Extensive archaeological surveys of Palestine have revealed grave discrepancies between the history of the Holy Land and the history recorded in the Old Testament. To state just a few examples, in the book of Joshua, the city of Ai is recorded as being the site of a thriving Caananite city. However excavations of Ai show that Ai was uninhabited at the time of the Israelite conquest, and the occupation of Ai during the Iron Age was an Israelite occupation. If this is truly a reading of the experience of the Israelites that has been projected into the past by the compilers of the book of Joshua, then it must be taken as a pious fiction. The same can be said for Hebron, which was inhabited during the Middle Bronze Age, but was uninhabited during the Iron Age when it should have been, as described by the book of Joshua. Finally, work in the Transjordan has seriously called into question the entire narrative in Numbers where the Israelites were supposed to have fought with an Ammorite people. As an evangelical, the idea of taking the book of Joshua as pious fiction is repulsive, but the hard data that is present militates against taking the narratives at face value. I am prepared to see the account of the book of Joshua as a digested history that describes what actually took a fair amount of time, as happening in several swoops. However, to say that the book is a pastiche of actual occurrences and pious fables is difficult to swallow. Who is to say that the most important bits aren't pious fables as well?Although I don't see this question very often, I nonetheless SHOULD--it is a very good question and one that is often found in scholarly writings. Consider this rather strong and 'firm' statement of the position by Redford [ECIAT:265, numbers in the text are markers for my latter comments]:
A detailed comparison of this version of the Hebrew takeover of Palestine with the extra-Biblical evidence totally discredits the former. Not only is there a complete absence, as we have seen, in the records of the Egyptian empire of any mention or allusion to such a whirlwind of annihilation , but also Egyptian control over Canaan and the very cities Joshua is supposed to have taken scarcely wavered during the entire period of the Late Bronze Age . Far more damaging, however, than this argument from silence  is the archaeological record. Sites such as Hormah, Arad, Jericho, 'Ai, and Jarmuth had indeed suffered violent destruction, but this had been during the Early Bronze Age or at the end of Middle Bronze and during the Late Bronze Age they had lain unoccupied (save for squatters) ; others such as Kadesh Barnea, Heshbon, and Gibeon were not to be settled until the Iron Age . Those sites that do show massive destruction at the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age, about 1200 B.C., can as easily be explained as victims of the movement of the Sea Peoples . The regions of Edom and Moab, represented in Numbers as sedentary states , supported only a few cities in the Late Bronze Age maintaining the north- south trade route to Damascus; the Edomite and Moabite kingdoms, which Numbers wrongly understands to be already in existence, did not put in an appearance before the ninth century B.C. Finally, the overall archaeological survey of settlement patterns in the final two centuries of the second millennium B.C. does not show destruction at a single point in time, but rather a gradual settlement of pastoralists (not completed until the tenth century)  first in the hill country and then in regions densely populated by sedentary inhabitants.Or the more moderate statements by Mazar [OT:AAI:282-285, selections]:
"Systematic surveys and excavations at Kadesh Barnea and in the Beersheba and Arad valleys have not produced any archaeological evidence of the Late Bronze Age, the period to which the exodus is commonly as- signed. At Kadesh Barnea, a third-millennium settlement was followed by a long gap in occupation lasting until the tenth century, when an oval fortress was erected as part of a network of such fortresses throughout the Negev. Not one Late Bronze Age or Iron Age I sherd was found in the surveys, which combed the oasis of Kadesh Barnea and its vicinity, or in the systematic excavations of the mound. Neither did the extensive studies of Y. Aharoni and his associates in the Arad valley and in the Beersheba region produce any hint of Late Bronze Age occupation. Arad itself, after the destruction of an Early Bronze Age II town, remained unoccupied until the tenth century, when the Israelite settlement there was founded. There is thus no evidence for the existence of a Canaanite "king of Arad" at Arad itself. Aharoni attempted to explain the discrepancy by suggesting that Canaanite Arad was at a different site in the region, but systematic excavations in all the mounds of the Beersheba valley, particularly at Tel Malhata and Tel Masos, found no Late Bronze Age settlement. (p.282)
"In Transjordan, the meager archaeological data shed little light on the biblical tradition of battles and conquests. Numbers 21:21-32 tells of the war of the Israelites with Sihon, king of the Amorites, ending in the capture of Heshbon. Extensive excavations at Tell Hesban have shown that the site was first occupied only in the Iron Age I. The poor remains of this period cannot qualify as the Amorite city taken and destroyed by the Israelites. (p.282)
"There is no evidence of a second-millennium Canaanite city at this spot [note: AI] or at any other site in the region. This constitutes unequivocal archaeological evidence for the lack of correlation between the story in Joshua 8, with all its topographic and tactical details, and a historical reality corresponding to the period of the conquest.(p283)
"In contrast, excavations at Tell Rumeideh [note: Hebron] have revealed no evidence of Late Bronze Age occupation, and there seems to have been a gap between the Middle Bronze Age town and the Iron Age I settlement. (p.283)
"At other sites, however, the picture is more complex. For example, at Ta'anach there is no continuity, and the Canaanite presence seems to have ended with the destruction of the town at the end of the Late Bronze Age. (p.284)
Let me list the basic issues raised by Mazar:
- No evidence of Late Bronze occupation in (but there should be some if the biblical account is correct):
- Beersheva valley
- Kadesh Barnea
- Hesbon in Transjordan
- No evidence of destruction at AI in LB (there should be some if the biblical account is correct).
- Evidence of destruction/discontinuity at end of LB at Taanach (there should NOT be any, if the biblical account is correct)
The approach I will take here is as follows:
Also needed for this study is a Chronological chart of the ages, and a map of the areas discussed.
Here I want to simply mention some of the general limitations in this field relative to 'strong statements', especially as relates to methodology and dating procedures.
An archaeologist has a number of tools she can use in trying to ascertain the historical date of a particular strata or assemblage of remains in a site. These include various techniques for dating (e.g. radiometric dating, thermoluminescence), inscriptional references, and especially pottery. The field is heavily dependent on the dating schema of pottery types. For illustration, the field will determine that a certain type of collared-rim jar was mainly used by Israel in the Iron Age, or that "Chocolate on White Ware" was confined to a narrow region around the Jordan Valley in the 16th century [OT:ALTB:216]. The presence or absence of such 'index remains' are key determinants in dating a site. Generally, entire assemblages of items are preferred, but the field folks work with what they get. Archaeologists use the term site formation to describe how the original occupants' behavior radically determines what materials entered the archix record--in other words, what articles were left and preserved when a site was abandoned (and all sites are 'abandoned' in some way, even those on top of which later settlements are built).
Let me note a few of the general issues associated with the process of dating by remains (or absence thereof, in the case of claims that a site was unoccupied during some period)...
Mazar, whose statements about the difficulties I cited at the first of this piece, himself states the tentativeness of the 'conclusions allowed' by archaeological evidence [OT:AAI:285]:
- First is the general consensus by practitioners that 'archaeological facts' are quite slippery, especially in the area of assigning dates:"Since they have hardly ever been manipulated, archaeological sources are usually more dependable than literary ones, but they are difficult to use. Hence, even the construction of a firm foundation for all further investigations, dating, or the confirmation of chronological contemporaneity or noncontemporaneity, causes considerable problems, especially when we take into account the role played by chance in the way evidence has been handed down to us...techniques such as the so-called carbon 14 method have not yet achieved a degree of dependability and accuracy that would allow us to use their results without some reservations....archaeological contexts only infrequently permit a clear demarcation between one period and the next. Drawing such dividing lines is thus very much a matter of the judgment of the individual scholar..." [EHANE:4,5]As indicated above, radioactive dating is generally not precise enough for the 'close work' within dating periods (e.g. Early Bronze III or Iron Age I)--the 'plus and minus' figures in chronological charts indicate this quite clearly [see COWA]. Radioactive methods require MONTHLY recalibration, and although used, generally yield divergent results for the same site. Pottery dating, often depended on heavily, is also subject to a number of complexities, not the least of which is diffusion (when a nearby border culture adopts the style of another), which sometimes can yield synchronization points between the two cultures' literary chronologies [TAPA:38, 39].
