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Conquest of Canaan

Archaeological and historical articles dealing with the validity of the Conquest narratives of the Old Testament, circa 1406 BC.


Kathleen Kenyon declared the Biblical story to be false and the academic world accepted her conclusions. Do her conclusions hold up to scrutiny?

ABR has received multiple questions on this subject. Dr. Bryant Wood provides a brief response.

ABR is always pleased to help sincere seekers get sound Biblical and archaeological answers to their questions. We hope our readers will clearly see that the Bible is trustworthy...

Jericho was once thought to be a 'Bible problem' because of the seeming disagreement between archaeology and the Bible. When the archaeology is correctly interpreted, however, the opposite is the case. The archaeological evidence supports the historical accuracy of the Biblical account in every detail. Every aspect of the story that could possibly be verified by the findings of archaeology is, in fact, verified...

The story of the Israelite conquest of Jericho (Joshua 2-6) is one of the best known and best loved in the entire Bible. The vivid description of faith and victory has been a source of inspiration for countless generations of Bible readers. But did it really happen as the Bible describes it?

The site has been excavated several times in this century. Based on the conclusion of the most recent excavator, British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, most historians and Bible scholars would answer with a resounding "No, certainly not! There was no city there at the time Joshua supposedly conquered it."

Some 30 years after her excavation of the site – indeed, 12 years after Kenyon’s death – the detailed evidence has now become available in the final report. So it is time for a new look.

Ancient Jericho is located at Tell es-Sultan, next to a copious spring on the western edge of the Jordan Valley, just north of the Dead Sea. The site’s excellent water supply and favorable climate (especially in winter) have made it a desirable place to live from the very beginning of settled habitation. A Neolithic settlement at the site goes back to about 8000 B.C.E.,* thus giving Jericho the distinction of being the world’s oldest city. At 670 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest city in the world.

The site is strategically located. From Jericho one has access to the heartland of Canaan.1 Any military force attempting to penetrate the central hill country from the east would, by necessity, first have to capture Jericho. And that is exactly what the Bible (Joshua 3:16) says the Israelites did.

image.axd3Tell es-Sultan, ancient Jericho. Scarred with the trenches of past digs, the impressive mound stretches from top to bottom in this overhead view. Jericho is doubly unique: With its Neolithic settlement dating to 8000 B.C.E., Jericho lays claim to being the world’s oldest city; located 670 feet below sea level in the great rift valley, it is the world’s lowest city as well. Jericho’s abundant water supply, favorable climate and geographic location made it a key site in ancient Canaan. Anyone who wished to conquer the central hill country from the east, as the Bible describes Joshua and the Israelites doing, would first need to secure Jericho. Archaeologists have long debated whether the Israelites in fact conquered Jericho. Dame Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated Jericho in the 1950s, claimed that Jericho was destroyed in the 16th century B.C.E. and there was no walled city at Tell es-Sultan for Joshua to conquer. A comprehensive new survey of Kenyon’s evidence at Jericho, however, has led author Bryant Wood to conclude that a walled city existed at Jericho until about 1400 B.C.E. when it was destroyed in a conquest strikingly similar to the Biblical account. The 1400 B.C.E, conquest would match the chronology derived from the Bible. However, it is about 150 to 200 years earlier than the time most scholars believe the Israelites were to be found as a people living in Canaan.

After wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years, the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land from opposite Jericho. Before making the crossing, however, Joshua, the Israelite commander, dispatched two spies to reconnoiter the city. Narrowly escaping capture, the spies brought back valuable intelligence collected from Rahab, a harlot who lived within the city wall. Although the Jordan was in flood at the time the Israelites crossed, the waters were miraculously stopped and the Israelites were able to cross "on dry ground." They then marched around the heavily fortified city daily for seven days. On the seventh day, to the blast of the ram’s horn, the walls came tumbling down. The Israelites rushed into the city and put it to the torch.

Because of its importance in Biblical history, Jericho was the second site in the Holy Land, Jerusalem being the first, to feel the excavators’ picks. The first documented excavation was undertaken in 1867 and 1868 by the famous British engineer Charles Warren.2 Jericho was one of nine tells, or mounds, he excavated in the Jordan Valley in an effort to determine if they were natural or artificial. He dug six vertical shafts and three trenches at Jericho. Based on his findings, Warren was able to provide an answer to what had been a serious question until that time:

As a general result on the completion of these excavations it may be said for a certainty that these mounds are artificial throughout, and that they probably are the remains of ancient castles.3

He was wrong about the castles, but he was certainly right that the mounds were ancient ruins.

The first major excavation at Jericho was conducted by an Austro-German expedition under the direction of Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger from 1907 to 1909 and again in 1911.4 This was before pottery chronology was well developed, so their dating was far off the mark. Watzinger later revised the chronology, however,5 and their carefully drawn plans (see below) and sections can still provide valuable information.6 For example, they traced the Middle Bronze revetment wall around three-quarters of the base of the tell, although at the time they did not fully understand the complexities of the Middle Bronze fortification system. It was only when Kathleen Kenyon excavated the site in the 1950s that the nature of the revetment wall was clarified, as we will soon see.

After his redating, Watzinger concluded that Jericho was unoccupied (and therefore obviously unfortified) during the Late Bronze period (c. 1550-1200 B.C.E.), the time when the Israelites first appeared in Canaan.


