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The Walls of Jericho by Dr. Bryant Wood
 

When one hears the name “Jericho” one naturally thinks of Israelites marching, trumpets sounding and walls falling. It is a wonderful story of faith and victory that we enjoy reading and telling in Sunday school class, but did it really happen? The skeptic would say no, it is merely a folk tale to explain the ruins at Jericho. The reason for this negative outlook is the excavation carried out at the site in the 1950s under the direction of British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. She concluded,

It is a sad fact that of the town walls of the Late Bronze Age, within which period the attack by the Israelites must fall by any dating, not a trace remains.…The excavation of Jericho, therefore, has thrown no light on the walls of Jericho of which the destruction is so vividly described in the Book of Joshua (Kenyon 1957: 261–62).

Thomas A. Holland, who was editor and co-author of Kenyon’s excavation reports, summarized the apparent results as follows:

Kenyon concluded, with reference to the military conquest theory and the L[ate] B[ronze Age] walls, that there was no archaeological data to support the thesis that the town had been surrounded by a wall at the end of LB I (ca. 1400 BCE...) (Holland 1997: 223).

H.J. Franken, a member of the Jericho excavation staff, stated,

Miss Kenyon’s work has presented scholars with the hard fact that if Joshua was active with the incoming Israelites either c. 1400 or c. 1200 B.C. he would not have been able to capture a great walled city of Jericho, because there was no city of Jericho in these periods…the huge ruins of the Hyksos city gave rise to the folktale attached to the hero Joshua (1965: 190, 200).

According to Kenyon’s dating, there was no city for the Israelites to conquer at the end of the 15th century BC, 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.
 

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

The mound, or “tell,” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some 12–15 ft high. On top of that was a mud brick wall 6 ft thick and about 20–26 ft high (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). At the crest of the embankment was a similar mud brick wall whose base was roughly 46 ft above the ground level outside the retaining wall. This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho

The account of the spies going to Jericho in Joshua 2 mentions a city gate (vv. 5, 7). Starting in 1997, renewed excavations have been undertaken at Jericho by the University of Rome and the Palestinian Department of Antiquities. In 1998 they reported finding a gateway (Agence France-Presse 1998). We will have to wait for the official publication of this find, however, to know if it relates to the city attacked by the Israelites or not.

Within the upper wall was an area of approximately 6 acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system together was half again as large, or about 9 acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 100 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 600. From excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city.
 

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.

After the seventh trip around the city on the seventh day, Scripture tells us that the wall “fell flat” (Jos 6:20). A more accurate rendering of the Hebrew word here would be “fell beneath itself.” Is there evidence for such an event at Jericho? It turns out that there is ample evidence that the mud brick city wall collapsed and was deposited at the base of the stone retaining wall at the time the city met its end.

Section drawing of Kenyon’s west trench, showing the fallen mud bricks from the collapsed city wall (shaded area to the left of retaining wall KD).

Kenyon’s work was the most detailed. On the west side of the tell, at the base of the retaining, or revetment, wall, she found,

fallen red bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment. These probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [and/or]…the brickwork above the revetment (Kenyon 1981: 110).

In other words, she found a heap of bricks from the fallen city walls! The renewed Italian-Palestinian excavations found exactly the same thing at the southern end of the mound in 1997.

According to the Bible, Rahab’s house was incorporated into the fortification system (Jos 2:15). If the walls fell, how was her house spared? As you recall, the spies had instructed Rahab to bring her family into her house and they would be rescued. When the Israelites stormed the city, Rahab and her family were saved as promised (Jos 6:17, 22–23). At the north end of the tell of Jericho, archaeologists made some astounding discoveries that seem to relate to Rahab.

