The Conquest of Ai & Jericho and the Date of the Conquest

That’s a pretty stiff sentence for stealing from the enemy, but I guess that lets people know that You mean business.

I know if we ask You for help You’ll help us, but You do things Your way, which don’t always make since, but they always work out best.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption;’ but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal 6:7-8).

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be 1 tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

But every man is 2 tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. 

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished bringeth forth death. 

Do not err, my beloved brethren” (Jas 1:13-16).

Et-Tell, the Remains of Ai
Ai was the second city Joshua’s army attacked during the Conquest.

The ruins of this city are a mound known to archaeology as et-Tell.

A few individuals have questioned this identification, motivated by the fact that the archaeology at et-Tell at the traditional date for the Conquest does not fit the biblical account of the Conquest at all.

However, the geography and topography of et-Tell closely match the biblical description of Ai.

“And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor, and sent them away by night. 

And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye already:

And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them. 

(For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them.

Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 

And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you” (Josh 8:1-8).

The Destruction Layer
Josh 8:28 records: ” And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day”.

The Bible clearly indicates that the city was burned when it was destroyed by Joshua.

Judith Marquet-Krause conducted extensive excavations at et-Tell in the 1930’s.

She reported:

“The city dated back to the dawn of the Early Bronze and had been destroyed at the end of this same period, or at the very beginning of the Middle Bronze by a violent fire.”

The Heap of Stones

The Bible goes on to record: “And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day” (Josh 8:29).

Judith Marquet-Krause recorded the following paragraphs in her report on her excavation at Ai:

The discovery of the sanctuary was the unexpected result of a long and difficult labor.

Situated to the South-West of the palace, on a less elevated piece of ground, the site completely disappeared beneath a 6 meter [over 19 feet] high heap of stones, covering a more or less circular area of about 20 ares [.5 acre].

This heap made me think of a tower dominating the view to the South-West.

Until most of the other remains were found, almost at the surface of the soil, it was difficult to foresee if the transport of that heap of stones would reward our effort.

But, during the previous work, one characteristic attracted our attention: all heaps of stones cover over some intact, ancient, remains.

With an average of 80 to 100 men, lasting one long month, we were relentless to transport the stones.

Cleared of the rubbish, a 5000-year-old sanctuary, associated with a Citadel, offered itself to our eyes with its set of religious furniture scattered on the ground.

“And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.  And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 

And there was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. 

And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.

And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. 

And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.

And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape. 

And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua” (Josh 8:14-23).

“And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 

For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 

Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua” (Josh 8:25-27).

“And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.

Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 

And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel” (Josh 8:29-32).

“And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” (Josh 8:34-35).

1 The devil tempted Jesus, but he failed.  Matt 4:1-11.

2 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Cor 10:13). 

Don’t let this scripture confuse you, it doesn’t mean that God won’t let bad things happen, it means that if you walk away from him so far that You can’t hear Him and bad things will happen, but if you return to Him then He will make the bad good. 

This may be confusing and hard to understand, but I have experience in this.  Remember that God loves you and any good father will allow unpleasant things happen for you to learn.

Digging Up Joshua’s Ai: Infant burial jar and offering vessels.
Remains of an infant around the age of birth were placed in the jar and buried beneath the floor of a building just inside the gate of the LB I fortress.

The location of the building and a fine ware pedestal vase included with the burial suggest the structure was the commandants’ headquarters.

The find confirms that there were women in the fortress as stated in Josh 8:25.

 “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If you endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. 

Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb 12:6-15).

Jericho and
the Date of the Conquest

Who destroyed Jericho City IV? The “early date” for the conquest places it at around 1400 b.c., while the “late date” sets it at about 1220 B.C. There are at least three dif­ferent ways interpreters have tried to corre­late the fall of City IV with the” early date:”

A Late Bronze I conquest theory asserts that Jericho was conquered by Joshua in the latter part of Late Bronze I at about 1400 B.C..

This theory is based on the presence of Late Bronze I pottery at the site. Also, scarabs of Egyptian pharaohs Hatshepsut.

“Gibeath-haaraloth”, (Gilgal)
Holman Bible Dictionary

Place name meaning, “hill of foreskins.” KJV translates the place name in Josh 5:3 , while modern translations transliterate it.

Joshua used traditional flint stone knives rather than more modern metal ones to circumcise the Israelite generation about to conquer Canaan.

A whole generation had neglected God’s commandment and lived as strangers or sojourners in the wilderness.

The new generation forsook the sojourner status with God and became His people through circumcision at the cultic site near Gilgal.

This site marked Joshua’s and the nation’s obedience to divine command showing readiness to receive the divine gift of the land.

The exact location is not known.

Thutmose III and Amenhotep III have been found there. These scarabs indicate a habitation of the site during the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty, or during Late Bronze I.

All of this suggests that the catastrophic destruction of Jericho City IV took place at the close of Late Bronze I, about 1400 B.C.

Against this view, others have made the following arguments:

Late Bronze I does not work well with an Israelite conquest. There were very few great, walled cities in Canaan during this period, in contrast to the Bible’s assertions that the Israelites were in awe of the high walled cities that confronted them (Deut 1:28).

A number of scholars believe that a small scale occupation of Jericho during the Late Bronze Age had no walls and could not have been the city Joshua encountered.

The Late Bronze I pottery found there may relate to this small occupation, not to City IV, and the Late Bronze I pottery at Jericho may have no relationship to Joshua’s conquest.

The scarab of Amenhotep III poses an obstacle for arguing this view. If the Late Bronze I Jericho was indeed destroyed by Joshua, then the scarab of Amenhotep III obviously had to have arrived there before the city fell.

The dates of Amenhotep’s reign are usually set at 1390—1352 (or 1386—1349),too late for Joshua’s victory, which is generally set at around 1400 b.c.

The re-dated Middle Bronze conquest theory agrees with the conventional wis­dom that Jericho City IV fell at the end of the Middle Bronze Age.

However, it re-dates the Middle Bronze Age and asserts that the chronology of Egypt and the Middle Bronze Age needs to be revised downward by about 150 years.

Under this premise Jericho City IV actually did fall at the end of the Middle Bronze period—around 1400, not 1550 b.c. Two facts are in favor of this approach, but there is a problem as well:

Most interpreters believe that City IV fell at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, so this theory does not have the burden of having to overturn that conclusion.

A conquest of Canaan works well with what is known about the end of the Middle Bronze Age.

The cities of the land were forti­fied with high walls at this time, but in the next period, Late Bronze I, they were for the most part meager sites with little or no forti­fication.

It is conceivable that the Israelite conquest was instrumental in bringing Mid­dle Bronze culture to an end.

Most interpreters, however, regard the re-dating of the end of the Middle Bronze Age by 150 years to be radical and unwarranted.

There is currently a movement in some quar­ters to lower dramatically the conventional chronology for Egypt and thus also the date for the Middle Bronze/Late Bronze bound­ary, but mainstream Egyptology has yet to embrace this proposal.

The conventional Middle Bronze con­quest theory holds to both a Middle Bronze date for Jericho City IV and the conventional chronology. It argues that the exodus took place during the Middle Bronze Age and that Joshua came to Jericho about 1550. This approach, however, has very few supporters:

It flies in the face of the Bible’s own chronology, which strongly indicates a con­quest in about 1400.

It unconvincingly entangles the exodus story with the history of the Hyksos.

It is extremely difficult archaeologically to account for Israel in the land as early as the year 1550.

Thus, the archaeology of Jeri­cho as we currently understand it is impossible to reconcile with a” late date” for the conquest (c. 1220 B.C.).