Biblical Archaeology Review 39:4, July/August 2013

Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor?

By Amnon Ben-Tor

Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them … Then he burnt Hazor with fire.

Joshua 11:10–11

Fact or fiction? History or theology? It is commonly recognized that interest in the Biblical account of the Israelite settlement in Canaan was, to a large extent, responsible for the rise of “Biblical archaeology.” It is no wonder, then, that one of the first sites to be investigated archaeologically was Jericho (in 1868 and 1907–1909). The main aim of the excavation was to uncover the walls of the city that “came tumbling down,” which, in due course, were indeed “found.” These controversial walls were later dated to the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.), centuries before the Israelites entered the land.

This “discovery” finds a nice parallel in another excavation motivated by a desire to prove a story. Homer’s account of the Trojan War and the settlement of the Greeks in Asia Minor brought German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann to Troy in 1871, where he discovered “the treasures of Priam.” In fact these treasures belonged to a city more than a millennium earlier than Homer’s Troy.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.