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Hazor National Park

Tel Hazor is an archaeological tell at the site of ancient Hazor; located at the Upper Galilee, north of the Sea of Galilee. In the Middle Bronze Age (around 1750 BCE) and the Israelite period (ninth century BCE); Hazor was the largest fortified city in the country and one of the most important in the Fertile Crescent. It maintained commercial ties with Babylon and Syria and imported large quantities of tin for the bronze industry. In the Book of Joshua; Hazor is described as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Josh. 11:10).

In 2005, the remains of Hazor were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the Biblical Tels – Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheba

Tel Hazor Excavations: 

So the site of Hazor is around 200 acres in area; with an upper city making up about 1/8 of that. Also, the upper mound has a height of about 40 meters. Initial soundings were carried out by John Garstang in 1926.

Furthermore, major excavations were conducted for four seasons from 1955 to 1958 by a Hebrew University team led by Yigael Yadin. Then Yadin returned to Hazor for a final season of excavation in 1968. Excavation at the site by Hebrew University; joined by the Complutense University of Madrid, resumed in 1990 under Amnon Ben-Tor. Findings from the dig are housed in a museum at Kibbutz Ayelet HaShahar. In 2008, some artifacts in the museum were damaged in an earthquake.

In 2010, a clay tablet was discovered dating from the 18th or 17th centuries BCE inscribed with laws in the style of Hammurabi’s Code. The document includes laws pertaining to body parts and damages; similar to laws such as “an eye for an eye” that appear in the Book of Exodus. The document is written in Akkadian cuneiform, the diplomatic language of the period.

Tel Hazor: Early Bronze Age

So the first settlement excavated in Tel Hazor is dated to the Early Bronze Age II and III periods; existing at around the 28th and 24th centuries BCE. It was part of a system of settlements around the Hula Valley; including Abel Beth Maachah; Dan and Kedesh. The settlement was exposed in limited areas where a few houses were discovered. So based on these finds, Early Bronze Age Hazor was not a significant settlement. With that said, it seems that a large monumental structure dated to the following Middle Bronze Age period was already erected in the Early Bronze Age; sometime after the 27th century BCE.

If this is true it implies that already in its beginnings; Hazor was a well-planned settlement that served as an urban center. It also shows one of the earliest examples of Basalt slabs used as foundations to walls (Orthostates) in the Southern Levant; only preceded by a temple from Tel Megiddo. The transition to the Early Bronze Age III period is characterized by the movement of people from rural areas within the valley to major urban sites such as Hazor, Dan and Abel Beth Maachah. Thus the establishment of a possible palace in Hazor, as well as in Dan, attest to this phenomenon.

Tel Hazor: Intermidate Bronze Age 

This period, at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE; is a period of urban decline; separating the Early Bronze Age; which is the Levant’s first urban era; from the re-urbanization of the region in the Middle Bronze Age. Throughout the country, most cities were abandoned and archaeologists found mainly small agricultural villages and tombs. Hazor, however, is one of the few exceptions.

Remains of several structures from this period were discovered on the site reveal that Hazor was indeed settled in this period. A large amount of pottery belonging to the Megiddo Ware family was discovered in the site and forms the largest assemblage of this kind in the southern Levant. Also, a large number of Copper ingots were collected. These two discoveries might shed light on pottery and metal industries that existed in Hazor during this period, proving its regional importance during this period of decline.

Late Bronze Age 

During the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period and early New Kingdoms (together running between 18th century BC and 13th century BC); Canaan was an Egyptian vassal state; thus 14th-century documents, from the El Amarna archive in Egypt; describe the king of Hazor (in Amarna letters called Hasura); Abdi-Tirshi, as swearing loyalty to the Egyptian pharaoh. However, EA 148 specifically reports that Hasura’s king had gone over to the Habiru; who were attacking sites in Canaan. In these documents, Hazor is described as an important city in Canaan.

According to the Book of Joshua, Hazor was the seat of Jabin, a powerful Canaanite king who led a Canaanite confederation against Joshua. But was defeated by Joshua, who burnt Hazor to the ground. According to the Book of Judges, Hazor was the seat of Jabin; the king of Canaan; whose commander, Sisera, led a Canaanite army against Barak; but was ultimately defeated.