City IV at Jericho – the city that all scholars agree was violently destroyed – was a fortified enclave, drawn at left. The city’s outer defenses consisted of a stone revetment wall at the base of the tell that held in place a high, plastered rampart. Above the rampart on top of the tell was a mudbrick wall which served as Jericho’s city wall proper. The approximate line of this wall is indicated by the dashed line. In the 1930s, British archaeologist John Garstang excavated a residential area, marked "A," just west of the perennial spring that supplied the city’s water and which now fills the modern reservoir. (A significant portion of the tell was destroyed to make way for the modern road.) Signs of a fiery destruction and his dating of the remains led Garstang to conclude that the Israelites had indeed put the city to the torch about 1400 B.C.E., in harmony with the Biblical narrative. Kathleen Kenyon, Garstang’s successor at Jericho, excavated the area marked "B," Her conclusions dated Jericho’s destruction to about 1550 B.C.E,– 150 years earlier than Garstang’s date. This destruction, she concluded, was far too early to ascribe to the Israelites. By the time the Israelites appeared on the scene, she argued, there was no walled city at Jericho.

John Garstang, a British archaeologist, questioned these results and mounted an expedition of his own to gather further evidence regarding the date of the fortifications at Jericho.7 Garstang was the first investigator to use modern methods at the site, although his work was still crude by today’s standards. He dug from 1930 to 1936 and promptly published his findings in a series of preliminary reports.8 Although the Second World War prevented Garstang from publishing a final report on his work, after the war, in collaboration with his son, he published a popular account that summarized his final views on Jericho.9

Garstang excavated a collapsed double city wall on the summit of the tell that he dated to the late-15th to early 14th-century B.C.E. (the Late Bronze Age). He also excavated a residential area on the southeast slope of the mound which he believed was part of the city fortified by the double wall. He designated this "City IV." It had been thoroughly destroyed in a violent conflagration.

Garstang concluded that City IV came to an end about 1400 B.C.E., based on pottery found in the destruction debris, on scarabs recovered from nearby tombs and on the absence of Mycenaean ware. He ascribed the destruction to invading Israelites. The matter seemed settled in Garstang’s mind:

In a word, in all material details and in date the fall of Jericho took place as described in the Biblical narrative. Our demonstration is limited, however, to material observations: the walls fell, shaken apparently by earthquake, and the city was destroyed by fire, about 1400 B.C. These are the basic facts resulting from our investigations. The link with Joshua and the Israelites is only circumstantial but it seems to be solid and without a flaw."10

But was the matter really settled? Hardly. In reality, Garstang’s conclusions precipitated considerable controversy among his colleagues.11 After a few years, and further advances in the knowledge of Palestinian archaeology, Garstang asked an up-and-coming British archaeologist named Kathleen Kenyon to review and update his findings. Kenyon did so and came up with more or less the same conclusion Sellin and Watzinger had reached 25 years earlier: Jericho was destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age in the mid-16th century B.C.E. and was unoccupied throughout the Late Bronze Age, except for a very small area occupied for a short time in the 14th century B.C.E.12 So much for progress in Palestinian archaeology!


A new look at an old excavation. This photo was taken at the first major excavation at ancient Jericho, conducted by Sellin and Watzinger. On a diagonal at lower right is a portion of the stone revetment wall, rising to a height of some 15 feet; its scale is evident from the man at far right. The revetment wall surrounded the city at the base of the sloping earthen rampart and provided a first line of defense for the city at the top of the slope (see plan above). Atop this revetment wall a mudbrick parapet wall is clearly visible. Behind the parapet, across the center of the photo, are the remains of houses inside the revetment wall on the top of the rampart. These same buildings can be seen on the plan opposite. These houses seem to have been on the "wrong side of the tracks" in ancient Jericho; their walls were rather flimsy – only one brick thick. Author Wood suggests that Rahab, the prostitute who assisted Joshua’s spies, might have lived in one of these houses on the sloping rampart between the revetment wall encircling the bottom of the hill and the city wall that surrounded the top of the tell.

As an outgrowth of questions raised in her critique, Kenyon headed up yet another campaign to the ruins at Tell es-Sultan. This one lasted from 1952 to 1958. Kenyon’s excavation ushered in a new era in Palestinian archaeology. She introduced rigorous stratigraphic excavation techniques entailing detailed analysis of soil and debris layers and careful recording of the sides of the excavation squares called balks.13 Kenyon concluded that her field work confirmed her earlier review of Garstang’s work. The double city wall Garstang associated with the Israelite invasion in about 1400 B.C.E. in fact dated to the Early Bronze Age some 1,000 years earlier. The destruction of Garstang’s City IV, which he had dated to about 1400 B.C.E., occurred, according to Kenyon, at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, about 1550 B.C.E.14

In short, there was no strongly fortified Late Bronze Age city at Jericho for Joshua to conquer. The archaeological evidence conflicted with the Biblical account – indeed, disproved it.

Based on Kenyon’s conclusions, Jericho has become the parade example of the difficulties encountered in attempting to correlate the findings of archaeology with the Biblical account of a military conquest of Canaan. Scholars by and large have written off the Biblical record as so much folklore and religious rhetoric. And this is where the matter has stood for the past 25 years.

Kenyon died in 1978 without living to see the final publication of her excavation of the tell. Her conclusions were reported only in a popular book published the year before she completed her fieldwork,15 in a series of preliminary reports16 and in scattered articles. The detailed evidence, however, was never supplied. This became available only in 1982 and 1983 when two volumes on pottery excavated from the tell were published.17 This, together with the stratigraphic data from the excavation, published in 1981,18 makes it possible to perform an independent assessment of Kenyon’s conclusions.

