The Sin of Achan & The Walls of Jericho

It seems the Israelite’s are behaving now, do they continue to walk with You?

“But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel. 

Aerial view of Jericho, looking south
The trenches and squares visible today are from Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in the 1950s and the more recent Italian-Palestinian excavation which began in 1997.

According to Kenyon’s dating, there was no city for the Israelites to conquer at the end of the 15th century B.C., the Biblical date for the event.

The Jericho of Joshua’s time could not be found-it was lost!

Through our research, however, we have found the lost city of Jericho, the Jericho attacked by the Israelites.

And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.

And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labor thither; for they are but few.

So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.

And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. 

And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.

And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?  Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! 

O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! 

For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 

Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. 

Fortifications of Jericho
Before the Israelites entered the promised land Moses told them, “You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky” (Dt 9:1).

The meticulous work of Kenyon showed that Jericho was indeed heavily fortified and that it had been burned by fire.

Unfortunately, she misdated her finds, resulting in what seemed to be a discrepancy between the discoveries of archaeology and the Bible.

She concluded that the Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed about 1550 B.C. by the Egyptians.

An in-depth analysis of the evidence, however, reveals that the destruction took place at the end of the 15th century B.C. (end of the Late Bronze I period), exactly when the Bible says the Conquest occurred (Wood 1990).

Pottery found at Jericho by John Garstang. This distinctive pottery, decorated with red and black geometric patterns, was in use only in the 15th century B.C., the time of the Israelite Conquest according to Biblical chronology.

Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. 

And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.

So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: 

And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan…of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. 

The Fallen Walls
The citizens of Jericho were well prepared for a siege.

A copious spring which provided water for ancient, as well as modern, Jericho lay inside the city walls.

At the time of the attack, the harvest had just been taken in (Jos 3:15), so the citizens had an abundant supply of food.

This has been borne out by many large jars full of grain found in the Canaanite homes by John Garstang in his excavation in the 1930s and also by Kenyon.

With a plentiful food supply and ample water, the inhabitants of Jericho could have held out for several years.

Schematic cross-section of the fortification system at Jericho.

And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.   

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 

And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD. 

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan…and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us?  The LORD shall trouble thee this day.  And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day.  So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger.  Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day” (Josh 7:1-26).

The Walls of Jericho 

Jericho is one of several cities that claim to be “The oldest city of the world.”

We will not consider the other claims here, and just say that Jericho is indeed one of the oldest cities in the world.

It is also the city that is the furthest below sea level.

Old Testament Jericho has undergone four excavations: by Charles Warren (1867-1868); Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger (1907-1909); John Garstang (1930—1936);and Kath­leen Kenyon (1952-1958).

Unfor­tunately, the first three digs used methods modern archaeologists consider primitive and unreliable, and the site has suffered from erosion.

Watzinger concluded that Jeri­cho was unoccupied during the Late Bronze Age, when it was supposed to have been destroyed by Joshua, while Garstang deter­mined that the heavily fortified city was destroyed late in this period.

But Kenyon argued that it was annihilated at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, around 1550 B.C., after which it boasted at best a meager settlement through the Late Bronze period—leaving no fortified city for Joshua to destroy.

Dating issues aside, much of the archaeological data corresponds with the Biblical account:

Jericho’s prominence and wealth suggest a great city. Excava­tions have shown that Jericho had massive defenses.

Its tell (mound composed of remains of successive settlements) was sur­rounded by an earthen embankment stabi­lized by a 15-foot (4.6 m) stone wall.

Atop the retaining wall stood a free-standing mud brick wall about 6 feet (1.8 m) thick and three or four times as high. A similar wall topped the embankment.

Jericho’s mud brick walls crumpled in a heap at the base of the retaining wall.

The tell of Jericho is named Tell es-Sultan.
There have been many excavations here and many disagreements over the interpretation of what has been found.

The picture here shows a Neolithic Tower that is considered the oldest building in the world.

The tower is 3.6 meters tall and is connected to a wall from the same time period.

Archaeologists suggest that an earthquake took place and that the fallen bricks formed a ramp by which the Israelites surmounted the retaining wall.

A 3 foot (.9 m) high ash layer verifies a massive conflagration (v. 24).

There are indications of plague in Jericho before its fall.

Joshua 3:15 states that Israel forded the Jordan at harvest time.

Collaborating evidence includes Rahab’s drying of flax on her roof and Israel’s Passover cele­bration (a springtime festival observed just prior to harvest) immediately before the battle.

Full jars of recently harvested grain confirm the brevity of the siege.

That Jericho’s grain was left to burn is extraordinary, suggesting that the invaders had an unusual reason for leaving it intact.

The details surrounding the destruction of Jericho City IV thus closely parallel what we read in the Bible. Unfortunately, the date of the fall of this city remains a problem.

If, as Watzinger and Kenyon argued, Jericho fell around 1550 b.c, there would have been no significant city there when Joshua arrived around 1400 b.c.

Nev­ertheless, however one deals with the chronological problem, there is much about City IV to encourage the Christian reader about the reliability of the Joshua 6 account.