Textual scholars believe that the prose account of Barak; which differs from the poetic account in the Song of Deborah; is a conflation of accounts of two separate events; one concerning Barak and Sisera like the poetic account, the other concerning Jabin’s confederation and defeat. In addition, the Book of Judges and Book of Joshua may be parallel accounts referring to the same events; rather than describing different time periods; and thus they may refer to the same Jabin, a powerful king based in Hazor; whose Canaanite confederation was defeated by an Israelite army.

The Origins of the Israelites According to Israel Finkelstein 

Israel Finkelstein claims that the Israelites emerged as a subculture within Canaanite society and rejects the biblical account of the Israelite conquest of Canaan. In this view, the Book of Joshua conflates several independent battles between disparate groups over the centuries and artificially attributes them to a single leader, Joshua. One archaeological stratum dating from around 1200 BCE shows signs of catastrophic fire, and cuneiform tablets found at the site refer to monarchs named Ibni Addi; where Ibni may be the etymological origin of Yavin (Jabin). 

The city also show signs of having been a magnificent Canaanite city prior to its destruction; with great temples and opulent palaces; split into an upper acropolis, and lower city; the town evidently had been a major Canaanite city. He theorized that the destruction of Hazor was the result of civil strife, attacks by the Sea Peoples, and/or a result of the general collapse of civilization across the whole eastern Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age.

Amnon Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem believes that recently unearthed evidence of violent destruction by burning verifies the Biblical account. In 2012, a team led Ben-Tor and Sharon Zuckerman discovered a scorched palace from the 13th century BC in whose storerooms they found 3,400-year-old ewers holding burned crops; however, Sharon Zuckerman did not agree with Ben-Tor’s theory, and claimed that the burning was the result of the city’s numerous factions opposing each other with excessive force.

Israelite Tel Hazor 

The archaeological remains suggest that after its destruction, the city of Hazor was rebuilt as a minor village within “the territory of Naphtali” (Joshua 19:36). According to the Books of Kings, the town, along with Megiddo, and Gezer; was substantially fortified and expanded by Solomon.

Like Megiddo and Gezer, the remains at Hazor show that during the Early Iron Age the town gained a highly distinctive six-chambered gate; as well as a characteristic style to its administration buildings; archaeologists determined that these constructions at Hazor were built by the same leadership as those at Megiddo and Gezer. Some archaeologists conclude that they were constructed in the tenth century by King Solomon;  others date these structures to the early 9th century BC, during the reign of the Omrides.

Yigael Yadin, one of the earliest archaeologists to work on the site, saw certain features as clearly being Omride; Megiddo, Gezer, and Hazor, all feature deep rock-cut pits; from the base of which were rock-cut tunnels leading to a well that reached the water table; as water-supply systems; which Yadin attributed to the rule of Ahab; Yadin also attributed to Ahab a citadel; with two-meter thick walls, which was erected in the western part of Hazor. However, Yadin’s dating was based on the assumption that the layer connected with the gates and administration buildings were built by Solomon.

Israelite Hazor Falls Into the Control of Aram Damascus

Archaeological remains indicate that towards the later half of the 9th century BCE when the king of Israel was Jehu; Hazor fell into the control of Aram Damascus. Some archaeologists suspect that subsequent to this conquest Hazor was rebuilt by Aram; probably as an Aramaean city. When the Assyrians later defeated the Aramaeans; Hazor seemingly returned to Israelite control; Assyrian records indicate that Joash, king of Israel at the time, had paid tribute to Assyria and Israel had become an Assyrian vassal.

Subsequently, the town, along with the remainder of the kingdom of Israel, entered a period of great prosperity; particularly during the rule of Jeroboam II. Some archaeologists attribute the later large-scale constructions at Hazor; Megiddo, and Gezer, including the rock-cut water supply systems, to this era.

Israel’s attempted rebellion against Assyrian domination resulted in an invasion by the forces of the Assyrian ruler, Tiglath-Pileser III; the evidence on the ground suggests that hasty attempts were made to reinforce the defenses of Hazor. Despite the defenses, in 732 BCE Hazor was captured; its population deported; and the city was burnt to the ground.

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Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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