Exodus chapters 21-23 contain a series of laws relating to injuries, property and exchange. In the 9th century BCE, a key site for trade and exchange within the Israelite kingdom was the city of Hazor.
Tel Hazor is the largest archaeological site in northern Israel. It is comprised of an upper city measuring 30 acres that sits 120 feet above the surrounding plain and a lower city of over 175 acres that is sixty feet above the surrounding area.
Tel Hazor lies on the northern “Ramat Korazim,” the Korazim Plateau, in the Upper Galilee. The Korazim Plateau lies directly north of the Sea of Galilee, bordered by the Jordan River to its east, the Hula Valley in the north and the Galilee mountains to the west. The ancient city of Hazor sat along the trade route that extended from the coastal plain into the Syrian interior and along to Mesopotamia, and benefited from this strategic position.
Hazor was long an important Canaanite city. At its peak in the second millennium BCE it may have been home to over 20,000 people, and largest city in Canaan. The Book of Joshua 11 calls it “the head of all these kingdoms” after Joshua was said to have captured the city. In 1 Kings 9 Solomon rebuilds Hazor’s walls. “Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.”
From an archaeological perspective, the city Hazor was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age, in the 13th century BCE. In the following Iron I period, the city was still much reduced, an unfortified city with a cultic high place, confined to the upper city.
In the Iron IIA the city recovered. There is debate as to whether this recovery began in the 10th BCE under a King Solomon or in the 9th BCE, but there is agreement that the city’s development continued in the 9th BCE.
In 1 Kings, the Kingdom of Israel begins with Jeroboam leading the 10 northern tribes to secede from King Rehoboam’s United Monarchy. This kingdom struggles with palace intrigue and regicide, but settles with the reign of Omri and his descendants. Archaeologically, this period fits into the 9th BCE, and this is when Hazor develops to once again become a major center. The population doubled in size. Large public buildings, including store houses, were built. New fortifications were added, including a wall on the eastern part of the upper city and a large citadel. A large water system with a stepped passageway that descended 75 feet down into the bedrock below the city. These developments all point to an increasingly strengthening Kingdom of Israel, establishing its place as a trade center and power in the ancient Near East.
The image above of the mound of Tel Hazor in northern Israel.