The German excavation of 1907-1909 found that on the north a short stretch of the lower city wall did not fall as everywhere else. A portion of that mud brick wall was still standing to a height of 8 ft (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). What is more, there were houses built against the wall! It is quite possible that this is where Rahab’s house was located. Since the city wall formed the back wall of the houses, the spies could have readily escaped. From this location on the north side of the city, it was only a short distance to the hills of the Judean wilderness where the spies hid for three days (Jos 2:16, 22). Real estate values must have been low here, since the houses were positioned on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. Not the best place to live in time of war! This area was no doubt the overflow from the upper city and the poor part of town, perhaps even a slum district.

After the city walls fell, how could the Israelites surmount the 12–15 foot high retaining wall at the base of the tell? Excavations have shown that the bricks from the collapsed walls fell in such a way as to form a ramp against the retaining wall. The Israelites could merely climb up over the pile of rubble, up the embankment, and enter the city. The Bible is very precise in its description of how the Israelites entered the city: “The people went up into the city, every man straight before him” (Jos 6:20, KJV). The Israelites had to go up, and that is what archaeology has revealed. They had to go from ground level at the base of the tell to the top of the rampart in order to enter the city.
 

Destruction by Fire

The Israelites “burned the whole city and everything in it” (Jos 6: 24). Once again, the discoveries of archaeology have verified the truth of this record. A portion of the city destroyed by the Israelites was excavated on the east side of the tell. Wherever the archaeologists reached this level they found a layer of burned ash and debris about 3 ft thick. Kenyon described the massive devastation:

The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire (Kenyon 1981: 370).

Both Garstang and Kenyon found many storage jars full of grain that had been caught in the fiery destruction. This is a unique find in the annals of archaeology. Grain was valuable, not only as a source of food, but also as a commodity which could be bartered. Under normal circumstances, valuables such as grain would have been plundered by the conquerors. Why was the grain left to be burned at Jericho? The Bible provides the answer. Joshua commanded the Israelites:

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury (Jos 6:17–19).

The grain left at Jericho and found by archaeologists in modern times gives graphic testimony to the obedience of the Israelites nearly three and a half millennia ago. Only Achan disobeyed, leading to the debacle at Ai described in Joshua 7.

Such a large quantity of grain left untouched gives silent testimony to the truth of yet another aspect of the Biblical account. A heavily fortified city with an abundant supply of food and water would normally take many months, even years, to subdue. The Bible says that Jericho fell after only seven days. The jars found in the ruins of Jericho were full, showing that the siege was short since the people inside the walls consumed very little of the grain.
 

Lessons of Jericho

Jericho was once thought to be a “Bible problem” because of the seeming disagreement between archaeology and the Bible. When the archaeology is correctly interpreted, however, the opposite is the case. The archaeological evidence supports the historical accuracy of the Biblical account in every detail. Every aspect of the story that could possibly be verified by the findings of archaeology is, in fact, verified.

There are a number of theories as to how the walls of Jericho came down. Both Garstang and Kenyon found evidence of earthquake activity at the time the city met its end. If God did use an earthquake to accomplish His purposes that day, it was still a miracle since it happened at precisely the right moment, and was manifested in such a way as to protect Rahab’s house. No matter what agency God used, it was ultimately the faith of the Israelites that brought the walls down: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Heb 11:30).

The example of Jericho is a wonderful spiritual lesson for God’s people yet today. There are times when we find ourselves facing enormous “walls” that are impossible to break down by human strength. If we put our faith in God and follow His commandments, even when they seem foolish to us, He will perform “great and awesome deeds” (Dt 4:34) and give us the victory.

For drawings and pictures please go to the following site: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/06/The-Walls-of-Jericho.aspx
 
 
 
Extra-Biblical Evidence for the Conquest by Dr. Bryant Wood
 

One of the challenges facing those who hold to a historical Conquest as presented in the book of Joshua is that there is alleged to be no other documentation for this event outside the Bible. Critics are quick to point out that the Bible is a religious book, so the Conquest account could have been exaggerated, or even fabricated, to support the author’s religious message. To counter this, one can appeal to the archaeological evidence for destructions at Jericho, Kh. el-Maqatir (identified as Ai by this author) and Hazor as supportive of a Conquest around 1400 BC, the approximate date of the event according to Biblical chronology (Wood 1993: 262-69). But archaeological evidence is subject to interpretation, so those who disagree with the Biblical model readily can find reasons to dismiss this evidence as being irrelevant to the arrival of Israel in Canaan.

