Jericho Revisited

Professor John Garstang of Liverpool University excavated Tell es-Sultan, Biblical Jericho, between 1930 and 1936. Having discovered a partially collapsed mudbrick wall, he declared that the Bible was confirmed and the wall of Jericho had come tumbling down. Other sites showed similar signs of destruction. It was a no-brainer. The initial observations, however, were not complicated by needing to place correct dates on artifacts and strata. This would come later.


The main argument of David Rohl’s book Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest is that the dating of the Egyptian dynasties is off by about 350 years for dates that precede the 9th century BC. This effects all other nations, since they are based on Egypt, and it effects synchronizing archaeology with the Bible. As Dame Kathleen Kenyon carefully dated the wall of Jericho, she correctly published that the wall was from the Middle Bronze age. Then she concluded that Joshua wasn’t. She assumed that Joshua lived in the Late Bronze Age and in the LBA Jericho didn’t exist because it had been destroyed in the MBA (when Joshua really existed). Is anyone confused?


Biblical dates are closely established. Major archaeological dates are based on careless assumptions made back in 1828. While problems are evident, few people want to revise the long-established dates for the MBA, LBA, Iron Age, etc. Incorrect dates for archaeology means that it doesn’t match up with the Bible. When it doesn’t match, who gets the blame? The Bible, of course. Dating is based on assumptions, but the pride in traditional dates has created a prejudice that has destroyed the effectiveness of Biblical archaeology. Dating the past is probably the most crucial debate relating to our faith today.


When we realize that Joshua was at Jericho around 1450 BC, which was the Middle Bronze Age rather than the Late Bronze Age, then everything falls into place. The key cities of Jericho, Debir, Lachish, Hebron, Bethel, Gibeon, Arad, and Hazor were destroyed during the MBA and not in the LBA. No destruction exists if you look in the wrong place in time.


Then Surprise! Surprise! Jericho becomes a real miracle. Kenyon found that the MBA wall that had been on top of the hill had tumbled down the slope. The slope outside the wall had been carefully covered with a slippery plaster coating ten centimeters thick. That made it impossible for an army to run up the hill or for siege machines to approach. At the bottom of the slick hill was a high stone wall and a moat. When the top of the hill “tumbled down” the slick slope, it filled the trench and covered the slippery slope. The wall on top was gone; the moat on the bottom was filled in; and the slope was no longer slippery and difficult to climb, because it was now covered by a thick layer of dirt. This story is given to us in the Bible because it was such a clear indication of God’s miraculous intervention.


Garstang got it right when he identified the catastrophe at Jericho as the Biblical event. Kenyon did a brilliant job of excavating Jericho but should never have doubted the Bible. She should have doubted the dating system used by archaeologists. Churches dropped the ball by allowing themselves to be shamed by public opinion and impressed by secular academia. The majority of churches in the world, mostly having liberal theology, began repeating the mantra that the Bible is just a book written by men. God has more than amply left us evidence of his mighty power at work. Let us open our eyes and see it and worship.

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