- The precision of dating is very low, yet surprisingly, we see people arguing from narrow ranges of dates. So, Finkelstein admits the problem in one case [LOF:109]:"At present it is extremely difficult, if at all possible, to differentiate between the pottery of the late 11th and that of the early 10th centuries BC even at excavated sites."But you will read Dever [OT:EEE:p77]:"...the destruction of the lower city at Hazor...has been dated earlier than the estimate of c.1225 BCE by Yadin....if it is moved as early as 1250 BCE, it is less likely to have been connected with the Israelite settlement..."Dever can make decisions on a 25 year swing? We simply do not have the requisite precision in dating to make such pivotal judgments.
- Sometimes a later period will 'borrow' the style of an earlier period (for example, when a Late Bronze group would adopt/borrow a Middle Bronze style [OEANE, s.v. "Palestine in the Late Bronze Age", p.216]). And this even applies to buildings and structures [OT:ALTB:21]. If a LB culture did this, and left only the MB remains, it would LOOK LIKE there was no LB culture there--only the MB one.
- An example of how counter-intuitive this can be, can be found in the case of Arad. In OEANE under 'Arad' the article's author concludes that the Iron Age I [date range of 1,200-930 BC] settlement actually lived in the EB [date range of 3,000-2,800 B.C.] houses [there was allegedly no MB or LB settlement, above]. If you reflect on this, this would mean that the EB houses--without modification or repair--survived in livable condition for between 1,600 and 2,270 years! That they could survive as ruins is a feat enough, but to be suitable for re-use in this way seems very improbable. [The situation is somewhat different for stone structures, obviously, than for mud-brick and earthworks.]
[It should also be noted that abandonment patterns are not just at the site-level; they also occur WITHIN site structures. For example, houses get reused as storage areas, which later get reused as animal shelters. This is called a 'one way' recycling [HI:ASR:47]. This would suggest that any serious degradation over 1,600 to 2,270 years would change the re-usage patterns for this structure--WHICH IT DID NOT. Something else was going on--other than non-occupation.]
- We know that reuse of earlier material (not just styles) occurs as well. At Hazor for example, a huge stone altar was taken from a MBII building and used in a LBIIA building (Stratum 1-b.; HI:NEAEHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.597]. This depletes earlier strata, giving a false impression of BOTH periods (if undetected).
- Sites have a certain range of 'mobility' even for a given settlement "title". In other words, a village called "XXX" may move over the centuries from the top of a hill, to the valley below, to the Wadi-edge, etc. AI, for example, was AT LEAST two locations--the acropolis on the top of the hill and the later town built at the foot of the hill [OEANE, s.v. 'AI'] and the same phenomena occurs for Tel Masos [OEANE, s.v. "Masos, Tel"] and Arad [OEANE, s.v. "Arad"].
- Finkelstein points out numerous difficulties with material remains of peoples in arid zones (such as Arad, Edom, Kadesh Barnea). The main problem is that arid-dwellers have a behavioral range that varies from sedentary (which builds things and leaves things at abandonment) to nomadic (which does NOT build and leave things). He is one of the major experts in this field and explicitly rejects the 'no remains, therefore no occupation' theories that under-gird much of this 'no LB cultures there' objection. [see his detailed work LOF, esp. p10ff , 30ff, 94ff]. We KNOW of cases in history of occupation (attested to by literary and/or inscriptional data) that left absolutely no detectable 'remains' [pp.27ff].
- We pointed out above that earlier styles could be adopted by later periods, but even actual sherds can show up later strata. So Finkelstein [LOF:133]:"Sherds belonging to earlier occupations of a site almost always find their way into later strata. Consequently, when a stratum is dated according to a collection of sherds, rather than assemblages of vessels, which was the case in Bennett's excavations, this may confuse the dating."This would make a later culture (e.g. LB) appear to be an earlier culture (e.g. MB).
- One of the MAJOR problems is that one of the basic building techniques in the highlands, such as Bethel/AI, was to remove previous debris[ LOF:133]:"Indeed, in almost every multi-period highland site west of the Jordan, intensive building activity in later periods removed all architectural traces of the scanty earlier occupations. This happened because the basic building technique in the highlands was always to remove all earlier material in order to establish the walls directly on bedrock."This would have a HUGE impact on determining whether the 'removed previous' period had been there! If they scraped the site clean before they began to build, we are totally in speculation to say an older settlement wasn't there because of 'no remains' [LOF:133f]. LOF gives examples of Jerusalem, Khirbet Rabud, Tell en-Nasbeh, Khirbet ed-Dawwara, Giloh, Shechem, and Bethel. At Lachish, the builders of Level IV (IA2) "apparently destroyed much of the Late Bronze acropolis, removing earth to be used as fill for the structure's foundations." [HI:NEAEHL, s.v. "Lachish", p.901].
- We also know that when a culture swings more to the shepherding model, it does NOT build buildings in hill country (such as AI, Shiloh), radically affecting site formation [HAP:280].
- Dislocation/displacement of artifacts occurs after abandonment! It is known that new sites will deplete artifacts from abandoned sites [HI:ASR:192]. This is a special case of re-use, but it really can foul up the understanding of the 'cannibalized' site! It makes it look radically different (smaller, or less occupied).
Yet, the archaeological record is anonymous, and its use to prove any historical theory must be accompanied by a rigorous critical approach to the archaeological material itself. Archaeologists tend to determine precise dates of destruction, for example, on relatively flimsy evidence. In the discussion of the Israelite conquest it would therefore be best to treat the archaeological evidence with circumspection and to avoid basing far-reaching conclusions on it.These factors alone should give us pause before reaching 'firm' conclusions about the non-occupation of these sites!
If we focus for a moment specifically on the 'no remains implies no occupation' issue, we can see how the above methodological issues impact some our questions. Let's note some of these in summary:
It is important to recognize that these people are 'invisible' in the archeological record! They were obviously 'really there', but we have found no trace of them in the dirt. Much of the areas under discussion in this piece fall into these land and cultural categories (e.g. Arad, Edom, parts of Transjordan, Kadesh Barnea, etc.)!
"Jericho, therefore, was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age II. It is very possible that this destruction is truly remembered in the Book of Joshua, although archaeology cannot provide the proof. The subsequent break in occupation that is proved by archaeology is, however, in accord with the biblical story. There was a period of abandonment, during which erosion removed most of the remains of the Late Bronze Age town and much of the earlier ones. Rainwater gulleys that cut deeply into the underlying levels have been found.
Although it is tempting to brand the 'no remains, therefore no occupation' argument as an argument from silence, the situation is somewhat more complex. Indeed, it would be theoretically difficult to ever prove that a site was unoccupied! If there are other and better ways to explain the absence of material remains (as above), the argument for 'no remains, therefore no occupation' becomes presumptive at best.
The above arguments dealt with ONE type of objection--that some of the alleged cities in Joshua's conquest narratives did not exist at that time (much less were destroyed). A different kind of objection argues from lack of evidence of destruction in that time frame. But one of the pre-eminent scholars of the ANE--Cyrus Gordon--in concert with Rendsburg, points out that this alleged lack of uniform destruction evidence for the Conquest of Joshua is (1) predicted by the text--Israel did not actually destroy that many cities ; and (2) is actually not that big of a deal--in the context of other known historical conquests! So, [OT:BANE:172,173]:
"Most of the captured cities were not destroyed. In fact, Hazor is singled out as the only city burned out of quite a number captured in the north. The Hebrews did not come to destroy but to occupy the land and keep it in as good a condition as possible. The few exceptions of destroyed cities (e.g., Jericho, Ai, and Hazor) do not invalidate the general rule.We will see below that we DO have significant data to support the Conquest narratives, but this point is made here to show that we don't need archaeological confirmation of every single fact in the narratives to build a case for its reliability!
