Wednesday, July 21, 2010
“Hazor, the head of all those kingdoms”
Image: Baal Mask Found at Hazor
In a previous post I mentioned that archaeologists digging at Hazor have found two fragments of a cuneiform tablet that contain what has been described as portions of a law code. It has been reported that these fragments contain laws similar to laws found in the Code of Hammurabi. Archaeologists are continuing their work, excavating a monumental structure dated to the Bronze Age, where more tablets are expected to be found.
When Joshua and the army of Israel began their campaign to conquer the northern part of Canaan (Joshua 11:1-15), he encountered a confederation of Canaanite kings, led by Jabin, king of Hazor. These kings were aware of what Israel had already done in the southern part of Canaan, and although the Canaanite kings were not friendly with each other, they realized that Israel posed a great threat to their survival.
According to the Biblical text, the size of the Canaanite army was impressive: “And they went out, they and all their armies with them, a great people, in number like the sand on the seaside, with horses and war-carriages in great number” (Joshua 11:4).
According to Josephus, the Jewish historian who wrote a history of Israel in the first century A.D., the Canaanites had mustered 300,000 infantry soldiers, 10,000 calvary troops, and 20,000 chariots.
The Canaanite kings joined forces, gathered their armies, and encamped at the waters of Merom in their preparation to fight against Israel. But Joshua surprised them. Instead of waiting to be attacked by the Canaanites, Joshua surprised Jabin and his army by the waters of Merom, striking them and pursuing them until the Canaanite army was defeated.
Joshua and the army of Israel then invaded the Canaanite cities and captured them. However, of all of the Canaanite cities conquered, only Hazor was burned: “And Joshua turned back at that time and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction; there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire” (Joshua 11:10-11).
The reason Hazor was burned was because “Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms.” This means that Hazor was a strong and well-fortified city. That Jabin, the king of Hazor, was able to muster a coalition to fight against Israel shows the influence of the city among the other Canaanite city-states.
By the time of the judges, during the days of Deborah and Barak, the Canaanites were able to regain some strength and reconquer some of the territory they had lost to Israel. As a result, they were able to rebuild Hazor and establish a new king on the throne, identified as “Jabin, king of Canaan” (Judges 4:2). It is possible that Jabin was a dynastic name of the kings of Hazor.
Led by Deborah and Barak, the Israelites fought against Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, conquered the Canaanites, and took possession of Hazor, which became an Israelite city settled by the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19:32, 36).
During the time of the monarchy, Solomon fortified Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer and established these cities as centers of defense against possible attacks by enemies from the north. Hazor was one of the cities conquered by Tiglath-pileser III during his war against the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Arameans in 734 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29).
In antiquity, Hazor was an important city. The name of the city appears in the Execration Texts from Egypt (19th century B.C.), in the Mari Tablets (18th century B.C.), in the list of conquered cities from the times of Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, and Seti I, as well as in four Amarna Letters.
Hazor was first excavated by John Garstang in 1928. However, the major excavation of the tell was done by Yigael Yadin, who discovered twenty-two levels of occupation. Among the discoveries at Hazor were a Hyksos city, several Canaanite temples, and many religious artifacts.
As I mentioned above, archaeologists have found two fragments of a cuneiform tablet at Hazor. However, this discovery is not unique. In 1962, an American tourist found a cuneiform tablet on the surface of the tell. That tablet, written in Akkadian, described a lawsuit adjudicated by the king of Hazor. According to archaeologists, the tablet was dated to the 17th century B.C.
A cursory reading of the Bible does not reveal the greatness of the city of Hazor at the height of its power. During the Middle and Late Bronze ages, Hazor probably rivaled other great cities in the Ancient Near East, both in size and in influence.
Archaeology has provided extremely important evidence that Hazor was a great city in antiquity. Let us hope that the excavation of the tell will provide additional evidence of the greatness of “Hazor, the head of all those kingdoms.”
Read also: More about the Two Cuneiform Tablets
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
If you enjoyed reading this post, subscribe to my posts here.
Tags: Archaeology, Hazor, Jabin, Joshua, Conquest