Hazor: what happened there
destroyed the ancient city and killed all its people - 'everything
great enemy was the King of Hazor
husband of Jezebel, expanded the city
Assyrians destroyed the city
Hazor was in the upper Galilee,
largest and most important city in that part of the world (see map
below). At its
height it had about 20,000 people.
it important? Location. It sat across the route connecting Egypt
and Babylon, guarding the
Via Maris. Most travellers (traders,
soldiers, etc) had to pass
through the city.
According to the
Bible, Jabin the King of Hazor headed an alliance of Canaanite
cities against the advancing Israelites, led by Joshua. The Israelites
won the battle and Joshua burned and ravaged the city (Joshua 11:1-12).
"And Joshua turned back at
that time, and took Hazor, and smote its king with the sword. Everyone in it they put to
the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that
breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself . Israel did not burn any of
the cities built on their mounds - except Hazor."
Evidence for the burning of Hazor was found when the site was excavated
by archaeologists. There was a deep layer of ash.
of excavations at Hazor
Some of the
excavations of the city of Hazor
on, Deborah's arch enemy was King
Jabin of Hazor. Judges 4 and 5 described yet another violent destruction by fire,
this time by Sisera, King Jabin's general.
Read Deborah's story at
in the Bible: Deborah and Jael
a battle plan, photographs of excavated weapons, and
images of Mount Tabor where
Deborah assembled her army at Bible Warfare
At the time of David and
Solomon, Hazor was roughly
times the size of Jerusalem, a far richer and larger city. There was a cultic 'high place', a
six-chambered gate and a casemate wall built sometime in the 10th century
Hazor had two distinct
sections: the upper city, where the public buildings were sited, and the
lower city, a fortified enclosure with massive fortifications.
revetment wall at Hazor
Part of the
gate complex at the entrance of the city
In the 9th century BC, most probably under King
Ahab, husband of
Queen Jezebel, the city
expanded. The eastern part of the upper city was fortified by a solid
wall and various important buildings, such as a store house, citadel and
a water system, were added.
Part of the
water system at Hazor - a necessary feature
for any city that might find itself under siege
walls of a four-room structure, probably an official building,
Assyrians destroy Hazor
Hazor suffered repeated
destruction, as a result of both the Aramean and Assyrian invasions. It
was finally destroyed by the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pilesser III. In
732 BC he conquered the entire area of Galilee (Kings II, 15:29) in a
campaign that marked the beginning of the end of the independence of the
Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Assyrians besiege a town. Note the impaled captives, top left.
The fate of the defeated citizens of Hazor does not bear thinking about.
Hazor was never again to regain
its importance. During the 7th - 2nd century BC it shrank to just a
citadel in the western end of the
The last historical reference to
Hazor is to be found in the book of Macabees (I Macc. 11:67). Here we
are told that Jonathan fought against Demetrius (147 BC) in the
"plain of Hazor".
Jabin of Hazor was the arch enemy of Deborah, the judge of Israel - see
her story in Women
in the Bible: Deborah and Jael
For the battle plan, weapons, and battle field at Mount Tabor where
Deborah assembled her army, see Bible
Extract from Cornfeld
G., Pictorial Biblical Encyclopedia, 1964
One of the largest and most important of the fortified cities of Canaan, Hazor lies in the upper Jordan
Valley, between Lake Huleh and the Sea of Galilee. Its name comes from the word
"hazer", meaning an enclosed area
protected by embankments or artificial fortifications (ramparts).
Hazor is mentioned in some of the earliest records. Its name appears in the Egyptian execration texts (19th century
BC), and in Akkadian inscriptions among the Mari documents of the 18th century BC, in one of which Hazor's king, Ibn
Addu, is mentioned. The Mari archives show that during this period, Hazor was an important centre, forming part of the
political and economic network of the Amorite- Mesopotamian states, and with extensive trade contacts with Mari.
Hazor is listed by Thothmes III and Amenhotep II (15th century BC), by Seti I (end of 14th century BC) and by Ramses III
(12th century BC). It is mentioned in the Tel el Amarna letters (14th century BC) and in Papyrus Anastasi I (13th century
BC, time of Ramses II).
Leading the Canaanite Kingdoms
The Old Testament ascribes eminence to Hazor, "for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms"
It was at the head of the northern Canaanite coalition opposing the invading Israelite tribes. Its king, Jabin, led the fight
against Joshua by the waters of Merom. After the Canaanite defeat, Hazor —alone among the cities of the area —
was destroyed by fire.
Whether the "King of Hazor" of the period of the Conquest ruled over as mighty a kingdom as
was known in the 18th century BC seems doubtful. It has been suggested that the statement that Hazor "formerly was the head of all
those kingdoms" did not refer to the actual situation at the time of Joshua, but to the city of the
earlier Middle Bronze Age. The position given to Hazor in resisting the Israelites probably represents the last stage in the greatness of a
once mighty kingdom, when the king of Hazor had indeed been King of Canaan.
