Upon arriving at Tel Hazor, one may get the distinct impression that nothing significant happened at this site. In truth, it is not the most popular of the Holy Land locations, but don’t be deceived—this national park is arguably one of the most important biblical sites in the history of Israel.
Known in the time of Joshua as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10), Tel Hazor, or simply, Hazor, is located in the eastern part of the upper Galilee region. The 200-acre tel (archaeological mound made of layers of civilizations) is the largest archaeological site in Israel. Consisting of two parts, the Upper City (Acropolis), and the Lower City, Hazor is 11 times larger than the Old City of Jerusalem!
For any serious student of the Scriptures, Hazor is saturated in biblical history. Starting as a Canaanite stronghold, Hazor quickly came under Israelite control when it was conquered and burned by Joshua (Joshua 11:1-11) in his victory over the Canaanites at Lake Merom. Later, the city would be gifted to the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19:36), and would come back under Canaanite rule. Hazor was mentioned in the story of the prophetess Deborah and the Israelite general Barak, who delivered Israel from the oppression of Jabin, the King of Canaan (Judges 4 and 5).
What to see at Tel Hazor:
Today, visitors to the site can also see remnants of walls and gates when Hazor was fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15) to control the Via Maris (“way of the sea”), one of the most important trade routes in ancient Israel.
West of Solomon’s gate is a royal Canaanite palace, made from basalt, and complete with a large courtyard. Excavators have found several clay tablets and bronze statues.
In addition, the ruins of a 9th-century Israelite citadel can be seen on the western side of the upper city.
A water system, constructed by the Israelites a century after the reign of Solomon, still stands. Extending 40 meters deep into the tel, the shaft reaches the water table below, and ends at a wide tunnel, which extends even further.
The lower city, located north of the upper city across the Hazor valley, contains elements of a Canaanite settlement, including a temple with statues, and remains of tombs, pits, and gates.
For a city that is not typically visited on tour programs, Hazor holds a rich and colorful history, one worth exploring.