I first became interested in Jericho while working on my Ph.D. dissertation on Canaanite pottery of the Late Bronze Age. I would occasionally thumb through Garstang’s preliminary reports to see if there was anything of interest. I became intrigued by a considerable amount of what appeared to be Late Bronze I (c. 1550-1400 B.C.E.) pottery he had excavated. This was precisely the period Kenyon repeatedly said was absent at Jericho! Because of the lack of precision in Garstang’s field work and the rambling nature of his preliminary reports, it was not possible to gain a clear picture of the stratigraphic sequence at Jericho from Garstang’s work alone. Kenyon’s conclusions, on the other hand, could not be checked because her work remained unpublished.

image.axd6Life on the edge. This plan provides a bird’s-eye-view of the Sellin and Watzinger excavations on the northern end of the tell. On the right, labeled "Israelitische Böschungsmauer" (Israelite Revetment Wall), is the tell’s outermost fortification, shown in the photo opposite. The buildings shown here were built on the rampart that rose to Jericho’s city wall proper (see plan opposite, top), The city wall is not shown here; it would have been just off the left side of this plan.

After completing my dissertation in 1985, I decided to pursue the matter further, since by this time the Jericho reports were available.

There is little doubt that Kenyon was correct in dating the double wall on top of the tell to the Early Bronze Age. In this she was right and Garstang wrong. But there is a serious question about her dating of the destruction of the residential area of the final Bronze Age city (Garstang’s City IV) to the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.). Here I believe Garstang was right after all!

Before explaining why Garstang’s date for the destruction of City IV – about c. 1400 B.C.E., in the Late Bronze Age – is to be preferred to Kenyon’s date at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, let me say a few words about Kenyon’s methodology.

image.axd7Jericho’s walls shatter as an earthquake rumbles across the great rift of the Jordan Valley. At bottom, the city’s stone revetment wall (large boulders) and the crenelated mudbrick parapet wall on top of it (smaller bricks) start to crumble. The mudbrick city wall on top of the tell (upper left) cracks and tumbles down as well; the quake splits houses built on top of the earthen rampart between the tower and upper walls. Piles of crumbled bricks form rough ramps, allowing an invader to go directly into the fatally exposed city.

As I have already observed, during her lifetime, Kenyon never published a definitive study of the pottery from the last phases of City IV, before its destruction. The final excavation reports published after her death reflect Kenyon’s meticulous field work and contain a complete and detailed presentation of her excavation results. But they merely present the raw data, with no analysis or comment. To understand how Kenyon reached her conclusion, we must piece together scattered statements in various writings. When we do this, it becomes clear that Kenyon based her opinion almost exclusively on the absence of pottery imported from Cyprus and common to the Late Bronze I period (c. 1550-1400 B.C.E.). This imported Cypriote ware had been previously found mainly in some Megiddo tomb groups, and Kenyon used this pottery to construct her ceramic typology for the Late Bronze I period.19 Although she also mentions certain local pottery types used in this period,20 it is obvious she paid little attention to these common domestic forms since they appear regularly in the final phases of City IV. That she did not focus more on the local pottery is especially strange because considerable stratified local daily-use pottery from the Late Bronze I period had been excavated and was available for her to work with even at the beginning of her excavation at Jericho. Instead, Kenyon chose to emphasize the imported wares in reaching her chronological conclusions. As a result, Kenyon reached the following determination: When the material is analyzed in the light of our present knowledge, it becomes clear that there is a complete gap both on the tell and in the tombs [found to the northwest of the tell] between c. 1560 B.C. and c. 1400 B.C.21 (From the period after 1400 B.C.E., she found a residence-type structure and associated outbuildings, which she dated to about 1325 B.C.E. After that, the site remained abandoned until about the 11th century B.C.E.)


Signs of destruction from the final phase of City IV betray the calamity that befell Jericho. "The destruction was complete," wrote Kathleen Kenyon, the area’s excavator. She discovered a debris layer a yard or more thick across her entire excavation area. This debris is visible in the west balk behind the meter stick in the photo above (a balk is a side of an excavation square left standing to preserve a record of the square’s strata). The destruction debris has been removed elsewhere to expose the remains of the destroyed city. At the top of the north balk, upper right corner in the above photo, is an erosion layer consisting of material washed down from further up the slope. Within the destruction debris of the north balk, we can see the remains of a late-14th- century B.C.E. structure. At upper left is a cobbled, stepped street (seen in close-up below left). The line of stones that extends from the center left edge of the larger photo to the center bottom is a drain that passed under the street preserved at upper left. The drain was originally covered with stones, but the channel of the drain is exposed here in the upper part. The street led from the summit of the city’s southeast slope to the spring on the east side of the city, which today fills the modern reservoir seen at right in the plan "City IV" above.

image.axd9In other words, Kenyon’s analysis was based on what was not found at Jericho rather than what was found. According to Kenyon, City IV must have been destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.) because no imported Cypriote ware – diagnostic for the ensuing Late Bronze I period – was found at Jericho.

Dating habitation levels at Jericho on the absence of exotic imported wares – which were found primarily in tombs in large urban centers – is methodologically unsound and, indeed, unacceptable.

Kenyon drew her comparative material from large cities like Megiddo situated on major trade routes far from Jericho. Jericho, by contrast, is a small site22 well off the major trade routes of the day.

