Joshua and the destruction of Hazor: From myth to reality
Joshua under the command of ‘God’ was instructed to destroy all unbelievers with the use of mighty weapons. One of the cities that was destroyed was Hazor, present day Tell el Qedah.
And Joshua did to them as the LORD bade him: he hamstrung their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor before time was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire. … Joshua 11:10
But was that story a myth or a reality? We have seen that the destruction of Jericho from Joshua proved to be a true story when the ruins of Jericho were discovered. Well it seems that the destruction of Hazor has also been proven true because the ruins of Hazor have been discovered with some remarkable evidence as to how the destruction took place.
Hazor was a large and important Canaanite site, built near Lake Merom which was strategically located on ancient trading routes, a city even more important than Jericho. The coalition of Canaanite kings, with the King of Hazor Jabin as leader, was defeated by Joshua who killed everyone and burned the city down.
The city was first investigated in 1928 by a British archaeologist and excavations continued at intervals for many decades after that up to 2012. Hazor’s acropolis was found, fortifications, the citadel, storage facilities, houses, a water system and many artefacts including statues, jewellery and even Egyptian artefacts.
The archaeological evidence has shown that a violent fire destroyed the palace in about the 13 th century BC. The fire was so intense with temperatures going up two times more than the temperatures of a normal fire and up to a stunning 1,300 degrees Celsius. It completely melted clay vessels and the mud bricks that the walls were made of. Who did this and how did this happen? Well the answer is in the Bible, so one of the theories propose how this was done. The combination of large quantities of wood used for the building and olive oil stored in rooms, as well as strong winds, were responsible for such destruction with the Israelites, under Joshua, setting the site on fire.
Another theory suggests that Hazor wasn’t destroyed by the Israelites but by a revolt of the citizens against the rulers of Hazor. However, there is no such reference of a revolt in the ancient East in any of the texts. A final theory suggests that Pharaoh Ramses II and his Egyptian army destroyed Hazor, a theory that is based upon the documented battle of Ramses with Hittites in Syria. But for neither of the last two suggestions there is proof, making the Joshua story the main candidate for the destruction of the City. After the destruction, the city remained uninhabited for about 200 years.
Joshua under the instructions of God destroyed many cities according to the Bible. Why and how is it possible that a God of love commands such destructions? It is either a true story or ‘God’ was used as the excuse to give Joshua permission to do whatever he liked in order to expand the kingdom of the Israel.
By John Black
“Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor?” by Amnon Ben-Tor, Biblical Archaeology Society , Jul/Aug 2013, 39:04