Hazor, Bible city, archaeology

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Ancient warfare

Young hawk - Deborah and Jael

Deborah & Jael

Carving of a terrified man

Deborah & Sisera


For travellers

  • Ancient Hazor is on the northern road from Rosh-Pina (Road 90). 
  • The museum with most archaeological objects is at the nearby Kibbutz, Ayyelet Ha-shachar, 0.5km north of the park's entrance. 
  • The Israel Museum in Jerusalem also has artifacts from Hazor.







Hazor: what happened there

  • Joshua destroyed the ancient city and killed all its people - 'everything that breathed'

  • Deborah's great enemy was the King of Hazor

  • Ahab, husband of Jezebel, expanded the city

  • The Assyrians destroyed the city

Joshua and Hazor

 Hazor was in the upper Galilee, the largest and most important city in that part of the world (see map below). At its height it had about 20,000 people. 

Why was 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. 

AHazor: Map showing the position of Hazor in ancient Israelccording 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." 
(Joshua 11:10-12). 

Evidence for the burning of Hazor was found when the site was excavated by archaeologists. There was a deep layer of ash. 

Hazor: Aerial view of some of the excavations at Hazor

Aerial view of excavations at Hazor

Hazor: Aerial view of excavations at Hazor, long shot

Some of the excavations of the city of Hazor

Deborah and Hazor

Later 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 Women in the Bible: Deborah and Jael

There is a battle plan, photographs of excavated weapons, and images of Mount Tabor where Deborah assembled her army at Bible Warfare 

Solomon and Hazor

At the time of David and Solomon, Hazor was roughly ten 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 BC. 

Hazor had two distinct sections: the upper city, where the public buildings were sited, and the lower city, a fortified enclosure with massive fortifications.

Hazor: Excavation of the revetment wall at Hazor

The revetment wall at Hazor

Hazor: Part of the massive gate complex at the entrance to the city of Hazor

Part of the gate complex at the entrance of the city

Ahab and Hazor

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.

Hazor: The entrance to the water system at Hazor, with steps leading down into a well

Part of the water system at Hazor - a necessary feature 
for any city that might find itself under siege

Hazor: Stone foundations of a four-room building in Hazor

Foundation walls of a four-room structure, probably an official building, in Hazor

The 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.

Hazor: Wall relief showing Assyrian archers and a siege machine (battering ram) attacking a city

The 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 upper city.

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".

King 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 Archaeology: War


HAZOR: archaeological information

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).

Written Records
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" (Joshua 11:10). 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 (Joshua 19:36). 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 Lake Semechonitis".

Archaeological History of Hazor

Hazor: Diagram of the nine excavation areas in ancient Hazor The 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 empire.

Hazor: Excavation of the revetment wall at Hazor

Hazor 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.

Hazor: Excavation of the sanctuary or sacred area in Hazor

In the 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.

Hazor: A basalt orthostat of a lion, found at Hazor

The figure of a lion found at Hazor: this basalt orthostat was found near the sanctuary

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.

Israelite Settlement
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.


See other fascinating links between 
Archaeology and the Bible



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