A city of northern Israel in Old Testament times.

As far back as 2000 years before Christ, Hazor was a major city in the Galilee region. Extra biblical references to the city are found in the Egyptian Execration Texts and in Akkadian writings from Mari (both Middle Bronze age), plus later Egyptian texts from the time of Thutmose III (lived 1504-1450 B.C) and the Amarna Letters (written between 1400-1335 B.C). Located north of Galilee and south of (the now drained*) Hula (Huleh) lake, it is quite possible that this city acted as a regional capital during Canaanite times. Hazor was also near, and could control, a major trade route from Damascus that passed south of Hula Lake to Megiddo. (Hula Lake is 14 miles, 22 km, north of Galilee). During the conquests of Joshua, Hazor was the source of an organized, yet futile, resistance. It was perhaps due to this prominence and organizational role that has the city being treated more harshly that others in the region, with its complete destruction by fire.

Joshua 10:40-11:13 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. 43 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

11:1 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph, 2 and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; 3 to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots - a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5 All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

6 The Lord said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots." 7 So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, 8 and the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. 9 Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself. 12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13 Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds - except Hazor, which Joshua burned. (NIV) [In Joshua 12:19, the list of kings killed during conquests includes the king of Hazor]

The name Hazor means enclosed, walled, or fortified. As with many other names have common place meaning, this increases the probability that there would be multiple locations in the region sharing the same name. In fact, during the division of territory in Joshua's time there are two such references much farther south in the territory of Judah...

Joshua 15:21-25 The southernmost towns of the tribe of Judah in the Negev toward the boundary of Edom were: Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, 22 Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, 23 Kedesh, Hazor , Ithnan, 24 Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, 25 Hazor Hadattah, Kerioth Hezron (that is, Hazor )... (NIV) [See also Nehemiah 11:31-35]

The northern Hazor, which is the focus of this article, was located in the north central territory allocated to Naphtali (later in the Roman district of Galilee)...

Joshua 19:32-39 The sixth lot came out for Naphtali, clan by clan: 33 Their boundary went from Heleph and the large tree in Zaanannim, passing Adami Nekeb and Jabneel to Lakkum and ending at the Jordan. 34 The boundary ran west through Aznoth Tabor and came out at Hukkok. It touched Zebulun on the south, Asher on the west and the Jordan on the east. 35 The fortified cities were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Kinnereth, 36 Adamah, Ramah, Hazor , 37 Kedesh, Edrei, En Hazor , 38 Iron, Migdal El, Horem, Beth Anath and Beth Shemesh. There were nineteen towns and their villages. 39 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali, clan by clan. (NIV)

Palace and adjacent building. Late Bronze Age (time of the Judges, 14-13 century B.C.)

Israel could not maintain its control over Hazor during the time of the Judges. Hazor was rebuilt by the Canaanites which set the stage for cruel oppression at the hands of the Canaanite king Jabin.

Judges 4:1-4 After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help. (NIV) [Also Judges 4:17, 1 Samuel 12:9]

The remainder of Judges chapter 4 tells how God enabled the Israelites to defeat Sisera and ultimately Jabin.

Judges 4:23-24 On that day God subdued Jabin, the Canaanite king, before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him. (NIV)

Underground Water Resevoir (time of the Judges, 14-13 century B.C.)


Composite photo showing massive city gate of Solomon

Diagram of classic Solomon gate style

Solomon wisely controlled and fortified Hazor, using its strategic location for military advantage.

1 Kings 9:15-19 Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord's temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. 16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon's wife. 17 And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) He built up Lower Beth Horon, 18 Baalath, and Tadmor in the desert, within his land, 19 as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses-whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled. (NIV)

Storage House dating to the 9th century B.C.

Many years later (during the divided kingdom), circa 743 B.C., when Assyria began to assert its control over Syria (Damascus), the northern border areas of Israel were subsequently besieged. Hazor is specifically listed as a primary target as control of this location would have assured control of a major trade route to Damascus.

2 Kings 15:29-30 In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria. 30 Then Hoshea son of Elah conspired against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked and assassinated him, and then succeeded him as king in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah. (NIV)

Ruins of citadel and public buildings dating to 9-8 centuries B.C. (left and center foreground)
(See below for tower and wall at right)

Wall and watchtower built on eve of invasion by Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria (mid 8th century B.C.)

Closer view of the watchtower

Jeremiah prophesied the destruction and final desolation of Hazor. The massive ruins of today testify to the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Jeremiah 49:28-33 Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked: This is what the Lord says: "Arise, and attack Kedarand destroy the people of the East. 29 Their tents and their flocks will be taken; their shelters will be carried off with all their goods and camels. Men will shout to them, 'Terror on every side!' 30 "Flee quickly away! Stay in deep caves, you who live in Hazor," declares the Lord. "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has plotted against you; he has devised a plan against you. 31 "Arise and attack a nation at ease, which lives in confidence," declares the Lord," a nation that has neither gates nor bars; its people live alone. 32 Their camels will become plunder, and their large herds will be booty. I will scatter to the winds those who are in distant places and will bring disaster on them from every side," declares the Lord. 33 "Hazor will become a haunt of jackals, a desolate place forever. No one will live there; no man will dwell in it." (NIV)

More of the many ruins at Hazor
(some show evidence of the mid 8th century earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1)


Olive Press found in a dwelling place dating to 9-8 century B.C.

This 8th century oil press is similar to others found in northern Israel. In central
and southern Israel (Judea), oil presses were of a slightly different kind at this time.

Dwelling place - note olive press, on left, near rear doorway.

The olives were crushed in the basalt crushing basin. The crushed olives were put in reed woven baskets and placed on top of the press bed. Pressure was applied to the crushed olives by the beam from the end of which stone weights were suspended. The oil was collect in the vat sunk into the courtyard floor.

End Notes

* Hula Lake was drained in the 1950s. Once hailed as a great accomplishment, the environmental impact of this action (including its effects on the water quality of Galilee) have in more recent years led to re-flooding some of the original Hula area. Hula Lake was called Lake Semachonitis by first century historian Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 5.5.1)