"Nevertheless, there is a strong counterargument regarding the silence of the archeological record vis-à-vis the Conquest. Other known conquests in world history, well attested in historical documentation, also have little archaeological evidence to substantiate them. These include the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, the Norman conquest of England, and the Arab conquest of Palestine. And yet, of course, no one would deny the authenticity of these events.
Here I want to zoom out a bit and look at the overall pattern of archix data for the conquest and period. Does this data tend to support the narratives? How one-sided is the data? Is the overall countenance of the period in line with conditions related in the biblical text? Let's look at the confirming data now...
The Tel Amarna tablets reflect the political conditions of LB Palestine, and its relationship to Egypt. DeVries describes these tablets, found in the royal tombs in Egypt [HI:COBW:114-115]:
"Over 350 clay tablets discovered in the complex of rooms, apparently the office of records and correspondence or royal archives, have provided the most valuable information. These tablets are often referred to as the Amarna tablets or Amarna letters (note: dated 1375-1350 BC.). They were inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform, the international language of diplomatic correspondence of that day. They contain correspondence to Egyptian officials from the leaders of other major powers in the ancient Near East such as the Hittites, the Mitannians, and the Assyrians. The vast majority of tablets contain correspondence from kings of Egypt's vassal city-states in Syria-Palestine. These letters are especially valuable because they reflect the political situation in Canaan at that time. The letters indicate that Canaan was in turmoil and that Akhenaton was neglecting that area. During the Amarna period Canaan was comprised of a number of small city-states. The letters written by the vassal city-state kings in that region to Akhenaton addressed a number of problems including the Habiru, conflict between neighboring city-state kings, and dishonest Egyptian commissioners. The letters came not only from city-states in Canaan such as Jerusalem, Hebron, Shechem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, but also from the territory of Phoenicia and Syria. Often the letters included pleas for military assistance because the city-states faced imminent danger at the hands of the Habiru, also called the SA.GAZ. For instance, Abdi-Heba, king of Jerusalem, made an urgent plea for archers because the Habiru were not only plundering the area but also threatening to take control of it. Rib-Addi, the king of Byblos, wrote more than fifty letters to Akhenaton assuring the Egyptian king of his faithfulness, reporting territories that had been lost to the Habiru, and repeatedly requesting military assistance. The repeated requests and the absence of any acknowledgment that assistance was received suggest that Akhenaton did not respond.There is a distinct possibility that this apiru word was much more narrowly used at this time, of the Israelites in the Egyptian records, as indicated by contexts of slave labor in building pyramids! So, Malamat [OT:EEE:18] points to:
[Malamat's view is "each and every Israelite is a Hebrew and likely an Apiru, while not every Hebrew or Apiru is necessarily an Israelite", p.18].
"Undoubtedly, the biblical story of the battle of Jericho is legendary, but in this case archaeological evidence does not run directly counter to the biblical tale, as is asserted by some scholars.
"Chapter 10 of the book of Joshua tells of the battle with a coalition of kings of the Shephelah and the hill country--the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Yarmut, Lachish, and Eglon. In the course of this battle Joshua conquers Makkedah, Libneh, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, and at the conclusion of the tale, the conquest of wide areas is described: "the hill country, the Negeb, the Shephelah, and the slopes . . . from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, all the land of Goshen, and up to Gibeon" (Jos. 10:40-41). The location of some of the towns (Makkedah, Libneh, and Eglon) is not established. The other towns may be identified with certainty, and among them, Jerusalem, Lachish, Hebron (Tell Rumeideh), and Debir (Khirbet Rabud in the southern Hebron hills) have been excavated. Most of these sites produced Late Bronze Age remains. Lachish is the best known. The last Canaanite town at this site (stratum VI) was destroyed during or after the reign of Ramesses III, in the mid-twelfth century B.C.E., and remained in ruins until the days of David and Solomon.
"At Debir too there is evidence of a Canaanite town destroyed at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
"The archaeological record of the southern Shephelah and the southern Hebron hills does not therefore contradict the biblical record (except in the case of Hebron [note: I deal with this below]), nor does it provide proof of its authenticity.
The final Canaanite city at Hazor (stratum XIII) reveals some signs of decline and was violently destroyed. The excavators credit this destruction to the Israelites. The destruction was assigned in broad terms to the thirteenth century.
"Archaeology does not enhance or detract from the authenticity of Judges 1:8.
"Limited excavations were conducted by Albright in the village of Beitin, the site of Bethel, uncovering a fortified Late Bronze Age Canaanite town, destroyed at the end of the period and re- established in the Iron Age I as an Israelite settlement.
"The second part of Judges I notes the towns and regions not conquered by the Israelites; these include towns such as Beth Shean, Ta'anach, Dor, Yibleam, Megiddo, Gezer, Accho, and others, some of which have been excavated. In some sites (Beth Shean, Megiddo, and Gezer), the survival of Canaanite culture is evident (with a touch of Sea Peoples culture) throughout the Iron Age I.
The picture emerging from these archaeological finds is complex and ambivalent. Some sites show a correlation between the archaeological record and a biblical tradition of conquest. The catastrophe of Late Age Hazor corresponds to the biblical tradition of the conquest and burning of that important Canaanite city. The same is true of Lachish, the most important Canaanite city in the Shephelah.
"There is a correlation, though, between the descriptions of "the territory that remained" (which mention Megiddo and Beth Shean as unconquered cities) and archaeological finds showing a continuity of Canaanite culture at these sites well into the Iron Age I.
"The breakdown of LB society came swiftly. Tied to both the Egyptian Empire and the international economy, the southern Levant was pulled down along with the rest of western Asia after 1200 BCE. With the collapse of the Egyptian and Hittite Empires for internal reasons and the appearance of the Sea Peoples as a threat to parts of the eastern Mediterranean, including the coast of the southern Levant, the city-state structure of the southern Levant also collapsed. Some sites, such as Megiddo, persisted as independent city-states after 1200 BCE, while others were destroyed in internecine warfare. The subsequent Iron Age, while continuing certain aspects of Bronze Age material culture, such as its ceramic styles, was marked by new technologies and an entirely new sociopolitical and ethnic configuration, notably the rise of national states." [OEANE: s.v. "Palestine, Late Bronze"]
Finkelstein refers to "the collapse of the Egyptian system in Canaan and the degeneration of the Late Bronze city-states" [LOF:136]
"New peoples entered the archaeological record in the Near East after the dissolution or decline of the 'great powers' around 1200 B.C. The two following centuries are sometimes called the 'dark age,' largely because of a dearth of historical records. It does not mean that there were no thriving Near Eastern communities during this period. Yet there was a measure of disruption as the old order collapsed. The Hittite empire disappeared around the end of the thirteenth century; Assyria slipped into decline after the murder of King Tukulti-Ninurta I in 1207 B.C.; and Egypt withdrew within its own borders under the combined effect of economic difficulty, internal unrest, and the onslaught of the so-called "Sea Peoples." It was during these troubled times that the Israelites settled the hill country of the southern Levant while the Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples, took control of the coastal plain. " [HI:AC: 184]
" As noted earlier, the Hebrew tribes escaped from a weakened Egypt. They entered Canaan at a time when the world had no strong empire. The absence of great powers was a necessary factor in Israel's conquest and settlement of Canaan and subsequent rise to nationhood, which could only have happened in a prolonged period when small states had a chance to come into being and evolve their own way of life. As stated previously, the Egyptian empire in Canaan had come to an end, and the traditional power to the north, the Hittites, had also crumbled in the wake of the Sea Peoples invasion. A local factor that permitted the Israelites to establish themselves in the land of Canaan was the lack of a unified front opposing the new arrivals. Canaan was governed by a series of city-states; there were literally dozens of them dotting the landscape. The Amarna letters attest to traditional rivalries among the cities, so that military cooperation to stop the advance of the Israelites was not to be expected. Moreover, after centuries of Egyptian rule in the country, the cities clearly were weakened and were in no position to deal with a new force. The Bible may allude to this with the statement that God had sent the sir'ah, or hornet, in advance to crush the enemy (Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20). The hieroglyphic sign used for the pharaoh was a bee, so that the sir'ah would refer to the Egyptian king having weakened the Canaanites during years of military occupation."
