You wrote: “One does not know whether Hazor was destroyed by the Sea Peoples, the Egyptians, or Israel. An army does not always settle on the ruins of a city it looted and burned. Later material remains found at a site may not indicate who destroyed the place.”
Fortunately, the matter of the identity of the destroyer of final LBA (IIB/III) Hazor is not nearly as vague as you make it out to be. Yadin dated this event as being “by 1233 BC”, and for good reason. By the way, this predates the reign of Ramesses III by 40 years, according to my chronological scheme, and it establishes the reign of Ramesses II as the proper timeframe. If I remember correctly, this predates any known wave of the Sea Peoples’ invasion.
Kitchen notes (IEJ 53:1, 24-25) that a monument was erected at Hazor by the vizier Prahotep sometime following Years 40-45 of Ramesses II, which I translate to 1245-1235, so the city’s destruction could not have predated this event. What we also know is that following Hazor’s destruction, the city—amazingly enough for the power-center whose ruler was the only one to be called a king among the Canaanite rulers in the Amarna Letters—was left completely abandoned until the initial Israelite settlement of the 12th century, which has been characterized as nothing more than the occupation of semi-nomadic squatters.
Whoever destroyed the city did NOTHING to capitalize on the spoils of its great conquest, though I will return to the point at the end. This brings to bear your statement that an army does not always settle on the ruins of the city that it burns, though in this case they left behind a great deal if their intent was to loot. But what can we say about the destroyer’s identity?
Amidst the Lower City’s remains of layers of ash, burnt wooden beams, and fallen walls, Yadin also found cracked basaltic slabs and mutilated basaltic statues. He also found that public structures such as the Orthostats Temple and the Stelae Temple were destroyed violently.
Since Ben-Tor renewed the excavations at Hazor, he found on the mound of the Upper City that evidence of a fierce conflagration mostly is limited to public buildings. This includes both the monumental cultic edifices and the administrative palatial buildings, all of which served as the foci of religious and civil power and wealth at the height of Hazor’s existence.
Seemingly, the smaller-scaled domestic and cultic buildings in the Lower City were not similarly burned or violently destroyed, though the campaign did include the decapitation of basaltic statues of gods and kings, and probably also the smashing of ritual vessels found in the temples (see Ben-Tor, in Med. Peoples in Transition, 465).
The intentional nature of the desecration of these these statues and vessels—certainly not the MO for an Egyptian army’s handiwork, and if there was ever an exception to this in Egypt’s history, I would love to know of it—is clear. In the words of Sharon Zuckerman, a dear friend and the eventual successor to Ben-Tor at Hazor, “This was a systematic annihilation campaign, against the very physical symbols of the royal ideology and its loci of ritual legitimation.” (“Anatomy of a Destruction”, in JMA 20:1, 24).
This desecratory destruction normally is attributed to the Israelites, as argued by both Yadin and Ben-Tor (though Ben-Tor does not always state this so resoundingly in recent times, amidst all of the opposition to such a position). Revered Egyptologist K. Kitchen even declares “that neither the Egyptians, Canaanites nor Sea Peoples destroyed LB [IIB/III] Hazor—the early Hebrews remain a feasible option.” (“Hazor and Egypt”, in SJOT 16:2, 313).
Zuckerman challenges this identification, instead suggesting that an internal revolt led to Hazor’s destruction, purporting that Hazor’s rulers and elite enforced a dominant ideology, which the populace contested, resisted, and ultimately revolted against due to the political and religious impositions (“Hazor Archive”, in BAR 32:2, 37; “Anatomy of a Destruction”, in JMA 20:1, 25).
I consider her theory to be fantastical, and among the criticisms worth leveling, I would note that she fails to explain why the lower class(es) would initiate an internal revolt that would lead to irreparable devastation of their native city, forcing the revolters to evacuate and resettle in other cities throughout the Hula Valley and beyond.
What motive could be strong enough to incite such a peasants’ revolt that would lead to complete, personal disenfranchisement and subsequent distant relocation? As good of an archaeologist as Zuckerman is, she ignores the archaeological evidence: the non-public and non-royal structures were left almost completely intact, so what would be the reason for permanent relocation even if they were able to topple the civil administration and burn the buildings and structures they had used?
Some would even say that the greatest question begged by this theory is why such peasant revolters would desecrate their own objects of worship, decapitating deities and smashing ritual vessels. Thus a violent religious revolt also would have to be theorized, making for a complete upheaval in the revolters’ world, expressed in the vicious and anarchical devastation of their civil and religious authorities, and culminated in the permanent abandonment of their own unharmed homes and relocation to outlying areas.
In summary, it seems quite fair to rule out Canaanites, Sea Peoples, Egyptians, and in-resident revolters as the culprits for the destruction of the final LBA city at Hazor. This brings me back to the point that whoever the destroyers were, they did not capitalize whatsoever on the spoils of their amazing victory.
If the Israelites were the destroyers, this would harmonize well with the detailed accounts of conquest described in the books of Joshua and Judges. There, the biblical writers express a 3-fold intent: 1) the defeat of cities (Josh 11:12; Judg 11:33), 2) the extermination of peoples (Josh 11:20), and 3) the acquisition of land (Josh 1:2, 6; 12:1).
The death of the king of Hazor, described in Judges 4:24 and logically connected with the destruction of the final LBA city (if any connection does exist), is inextricably bound to the acquisition and possession of his land. This conclusion for an account in Judges follows the standard established in Joshua, where in chapter 12 is found a typical ANE king list.
In the introduction to this king list, the text notes that “these are the kings of the land, whom the sons of Israel killed, and whose land they possessed” (Josh 12:1). Surely the territorial land controlled by Hazor was the prize that Israel won, and the archaeological remains for the destruction of the final LBA city match perfectly if the Israelites were the true destroyers.
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