Just before Israel's most famous general began his greatest military campaign, he did so knowing that his task included defeat of one of the largest, wealthiest and most powerful cities in the Middle East. It was the de facto capital of numerous kingdoms who depended on the city for commerce and religious unity. It was a kind of Mecca for the deity of the day who called himself Baal. Hazor was also the proxy power for Egypt, the place from which exiled Jews had fled, escaping its powerful and murderous wrath.
The general was Joshua. His campaign, under the direct authority of his God, is recorded in the biblical book that bears his name.
The city-state, unknown to most today, was Hazor.
Sitting in the north of today's Israel, the city was north of the Sea of Galilee and only a few miles from today's Lebanon on one side and Syria on the other. At the peak of power in its day, the Canaanite city-state closely watched while Joshua emphatically defeated every kingdom and every army in south. When all of them were conquered, Hazor did not hesitate. It mobilized a coalition of kings and their armies from thirteen regions. The number of troops was vast. According to the biblical record, they were "as many as sand on the seashore." And they were equipped with the ancient equivalent tank battalions: "very many" horses and chariots.
The battle is recorded in Joshua, chapter 11. According to the text, Joshua's God joined His general in surveying enemy forces. The implication is that He scoffed. "Don't be afraid of them," He said. "Tomorrow I will deliver all of them dead into your hands." Even their "tanks" would be destroyed.
When this very thing happened, Joshua proceeded to capture Hazor and burn it to the ground. Its devastating defeat included humiliation of its pseudo-god, Baal.
Almost 4,000 years later, in July of 2016, a team of archaeologists lead by Israel's Hebrew University were engaged in a painstaking and ongoing excavation of Tel-Hazor, the same ancient powerhouse defeated by Joshua.
What they discovered was irrefutable proof of the city's link to Egypt, the same place from which Israelites fled as recorded in the biblical book of Exodus.
The foot they discovered, including hieroglyphics, came from the statue of life-size many. Informed speculation is that the statue came from a temple dedicated to the Egyptian god, Ptah.
Hebrew University's Professor Amnon Ben-Tor has been excavating Tel-Hazor for more than 27 years. He says the site the most important one related to the biblical record.
It certainly is the largest. Covering more than 200 acres (81 hectares), its population 4,000 years ago was about twenty thousand people. This alone made it the largest and most important city in the region. Its size, location and power make it easy to understand why the Bible says that, in Joshua's time, it was "the head" of all the kingdoms it summoned to fight, and squash, this general of the Hebrews, an entire class of slaves that escaped its Egyptian masters.
Discovery of an Egyptian figure's severed foot is towing scholars deeper into understanding the sophisticated realities of Joshua's age when, under his leadership, Israel took possession of the land that its God had granted them forever.