The Fall of Jericho – 1451 B.C. & The Conquest of Canaan

If I heard correctly, Jericho has stone walls, how are they going to conquer that?

Old ruins in Tell es-Sultan better known as Jericho the oldest city in the world Ted Wright, an archaeologist, presented information related to the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and the later conquest of the area of Canaan. Ted Wright has participated in the excavation of Jericho and Khirbet el-Maqatir, thought to be the modern location of the city, Ai, mentioned in the Bible. One thing that Ted Wright said, which has stuck with me, is that modern archaeology continues to affirm people, places and other information contained in biblical accounts.

“And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them anymore, because of the children of Israel.

At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time” (Josh 5:1-2).

“And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt.

Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised” (Josh 5:4-5).

“And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day. And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho” (Josh 5:8-10).

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (Josh 5:13-15).

“Now Jericho was straightly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.

And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.

Signs of destruction from the final phase of City IV betray the calamity that befell Jericho.
“The destruction was complete,” wrote Kathleen Kenyon, the area’s excavator.

She discovered a debris layer a yard or more thick across her entire excavation area.

This debris is visible in the west balk behind the meter stick in the photo above (a balk is a side of an excavation square left standing to preserve a record of the square’s strata).

The destruction debris has been removed elsewhere to expose the remains of the destroyed city.

At the top of the north balk, upper right corner in the above photo, is an erosion layer consisting of material washed down from further up the slope.

Within the destruction debris of the north balk, we can see the remains of a late-14th century B.C. structure.

At upper left is a cobbled, stepped street (seen in close-up below left).

The line of stones that extends from the center left edge of the larger photo to the center bottom is a drain that passed under the street preserved at upper left.

The drain was originally covered with stones, but the channel of the drain is exposed here in the upper part.

And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.

And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him “(Josh 6:1-5).

Joshua relayed the message to the people.

“And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout” (Josh 6:10).

“And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.

And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.

And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.

Cypriot bichrome ware – pottery decorated in two colors.
Now known as a key indicator of Late Bronze Age occupation, this pottery, excavated by Garstang at Jericho, is just what Kenyon later looked for, unsuccessfully.

These sherds were found on the east side of the tell, apparently having slid there when a large structure upslope eroded.

In Garstang’s day, the significance of such bichrome ware was not yet appreciated, and he failed to single it out from the other pottery types he uncovered.

As fate would have it, Kenyon, who well knew the link of such ware to the Late Bronze Age, conducted her dig too far north of the eroded runoff to find any bichrome ware.

Had she dug further south, or had she been aware of Garstang’s finds, the debate over the date of Jericho’s fall could have taken a very different course: Kenyon might have dated Jericho’s demise to about 1400 B.C., (as Garstang did) and not to about 1550 B.C., the end of the Middle Bronze Age.

Why Kenyon did not study Garstang’s finds more closely remains a mystery.

And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.

But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.

But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye swear unto her” (Josh 6:15-22).

“And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.

And Joshua saved1Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.

So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country” (Josh 6:24-27).

1 God is always in control, and He doesn’t care what type of person you are because He will change You to fit His needs, as He had done to Moses.

Rahab became Joshua’s wife, and the mother of Boaz who married Ruth.

Four scarabs and a seal recovered from a cemetery northwest of Jericho.
A scarab is a small, beetle-shaped Egyptian amulet, inscribed on its underside, often with the name of a pharaoh.

Shown clockwise from upper left are scarabs bearing the names of Tuthmosis III (c. 1504-1450 B.C.E.), Amenhotep III (c. 1386-1349 B.C.E.) and Hatshepsut (c. 1503-1483 B.C.E.) and the reverse side of a seal, lower left, of Tuthmosis III.

The cemetery outside Jericho has yielded a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs from the 18th through the early 14th centuries B.C., contradicting Kenyon’s claim that the city was abandoned after 1550 B.C.

And Ruth was King David’s great grandmother, the blood line of Jesus Christ.

The author of Hebrews (many think it’s the Apostle Paul, but no one knows for certain) speaks of her as a shining example of faith (Heb 11:31).

James shows his appreciation of her as a person in whom faith was not merely theological but also practical (Jas 2:5).

The Conquest of Canaan

After defeating the nations east of the Jordan, Israel turned to the Prom­ised Land west of the Jordan Valley. The Canaanites occupied the coastal and valley areas and the Amorites the highlands.

Old Testament chronological data suggests that the con­quest took place at the end of the 15th century B.C.

The Conquests of Canaan
Joshua and the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River just south and east of the city of Schechem.

Many battles and “conquests” followed their entry into Canaan (also referred to as “The Promised Land”, “Israel” or “Palestine), but the first major battle that transpired took place due south of their entry, and is known as the Battle of Jericho.

