Deborah and Barak and the destruction of Hazor (Judges 4)

After 20 years of oppression Deborah and Barak rallied six Israelite tribes and defeated the army of Jabin, king of Canaan, at Kishon River (Judges 4:15). Sisera was Jabin’s general. Deborah and Barak continued their offensive “until they destroyed” Jabin, who ruled at Hazor (Judges 4:24). According to the chronological data in the Old Testament this event would have occurred during the second half of the thirteenth century B.C.

Excavations at Hazor have indeed revealed evidence of massive destruction at this time – so severe that the city was not rebuilt until the time of Solomon, during the tenth century B.C. An intriguing aspect of the destruction is that the heads and hands of the statues of both deities and dignitaries were intentionally broken off (cf. 1 Samuel 5:4). Excavators suggest that this could have been the work of the Israelites, carrying out Moses’ injunction to “cut down the idols of their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:3).

At first glance it might appear strangely coincidental that Jabin was the name both of the king of Hazor defeated by Deborah and Barak and of the king of the same city defeated by Joshua (Joshua 11). However, en eighteenth or seventeenth century B.C. royal letter from Hazor, eighteenth century tablets from Mari and a thirteenth century Egyptian text all refer to kings at Hazor with the name Jabin. Clearly, Jabin was a dynastic name at Hazor (much as individual Egyptian rulers were each called Pharaoh), and the Bible accurately reflects this historical fact.


 

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