A first visit to the thousand-year “head of many kingdoms,” Hazor (after spending many years there)…
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. (Albert Einstein)
Hazor. Hatsor. Chatsor. חצור. No matter your preferred spelling, for over a millennium Hazor in northern Israel was one of the most powerful and important cities in The Fertile Crescent, its influence spanning pagan Canaanite times to the rule of Pekah, penultimate ruler of the doomed Northern Kingdom. Joshua is credited with having destroyed Hazor sometime during the 13th century BCE (Jos 11:11). Archaeological evidence unearthed at modern Tel Hazor supports the report in First Kings which notes that, some three hundred years after Joshua crossed the Jordan, King Solomon restored the city to its former glory (1 Ki 9:15). Roughly another 130 years passed before Israel’s last great (though evil) king, Jeroboam II, recaptured Hazor from Damascus and restored its status in the Levant as an economic and military powerhouse.
A fabled center of commerce and influence for over a thousand years, the site where daunting Hazor once stood is now a remote, windblown tel east of Highway 90 between Tiberias and Qiryat Shemona. Though it is the largest archaeological site in northern Israel one might easily miss Tel Hazor while driving north toward Lake Hula—a small, painted sign marks the turnoff—but my wife, Marcia, and I found it easily. Although this would be our first visit, I had already spent several years roaming the streets of that ancient city in my imagination.
Why such fascination with Hazor? In my novel, Faithless Heart, a fictional rendering of the biblical account of the prophet Hosea and the prostitute, Gomer, perhaps the most consequential love story ever told, Hazor’s fate—along with the fall of Iyon farther north—seals the doom of sovereign ancient Israel. “Go,” said the Lord to Hosea…
take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord. (Hos 1:2)
Gomer dishonored her husband and, like modern Israel will be, someday, she was forgiven though unworthy and supernaturally redeemed…
Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods…” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. (Hos 3:1-2)
Mighty but doomed Hazor, just before its fall, seemed then like the perfect time and place for Gomer’s fictional redemption to begin. I had spent countless hours there by dint of ancient texts and modern studies so I found myself nearly giddy when I finally arrived on scene in the flesh. The time had come to measure my imagination against that historic tel’s blowing dust, fallen columns and broken stones.
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