Redating the exodus and conquest
C.) and no evidence of occupation in the 13th century B. C.) until the Iron Age.7 No Late Bronze Age settlement was found. What we have is six cities that did not exist at the time to which Joshua is conventionally assigned. Debir, one of the cities conquered by Israel (Joshua 10-38–39, 15-15–19; Judges 1-11–15), is now almost certainly to be identified with Khirbet Rabud, as Moshe Kochavi argues, rather than with Tell Beit Mirsim, as William F.C.5 Hormah/Zephath figures as a flourishing town at the time of the conquest (Numbers 21-1–3; Judges 1-17), yet excavations at the site thought to be Hormah/Zephath (Tel Masos) have revealed a fortification from the Middle Bronze II period (c. The late Professor Yohanan Aharoni’s suggestion that Canaanite Arad lay at Tel Malhata, about eight miles to the southwest of Tel Arad, does nothing to solve the problem, for there is no evidence of a settlement between the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. Albright once urged.8 While there was certainly an important Late Bronze Age town on the site, there is no evidence for its conquest in the late 13th century B. At Lachish, another town taken by the Israelites (Joshua 10-31–32), there was indeed a destruction at the end of the Late Bronze Age, which Albright dated about 1230–1220 B. and attributed to the Israelite invaders.9 However, recent excavations have led the excavator, David Ussishkin, to redate this destruction to about 1150 B. or even slightly later,10 so the end of Late Bronze Age Lachish can no longer be treated as evidence for a conquest by Israel in the late 13th century B. Even this does not exhaust the list of cities mentioned in the conquest traditions, but the remainder cannot be discussed profitably here, either because identification is uncertain or because there has not yet been adequate excavation.The Bible tells us that Joshua gave Hebron to Caleb at the time of the conquest (Joshua 14-13–15, 15-13–14; Judges 1-20).At Hebron, excavations in the 1960s produced only scanty remains from between the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. C.) and a late phase of Iron Age I (11th century B. On their march to Canaan, the Israelites were opposed by the king of Arad (Numbers 22-1, 33-40), yet Tel Arad was abandoned from the end of the Early Bronze Age (third millennium B. Thus at six sites that figure in the Biblical account of the conquest, we have little or no evidence of Late Bronze Age occupation.According to the Bible, the Israelites conquered and destroyed Jericho. Indeed, no trace of occupation at Jericho has been found between about 1300 B. Despite extensive excavations at the site commonly identified as Ai, the archaeologists have discovered no evidence of occupation between about 24 B. C.2 At Gibeon, with whose people Joshua made a treaty, according to the Bible (Joshua 9), no Late Bronze Age city has been found.3 James B.But according to the archaeologists—and the site has been very extensively excavated—there was no city at Jericho in 1230–1220 B. Pritchard, Gibeon’s excavator, commented that the anomalies encountered at Jericho, Ai and Gibeon “suggest that we have reached an impasse on the question of supporting the traditional view of the conquest with archaeological undergirding.”4 But this is just the beginning.
In almost every case the archaeological evidence is inconsistent with the Biblical evidence—if we date the Israelite entry into Canaan to the GAD of 1230–1220 B. Jericho was the first city encountered by Joshua and the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan (Joshua 2 and 6). C.,1 the probable date of the earliest Iron Age remains. The Bible gives a detailed account of the battle of Ai that led to the city’s destruction (Joshua 7–8). C., a small unwalled village grew up on the site, lasting until about 1050 B.C.11 Two destroyed cities hardly amount to evidence for a conquest, especially when there is no evidence that their attackers were the Israelites. One approach, which has gained considerable support in mainstream scholarship, is to explain Israel’s emergence in Canaan by processes other than conquest—that is, by thoroughly rejecting the Biblical account.These destructions may have resulted from any one of a number of other causes, for example, Egyptian campaigns or local intercity warfare. Among these alternative views is the “peaceful infiltration” theory, long favored by German scholars.But even if every one of the remaining sites produced a perfect match with the traditions, there would still be more problem-cities for a 13th-century conquest than good correlations with the Biblical narratives.Of the various cities said to have been conquered by the Israelites in Joshua and Judges 1, only Hazor and Bethel (Beitin) have destruction levels datable to the second half of the 13th century B.