**In the July/August 2013 issue of BAR, Hazor excavation director Amnon Ben-Tor describes the destruction of Hazor at the hands of the Israelites. Read more in Bible History Daily.**The recent discovery of massive jars of scorched wheat at Canaanite Tel Hazor may shed new light on the destruction of one of Israel’s most prominent sites. The discovery of the 3,400 year-old wheat in a Late Bronze Age palace structure give a more complete image of the area’s agriculture before the destruction, and can help date the fire through carbon-14 analysis.
Joshua 11:10-13 describes the Israelite destruction of Hazor:
(10) And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms.
(11) And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was none left that breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire.
(13) But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor only; that Joshua burned.
This destruction is a highly debated subject in Biblical archaeology. The Book of Joshua suggests that after the conquest of Hazor, Joshua quickly took all of the land between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The Book of Judges (4:1-2, 4:23-4) presents a different picture, in which the settlement of Canaan is a slow, generally peaceful infiltration of scattered tribes gradually coexisting with the Canaanites.
Whatever the case, the destruction is well attested. The jugs of wheat are far from the only evidence of a large fire in the palace: excavations have produced burnt cedar beams, a collapsed ceiling, bricks cemented from heat exposure, and soot on the walls. The palatial building containing the massive wheat jugs is attached to another palace. The two structures would have served differing purposes; one administrative, the other ceremonial.
Excavation directors Amnon Ben-Tor and Sharon Zuckerman have different takes on the destruction. In the article “Excavating Hazor, Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?” Amnon Ben-Tor and Maria Theresa Rubiato write that “the ‘Israel’ of the Merneptah Stele seems to be the most likely candidate for the violent destruction of Canaanite Hazor.”
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In the BAR article “Where Is the Hazor Archive Buried?” Zuckerman states that “More recent dating of this destruction places it too early for the Israelites. Yet Ben-Tor is right in excluding the Sea Peoples (who included the Philistines), the Egyptians and rival Canaanite cities. Who is left? I believe it was an internal revolt within the city that was responsible for the destruction. The city was then abandoned until the arrival of the Israelites.”
The expedition to Hazor in the mid-1950s, led by the late Yigael Yadin, was the largest and most important archaeological excavation undertaken by the young state of Israel.
Tel Hazor, the largest archaeological site in northern Israel, features an upper tell of 30 acres as well as a lower city of more than 175 acres. The excavation team discovered the large clay jugs of burned wheat in what they call a palace from the Bronze Age city, which occupied more than 200 acres of land.
More on Tel Hazor in Bible History Daily:
In Hazor: Canaanite Metropolis, Israelite City, a popular summary of 30 excavation seasons by long-time Hazor dig director Amnon Ben-Tor, discover ancient Hazor’s remarkable history.
More on Tel Hazor in the BAS Library:
Sharon Zuckerman, “Where Is the Hazor Archive Buried?” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.
Amnon Ben-Tor, “Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2013.
Amnon Ben-Tor, “Excavating Hazor, Part One: Solomon’s City Rises from the Ashes,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1999.
Amnon Ben-Tor and Maria Teresa Rubiato, “Excavating Hazor, Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1999.