The entire process, including the taking of Transjordan, took about seven years, most of that time spent in conquering Canaan.

Archaeologists disagree about the date of the conquest, variously supporting the fol­lowing possibilities:

A Late Bronze II Age Conquest

This view, placing the exodus during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II and the con­quest at the end of the 13th century B.C., was once almost unanimously held.

Ci­ties like Debir, Lachish, Bethel and Hazor were said to have been destroyed around 1220 b.c. by the Israelite onslaught.

But today many scholars have abandoned this thesis:

The Merneptah Stele (inscribed stone slab) suggests that Israel was already settled in the land.

Few walled cities have been discovered from this period.

It is impossible to place Jericho’s fall at this time.

A Late Bronze I Age Conquest

Late Bronze Age
The Late Bronze Age, known as the Mycenaean period around 1500 B.C.

In this time period the Greeks conquered Crete and took over some over their pottery designing styles with a cream colored background and designs painted in black and red.

This position argues for a conquest around 1400 B.C., as supported by a current understanding of the Biblical chronology.

The scenario:

Jericho’s capture gave the Israelites a foothold. From their camp at Gilgal they launched attacks westward into the high­lands.

The Dark Age
The Dark Age was when the making of pottery went downhill.

No one had enough money to spend and especially for pottery.

Most pottery that was done in this time was in peoples homes without a potters wheel and by people who did know much about pottery.

But between 1000 and 900 BC pottery started making its way back to become popular again.

This era was called the “photo-geometric” because it was before the geometric style yet there

After taking Ai they subjugated the southern part of the country.

Joshua did not attack Shechem, thought to be a major city at this time, instead striking a coalition of northern kings at Hazor.

Shechem, in the central highlands near Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim, separated the southern from the northern city-states.

Joshua could not have avoided Shechem, and some scholars even suggest Shechemite cooperation with Israel.

Problems With a Late Bronze I Age Conquest

Canaan was sparsely populated, lacking the great cities the Bible mentions.

Most interpreters date Jericho’s destruc­tion to the end of the Middle Bronze Age, over 100 years earlier.

The megalithic tombs of the Stone Age
In the open, cultivated countryside, the farmers of the Stone Age built barrows or burial mounds.

In the oldest barrows the burial chambers were built of wood.

Later the chambers were constructed of large granite blocks.

The burial mounds were monuments to ancestors and they were built in their thousands.

They testify to great engineering skills, and it took the cooperation of many people to build them.

The book of Joshua nowhere cites She­chem as a power city.

God commanded Israel to exterminate the Canaanites.

Joshua 9 men­tions the Gibeonite trick, but this only under­scores Joshua’s unwillingness to cooperate with Canaanite cities and contradicts the notion of Shechemite cooperation with Israel.

A Late Middle Bronze Age Conquest

Cities were heavily fortified.

The end of this age saw a major societal collapse and the destruction of numerous cities, including Jericho.

The population may have plummeted by as much as 80%.

Bronze age: Water system at Tel Gezer
Inhabitants of the first settlement at Gezer, toward the end of the 4th millennium B.C., lived in large rock-cut caves.

In the Early Bronze Age, an unfortified settlement covered the tel.

It was destroyed in the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. and abandoned for several hundred years.

In the Middle Bronze Age (first half of the 2nd millennium B.C.), Gezer became a major city.

The tel was surrounded by a massive stone wall and towers, protected by a five meter high earthen rampart covered with plaster.

The wooden city gate, near the southwestern corner of the wall, was fortified by two towers.

Most scholars have attributed this destruction to the Egyptians — a premise now widely questioned based on lack of evidence.

Problems With a Late Middle Bronze Age

This period is thought to have ended about 1550 B.C., too early for the Bible’s chronology.

It is difficult to relate Egyptian Chronology to a 1550 B.C. conquest. No suitable pharaoh reigned then.

Proposed Solutions to the Problem With a Late Middle Bronze Age Conquest

Scholars have tried to correlate the exodus with the expulsion from Hyksos.

This solution is unconvincing, and there remains the problem of the discrepancy with Biblical chronology.

Some historians suggest re-dating the end of the Middle Bronze period.

If the date were lowered by 150 years, to around 1400 B.C., this era could have ended at the traditional date of the conquest. But this would also require a re-dating of Egyptian chronology.

Most interpreters find this view unconvincing and eccentric.

Archaeologists routinely revise older, seemingly well-established conclusions.

The interpretation of the data in Palestine is fraught with difficulties; even well-received interpretations may be built upon flimsy foundations.

Given this uncertainty, it would be amazing if researchers were able to attain conclusive evidence regarding the time and circumstances of the conquest.