"The last LB city at Hazor was violently destroyed. A level consisting of fallen mud brick, debris, ash, and burnt wood (in some places more than 1 m thick) was encountered almost everywhere in both the upper and lower city. It is the best indication of Hazor's catastrophic end. In areas C and H there is evidence of the deliberate mutilation and desecration of cult objects. Yadin (the excavator) fixed the date of that destruction in the last quarter of the thirteenth century BCE and tended to attribute it to the conquering Israelites, as described in Joshua 11.10"Notice an unusual aspect here--the attack on the cultic objects. Although most of the other cultures in Canaan shared the same pantheon of deities, Israel was the only one who had an explicitly 'no other gods' issue. Other internecine conquests simply re-used the temples and cultic materials (e.g. the destruction layers in the Fosse temple in Lachish [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Lachish", p.899-900] and the temples in Stratum 1-b and 1-a at Hazor [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.598]); Israel would have had a major problem with this. As such, this data fits much better with the Israelite conquest/settlement, than with some other local conquest/gradualism scenarios (contra Redford, Dever).
Notice Yadin's comments on the post-destruction settlement [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.603]:
"Important evidence for understanding the process of Israelite settlement is the remains of stratum XII. These remains, which clearly belong to the twelfth century BCE, when Hazor ceased to be a real city, are essentially identical with the remains of the Israelite settlements in Galilee. This indicates, in the opinion of this writer, that the Israelite settlement, which was still seminomadic in character, arose only after the fall of the cities and provinces of Canaan.The post-destruction settlement should be considered as basic evidence as to who the invaders were. The gap between the strata is simply too short for much change in territorial control. In other words, the Sea Peoples could not have captured Hazor and then relinquished control to a tiny Israel neither that quickly nor without a fight! The evidence is clearly in favor of an Israelite conquest of Hazor.
"The biblical record, which describes a large Canaanite city destroyed by swift attack, fits the archaeological evidence. On the other hand, the motive for the destruction remains obscure: the Israelites did not settle at the site or in the surrounding region until much later.Ussishkin does not tell us why the motive is obscure to him--the biblical account is rather clear: (1) the battle was 'provoked' by the Canaanites and was 'ahead of schedule' (Josh 10.3-5); (2) the Israelites had to continue the military campaigns before beginning settlement of the various regions (such as Lachish); and (3) Judah had more central real estate to deal with FIRST than the outlying Lachish.
What WOULD be a mystery is why the Sea Peoples would not have settled it or why they would have killed the inhabitants! (Those that generally look for alternatives to the biblical records suggest that the destruction was done by the Sea Peoples (Philistines) in their bid to 'liberate Canaan from Egyptian oppression'.) The Philistines, from what we know, were more interested in vassal-states than in destruction of major cities (witness the relation with Israel in the later book of Judges). Lachish was very, very close to the Sea Peoples' cities on the coast (which would allow easy resettlement) and was a large population for the time. When the Sea Peoples actually destroyed a city, their pattern was to resettle it, like they did in Ashkelon [OEANE, s.v. "Philistines, Late Philistines", p.310]. Thus, the abandonment with later resettlement fits the Israelite pattern much better than the Philistine pattern.
Indeed, one of the formative scholars of our day can go so far as to say:
"Archaeological and inscriptional data have established the historicity of innumerable passages and statements of the Old Testament; the number of such cases is many times greater than those where the reverse has been proved or has been made probable" (W. F. Albright, cited in HI:ABH:114)
So far we have made a couple of points:
So now we are ready to look at the specific site objections I noted at the beginning. Let's look at each contrary claim, note any "counter-contrary" data, and apply the things we learned above.
The contrary claim states that there was no LB settlement there for Joshua and the Israelites to destroy at all!
- There was a massive destruction of the city in 1550 (which accords well with an early date of the Exodus/Conquest, although I am not arguing for that here) [OEANE: s.v. "Jericho"].
- There distinctly are Late Bronze I remains in the records! Even Kenyon's work said they were 'sparse', but 'sparse' does NOT mean 'non-existent'! [OEANE: s.v. "Jericho"]
- Mazar notes [OT:AAI:283] "Kenyon believed that the massive Middle Bronze Age fortifications, well preserved around the edges of the mound, could have been in use during the later Bronze Age." [This, by the way, was exactly the situation at Hazor. It's MBII wall survived several destructions into the LB Age, and was subsequently reused in Solomon's times (HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.600). Hebron's MB wall-tower was likewise used in the Iron Age, with repairs. (HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hebron", p.608)]
- And more conclusively, people were buried there during LB1: "However, evidence from the necropolis, tombs 4 and 5, does indicate burials during this period"!
- Much of the discussion revolves around the work of Kenyan. She excavated Jericho and dated the walls of Garstang into the EB--not the LB as Garstang believed. [Bryant G. Wood reassessed the data and agreed with Garstang, but this is a minority view. "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?", Biblical Archaeology Review, Mar/Apr 1990, 44-59.] Listen to Kenyon's summary in [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Jericho", p.680]:"Jericho, therefore, was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age II. It is very possible that this destruction is truly remembered in the Book of Joshua, although archaeology cannot provide the proof. The subsequent break in occupation that is proved by archaeology is, however, in accord with the biblical story. There was a period of abandonment, during which erosion removed most of the remains of the Late Bronze Age town and much of the earlier ones. Rainwater gulleys that cut deeply into the underlying levels have been found.
In other words, the objection cannot stand--we do have some strong (if not massive) archaeological data in support of LB occupancy at Jericho.
The contrary claim states that it was not occupied during LB period.
- We generally believe that there was a massive depopulation of the region AROUND Hebron during LBII (HAP:218), supporting somewhat the fact that at least the area of Hebron was occupied immediately prior to that (i.e. LB1).
- The Amarna tablets (c.1400 BC) have at least three letters written from a "Shuwardata", considered by ANET to be a prince of Hebron (and the surrounding area) [HI:ANET:486-489]. This is very much in the middle of LB, indicating that the city was VERY MUCH occupied during this time!
- "the Medinet Habu list of Rameses III may also contain a possible reference to the site." [Hammond, OEANE]
- There are actually LB materials there! The excavations of the site (Jebel er-Rumeide) "produced material remains from the Chalcolithic, Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, Iron, Hellenistic, Byzantine, and Islamic periods". [OEANE: s.v. "Hebron"]
- The excavator Hammond reported "continuous occupation for one burial cave from the Middle Bronze Age through the Late Bronze Age (including Cypriot pottery) and perhaps also the Iron Age I." [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hebron", p.608]
- A 16th-17th century cuneiform tablet, written in East Akkadian was found there. Given that it would have taken a while to make its way to the site(!), this is at least some evidence in favor of a rather urban/elite presence there at the border of MB/LB. [OEANE: s.v. "Hebron"]
What this data indicates is simply that Hebron WAS occupied during LB (and probably referred to an area around the city).
Here the counter-claim is the opposite. The biblical record indicates that Taanach was NOT destroyed, and that its Canaanite culture would have been continuous until later. The objection argues that the later records indicate a major 'discontinuity' in the site--lack of Canaanite remains.
- A cache of Akkadian letters were found there that "unquestionably belong to the fifteenth century B.C." [HI:ANET:490]. These letters are replete with Canaanite imagery: "may the gods take note of your welfare", "if there is a wizard of Asherah, let him tell our fortunes", "send the omen and interpretation to me", "shalt give thy daughter as a (cult) singer", etc.
- Egyptian records refer to it in the 18th Dynasty (1550-1305 BC) as a source of warriors, with name-data indicating a strong poly-ethnic population[OEANE: s.v. "Taanach"].
- IA data is sparse, but "A substantial Canaanite cult stand recovered from a 10th century context reflects older Canaanite religious traditions"[OEANE] This is clearly "Canaanite" culture in the IA period!
- We do seem to have continuous Canaanite culture up until the destruction of the city by Shishak c.918 [HI:NEAEHL, s.v. "Taanach", pp.1432]:
- we have the Akkadian cuneiform tablet (TT950), dated to about 1450 B.C.E.
