In his article “Hazor and The Battle of Deborah—Is Judges 4 Wrong?”BAR 01:04, Yohanan Aharoni writes (concerning the apparent endorsement by the BAR editor of my view that Judges 4 is “a late inaccurate gloss”): “Don’t reject the historicity of the Biblical text so easily”.
This accusation might imply to the non-specialist reader that Aharoni is the champion defending the historicity of the Bible. As a matter of fact it is just the opposite. In order to defend the historicity of Judges 4, Aharoni must reject in toto the historicity of Joshua 11a, which as everybody knows, is also part of the Bible.
Indeed, the crux of the matter is that there is an apparent contradiction between Joshua 11 and Judges 4, and each scholar may choose, according to his views, which one represents the true historical course of events.
When I began the excavations at Hazor in 1955, I (having been trained as an archaeologist and not as a historian, as was the case with Aharoni) had no preconceived idea concerning this question. Indeed, one of the main aims of the dig was to shed archaeological light on this vexed problem and to see which of the various schools of thought was right (see my book on Hazor, pp. 250–251, for a detailed exposition of these views).
In brief, there were four views: (1) The view of the traditional Jewish commentators who asserted that both sources were right, and that Deborah fought against Sisera after his “boss” Jabin, king of Hazor, was killed by Joshua; (2) Albright’s view that the true historical data is embedded in Joshua 11 and Judges 5 (the account of the battle of Deborah which does not mention Jabin), and that the obvious contradiction in Judges 4 must be explained as a late editorial gloss; (3) Alt’s view (and mainly the German school of thought), which was opposed to the views of Albright and the Jewish commentators, that the stories of Joshua are aetiological in nature and have no historical value. According to this school of thought, the whole process of the conquest was rather a peaceful infiltration that culminated in local conflicts, some of which are reflected in the narratives in the book of Judges (including, of course, chapter 4); and (4) A compromise view evolved by Benjamin Mazar which held that the nuclei of both Joshua and Judges reflect historical events; one has only to change the Biblical order so that the war of Deborah described in Judges 4 is first, and the war described in Joshua 11 is later. The latter war was, of course, not conducted by Joshua, according to this view.
Now, before we began our excavations at Hazor in 1955 Aharoni had just completed his Ph.D. dissertation in which he accepted Mazar’s (his teacher’s) thesis, and thus Aharoni was the only member of my team who had a preconceived idea about the date of the last pre-Israelite city we were about to discover.
In his dissertation he argued forcefully that the many little hamlets which he had found in Upper Galilee with typical Early Iron Age pottery of the first half of the 12th century B.C. represent the peaceful infiltration phase described by Alt, an infiltration which occurred prior to the battles described in Joshua and Judges. In these discoveries Aharoni saw further proof 004of the Alt-Mazar views, since it was unanimously agreed then that Deborah lived in the second half of the 12th century.
Aharoni accuses me in his BAR article of withholding from the readers of my popular book on Hazor the fact that his view about the date of Deborah represents his views of twenty years ago. I fail to understand him. After describing the various views prior to our dig in 1955 I wrote (p. 251): “This theory prompted Aharoni to join the Hazor expedition in 1955, and in fact, at that stage he was the only member of the staff who had some pre-conceived opinion about the solution to the problem.” I think that it was clearly stated that this was his view prior to 1955!
Aharoni adds: “If I am to be hanged, at least it should be on the basis of my current views not those I held 20 years ago.” My intention, of course, is not to hang him, but since he insists I’ll say a few words about his present views, a subject which was beyond the scope and interest of my book on Hazor.
The two outstanding surprises of the first season of our excavations were that (a) the huge enclosure—thought by Hazor’s earlier excavator John Garstang to represent a camp—turned out to be the huge lower city of Hazor, and (b) this 180 acres of a city, as well as the parallel stratum in the acropolis was destroyed when Mycenaean IIIB pottery was still in use; that is, in the 13th century B.C., 100 years before the date of Deborah as fixed by most scholars at that time.
I was relieved to read in Aharoni’s BAR article that “this thirteenth century destruction of Hazor undoubtedly represents the Israelite conquest of the great Canaanite center of the north,” and (further down) “Yadin is quite correct when he says that its thirteenth century date cannot be doubted.” Thank God! What Aharoni failed to inform BAR readers was that for years (after we began our excavationsb) he tried very hard to prove, despite all the archaeological data, that the last pre-Israelite city of Hazor was destroyed well within the 12th century, a date which would harmonize with the main thesis of his dissertation.
