Jericho and the date of the conquest (Joshua 7)

Who destroyed Jericho City IV? The “early date” for the conquest places it around 1400 B.C., while the “late date” sets it at about 1220 B.C. There are at least three different ways interpreters have tried to correlate the fall of City IV with the “early date”.

  • A Late Bronze I conquest theory asserts that Jericho was conquered by Joshua in the latter part of Late Bronze I at about 1400 B.C. This theory is based on the presence of Late Bronze I pottery at the site. Also, scarabs of Egyptian pharaohs Hatshepsut, Thutmose III and Amenhotep III have been found there. These scarabs indicate a habitation of the site during the Egyptian Eighteent Dynasty, or during Late Bronze I. All of this suggests that the catastrophic destruction of Jericho City IV took place at the close of Late Bronze I, about 1400 B.C Against this view, others have made the following arguments:
  • Late Bronze I does not work well with an Israelite conquest. There were very few great, walled cities in Canaan during this period, in contrast to the Bible’s assertions that the Israelites were in awe of the high-walled cities that confronted them (Deuteronomy 1:28).
  • A number of scholars believe that a small scale occupation of Jericho during the Late Bronze Age  had no walls and could not have been the city Joshua encountered. The Late Bronze I pottery found there may relate to this small occupation, not to City IV, and the Late Bronze I pottery at Jericho may have no relationship to Joshua’s conquest.
  • The scarab of Amenhotep III poses an obstacle for arguing this view. If Late Bronze I Jericho was indeed destroyed by Joshua, then the scarab of Amenhotep III obviously had to have arrived there before the city fell. The dates of Amenhotep’s reign are usually set at 1390-1352 (or 1386-1349) B.C., too late for Joshua’s victory, which is generally set at around 1400 B.C

  • The redated Middle Bronze conquest theory agrees with the conventional wisdom that Jericho City IV fell at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. However, it redates the Middle Bronze Age and asserts that the chronology of Egypt and the Middle Bronze Age needs to be revised downward by about 150 years. Under this premise Jericho City IV actually did fall at the end of the Middle Bronze period – around 1400 B.C., not 1550 B.C. Two facts are in favour of this approach, but there is a problem as well:
  • Most interpreters believe that City IV fell at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, so this theory does not have the burden of having to overturn this conclusion.
  • A conquest of Canaan works well with what is known about the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The cities of the land were fortified with high walls at this time, but in the next period, Late Bronze I, they were for the most part meagre sites with  little or no fortification. It is conceivable that the Israelite conquest was instrumental in bringing Middle Bronze culture to an end.
  • Most interpreters, however, regard the redating of the end of the -middle Bronze Age by 150 years to be radical and unwarranted. There is currently a movement in some quarters to lower dramatically the conventional chronology for Egypt and thus also the date fr the Middle Bronze/Late Bronze boundary, but mainstream Egyptology has yet to embrace this proposal.

  • The conventional  Middle Bronze conquest theory holds to both a Middle Bronze date for Jericho City IV and the conventional chronology. It argues that the exodus took place during the Middle Bronze Age and that Joshua came to Jericho about 1550 B.C. This approach, however, has very few supporters:
  • It flies in the face of the Bible’s own chronology, which strongly indicates a conquest in about 1400 B.C.
  • It unconvincingly entangles the exodus story with the history of the Hyskos.
  • It is extremely difficult to archaeologically to account for Israel in the land as early as the year 1550 B.C.

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