- we have Mycenean IIA:2 period pottery (fourteenth century)
- we have a Canaanite cuneiform tablet (TT433) dated to early 12th century.
- we have a cult structure (involving pigs), dated to 11th-10th centuries.
- we have the cult stand of definite Canaanite origin (involving demons and the sun-disk), dating to 11th-10th centuries.
This seems to be a rather continuous indication of Canaanite presence (and actually, power, given the use of such cultic items).
Again, we DO have "counter- contrary" data that tends to support the biblical narrative.
The counter-claim is that there is no evidence of LB occupation.
- Finkelstein points out that LB occupation of Edom, even though not attested in the archix record, must have been substantial enough to constitute a threat to Egypt(!) [LOF:135]:"In the Late Bronze Age the area was apparently inhabited by nomadic elements which are mentioned, with their flocks and tents, in the Egyptian sources as the Shosu of Edom, or the Shosu of Seir...Egyptian campaigns against them were possibly stimulated by the need to defend their own interests in the copper producing center of Timna."
- Egyptian lists of conquered cities by Thutmose IV through Rameses II (all in our period) list the Shasu as conquered [HI:ANET:243]. The Shasu were NOT confined to Edom, of course, but were certainly in strength there.
- The accounts of Amen-hotep II (LB) campaigning, lists 15,200 living prisoners-of-war from the Shasu [HI:ANET:247]. Again, this would include Transjordan and Palestine.
- But we DEFINITELY have Bronze-Age material on Edom! Bartlett comments [OEANE, s.v. "Edom", p.190]"Early Bronze Age sherd scatters on the plateau evidence temporary settlements and pastoral activity. Surveys show an absence of MB pottery, but a handful of sites with late Bronze pottery suggests the start of renewed population growth. In the Wadi Arabah, however, carbon-14 datings from charcoal suggest smelting activities at Khirbet en-Nahas in MB II and at Feinan in LB II.
In this case, we have BOTH literary evidence that provides substantial evidence against the counter-claim, AND we have supporting archaeological data as well.
The counter-claim is that there is no evidence of significant LB occupation (e.g. no 'king').
Therefore, we see that there is no real NEED to find substantial cities at a narrow Arad settlement site, and that the indirect data available is certainly not contradictory to the biblical account.
- I have noted above that Finkelstein was convinced that Arad was occupied during the LB era.
- I have noted above that we very definitely have the multiple-site problem at Arad [OHANE, s.v. "Arad"]
- [Tel Masos (which is considered by some as a possible alternative site for biblical Arad) manifests the same multiple-site problem. We know that Tel Masos was one of those sites that 'moved around' (provoking the site identification problem), and material remains would have been subject to some of the depletion forces we discussed above. It actually is 'located' on both sides of the wadi, comprising a small tell, a large village, and some artificial hills.[OEANE: s.v. "Masos"]
- [Kempenski (cited by Finkelstein) argued that Strata III of Tel Masos was around the end of the 13th century (1250-1200 B.C.). This is clearly at the edge of our period.[LOF:114]
- I pointed out above that the probability of an EB house surviving intact (without repairs etc. during MB and LB periods) until IA was incredibility low.
- Zeev Herzog points out that in Shishak's list of conquered cities (925 BCE.) that the name arad is mentioned twice--as two DIFFERENT ARADS [OEANE, s.v. "Arad"]. Although this is later than LB, this should demonstrate the difficulty of identification for this site. We have only ONE IA 'Arad' site, so the reference to two Arads could indicate a group and a specific community related to it. In other words, Arad could be the name of the region (as a group of nomadic communities that maintained trade relations with the north and south (a la Finkelstein). Indeed, Aharoni translated the line as "the citadels of greater Arad and Arad of the house of Yeruham" [OEANE]. The 'citadels' indicates a plurality of sites that could just have easily been related to the same multiple-site structure of the early, non-nomadic phases of the region.
- Also, it must be pointed out that the bible never actually says that Arad consisted of fortified (or even substantial) towns. So, Num 21.1: When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. . This merely says that a ruler over the region (strangely enough, implied to be living somewhere else--in the desert below Arad?) attacked Israel. (the reference to 'towns' in vs.3 is too general a reference to be sure it refers to a 'town of Arad'--it could refer to other Canaanite towns related to or allied with Arad instead.
- It is interesting to see how this biblical passage is similar to Finkelstein's belief about the nomadic quality of Arad during this time. The biblical passage has this king attacking Israel some 50-plus miles from his city! Israel was around Mount Hor at the time and actually headed AWAY from Arad. This king must have had a very mobile force (a la nomadic) to travel this distance and still retain adequate military force.
The counter-claim is that there is no evidence of significant LB occupation (e.g. no 'king'), AND no evidence of destruction.
Important data [OEANE; TAPA; the biblical narrative]
This case is particularly interesting, because the biblical narrative is particularly "strange". It is a very summarized account, that presumes much knowledge on the part of the reader. [The references to 'to this day' seem to indicate a readership with access to the site and with some oral tradition to fill in the details as needed; and the somewhat confusing use of numbers indicates that the author presupposed the audience to know enough about the event to make sense of them. For example, to us it is not clear whether the 5k men are INCLUDED in the 30k, or incremental to it.] Let me go through the account and point some of the oddities out--they will impact what we will be looking for by way of confirmation/contradiction:Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, "Go up and spy out the region." So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, "Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there." (Joshua 7.1-3)So, the narrative details argues for a multiple-site 'Ai' (Bethel plus perhaps other villages in the 'land of Ai'), with a small outpost on the eastern edge (which would have fooled the initial set of spies into thinking 2-3k soldiers would be enough), and one in which the destruction of Bethel was a component. The city is not said to be fortified, and was not said to be inhabited afterwards (perhaps referring to any significant or threatening presence.) [Since Bethel was destroyed and also some kind of 'king', there may have been some kind of king/sub-ruler relationship in the area-complex.]
Notice first of all that the spies said that there were only a 'few men' there, and that only a very small number of soldiers would be needed. This would argue for a settlement size of somewhere around 100-300 men.
So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. (Josh 7.4-5)
Notice that this 'rout' involved only 36 Israelite casualties, but it was enough to severely frighten the Israelites! What this would mean is that the number of AI-folk was very, very small--versus the 3,000 Israelites. The outcome was TOTALLY unexpected. Notice that there were apparently multiple hills involved (not just AI), as evidenced by the word 'slopes' (plural). Multiple villages/towns might be involved in this (probably) summary account of the skirmish.
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city." 3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4 with these orders: "Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. 5 I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. 6 They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, `They are running away from us as they did before.' So when we flee from them, 7 you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The LORD your God will give it into your hand. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the LORD has commanded. See to it; you have my orders." 9 Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai -- but Joshua spent that night with the people. (Joshua 8.1-9)
Notice a couple of things here. The king of Ai had a 'people' and a 'land', indicating perhaps that the region under his control was larger than the tiny initial "outpost" the Israel spies saw. "Behind the city" was equivalent to "between Bethel and Ai" and "to the west of AI".
So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4 with these orders: "Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city....The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. (Joshua 8.3-4; 12)
Notice that Joshua selects a total of 30,000 soldiers for the ambush. As an ambush, the 30,000 soldiers would have to avoid being exactly ON the road between Bethel and Ai, or they would give their positions away, plus they probably would have spread out around the city, with the main force 'behind it'.
They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush [note: the MT has the following text here, but I consider this a textual error of dittography, based on homoioteleuton [OT:TCHB:236-243]; the divergence between the LXX, MT, and Qumran are significant: "between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city"] 13 They had the soldiers take up their positions -- all those in the camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley. (Josh 8.11-13)
Notice that Joshua takes only 5,000 men (slightly more than the original 3,000) into plain site of the 'city'. Any large force would have no doubt tipped off the Ai-king to 'stay inside'! With 30,000 surrounding the city , but out of sight, and with 5,000 in visible sight, the stage was set for the plan...the ambush strategy was in place.