A careful examination of the Jericho excavation reports as a whole, moreover, makes it clear that both Garstang and Kenyon dug in a poor quarter of the city where they found only humble domestic dwellings. Kenyon writes of the final phase of City IV:

The picture given... is that of simple villagers. There is no suggestion at all of luxury.... It was quite probable that Jericho at this time was something of a backwater, away from the contacts with richer areas provided by the coastal route.23

Why then would anyone expect to find exotic imported ceramics in this type of cultural milieu!

To make matters worse, Kenyon based her conclusions on a very limited excavation area – two 26-foot by 26-foot squares. An argument from silence is always problematic, but Kenyon’s argument is especially poorly founded. She based her dating on the fact that she failed to find expensive, imported pottery in a small excavation area in an impoverished part of a city located far from major trade routes!

Rather than unusual imported wares, attention should be given to the ordinary domestic pottery that Kenyon and Garstang both found in abundance.

Kenyon went on to associate the destruction of City IV with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in about 1570 B.C.E.24 But this analysis, too, has its problems. Kenyon argued that not only City IV at Jericho, but other destroyed Middle Bronze Age cities in Palestine had met their end at the hands of the Hyksos.25 And, if not the Hyksos, these cities were destroyed by the Egyptians in follow-up campaigns as they pursued the fleeing Hyksos whom they expelled from Egypt, where they once ruled.26 It makes little sense, however, for the Hyksos to destroy the very cities to which they were fleeing and in which they were seeking refuge. As for Egyptian punitive campaigns into Canaan, there is no textual evidence in Egyptian literary sources to indicate that the Egyptians went beyond Sharuhen in southwest Canaan in their pursuit of the Hyksos. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that the Egyptians ever campaigned in the southern Jordan Valley in the XVIIIth Dynasty, the period in Egyptian history following Hyksos rule. The Egyptian interest at this time was in the trade routes on the Mediterranean coast and the Kishon-Jezreel Valley and in points further north, not in the Jordan Valley.27

Moreover, Jericho itself has produced evidence that militates against a destruction of City IV by the Egyptians. In the burnt debris of City IV both Garstang and Kenyon found many store jars full of grain, indicating that when the city met its end there was an ample food supply.28 This flies in the face of what we know about Egyptian military tactics. Egyptian campaigns were customarily mounted just prior to harvest time – food supplies stored inside the cities would be at their lowest level then; the Egyptians themselves could use the produce in the fields to feed their army; and what the Egyptians did not want for their own use they could destroy, thereby placing a further hardship on the indigenous population. This was clearly not the case at Jericho.

Finally, the Egyptian strategy for capturing a strongly fortified city such as Jericho was by siege. Sharuhen was besieged by the Egyptians for three years;29 the siege of Megiddo lasted seven months.30 The ample food supply at Jericho indicates that it succumbed quickly, not after a long siege; and this occurred after harvest time, not before.31

So Kenyon is on weak ground both in dating the destruction of City IV to the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.) and in her historical reconstruction that attributes the destruction of Jericho to the Hyksos or to the Egyptians.

Let us look now at the evidence that supports Garstang’s conclusion that City IV was destroyed in about 1400 B.C.E., at the end of what archaeologists call Late Bronze I. Four lines of evidence converge to support this conclusion: First and foremost is the ceramic data; second, stratigraphical considerations; third, scarab evidence; and fourth, a radiocarbon date.


Cypriot bichrome ware – pottery decorated in two colors. Now known as a key indicator of Late Bronze Age occupation, this pottery, excavated by Garstang at Jericho, is just what Kenyon later looked for, unsuccessfully. These sherds were found on the east side of the tell, apparently having slid there when a large structure upslope eroded. In Garstang’s day, the significance of such bichrome ware was not yet appreciated, and he failed to single it out from the other pottery types he uncovered. As fate would have it, Kenyon, who well knew the link of such ware to the Late Bronze Age, conducted her dig too far north of the eroded runoff to find any bichrome ware. Had she dug further south, or had she been aware of Garstang’s finds, the debate over the date of Jericho’s fall could have taken a very different course: Kenyon might have dated Jericho’s demise to about 1400 B.C.E., (as Garstang did) and not to about 1550 B.C.E., the end of the Middle Bronze Age. Why Kenyon did not study Garstang’s finds more closely remains a mystery.

Although I will spare the reader a technical discussion of the Jericho pottery, we will look at a few examples from the final phases of City IV – all excavated by Kenyon. To anyone familiar with Bronze Age pottery it will be obvious that these forms are from the Late Bronze I period and not the Middle Bronze Age. In particular, a cooking pot with an internal lip is found only in the Late Bronze I period.32 The simple round-sided bowl with concentric circles painted on the inside (No. 2 in the drawing) has a limited life span in Cisjordan confined to the last part of Late Bronze I, in the latter half of the 15th century B.C.E.33 Flaring carinated (angled) bowls with a slight crimp (No. 1), conical bowls, store jars with a simple folded rim (No. 3), everted rim cooking pots with flange (No. 4), water jars with painted stripes and small dipper juglets (No. 5), are all characteristic of the Late Bronze Age. Many more examples of this type of pottery can be found in the excavation reports of both Kenyon and Garstang.34