Secular scholars are generally of the opinion that any aspect of the early history of Israel prior to the kingdom period cannot be taken at face value unless the veracity of the events described can be validated by means of independent witnesses. This approach is strongly biased and nonscientific. Other ancient documents are assumed to be accurate unless there is credible evidence to suggest otherwise. These documents are just as religious as the Bible, as the writers of ancient texts regularly mention their pagan gods and what the gods did on their behalf.

Where do skeptics expect the required extra-Biblical documentation to come from? British scholar Kenneth Kitchen has pointed out the general dearth of historical texts from Canaan prior to the kingdom period (1998: 55-56). Apart from a few limited references to campaigns in Canaan in Egyptian records, the only historical texts we have are the Amarna Letters from a period of 20 or so years in the mid-14th century BC (Moran 1992). According to Biblical chronology, this would be the early Judges period, after the Conquest had already taken place. From the Conquest period itself, ca. 1406-1400 BC, we have no written records whatsoever that could provide an independent witness to events occurring in Canaan.

In spite of this negative appraisal, we do have several documents that provide indirect evidence as to the factuality of the Conquest. The Merenptah Stela has been known for over 100 years. One innocuous, but highly significant, section of the stela records a campaign into Canaan by Merenptah in about 1210 BC. One of the results of the campaign, according to the stela, was that, “Israel is laid waste, having no seed. Khurru has become widowed, because of Nile-land” (Kitchen 2003: 15). As was so often the case in ancient records, the author was less than truthful in extolling Merenptah’s accomplishments. Merenptah definitely did not annihilate Israel as the stela implies. On the other hand, the mention of Israel in the list of city-states and nations supposedly defeated by the Pharaoh attests that Israel was an important entity in Merenptah’s day.

The king of the greatest nation on earth certainly would not have boasted of defeating an unknown or unimportant people. Since Israel is the only people group from central Canaan mentioned in the text, it suggests Israel was the most powerful populace in central Canaan at that time. In addition, Merenptah boasted that all of Khurru, a general term for Syria-Canaan, became a widow because of the alleged eradication of Israel. This indicates that Israel’s loss would have been devastating to the entire region, again attesting to Israel’s importance. In order to achieve this status, Israel must have been in Canaan for a significant length of time prior to 1210 BC. Thus, the Merenptah Stela provides indirect evidence that Israel came into the land ca. 1400 BC as the Bible indicates.

Two recent articles provide additional support for the Biblical model for Israel’s entry into Canaan. The first deals with another apparent reference to Israel in an Egyptian text (Görg 2001). A column base fragment, now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, is inscribed with a portion of a name list. The surviving names are Ashkelon, Canaan and a third name that is only partially preserved. Görg interprets the third name as Israel. He dates the inscription to the reign of Ramesses II, earlier than the Merenptah Stela.

Even more important is the fact that Görg maintains, based on the spellings, that the names were copied from an even earlier name list from around the time of Amenhotep II, who ruled ca. 1453-1419 or 1427-1401 BC, depending upon which Egyptian chronology one uses. This is earth-shattering with regard to the date and nature of the Israelite entry into Canaan! If Görg is right, it would place Israel in Canaan at about the time of the Biblical date for the Conquest. But, like nearly all important archaeological discoveries, there is an element of uncertainty about Görg’s conclusions. Since the name of Israel is only partially preserved, and the spelling is slightly different than on the Merenptah Stela, there is room for doubt. To date, however, no one has challenged Görg’s interpretations.