Once Israelite domination was acknowledged, Hazor was included in the territory of the Naphtali tribe
Later, it was rebuilt and fortified by Solomon (I Kings 9:15). Some
scholars think that Hazor was captured by the Arameans during the campaign of Ben Hadad I.
Finally, it was destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser in 732 BC during the Assyrian invasion of Palestine (11
Kings 15:29); Hazor's
existence as a city came to an end, but the citadel continued to be used down to the Hellenistic period.
Later sources (1 Mac. 11:67) refer to the Valley of Hazor as the scene of the battle between Jonathan, the Hasmonean
prince, and Demetrius II, but make no mention of a town. Josephus described its position
(Antiquities Book 5, 5:1) as "above
Archaeological History of Hazor
tel forms a rectangle 700 x 1000 metres (about 183 acres), making it by far the largest site to be
excavated in Palestine.
To deal with this huge area, the main site was divided into nine excavation areas, marked A—K, plus one or two
smaller subsidiary sections. The site consists of two principal divisions; the tel proper, or the upper town on the south-west corner of the area, and a huge fortified plateau to the north.
Altogether, 21 superimposed layers of human settlement, representing 25 centuries of occupation, were uncovered.
The lowest strata (21-19) contained pottery from the Early Bronze Age III (2700-2400 BC), but no traces of buildings.
Stratum 18 revealed potsherds from the Middle Bronze Age 1 (2100-1900 BC), corresponding to the period when
Hazor is mentioned in the Egyptian execration texts. During all these periods, people lived only in the restricted area of the tel proper, which continued to be occupied until Hellenistic times.
Founding of the Lower City
Strata 17-16 of the Middle Bronze Age II (18th-16th centuries BC) belong to the period during which the town reached
the peak of its prosperity and importance. It was at this time that the lower town was built, protected by impressive
fortifications. These were formed by a deep ditch surmounted by a high bank protecting the western approaches.
This arrangement is characteristic of Hyksos fortifications and its use here is evidence of Hazor's importance to their
fortifications: a deep ditch surmounted by a high stone ban
The city's gate, one of the most formidable found in Palestine, was uncovered on the north side together with part of a
thick wall. The defence system remained in use with slight changes right through the Bronze Age and lasted perhaps
into the beginning of the 13th century BC.
excavated sanctuary, three halls open one into the other,
a plan common throughout the Bronze Age
Stratum 15 (15th century BC) revealed a large sanctuary in area
H (see above). It was built on the plan used throughout the Bronze Age, with three halls opening one into the other.
of a lion found at Hazor: this basalt orthostat was found near
Strata 14 and 13 were both of the Canaanite period (1400-1200 BC). The earlier layer appears to have been of a rich
and prosperous city. Rubble from this city was used as the foundation upon which the more modest city of stratum 13
was erected. In area C, where the remains of the last 13th century Canaanite city were discovered, a small sanctuary
from this period was found built into the earthen ramparts. A network of stone tunnels and a large stone altar were
uncovered in section F.
Occupation of the lower plateau ceased some time in the 13th century, perhaps when Hazor was captured by the
Israelites. After this, the inhabited area was confined to the upper town.
Strata 12 and 11 (12th-11th centuries BC) are the remains of a temporary and unimportant Israelite occupation similar
to early Israelite settlements elsewhere. Prosperity returned to Hazor during
Solomon's reign (stratum 10, 963-930
BC) when the city was again fortified. A solid wall was built around the upper town and a fort erected in the Acropolis
(the western part of the tel). The Solomonic city gate containing six rooms built on either side of an internal passage
was also uncovered. It is similar to the gates found in contemporary layers at Megiddo and Gezer.
This town (stratum 9) continued almost unchanged throughout the 10th and early part of the 9th centuries BC. Stratum
8 is attributed to the period of Ahab (9th century BC). The town was extended eastward and surrounded by a new wall,
built in the best style of the time. No gate for this wall has yet been uncovered
(this was written in 1964), although in
section A a big store-house was found, with two columns of stone in front of it. The fortressof the town was uncovered
in section B, the western elevated part of the tel. Slightly altered, the fortifications continued to be used in stratum 7
(second half of the 9th century BC), stratum 6 (end of the 9th and beginning of the 8th century BC) and stratum 5 (8th
century BC until 732 BC). In 732, during the reign of Pekah ben Remaliahu, the upper town was destroyed by Tiglat-Pileser III, the Assyrian conqueror.
This was the last Israelite town. However, small forts built on the higher eastern part of the tel (section B) existed during
the Assyrian period (strata 4 and 3) and the Persian stratum (2), and continued in use until the Hellenistic period
(stratum 1). The site was finally abandoned about 150 BC.
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Archaeology and the Bible