Ironically, Garstang found a considerable quantity of pottery decorated with red and black paint which appears to be imported Cypriot bichrome ware, the type of pottery Kenyon was looking for and did not find! Cypriot bichrome ware is one of the major diagnostic indicators for occupation in the Late Bronze I period. At the time of Garstang’s excavation, the significance of this type of pottery was not recognized, so it was simply published along with all the other decorated pottery without being singled out for special notice. It showed up in erosional layers on the east side of the tell. Evidently it originated in a large structure upslope, which Garstang referred to as the palace. Only a portion of the eastern wall of this building remained at the time of his excavation. It appears that Kenyon’s Area H was too far north to be in the path of the runoff from the palace and thus no bichrome ware was found in her squares.

image.axd11Late Bronze Age pottery types from Jericho excavated by Kenyon. A simple, round-sided bowl with concentric circles painted on the inside (No. 2) is particularly important for dating Jericho’s City IV because such bowls were used only for a short time in the latter half of the 15th century B.C.E. The flaring carinated (angled) bowl with a slight crimp (No. 1), a storage jar with a simple folded rim (No. 3), a cooking pot (No. 4) and a dipper juggle (No. 5) are all common to the Late Bronze Age. Inexplicably, Kenyon ignored these examples of common, locally made domestic pottery at Jericho and instead based her Middle Bronze Age date for City IV on the absence of expensive imported Cypriote ware known to date to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. She reasoned that the absence of these Late Bronze forms indicated the city must have been destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. However, such Late Bronze Age imports are typically found in tombs in large cities on major trade routes. The Jericho of City IV, in Kenyon’s own words was "something of a backwater." She should not have been surprised by the absence of Cypriote imports in Late Bronze Jericho. She should have paid greater attention to the locally made household pottery she did find, especially because she was dependent on a very limited excavation area in a poor section of the city – the last place to look for exotic imported materials.

Now let us look at the stratigraphy of City IV, which is related, in a very elementary way, to time. With her careful excavation techniques, Kenyon was able to identify many different occupational phases during the Bronze Age at Jericho. Middle Bronze III, the last subperiod of Middle Bronze, lasted from about 1650 to 1550 B.C.E. The beginning of the Middle Bronze III phase at Jericho can be fixed quite confidently at Kenyon’s Phase 32.35 From Phase 32 to the end of the life of City IV, Kenyon identified 20 different architectural phases, with evidence that some of these phases lasted for long periods of time, Over the course of the 20 phases there were three major and 12 minor destructions. A fortification tower was rebuilt four times and repaired once, followed by habitation units that were rebuilt seven times.36 If Kenyon were correct that City IV met its final destruction at the end of the Middle Bronze Period (c. 1550 B.C.E.), then all these 20 phases would have to be squeezed into a mere 100 years (Middle Bronze III). It is hardly likely that all of this activity could have transpired in the approximately 100 years of the Middle Bronze III period.37

The next item of chronological significance is a scarab series discovered by Garstang. Scarabs are small Egyptian amulets shaped like a beetle with an inscription (sometimes the name of a pharaoh) on the bottom. In his excavation of the cemetery northwest of the city, Garstang recovered a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs extending from the 18th century B.C.E. (the XIIIth Dynasty) to the early 14th century B.C.E. (the XVIIIth Dynasty). The XVIIIth Dynasty scarabs include four royal-name scarabs – one of Hatshepsut (c. 1503-1483 B.C.E.), one of Tuthmosis III (c. 1504-1450 B.C.E.) and two of Amenhotep III (c. 1386-1349 B.C.E.) – as well as a seal of Tuthmosis III. The continuous nature of the scarab series suggests that the cemetery was in active use up to the end of the Late Bronze I period.38

image.axd12Three scarabs and a seal recovered from a cemetery northwest of Jericho. A scarab is a small, beetle-shaped Egyptian amulet, inscribed on its underside, often with the name of a pharaoh. Shown clockwise from upper left are scarabs bearing the names of Tuthmosis III (c. 1504-1450 B.C.E.), Amenhotep III (c. 1386-1349 B.C.E.) and Hatshepsut (c. 1503-1483 B.C.E.) and the reverse side of a seal, lower left, of Tuthmosis III. The cemetery outside Jericho has yielded a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs from the 18th through the early-14th centuries B.C.E., contradicting Kenyon’s claim that the city was abandoned after 1550 B.C.E.

Finally, one Carbon-14 sample was taken from a piece of charcoal found in the destruction debris of the final Bronze Age city. It was dated to 1410 B.C.E., plus or minus 40 years,39 lending further support to the view that the destruction of City IV occurred around the end of the Late Bronze I period, about 1400 B.C.E. [Editorial note: See comments section below for an update on this C-14 data].

All this evidence converges to demonstrate that City IV was destroyed in about 1400 B.C.E., not 1550 B.C.E. as Kenyon maintained.

If the Hyksos did not destroy Jericho and the Egyptians did not destroy Jericho, then who did? The only written record to survive concerning the history of Jericho in the Late Bronze Age is that found in the Hebrew Bible.

When we compare the archaeological evidence at Jericho with the Biblical narrative describing the Israelite destruction of Jericho, we find a quite remarkable agreement.

First, a few words about the Israelite crossing of the Jordan River. The Bible describes the crossing of the Jordan River in vivid and very explicit language:

The waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho" (Joshua 3:16).