The second article has to do with a strong tradition that the Phoenicians who settled in North Africa were driven out of Canaan by Joshua (Frendo 2002). A Greek historian named Procopius of Caesarea wrote in the sixth century AD,

They [the Canaanites] also built a fortress in Numidia, where now is the city called Tigisis [probably in Algeria]. In that place are two columns made of white stone near by the great spring, having Phoenician letters cut in them which say in the Phoenician tongue:“We are they who fled from before the face of Joshua, the robber, the son of Nun” (Frendo 2002: 37).

Moses of Khoren, an earlier Armenian historian (AD 370-86), also referred to the two inscribed Phoenician columns (Frendo 2002: 38). Later Greek historians referred to this tradition. For example, it is stated in the Chronicon Paschale, an anonymous work from about AD 630,

The inhabitants of these [islands, i.e., the Balearic Islands north of Algeria and east of Spain] were Canaanites fleeing from the face of Joshua the son of Nun (Frendo 2002: 40).

The original Greek text of this quotation is much earlier, going back to 234 BC (Frendo 2002: 40). It is highly unlikely that the Phoenicians of North Africa would have invented such a demeaning tradition to explain how they came to be in North Africa.

Although one can explain away individual portions of the evidence for a Conquest, the cumulative total of the Biblical, archaeological and extra-Biblical evidence presents a strong case for the historicity of the Biblical account of the Conquest of Canaan as recorded in the book of Joshua and alluded to elsewhere throughout the Old Testament.

 
 
 
Biblical Illiteracy by Henry B. Smith Jr
 

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

One of the most serious problems facing the Church in the 21st century is the problem of Biblical illiteracy. Simply put, most professing Christians do not possess a sound and coherent understanding of the Bible, beginning with sound doctrine and general Biblical history. Evidence for this sad reality is quite overwhelming. And there are several salient reasons for this dangerous trend.
 

The Church Has Been “Dumbed Down” by the Culture

The public education system has churned out millions upon millions of young people, while holding to relatively low standards of achievement. We live in a society today where challenging children and teenagers with high standards is considered harmful to their “self-esteem.” Bad grades written in red ink are considered a cause for counseling. Instead of pushing children to excel, standards of academic achievement are lowered. Failure and difficulty, properly controlled by loving parents, should be used to motivate and develop character. Christian children are not immune to these lowered standards. Children in the Church are not properly challenged to learn fundamental doctrine and matters of Biblical history. They are also not properly taught to pursue personal holiness. Instead, Sunday school is designed to keep children entertained. Like most of our society, many Christian parents seem more concerned with appeasing children and entertaining them as opposed to disciplining and educating them. This culture of entertainment creates short attention spans and an aversion to learning.

Regarding the educational and intellectual state of the Church, Daniel Wallace succinctly says:

Those in ministry must close the gap between the church and the academy. We have to educate believers. Instead of trying to isolate laypeople from critical scholarship, we need to insulate them. They need to be ready for the barrage, because it is coming. The intentional dumbing down of the church for the sake of filling more pews will ultimately lead to defection from Christ (2006: 337).
 

The Church Has Adopted the Cultural Mandate to “Feel Good”

Experience rules supreme in today’s culture. “If it feels good, do it,” and forget the consequences! This mindset is at its worst in the entertainment world, particularly with reality television. One of my favorite pastimes is watching NFL football. I marvel at the athletic ability of the players, the required mental toughness and the nature of the sport. However, these days I have to tolerate players dancing around like they just won the championship after making routine plays that require no such celebration. This chest-pounding, self-aggrandizing behavior is all about doing what “feels good.”

This type of “feel good” approach to life has also infected the Church on a massive scale. Sunday sermons are no longer designed to give praise to a just and holy God and call sinners to repentance, but to make Christians “feel good” about themselves. “God wants us to be happy,” we are told. Experience matters most. This teaching is totally antithetical to what the Bible teaches about man and his relation to God. Randall Price has said it well: “[T]he church remains in a crisis with an experientially oriented evangelicalism” (2007: 26).

