When Joshua Conquered Hazor
Joshua conquered the Canaanite city of Hazor during his northern campaign (Josh. 11:10–11). In Joshua’s time, Hazor was strategically located on both the main commercial highway and the principal military route. The Bible states it “was formerly the head of all those kingdoms” (v. 10).
While Israel needed to conquer Hazor to secure control of the Promised Land, the timing of the event determines the debated timing of the Exodus. First Kings 6:1 refers to “the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel.” Thus, the date of the Exodus must be 1446 BC, marking Joshua’s conquest of Jericho at 1406 BC (40 years after the Israelites’ wilderness wandering) and the conquest of Hazor at 1400 BC. However, archaeologists now conclude the city was destroyed only in the 13th century BC, not the 15th century BC, as literal chronology demands.
Archaeology is a science, and the data it produces requires interpretation. Many, if not most, archaeologists excavating in the world of the Bible prioritize archaeological evidence and minimize biblical revelation. They reject the Bible as a historical record and develop a historical account based on their interpretation of the limited archaeological remains, even though later excavations may completely reverse their conclusions.
However, some archaeologists prioritize the biblical account and examine the data to draw conclusions that substantiate biblical historicity. Fortunately, careful scrutiny of the excavations at Hazor offers support for a 15th-century BC conquest.1
First, Scripture records two Israelite conquests of Hazor occurring 150 years apart: one under Joshua in the 15th century BC and one under Deborah and Barak in the 13th century BC (Judg. 4:2, 23–24). Though both accounts call the ruler of Hazor “Jabin” (Josh. 11:1; Judg. 4:2), this was not his proper name but his title (Jabin means “king”). Therefore, these accounts concern different kings and cannot be understood as one event.
Second, archaeological evidence supports two Israelite conquests separated by a period when the city was unoccupied. Israeli archaeologists Yigael Yadin and Amnon Ben-Tor found evidence of the city being burned by fire (Josh. 11:11, 13) in the lower city and the upper city. Yadin’s excavations in the lower city concluded the Israelites had been responsible; and Ben-Tor’s later excavations in both the lower and upper cities followed this conclusion, confirming deliberate destruction of the Canaanite cultic center, which he could only attribute to the Israelites.2
Both excavators also reported an uncommonly large occupational gap from the end of the Late Bronze I age to the beginning of the Late Bronze II age, which corroborates the biblical account of separate Israelite attacks (excavators did not acknowledge this). Hazor’s absence on Egyptian topographical lists from the time after Amenhotep II (ca. 1418 BC) until the reign of Seti I (ca. 1290 BC), the period from Joshua’s conquests to Judges, also confirms this gap.
The Canaanites could have rebuilt the city during the 14th century BC in time for the final Israelite destruction.3 The ancient Near Eastern record does not support Egyptian invaders, rival city-states, or internal social rebellion as plausible candidates to destroy the city; and the excavators could only decide in favor of the Israelites. By the biblical records of two Israelite conquests and the archaeological evidence of two conflagrations, both Scripture and the spade testify to the truth.
The conquest of Hazor was an important event in Israel’s history; and the archaeological evidence of biblical conquests in the 15th and 13th centuries BC supports both the Bible’s historicity and literal chronology of the Exodus and, therefore, the conquest. Believers must recognize the Bible’s accuracy and understand it literally. The archaeological record, rightly interpreted, confirms this accuracy.
- “Dating of Hazor’s Destruction in Joshua 11 via Biblical, Archaeological, and Epigraphical Evidence,” Associates for Biblical Research (tinyurl.com/DatingHazor).
- Amnon Ben-Tor, “Who Destroyed Hazor?” Biblical Archaeology Review 39:4 (July/August 2013), 28–36, 58–59.
- Piotr Bienkowski, “The Role of Hazor in the Late Bronze Age,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 119:1 (Jan-June 1987), 54.