The Jordan was apparently blocked at Adam, modern Damiya, some 18 miles upstream from the fords opposite Jericho. How could this happen? Historians and Bible scholars have focused on the "miraculous" nature of the event, with little regard for the seismology of the southern Jordan Valley. In fact, the blocking of the Jordan has happened a number of times in recent recorded history. Jericho is located in the Rift Valley, an unstable region where earthquakes are frequent. Geophysicist Amos Nur of Stanford University has studied the well-documented earthquakes of this area in an effort to find ways to predict them. He has noted several earthquakes that caused phenomena quite similar to what is described in the Book of Joshua:

Today Adam is Damiya, the site of the 1927 mud slides that cut off the flow of the Jordan. Such cutoffs, typically lasting one to two days, have also been recorded in A.D. 1906, 1834, 1546, 1267, and 1160.40

The 1267 C.E. mudslide was recorded by the Arab historian Nowairi. He writes that a large mound on the west side of the Jordan at Damiya fell into the river damming it up. No water flowed south from Damiya for 16 hours. In the 1927 quake, a section of a cliff 150 feet high collapsed into the Jordan near the ford at Damiya, blocking the river for some 21 hours.41

So the stoppage of the Jordan’s flow as described in the Bible is not so far-fetched as it might at first seem.

Jericho is most famous, of course, as the city where the walls came tumbling down. As we have seen, according to Kenyon, there was no city here during the Late Bronze Age and therefore there was no city wall at that time to come tumbling down. I believe, however, that the evidence indicates that Kenyon’s Middle Bronze Age city lasted into the early part of the Late Bronze Age and was not destroyed until about 1400 B.C.E. (at the end of Late Bronze I). This is what Garstang maintained all along. If this view is correct, then there was a strongly fortified city at Jericho at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.

Kenyon herself determined that City IV had an impressive fortification system. The type of fortification that constituted Jericho’s defensive system was not really understood until Kenyon’s careful stratigraphic work at Jericho. This fortification system consisted first of all of a stone revetment wall some 15 feet high at the base of the mound. At the northern end of the site, all three archaeological expeditions to Jericho found remnants of a mudbrick parapet wall on top of the revetment wall (see section drawing opposite, middle). At one point, it was preserved to a height of about 8 feet.42 It is likely that this parapet wall originally extended all the way around the city.

The revetment wall held in place a massive packed-earth embankment or rampart with a plastered face that extended to the top of the tell. Atop this earthen embankment was yet another city wall, as determined from an earlier phase of the defensive system that survived at only one point on the tell.43 Unfortunately, the upper portion of the embankment on the rest of the tell had eroded away (or had been excavated away). Accordingly, the upper wall that surrounded City IV when it was finally destroyed does not survive today. The lower revetment wall and most of the embankment, however, still exist and can be seen at the site.

Despite the fact that the area where the upper wall once stood is gone, there is evidence, incredible as it may seem, that this wall came tumbling down and, in the words of the Biblical account in Joshua, "fell down flat" (Joshua 6:20). Again, the evidence comes from Kenyon’s own careful stratigraphic excavation and the detailed, final report that describes it.

Kenyon made three cuts through the city’s ramparts – on the north, west and south. In all three cuts, she carried her excavation to the lower revetment wall; in the west cut, however, she went even beyond the revetment wall to the area outside the wall.

What Kenyon found outside the revetment wall in the west cut was quite astounding. There, outside the revetment wall, she found bricks from the city wall above that had collapsed. I will let her describe it in her own words (you can follow this more easily while looking at the stratigraphic section):

Above the fill associated with the kerb wall [marked "KE" at lower left], during which the final M[iddle] B[ronze] bank [or rampart] remained in use, was a series of tip lines against the [outer] face of the revetment [wall]. The first was a heavy fill of fallen red [mud]bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment [wall]. These [red bricks] probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [emphasis supplied].44

Over what she described as "the main collapse," she found a gravelly wash from later erosion.45In less technical language, it appears that a wall made of red mudbricks existed either on top of the tell, as Kenyon postulates, or on the top of the revetment wall itself, or both, until the final destruction of City IV. The red mudbricks came tumbling down, falling over the outer revetment wall at the base of the tell. There the red mudbricks came to rest in a heap.46

Thus, in Kenyon’s opinion, the pile of bricks resting against the outer face of the revetment wall came from the collapsed city wall. Here is impressive evidence that the walls of Jericho did indeed topple, as the Bible records. (See artist’s rendition, p. 47). The amount of bricks showing in the cross-section in Kenyon’s balk (80 square feet) is sufficient for an upper wall 6.5 feet wide and 12 feet high.

image.axd13A slice of Jericho. A section drawing prepared by Kathleen Kenyon, describes what she found in a trench cut through the western defenses of the city. It pictures the excavated materials as if a vertical slice had been cut – as in fact it was by her trench – through the revetment wall at the base of the tell and through the high earthen embankment that rose to the top of the tell. The 15-foot-high stone revetment wall at the base of the tell (black) was buried under later remains. In the Kenyon section, a plaster-covered earthen rampart sloped upwards (to the right in this view) to the top of the tell behind the revetment wall. The wall that surrounded the city once stood atop this earthen embankment off the right side of the drawing. Although Kenyon found the revetment wall and the earthen rampart, she did not find the city wall itself on top of the tell. But, astoundingly, a heap of fallen red bricks (colored bright red) lay outside the revetment wall. These red bricks almost certainly came from the city wall on top of the tell or from a mudbrick parapet wall atop the revetment wall, or both, as Kenyon recognized. Author Bryant Wood speculates that an earthquake – a common occurrence in the Jordan Valley – could have caused Jericho’s city wall to tumble, not only leaving the city fatally exposed but providing the massed Israelites at the base of the tell with a convenient walkway over the revetment wall right into Jericho.