Personal experience is important for the individual Christian, but should not hold a place of primacy in the life of the believer. “Christian faith is not being built on the firm foundation of hardwon thoughts, ideas, history, or theology. Spirituality is being built on private emotional attachments,” writes Gary Burge. “In short, the spiritual life has become less a matter of learning than it is a matter of experiencing” (1999).

The mandates for Christian thinking and holy living are found within the pages of Scripture. Therefore, believers must have a fundamental grasp of Biblical teaching as they walk through the process of sanctification, which means they must study it to understand its meaning! And leaders in the Church must teach it to them so they can properly understand it! “Experiencing God” and having good feelings can be dangerously misleading due to the influence of the sin nature and evil forces in the spiritual realm. Gary Johnson explains the pervasive problem in overemphasizing experience and essentially promoting ant intellectualism in the modern American church:

The idea that faith must be accommodated to culture has undermined the teaching of the church’s faith. Popular evangelical faith has developed a bias against theology (not to mention the intellect) and has elevated the bias to the level of a virtue…This is reflected more and more in the pulpits of professing evangelical churches. Doctrine…is purposely avoided (2005: 1).

They focus on practical matters, such as family concerns and personal growth, not doctrine, sometimes mixing psychotherapeutic concepts with biblical teaching. They often emphasize religious experience. They seek to feel God’s love, not understand church theology, a theme that plays well with the decreasing importance of denominational doctrine among baby boomers (Cimino 1998: 2).

I recently received Donald G. Barnhouse’s Romans commentary for Christmas from my wife. It was published in the early 1950s. The preface provides an explanation and background for the writing of the series, which is opposite to the culture of the church today:

When I first became pastor…I began my ministry by preaching on the epistle to the Romans. My first Sunday in that pulpit found me giving an exposition of the first verse of the epistle. The second Sunday I started with the second verse; for three and one half years I never took a text outside of the epistle to the Romans. I saw the church transformed; the audience filled the pews and then the galleries; and the work went on with great blessing” (1952: i; emphasis added).

The modern evangelical Church often claims that this type of teaching is not needed to draw people into the Church. In fact, as stated by Gary Johnson above, this type of teaching is avoided by the Church, for fear of empty pews. The fact of the matter is, that is the exact type of teaching needed to bring about real transformation in people’s lives. The Word of God has divine and mysterious power that radically transforms people. Entertainment programs, comfy couches, soft lighting and candles do not change lives. This is a shallow and unchallenging Christianity that ultimately discourages churchgoers and leaves them unchanged. As a result, churchgoers are not equipped to defend the faith, live holy lives, and profess the good news of the Gospel to a lost world.
 

The Church Has Allowed Elements of Unbiblical Worldviews to Infect Its Teaching

Most Christians integrate unbiblical worldviews into their thinking without even realizing it. “Christians today have accepted and combined so many ideas from other worldviews and religions that they have created their own faith system” (Vlatch). What’s worse is that church leaders do the same thing, unwittingly leading people to believe things about themselves, the world, and the nature of truth that are contradictory to what the Bible actually teaches. Theistic evolution, long-age reinterpretations of the first chapter of Genesis, “local flood” nonsense, the sundering of much of the Old Testament from its historical connections, postmodernism, relativism, New Age beliefs, and a multitude of other unbiblical ideas have been unwittingly propagated in the Church for decades.

Contentious social and political issues are avoided, although they are explicitly addressed in Scripture or deduced from Biblical teaching, such as just war theory, abortion, homosexuality, the definition of marriage, the nature of man, the problem of evil, the proper role of government, capital punishment, property rights, corporal punishment and the raising of children, etc. Scripture touches upon all areas of life and reality, and is absolutely authoritative in its assertions. Christians must learn to reject views that are antithetical to Scripture, but they must be taught to do so by Church leadership. Instead of inculcating these unbiblical worldviews into individual minds and creating confusion, the Church should be challenging its members to reject anti-Biblical views and allow the truths of Scripture to renew their minds.