Falling into the Bible: The Ancient City of Hazor
- Tuesday, September 17, 2002
I went to Israel and fell into the Bible. Literally.
As a Christian journalist, I had been in the biblical country for only a couple of days. Along with my small tour group, we'd dined with theatrical royalty in Tel Aviv, sat in a somewhat secretive meeting with a female officer of the IDF, and had toured Sepphoris (Tzipori), an important ancient town located near Nazareth.
But it was not until we came to the ruins of Hazor that I truly knew I had arrived in the "land of the Bible." Quite honestly, that discovery came with a slip of my foot and a fall toward the word of God.
The name Hazor means "fortified" or "enclosed." And so it must have been. This was a city whose walls held one of the most important places in ancient Israel during the time of Joshua and the conquering Israelite army.
Its ruler, King Jabin, had heard the news of Joshua's army and the vast success they'd had at conquering the land in the central and southern campaigns. He figured that if the army had turned north - and surely they had - then his beloved city would be next.
Jabin organized a vast army of northern kings. In spite of reports of what had occurred in Jericho, surely, he must have thought, the army made of old Hebrew slaves' children couldn't take them all.
But, according to Joshua 11, because of God's empowerment within Joshua and his army, the northern area of Canaan fell. Successful, Joshua turned back to Hazor, and did something there he did not do anywhere else.
In Joshua 11: 11-13 we read: "The Israelites completely destroyed every living thing in the city. Not a single person was spared. And then Joshua burned the city. Joshua slaughtered all the other kings and their people, completely destroying them, just as Moses, the servant of the LORD, had commanded. However, Joshua did not burn any of the cities built on mounds except Hazor." (NLT)
Eventually the city was rebuilt by the Canaanites and again ruled by another king named Jabin. For 20 years, Jabin's commander of the army, Sisera, oppressed the people of Israel. In Judges 4, we find the victorious account of the prophetess Deborah and a soldier named Barak that ended with Israel reclaiming the city of Hazor.
Many years later, King Solomon equipped the city as a defense center against Syria and Assyria. Again years passed, and in 732 BC an Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser III, overtook it just before the period known as The Exile.
In the Middle East, as civilizations rose and fell, successive settlements were literally built one on top of the other. These mounds, which today roll across the landscape of the Holy Land like gentle waves, are known as "tells."
As modern-day excavators went into northern Israel to dig, the ruins of Hazor were eventually discovered (1926) and have since been confirmed. The tell is 200 acres, the largest in Israel.
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