The outer face of this wall is shown in the photo below.


All three excavations at Jericho found evidence – at different points around the tell – of a mudbrick parapet wall atop the stone revetment wall. In Kenyon’s drawing, as well as in these two sections below right, by Sellin and Watzinger (left) and Garstang (right), gray indicates the revetment wall and violet highlights the parapet wall on top of it.

image.axd15When the wall was deposited in this fashion at the base of the tell, the collapsed mudbricks themselves formed a ready ramp for an attacker to surmount the revetment wall.47 According to the Biblical account, the Israelites who encircled the city "went up into the city, every man straight before him" (Joshua 6:20). Note that the Bible states that they went up into the city.

The collapse of the city wall may well have been the result of an earthquake, since there is ample evidence for earthquake activity at the end of the life of City IV.48 Again, geophysicist Amos Nur:

This combination, the destruction of Jericho and the stoppage of the Jordan, is so typical of earthquakes in this region that only little doubt can be left as to the reality of such events in Joshua’s time." 49

Now let us turn to the remains of the city itself. One of the most intriguing questions about the story in Joshua concerns the location of Rahab’s house. We know her house had a roof exposed to the elements because she hid the spies under some flax that was drying there (Joshua 2:6). It was also built against the city wall, thus facilitating the escape of the spies: "Then she let them down by a rope through an opening, for her house was at the surface of the wall, since she lived within the wall" (Joshua 2:15).

Sellin and Watzinger found a number of domestic structures from the final phase of City IV on the north side of the tell.50 They were located on the lower slopes of the rampart, just inside the revetment wall. It is possible that Rahab lived in just such a house. If so, it would have been within the city wall, i.e., between the revetment wall with the mudbrick parapet and the upper city wall at the crest of the rampart. It could also have abutted the revetment wall, with a window through the parapet wall overlooking the stone revetment below. The houses built on the rampart appear to have comprised the poor quarter of the city because they were constructed of thin walls only one brick in width.

Remnants of the final phase of City IV were also found on the southeast slope, just above the spring, by both Garstang and Kenyon. What Garstang and Kenyon found here is most revealing. Garstang dug a large area, about 115 feet by 165 feet, which he called the "palace storeroom area"; Kenyon found remains from the final phase of City IV only in two excavation squares (H II and H III). The results reveal that City IV was massively destroyed in a violent conflagration51 that left a layer of destruction debris a yard or more thick across the entire excavation area.52 Again, we will let Kenyon describe the calamity:

The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire."53

The last observation in this quotation suggests that an earthquake preceded the conflagration. This description may be compared with the Biblical account. According to the Bible, after the Israelites gained access to the city, they "burned the city with fire and all that was therein" (Joshua 6:24). In short, after the collapse of the walls – perhaps by earthquake – the city was put to the torch.

The most abundant item found in the destruction, apart from pottery, was grain. As noted above, both Garstang and Kenyon found large quantities of grain stored in the ground-floor rooms of the houses.54 In her limited excavation area, Kenyon recovered six bushels of grain in one season!55 This is unique in the annals of Palestinian archaeology. Perhaps a jar or two might be found, but to find such an extensive amount of grain is exceptional. What conclusions can we draw from this unusual circumstance?

Grain was a very valuable commodity in antiquity. The amount stored after harvest provided food until the next harvest. Grain was so valuable, in fact, that it was used as a medium of exchange. The presence of these grain stores in the destroyed city is entirely consistent with the Biblical account. The city did not fall as a result of a starvation siege, as was so common in ancient times. Instead, the Bible tells us, Jericho was destroyed after but seven days (Joshua 6:15,20). Successful attackers normally plundered valuable grain once they captured a city. This of course would be inconsistent with the grain found here. But in the case of Jericho the Israelites were told that "the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction," and they were commanded, "Keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction" (Joshua 6:17-18). So the Israelites were forbidden to take any plunder from Jericho.56 This could explain why so much grain was left to burn when City IV met its end.

Another inference can be drawn from the grain: The city fell shortly after harvest, in the spring of the year. This is precisely when the Bible says the Israelites attacked Jericho: Rahab was drying freshly harvested flax on the roof of her house (Joshua 2:6); the Israelites crossed the Jordan while it was in flood at harvest time (Joshua 3:15); and they celebrated Passover just prior to attacking the city (Joshua 5:10).

image.axd16An artist, draws in situ grain storage jars excavated at Jericho, one of which is seen in close-up below. A total of six bushels of grain were discovered in a single excavation season amid the charred debris of City IV, giving an important clue to the city’s demise. Its end could not have come as a result of a siege, because that would have exhausted the city’s food supply. Instead, the attack must have occurred suddenly, soon after the spring harvest – two crucial details that match the account in the Book of Joshua.

image.axd17Despite my disagreements with Kenyon’s major conclusion, I nevertheless applaud her for her careful and painstaking field work. It was she who brought order to the confused stratigraphic picture at Jericho. Her thoroughgoing excavation methods and detailed reporting of her findings, however, did not carry over into her analytical work. When the evidence is critically examined there is no basis for her contention that City IV was destroyed by the Hyksos or Egyptians in the mid-16th century B.C.E. The pottery, stratigraphic considerations, scarab data and a Carbon-14 date all point to a destruction of the city around the end of Late Bronze I, about 1400 B.C.E. Garstang’s original date for this event appears to be the correct one!

