabin/Ibni was a title for the king of Hazor. It also demonstrates that the correct terms were used in the books of Joshua and Judges, suggesting a composition contemporary with the usage of this title, which ceased to exist in the Iron Age.
Joshua 11:10-13 states that Joshua and the Israelites attacked, destroyed, and burned Hazor. Hazor Stratum XV (upper city) and Stratum 2 (lower city) is the most likely candidate for the destruction under Joshua, in which the palace or temple was destroyed in the Late Bronze I/15th century B.C., and then Canaanite structures were rebuilt in the next phase (XIV) before being destroyed one final time (XIII and 1A). In the upper city, where the administrative and religious buildings resided, at Area M, a monumental entrance to the city shows clear evidence of fire destruction from both Late Bronze I and II. In the lower city, an area for building overflow and residences for the common people, clear evidence of fire destruction is found in a temple of area H in Stratum 2, dating to Late Bronze I. Small Canaanite and Egyptian statues measuring 8-12 inches each had their heads and hands deliberately broken.
Hazor – Destroyed Early by Israel
Mutilated statues of Canaanite and Egyptian gods and Egyptian kings indicate that neither Canaanites nor Egyptians destroyed Hazor. The best candidate for the destruction of Hazor is Israel, which the textual evidence supports and the archaeological evidence indicates.
However, many scholars believe the destruction under Joshua is evidenced by the Late Bronze II destruction of a large palace/temple. The basalt stone orthostats that make up the wall were cracked by a fire (the fire had to be in excess of 1200 degrees Celsius to cause this damage to the basalt slabs), charcoal remains of burnt wood supports, and a 1m thick layer of ash were also found in the excavations. Both Hazor excavators, Yigael Yadin and Amnon Ben-Tor, believe the burn level of the Late Bronze II city is from the Israelite Conquest. But ca. 1290 B.C. Pharaoh Seti I left inscriptions of a campaign on this stele claiming that he destroyed Hazor and several other Canaanite cities. It appears Hazor was first destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua in the Late Bronze I destruction (early 14th century B.C.), then rebuilt, later destroyed by Seti I early 13th century, and possibly destroyed once more in the 13th century by Barak.
Later, in the Judges period, Barak fought against Hazor’s army under the command of Sisera. Judges 4 and 5 record an Israelite victory, and that the King of Hazor was destroyed. Precisely when the battle between Jabin and Barak occurs is unknown, but a date near the end of the 13th century is fairly certain. Destruction evidence in the 13th century has been attributed by some to the defeat of Jabin by the Israelites under Barak. However, the book of Judges does not say that Barak destroyed the city, only that he defeated the army near the Kishon River, killed Sisera, and then destroyed the king of Hazor. It is likely that this early 13th century B.C. destruction layer should be attributed to Seti I, and perhaps the late 13th century B.C. destruction of a small Canaanite cultic site at the city was due to the Israelites under Barak.
Hazor – Finally Destroyed by the Assyrians
In the 8th century B.C., Hazor was attacked by the Assyrians. Excavations indicate that extra fortifications were quickly constructed, but still Hazor was destroyed by Tiglath Pileser III in ca. 732 B.C. This is known from 2 Kings and contemporary Assyrian inscriptions, as well as destruction evidence from excavations of Iron Age Hazor and the discovery of Assyrian administrative buildings at the city immediately following the Assyrian conquest of northern Israel.