The Battle of Taanach and Deborah and Barak

The Battle of Taanach (or, as some call, it the Battle of Kedesh) took place near Taanach sometime between the Philistine invasion (1177 BC) and the Philistine capture of Joppa (Judges 5:17), c. 1160 BC.

It appears that the causes of the battle were complaints about the oppression of the Israelite tribes north of the Jezreel by the kingdom of Hazor. Deborah, an Ephraimite female “judge”, holding court between Ramah (Ramallah) and Bethel (el-Bireh), allied with Barak, a man from Kadesh-Naphtali (Tel Qedesh), 33° 6’48″N, 35°32’1″E, possibly to avoid Hazorite taxation of roads (Judges 5:6). YHWH commanded Barak to lead ten armies of Zebulun and Naphtali (not Issachar!) to Mount Tabor. Deborah came with Barak to Kedesh (Tell abu Kadeis/Qudeis in the Jezreel, near 32°33’34″N, 35°12’58″E, Kedesh-Naphtali is far too near to Hazor and is north, not south, of Mount Tabor, Kedesh near Poriya would have made Barak bring men of Issachar, too), to which Barak summoned his 9 armies of men of Zebelun and Naphtali (tribes north of the Kishon not subject to any kingdom other than Hazor). This is archeologically represented by Tell Abu Qudeis, Stratum VIII (Iron IA village, destroyed c. 1140), making it likely this Kedesh Barak then went up to Mount Tabor. The fact Sisera came to the Kishon instead of Tabor before fighting Barak strongly suggests Harosheth-Haggoyim is located south of the Kishon, in the territory of the Megiddo. This would suggest that the kingdom of Hazor had either conquered, occupied, or made a treaty with Megiddo before the battle of Taanach. This would also explain why Deborah, from distant Ephraim, joined Barak on his liberation campaign. A placing of Harosheth-Haggoyim south of the Kishon would be consistent with Adam Zertal’s identification of it with Ahwat in the Aruna pass (Wadi ‘Ara or ‘Nahal Iron), which is possible, but far from certain. The clash between Barak and Sisera took place just north of “Taanach near the waters of Megiddo” (Judges 5:19), about two and a half miles from Kedesh. It ended with Barak chasing the army all the way to Harosheth-Haggoyim.  Sisera escaped to the Oak of Zaanannim, near Kedesh in the Jezreel, where he died. In short, the battle was a first step to the final Israelite destruction of Hazor.

On Kedesh and Zaanannim

Kedesh is often considered to be Kedesh of Naphtali/Galilee alone, 33° 6’48″N, 35°32’1″E. However, 1 Chron 6:72 suggests a Kedesh in the Jezreel Valley. This is supported by Joshua 12:22, which places Kedesh between Megiddo and Jokneam in Joshua’s campaign list. The two words “of Naphtali/Galilee” seem to be used to distinguish the Galilean Kedesh with one in the Jezreel. A Kedesh in the Jezreel is also supported by the context of Judges 4 (Kedesh of Galilee was far too close to Hazor) and by Judges 5:19. The Jezreelite Kedesh was probably Tell abu Kadeis (32°33’34″N, 35°12’58″E?). The discovery of the approximate location of the “oak of Zaananinm” of Judges 4:11 and Joshua 19:33 will probably lead to a new and clearer understanding of the border of the Tribe of Naphtali. Indeed, if the tell is dug, it might lead to discovery of some very interesting remains, indeed!