Joshua Conquest Theory Revisited  

     
The Merneptah Stele (c. 1208 BC) recorded the Egyptian pharaoh's military campaign in Canaan. Merneptah claimed victory over various towns and the people of Israel close to the beginning of the Iron Age. Bible fundamentalists were seeking to prove Joshua's invasion of Canaan happened during the Bronze Age. By the time of the Iron Age, c. 1200 BC, Israel occupied Canaan where Semitic people had lived for hundreds of years.

At one time Biblical scholars thought Joshua's invasion of Canaan happened during the Late Bronze Age. More recent discoveries indicate some of the towns supposed to have been destroyed or taken by Joshua were not occupied during the Late Bronze Age or even the Middle Bronze Age.

Israel was supposed to have conquered Arad in the Negev west of the Dead Sea (Joshua 12:14). Arad was not occupied during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (2200-1200 BC). Yohannan Aharoni's excavations (1962-1969) revealed an Iron Age fortress construction during the 10th century BC. There was an ancient clay pottery bowl recovered from the ruins with the name Arad inscribed in it seven times.

Photo September 2003  Arad Citadel - Negev Desert

Israel/Joshua was supposed to have taken Dibon (Numbers 21:30). An inscription found at Dhibon, Jordan refers to the ruler of Dibon as having taken this area from the king of Israel during the Iron Age. This inscription was found in 1868 on what is called the Moabite Stone. There was no Middle Bronze Age or Late Bronze Age habitation found at Dibon. Tel Hesban was the theoretical site of Biblical Heshbon (Numbers 21:25). Tel Hesban was also unoccupied during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. 

Gibeon was described in the Biblical Book of Joshua as a royal city (Joshua 10:2). According to Professor James B. Pritchard, the walled city and water shaft were more likely under construction during the tenth century BC. Before this Gibeon may not have fit the title "royal city." At Al Jib, Pritchard found a cellar full of pottery wine jars inscribed 'GBN', meaning Gibeon in Hebrew. The Iron Age people learned to use much harder iron tools not available during the Bronze Age to dig wells and cisterns in limestone bedrock. Iron tools did not dull as easily as bronze tools. They also quarried building stones using iron chisels. Iron point plow tips and iron pruning hooks were used to bring forth greater food production. Villages sprang up across the land.

The Book of Joshua reported the people blew trumpets and the walls of Jericho fell. They reported Joshua's army killed all the people there. The area is near a major earthquake fault. The walled city of Jericho was destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age c. 1550 BC according to Kathleen Kenyon and more recent reports by the University of Rome who dug trenches at Tel Sultan in Jericho during the 1990's and 2000's. There was no walled city at Jericho after the 1550 BC destruction. Some people do not believe God ordered all the people of Jericho killed by the Israeli army, especially since the cities Joshua was credited with destroying were not all occupied in the same generation. Some theologians describe a God desiring mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) conflicting with the account in the Book of Joshua.

Photo March 2008 Jericho 

Mud brick walls of the Middle Bronze Age II, with a stone wall of the Middle Bronze Age III (1650 BC -1550 BC) in the background. Joshua was not believed to have been in this area at the time the city walls fell c. 1559 BC.

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