When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the desert. 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel. (Josh 8.14-17).
Notice that the king and all the men of the 'city' left the city, but then there is another 'call' to 'all the men of Ai' (NOT to 'all the men of the city'!)--which apparently INCLUDED 'BETHEL'! This would indicate that Bethel was a part of Ai (it is around 2 miles from et-Tell), making Ai more of an area-descriptor than a settlement-only descriptor.
When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day -- all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai. (Josh 8.24-26).
Notice that the casualties are numbered at 12,000 substantially MORE THAN the 100-300 of the initial site. This would argue that the 'city' of Ai was only a small outpost of a 'land' of Ai, of which Bethel might have been the major component. The king quite easily could have set up his royal site on top of the prestigious acropolis on top of the famous hill of Ai, but normally lived in Bethel. After hearing about Jericho, he would have moved to the edge of his kingdom closest to Israel--the outpost site of et-Tell (Ai).
27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day. (Josh 8.27-29).
Note several things about this. The Israelites would have carried off much of the 'material culture' as plunder. There was apparently a large amount of livestock, fitting a pastoral/nomadic culture. They burned the 'city' and it was uninhabited at the time of the writing of this passage ("desolate to this day"). The king of the city was buried under a pile of rocks at the city gate (which was apparently still standing after the desolation). This pile of rocks was apparently still visible and accessible at the time of the writing of Joshua.
In the case of Ai, the archaeological data thus becomes explicable ONLY WHEN we note the details in the biblical text! Only when we see the connection between Bethel-Ai, when we note the expansive phrases of 'land/people', when we note the differences in the numbers between the forces deployed (3k) and the casualties (12k) does the archix data of Bethel and Ai make sense. [For example, why would a settlement in LB only show up at the BOTTOM of the hill, instead of the more 'famous' mount, when a nearby larger town could have been a predator?]
- The narrative itself suggests that the smaller site of et-Tell is NOT the major site of the forces and/or destruction. A site that small would be hard pressed to ensure that remains of the conflict lasted to the present.
- William F. Albright believed that the passage described Bethel instead of Ai, and assumed the author made the faulty identification, but given that there were already multiple sites involved IN THE TEXT, we don't have to identify the 'ai' with just a single site (bethel OR et-Tell), but with a broader 'land'.
- It is well-accepted that Bethel was destroyed at either the end of MBIII or the beginning of the LBI. Occupation of the site is well-attested in I1. [OEANE, s.v. "Bethel", p.300; TAPA:113]
- The et-Tell site had been a 'famous place' for centuries, and king of the Ai-Bethel "metroplex" probably would have had an outpost there due to the vantage point. This would have been especially valuable since Israel approached from the west. And, given the recent destruction of Jericho, the king had no doubt become very concerned about the Israelites and would have taken up residence on the hill of et-Tell. That no wall-fortifications were there seems obvious from the fact that the men of Ai 'went out' to fight Israel instead of 'staying in' (that's what fortified walls are FOR).
- The narrative in Joshua, a highly summarized account(!), has more than enough 'flex' in its word choices ('land', 'people' , etc.), and round numbers (30k, 5k) to have the destruction largely confined to the main city (Bethel) instead of the 'suburb' et-Tell. These sites might have been actually connected, along the main road (to the south of which the ambush-squad would have hidden), making sense of the rapid response of the people of Bethel to the cry of war.
The counter-claim is that there is no evidence of significant LB occupation.
So, we are NOT sure we have the correct "Heshbon", we KNOW we have LB sites all around the area, and we even actually have SOME LB remains on the current site.
- The first MAJOR issue we have here is the location--we are dependent on 1st century sources (Josephus) that identify biblical Heshbon with Tell Hesbian (via Esbus). And the biblical account of the LB/IA settlement of ORIGINAL Heshbon points out that the names were changed! So, Numbers 32:37:And the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh and Kiriathaim, 38 as well as Nebo and Baal Meon (these names were changed) and Sibmah. They gave names to the cities they rebuilt.
- Accordingly, there are numerous proposals for other sites that might be the original Heshbon (e.g. Jalul, Umeiri) [NEAEHL, s.v. "Heshbon", p. 626]
- The name changing is relatively important, for as Mattingly notes [POTW:323]:"On the one hand, it is clear that many Moabite sites--sites not mentioned in the biblical accounts of the Hebrew migration--were occupied during the Late Bronze Age. On the other hand, most of the archaeological sites associated with the Hebrew migration through and settlement of Transjordan have yielded little or no evidence of Late Bronze occupation.
- In addition to the above, "The name Moab is mentioned at least twice in ancient Egyptian sources, with both instances dating to the reign of Ramesses II. A topographical list at Luxor mentions the region, and a description of Ramesses II's campaign in Transjordan around 1200 also refers to the 'land of Moab.'" [POTW:324]
- There are two known Egyptian monuments in the area, in our period: one at Tell esh-Shihab (a Seti I stele--c. 1300) and the other at Sheikh Said (a Ramassess II stele) [POTW:324]. Since foreign dignitaries don't normally put such impressive (and boastful) statues up in deserted places, these argue for a substantial populace within a reasonable distance.
- Mattingly sums up the argument concerning Moab [POTW:324]:"These Egyptian references to Transjordan, and to Moab in particular, do not provide the kind of information that allows us to reconstruct early Moabite history with any exactitude, but it is important to reiterate that the name Moab appears in two of Ramesses II's inscriptions at Karnak. These earliest nonbiblical references to Moab thereby confirm that this designation was known by the thirteenth century, which, according to some historical reconstructions, was about the same time the Hebrews migrated through this territory.
- Moab in general shows little (but definitely SOME) LB remains in biblical cities such as Aroer and Dibon, but we KNOW from literary sources that it was very well-developed and well-known during this period. We have already seen above the literary evidence that the tiny kingdom of Moab was nonetheless significant in ANE affairs.
- "The Balu stela also suggests an Egyptian presence in Moab at the end of the Late Bronze Age" (OEANE, s.v. "moab", p. 38).
- J. Maxwell Miller, in OEANE [s.v. "moab", p.38], argues for the continuity of occupation (even though much of it would have been the warrior-nomad type):"It seems clear that the region had a rather sparse sedentary population during the Middle and Bronze Ages, but experienced a significant increase in the number of settlements during the Iron Age. This trend probably began near the end of the late Bronze Age and reached a high point in Iron II.
- The areas are not that well covered from a archix standpoint [OEANE: s.v. "moab", p.38]:"Of the few archaeological sites excavated in Moab, most are situated north of the Arnon/Wadi el-Mujib. The following have produced Late Bronze and/or Iron Age remains (listing from north to south): Khirbet el-Al, Hesban, Dhiban (Dibon), Lehun, Arair, Balu, and Khirbet el-Medeineh...Especially for the area south of the Arnon/Mujib, therefore, the available archaeological evidence derives largely from surface surveys.
- In the specific case of Heshbon, we have the situation noted above--where later builders 'cleared off' the earlier stuff: "The Iron Age remains (c. 1200-500 BCE.) are very fragmentary due to the periodic removal of earlier strata on the top of the hill by later builders" [HI:NEAEHL, s.v. "Heshbon", p.627]. If they removed IA1 remains in order to build IA2 structures, why would we expect to find any LB stuff?! They would have just cleared that off as well!
- And IN POINT OF FACT, there ARE some LB remains at Heshbon! "Though Late Bronze Age sherds have been identified, six seasons of archaeological excavation at Tell Hesban...failed to uncover any architectural or soil related remains antedating about 1200 B.C." [OEANE, s.v. "Heshbon, p.20]. If the resident population was shifting to/from nomadic (a la Finkelstein) we would not expect to find 'buildings', but we would expect to find sherds. If Iron Age builders scraped the ground to the bedrock before rebuilding, then we would not expect to find buildings either--maybe only some non-reusable sherds.
The counter-claim is that there is no evidence of significant LB occupation (e.g. no 'king').