I must correct another of his statements: “Yadin himself, who would like to place this destruction as early as possible gives a date of c. 1230; that is about 1230” (emphasis supplied). Why should I want to put it as early as possible? Indeed, the opposite is true. The date I suggested was the latest possible one, according to the well-known dating of Furumark, the world authority on Mycenaean pottery, who places the Mycenaean IIIB in the 13th century and not later than 1230 B.C. Had it been my intention to place the destruction of Hazor “as early as possible,” I could have legitimately said that Hazor was destroyed in c. 1300 B.C.
Now Aharoni wants to push the date down to “as late as 1200.” This is difficult, but theoretically possible. However, if Hazor was destroyed as late as 1200 then, according to Aharoni’s theory, the date of the Iron Age pottery which he found in Galilee (and which we found in Hazor on top of the destroyed Late Bronze city) must be pushed back to much earlier than 1200 B.C., in order to assign several scores of years to the alleged “peaceful infiltration” phase which this pottery supposedly represents.
Mazar, who was the father of the theory developed by Aharoni, grasped immediately that the last city of Hazor, as revealed to us, was destroyed in the 13th century. While Aharoni was still trying desperately to prove a 12th century date, Mazar suggested instead to push Deborah back into the 13th century.
As for the present views of Aharoni, I am afraid that they are untenable from an archaeological standpoint. Not being able to push down the date of the Mycenaean pottery he recently tried to push back the date of the Israelite pottery, universally and rightly dated to after the Bronze Age. He now dates this pottery in the 14th (Yes, fourteenth!) century B.C. If this suggestion of his were plausible, then obviously his theories could be saved. But alas, all the archaeological evidence on this question—stratigraphically and typologically—points decisively to after the end of the Late Bronze Age in the 13th century B.C. as the earliest possible date for this Israelite pottery.
044So the verdict of archaeology is clear: the large city of Hazor, the “Head of all those Kingdoms” was destroyed in the 13th century; in the 12th century there was no proper city on the site!
These clear results prompted me to say, after the excavations, and now as well, that the only school of thought whose views tally with the archaeological evidence is Albright’s. Albright maintained even before we began our excavations, that the reference to Hazor in Judges 4 is anachronistic and is the work of a later editor.
As for the historical views postulated by Aharoni in his BAR article, it is not for me as an archaeologist to argue with them; this I leave to historians who are more competent than I to deal with them.c The only thing I can say is that these ideas do not tally with the clear and decisive archaeological data from Hazor.
In his article “Hazor and The Battle of Deborah—Is Judges 4 Wrong?” BAR 01:04, Yohanan Aharoni writes (concerning the apparent endorsement by the BAR editor of my view that Judges 4 is “a late inaccurate gloss”): “Don’t reject the historicity of the Biblical text so easily”.
You have already read your free article for this month. Please join the BAS Library or become an All Access member of BAS to gain full access to this article and so much more.
Joshua 11 describes how Joshua smashed a Canaanite league headed by Jabin, King of Hazor; Joshua then captured Hazor, smote its King, and burned the city.—Ed.
For full references, see my Schweich Lectures, Hazor, p. 11, n. 3.
Nevertheless four points should be commented upon:
(a) An argument such as: “I do not believe the development I have just described could have occurred in less than 100 years” (p. 26) is surely not scientific. Why 100? Why not 80 or 70?
(b) It is interesting to note that the recent trend among serious Biblical historians, far from accepting the view that Deborah lived in the 13th century, is to “push” her into the 11th century. I think that the second half of the 12th century, as originally suggested by Albright, is still the most plausible date.
(c) Aharoni’s statement on the destruction of Canaanite Megiddo is misleading: “Thus the destruction of Megiddo about 1125 B.C., instead of fixing the earliest possible date for the battle of Deborah, fixes the latest possible date, for after that date both Megiddo and Taanach were in ruins” (emphasis supplied). Surely BAR readers should have been informed that after Megiddo stratum VIIA, there were found there two additional strata, VIB and VIA, respectively. The latter was a flourishing and prosperous city. It is true that Aharoni believes that the city of stratum VIA was Israelite, but this represents a minority view. Many archaeologists (including the present writer) are convinced that these two strata represent non-Israelite cities, to judge by their material culture. The most penetrating study concerning their ethnic nature was made recently by Professor Mazar, who, I believe, has shown conclusively that Megiddo VIA in the 11th century B.C. was a Philistine-Canaanite city (see his article, “The ‘Orpheus Jug’ from Megiddo,” in his Canaan and Israel, Historical Essays (Hebrew), Jerusalem 1974, pp. 174ff.). Thus, Megiddo was in ruins between VIIA and VIB and between VIB and VIA.
(d) Irrespective of all the above mentioned archaeological data concerning Megiddo, one should always remember that Albright’s view, that Megiddo was in ruins at the time of Deborah, is just an assumption, logical as it may be.