Hazor—Joshua 1

Hazor, an ancient Canaanite city, lies about 9.6 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and five miles southwest of Lake Hula. The site consists of the upper and lower city and is identified with Tell el-Qedah. Via Maris “The Way of the Sea,” was one of the three main trade routes connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia, Syria, ancient Turkey, and Babylon, and it ran through Hazor. Because of the trade route and the city’s strategic location commanding the Jordan Valley and the Hula Valley, it became a major city of the region.

Hazor was probably the largest city built in Palestine during OT times, and it may have housed up to 40,000 people. Egyptian Execration texts and Assyrian texts mention Hazor as a prominent commercial center in the Ancient Near East.

In the Amarna letters, the kings of Ashtaroth and Tyre accuse the king of Hazor, Abdi-Tirshi, of taking cities that belonged to them. Also, the letters accuse Abdi-tirshi of making a coalition with the “Habiru,” apparently mercenaries or aliens who served the various rulers of the region. (Some scholars have attempted to identify them with the Hebrews who were entering the land.) But in other letters, Abdi-Tirshi declares his loyalty to Egypt. Abdi-Tirshi was one of the few Canaanite rulers of the time who claimed the title of king.

Scripture first mentions Hazor in Joshua 11, in which Hazor’s king, who is head of all the surrounding city-nations, stirs up the surrounding cities to fight against Israel. At this time, God delivers Israel from its neighboring enemies, and Joshua burns Hazor down. Excavations at Hazor show that it was destroyed by fire during the Late Bronze Age but cannot confirm who destroyed it.

During the time of the Judges, Israel wrangled with Hazor. Deborah inspired Barak and Israel to fight against Hazor’s ruler, specifically Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army. Later, Solomon rebuilt Hazor to be one of his royal fortresses and administrative centers (1 Kings 9:15).

Archaeological excavations reveal more than 20 occupation layers at Hazor. Several cuneiform tablets, including a Sumer-Akkadian dictionary, have been found here, showing that Hazor might have been an international education center.


Hardin, “Hazor,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 560-562.