- We haven't even looked at it all yet!!! Finkelstein (who believes that this region WAS occupied by large groups of powerful nomads--see above), in cautioning us on how we use evidence in these areas, makes this astounding statement [LOF:10]:"Most of the Sinai peninsula, the Hejaz and Edom and a significant part of the Negev have never been surveyed. Surprisingly enough, even the Beersheeva Valley, in which almost every known Bronze and Iron Age site has been excavated, has never been thoroughly and systematically surveyed. Random visits by the author to several sites in this area revealed new material and demonstrate the need for such an undertaking."Finkelstein finds stuff just walking around in Beersheva valley and we make judgments based on the absence of data?! What's wrong with this picture?!
- And, strictly speaking, we HAVE found some LB remains in the Valley: Tel Masos (Kempenski's claim, above)
- But more importantly, the biblical record does not say much about this valley in the records. It was allotted to Simeon as part of Judah's territory, and some minor village names appear, but we don't have any real battles (or even takeovers) described in the text. If the area was that insubstantial, we probably should not expect much/anything in the archix record.
- The main (biblical) city in this area is Beersheva itself. Although there is some dispute over the identification of the site (Tel Beersheva, Bir es-Saba, or both), the Iron Age settlers, as usual, removed all traces of ANY earlier stuff. So, Zeev Hervog [OEANE, s.v. "Beersheba", p.288]:"Scattered sherds from the Chalcolithic period were found in the site's debris. It seems that any structures form this stage were removed by later construction operations. The first Iron Age settlers (Iron I, stratum IX) cleaned and reused depressions, or pits, they noticed on the mound that may have belonged originally to the Chalcolithic settlement.
- Remember, this is still the Negev desert area, and the LB period saw this area inhabited by peoples on the nomadic end of the spectrum (a la Finkelstein).
Given the character of the area and the situation of the LB period, I am not sure we SHOULD find traces of occupation in this area. I don't see any reason to find large-scale traces of 'take over' operations, and the fact that the area has not even been systematically examined makes this 'argument from silence' even more silent than it has been generally assumed.
The counter-claim is that there is no evidence of LB occupation.
- What is odd about this claim is that it is irrelevant--the Bible doesn't claim that KD was an occupied city, but merely that it was a place/location. The Israelites were said to have camped around it. Cf. Num 33.36: They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin. 37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. , and Num 13.26: They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. . Kadesh (Qadesh Barnea) was actually just a group of wells used by nomads in the Negev-Sinai deserts.
- Numbers 20.14: "Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. cannot be taken to imply that Kadesh is actually more than just a desert oasis. The word for "city" here can mean anything from fortress, to village to "dependent hamlet". It is actually translated 'place' once in the NIV. Moses' appeal to Edom is simply a 'generous' one, giving the king of Edom more credit for his realm than perhaps might show up in an auditor's report! One simply cannot press this one reference into a full-scale biblical assertion that KD was a fortified city that a million Israelites were "in" or even "at" during this communication with Edom! It was simply a desert location, well known and well traveled in those days.
- An example of how KD had functioned as a 'place' can be seen from an EBII courtyard located near it. It is similar to other courtyard layouts in the southern Sinai [LOF:45].
Thus, this objection is simply off the mark--because there IS no mark...Nomadic folk--even large quantities of them!--marching across a desert are simply not going to leave material remains that survive the desert (and its travelers) for thousands of years.
What we have seen so far:
"In any case, all we can say thus far is that between the late 13th century B.C.E. and sometime in the mid-11th century B.C.E., there occurred such far-reaching socioeconomic, technological, and cultural changes in central Palestine that the millennia-old Bronze Age may be said to have given way to a new order, the Iron Age, dominated soon by the emergent Israelite state. Yet all of these developments appear to be part of indigenous sociocultural changes at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age. They are natural and even predictable oscillations in the long settlement history of Palestine, not unique episodes that the archaeologist or historian is forced to explain by positing marauding hordes from the desert, wholesale destructions, and abrupt changes in material culture (much less divine intervention).The model that these scholars propose is one of gradual cohesion of disparate groups in central Palestine--with an occasional internecine clash--into a people known as "Israel". The processes of group identity and oscillations in sedentary/nomadic lifestyles are seen to be adequate to produce the massive changes pointed to above.
But can we really understand the changes in Palestine under such a 'gradualism' model? Would a biblical narrative-based model do a better job of explaining the data than suggested above? Let's look at some of the basic predictions of the biblical model and see how they stack up against the gradualist model.
The biblical model and predictions:
The biblical model has a million Israelites entering Palestine from the west, over Jordan, at the very end of the Late Bronze age. YHWH had promised to "send the hornet" before them to facilitate the conquest, and accordingly, the land was in great political disarray. Because of the centuries of warfare--both internecine and international between Egypt, the Hittites, the Mittani--the internal city-states had been reduced to more pastoral lifestyles, and the only cities still heavily fortified were long-standing centers of commerce and vassal administration. The conquest SHOULD HAVE BEEN easy.
And so it started. Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, made some initial 'big wins' and left their archaeological mark in the dirt (e.g. Hazor, Jericho, Lachish). They began densely settling the initial areas. But much of the designated land was NOT 'conquered'--it was peacefully settled during the period of the Judges. The inhabitants of those later cities had abandoned them and taken up residence elsewhere (movement was quite simple, since they were already living in the nomadic lifestyle generally). YHWH had 'driven the inhabitants out' as He had promised (Josh 3.10). We would, therefore, expect to see significant population and settlement growth at the borders of central Palestine--which is exactly what we find.
We literally see an explosion of Iron Age sites in central Palestine, Transjordan, the Negev, and the Beersheva valley. Consider some of the data:
"At the end of the second millennium BC the southern arid zones experienced a third surge of human activity. In the centre of the Beersheva Valley, the large and rich site of Tel Masos emerged. A few other settlements were founded in the vicinity and about 350 sites--from single buildings with several installations to small villages--were established in the Negev Highlands" [LOF:104]What this amounts to a population explosion that goes considerably beyond normal patterns (e.g. 350 detectable sites in the Negev Highlands ALONE!). In the biblical model, this is easily explained as the demographic and geographic changes resulting from the influx of an additional million outsiders into central Palestine.
"[Moab] experienced a significant increase in the number of settlements during the Iron Age." [OEANE, s.v. "Moab", p.38]
"In Iron Age I, the population and number of settlements [of Edom] increased." [OEANE, s.v. "Edom", p.190]
"The Iron Age was a period of settlement expansion in every area of the Negev." [OEANE, s.v. "Negev", p.121]
"Recent surveys have shown that many previously uninhabited sites in the hill country were first settled in the period between the twelfth and tenth centuries B.C." [TAPA:p.110]
[This is next to impossible to explain in a 'gradualist' model at all--there is no source for these many additional people. "Waves of settlement" have to come from somewhere!]
Israel essentially took over the material culture of the inhabitants of central Palestine--with the general exception of their religious and cultic practices (later they even did this, and it was a big mistake). This was in keeping with Deut 6.10 ( When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you -- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build,
11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant... ). So, we would expect the material culture remains of Israelite IA sites to be largely 'Canaanite', but with disuse and/or abuse of the temples/cultic objects (exactly what we find at the early destruction sites--Hazor, Jericho, Lachish). [This religious 'intolerance' is also difficult to explain in the gradualist/alliance views--the patterns previous to this were NOT exclusivist and major shifts to an El or YAH deity are very difficult to explain in an 'emerging unity' movement.]
But this 'purity' did not continue for very long. The Israelites soon went after the gods of the nations around them, and so a confusion of Yahwistic and pagan religions occurred (and we have numerous Late Monarchy inscriptions testifying to this). And so the material culture of IA2 would reflect more and more a mixed character.
And, politically, the Conquest/Settlement was a 'shock to the international system'. It introduced discontinuities in settlement patterns and structures (e.g. there was an increased emphasis on defense fortification in the border areas after the 'coming out' of Israel under the United Monarchy), and even was noticed by the shrinking Egyptian empire.
The Merenptah Steele, dated around the end of the 13th century, is the first (and only) mention of Israel, by that name, in Egyptian literature. It is written in prose, with a poetic ending, and describes the alleged conquests of Merny over his enemies. The relevant section reads thus [HI:ANET:378]:
The princes are prostrate, saying 'Mercy!'Gordon/Rendsburg explain one of the more interesting aspects of this [BANE:150]:
Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows.
Desolation is for Tehenu; Hatti is pacified;
Plundered is the Canaan with every evil;
Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;
Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!
All lands together, they are pacified;
Everyone who was restless, he has been bound.
We still need to discuss what is perhaps the most important piece of evidence, namely, the Merneptah Stela. This inscription com- memorates the military conquests of Pharaoh Merneptah (1224-1214), first boasting of his victory over Libya and then ending with several lines about Canaan. The text mentions Israel; in fact this is the only reference to Israel in all of Egyptian literature. Earlier we discussed the Egyptian writing system, which not only spelled out words phonologically, but also included determinatives to allow the reader easier comprehension. When the Merneptah Stela refers to other conquered peoples and places, it uses the foreign land determinative to mark them. Such is the case, for example, with larger entities such as Canaan and Hurru and with individual cities such as Gezer and Ashkelon. But when Israel is mentioned, the people determinative is used (i.e., a man, a woman, and the plural marker). We interpret this orthography to refer to the Israelites as a people without a land, a situation that matches their condition as slaves in the land of Egypt. The scribe knew they originated in Canaan, and thus he included them in his listing of Merneptah's enemies from that region, but he distinguished the Israelites by marking them as a people, not a foreign land.The interpretation of the lack of the "land" determinative is tricky, to say the least. The interpretation above makes Israel into 'slaves in Egypt'. For the "gradualists", it makes them into native Canaanites(!). But for Yurco, it makes them into the main troublemakers in Canaan. Yurco, the discoverer of the battle reliefs at Karnak of Merenptah's campaign in Canaan, is convinced that the battle reliefs match the Stela text (above). His explanation of this [given in OT:EEE:27-55] is very persuasive. He links the four battle scenes to the four main Canaanite 'troublespots' in the stela:
"Accordingly, the central hill country of Canaan, south of Beth Shan and Megiddo and north of Jerusalem--another Egyptian-controlled anchor point--was the logical area for initial Israelite penetration and settlement, indeed, an area where Lawrence Stager has found early evidence of Israelite settlement. This accords with Israel appearing in Merenptah's campaign as a new, previously unattested people, and it explains how they could have been Pharaoh's major foe. It is likely that their meddling with the towns of Ashkelon, Gezer, and Yano'am prompted Merenptah's campaign. The advent of a new pharaoh traditionally was a time for unrest among Egypt's vassals. This analysis also suggests how these early Israelites came to possess chariots; they got them from the city-states by connivance or capture, for there were chariots in those cities. Or, as Papyrus Anastasi I suggests, the occasional Egyptian passing through the hill country might be ambushed and his chariot stolen.[Yurco's explanation of chariots was in defense of his position that the 4th battle scene was of the fight against Israel. It matches the poem (if you accept Yurco's versification), and is the only scene that takes place in the hills of Canaan. The opponents, however, have chariots and are wearing Canaanite clothing--gowns that reach to the ankle. Yurco's answer to the chariot issue is reasonable, and the fact that Israel took over the material culture, clothing, towns, etc. of the prior inhabitants explains why this portrayal of them would be reasonable as well.]
What I find 'discontinuous' about this is the abruptness of Israel's debut. She is not known ANYWHERE else, until she has earned the wrath of Pharaoh! In the previous period's main information cache--the Amarna tablets--there is not the slightest hint of a people named 'Israel' in the land, as invaders, as a coalition (a la gradualists), as a city-state. And, in the conquest-lists of the earlier Pharaohs'--minute in location detail--there is no indication of (1) an Israelite city-state; or (2) any 'emerging group' of city states.
The lack of the 'land' determinative may simply reflect the obvious reality that Israel's land had not been 'proven' or 'defined' or even 'acknowledged' by Egypt. [Indeed, there may be subtle 'put down' in there, especially since the political embarrassment of the exodus would still be fresh on the minds of the Egyptian ruling class.]
It is difficult to see how this rapid-transformation scenario could be explained by Dever's "natural and even predictable oscillations".
One final discontinuity that should be mentioned is that of the Hebrew language. Although the subject matter is VERY complex, let me make a simple point. Hebrew is considered a dialect of Canaanite, in the North-West Semitic language family. By 1000 BC, Canaanite was divided into several "regional" dialects: Phoenician, Hebrew, Edomite, Moabite, and Ammonite [e.g. POTW:169]. The main reason I bring this up is that the emergence of the Hebrew language ITSELF is difficult to explain without there actually being a starting point to create the linguistic change. Even though the language has definite 'continuities' with the Canaanite of pre-Exodus times (e.g. in the Amarna letters), it nevertheless manifests some very unique elements. So HI:HHL:43:
"Within the Canaanite group, Hebrew has a special place, almost half-way between Phoenician and Old Aramaic, and, in its turn, a centre of innovations which spread throughout the neighboring areas.It is different enough from the mainstream Canaanite that it is "possible to speak of two contrasting groups, one 'Hebraic' the other 'Phoenic'" [HI:HHL:43n81].
My point here is that once Israel left Canaan and went into Egypt for 400 years, the common language frameworks of Canaan and Israel would begin to diverge. When they met again at the Conquest, Hebrew became a 'centre of innovations' to Phoenician Canaanite and Phoenician became an influence on Hebrew. But this type of interaction between languages requires an initial distance between them--something almost impossible to get under the gradualist scenarios. HI:HHL:46 points this out:
"With regard to their origin and diffusion, linguistic changes correspond to the absence or presence of foreigners and to the extent of commercial and political relations between the different areas."Without going into too much detail, I simply want to argue that the emergence of Hebrew--as a distinct dialect from the other 'regional' dialects--is best explained under the 'invasion' model than under a gradualist model.
And finally, we have a very stubborn fact--the Exodus story is one of the most persistent memories of the Jewish culture. Even Redford (no believer in an exodus, to say the least!) admits this [ECIAT:412]:
"Despite the lateness and unreliability of the story in Exodus, no one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was one of long standing. It is found in early poetry (e.g., Exodus 15) and is constantly alluded to by the prophets. One cannot help but conclude that there was an early and persistent memory of a voluntary descent into Egypt by pastoralists in which one Jacob, who was later to achieve a reputation as an ancestral figure, played a leading role. Those who had made the descent, the tradition went on to elaborate, had not only prospered and multiplied, but had for a period of four generations grown exceedingly influential in Egypt. Subsequently a strong hostility had been evinced by the autochthonous population toward the Asiatic interlopers; and the latter had been forced to retire to the Levanthine littoral whence they had come.[Redford, since he cannot see the exodus as being even remotely historical, opts for the memory to be that of the Hyksos--Israel used the memory of SOMEONE ELSE for their own national identity! I am not sure what is easier to believe: this theory or the miracles in the Wilderness!]
In summary, I consider the biblical model of the Conquest/Settlement to be a better predictor of the data we find, than competing theories (especially the 'gradualist' views):
All I want to point out here is that there is a small, but growing, contingent of writers that are beginning to resurrect the higher date for the Exodus. This tank-piece is essentially using (for argument) the later date for the Exodus in the 1200's, as opposed to the earlier date in the 1400's. This 1400's date changes ALL of the arguments above, making some much easier and yet also creating new problems. I want here to mention the literature supporting and discussing the earlier date (also a more traditional date, and one that I used in my piece on genocide).
Although the reader may already be able to respond to the [numbered items] in the opening quote from Redford, let me simply sum up the material above:
After looking through all this data, I personally still find the biblical model of the Conquest/settlement to be a better "fit" for the data of archeology and historical sources. Although some of the data could go either way, much of it is simply too 'resistant' to reinterpretation...And the vast amount of data confirming, illustrating, or supporting the OT narratives lend substantial credibility to the history-writing of those ancient authors.
Glenn miller, 8/20/97