Was this destruction at the hands of the Israelites? The correlation between the archaeological evidence and the Biblical narrative is substantial:

• The city was strongly fortified (Joshua 2:5,7,15, 6:5,20).

• The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Joshua 2:6, 3:15, 5:10).

• The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodstuffs (Joshua 6:1).

• The siege was short (Joshua 6:15).

• The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Joshua 6:20).

• The city was not plundered (Joshua 6:17-18).

• The city was burned (Joshua 6:20).

One major problem remains: the date, 1400 B.C.E. Most scholars will reject the possibility that the Israelites destroyed Jericho in about 1400 B.C.E. because of their belief that Israel did not emerge in Canaan until about 150 to 200 years later, at the end of the Late Bronze II period.

A minority of scholars agrees with the Biblical chronology, which places the Israelite entry into Canaan in about 1400 B.C.E. The dispute between these two views is already well-known to BAR readers.**

But recently, new evidence has come to light suggesting that Israel was resident in Canaan throughout the Late Bronze II period. As new data emerge and as old data are reevaluated, it will undoubtedly require a reappraisal of current theories regarding the date and the nature of the emergence of Israel in Canaan.

See Dr. Wood discuss the evidence in this cutting edge video, Jericho Unearthed. Jericho Unearthed can be purchased in the ABR bookstore.

See Dr. Wood present his research on Jericho in this video from 2009.

Time Magazine published an article in 1990 about Dr. Wood's research here:,9171,969538,00.html


This article is a revised and updated version of a paper presented to the Near East

Archaeological Society, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA, December 4, 1987.

From Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. XVI, No. 2, March/April 1990, pp. 44-58. Posted with permission.

* B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) are the religiously neutral terms used by scholars, corresponding to B.C. and A.D.

** See John J. Bimson and David Livingston, "Redating the Exodus," BAR, September/October 1987

Baruch Halpern, "Radical Exodus Redating Fatally Flawed," BAR, November/December 1987

John J. Bimson, "A Reply to Baruch Halpern," and Manfred Bietak, "Contra Bimson, Bietak Says Late Bronze Age Cannot Begin as Late as 1400 B.C.," BAR, July/August 1988.


1 See James M. Monson, "Climbing into Canaan," Bible Times 1 (1988), pp. 8-21.
2 Warren’s 1867 work is described in Charles Warren, Underground Jerusalem (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1876), pp. 164-189. The results of the 1868 expedition were first published in 1869 in a little-circulated, untitled report to the members of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF). This report is in the library of the PEF in London, bound in a volume titled Palestine Exploration Fund Proceedings and Notes, 1865-1869. Warren’s findings are on pp. 14-16 of a longer account of a journey up the Jordan made in February-March 1868, which included soundings at Jericho and eight other tells in the vicinity. The report of the 1868 work was reprinted in Underground Jerusalem, pp. 192-197, and in The Survey of Western Palestine, Vol. III, by C. R. Conder and H.H. Kitchener (London: Committee of the PEF, 1883), pp. 224-226. Warren’s reports have been incorrectly cited by subsequent investigators: John Garstang ("Jericho: City and Necropolis," p. 3, see endnote 8), Kathleen Kenyon (p. xxiii in Jericho 3, see endnote 18) and Piotr Bienkowski (p. 189 in Jericho in the Late Bronze Age [Warminster, UK: Aris & Phillips, 1986]).
3 Underground Jerusalem, p. 196
4 Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger, Jericho: Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen (Jericho) (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1913).
5 Watzinger, "Zur Chronologie der Schichten von Jericho," Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gessellschaft 80 (1926), pp. 131-136.
6 See David Ussishkin, "Notes on the Fortifications of the Middle Bronze II Period at Jericho and Shechem," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 276 (1989), forthcoming.
7 John Garstang, "The Date of the Destruction of Jericho," Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (PEFQS) 1927, pp. 96-100; "Jericho: Sir Charles Marston’s Expedition of 1930," PEFQS 1930, pp. 123-125; "A Third Season at Jericho," PEFQS 1932, p. 149; "Jericho and the Biblical Story," in Wonders of the Past, ed. J.A. Hammerton (New York: Wise, 1937), p. 1216.
8 John Garstang, "Jericho: City and Necropolis," University of Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology (LAAA) 19 (1932), pp. 3-22, 35-54; LAAA 20 (1933), pp. 3-42; LAAA 21 (1934), pp. 19-136; LAAA 22 (1935), pp. 143-184; LAAA 23 (1936), pp. 67-76.
9 John Garstang and J.B.E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, rev. ed., 1948).
10 John Garstang, "Jericho and the Biblical Story," p. 1222.
11 E.g., Louis Hugues Vincent, "The Chronology of Jericho," PEFQS 1931, pp. 104-105, and "A travers les fouilles palestineennes II. Jericho et sa chronologie," Revue Biblique 44 (1935), pp. 583-605; Alan Rowe (with John Garstang), "The Ruins of Jericho," PEFQS 1936, p. 170; William F. Albright, "The Israelite Conquest of Canaan in the Light of Archaeology," BASOR 74 (1939), pp. 18-20; and G. Ernest Wright, "Epic of Conquest," Biblical Archaeologist 3 (1940), pp. 35-36.
12 Kathleen M. Kenyon "Some Notes on the History of Jericho in the Second Millennium B.C.," Palestine Exploration Quarterly (PEQ) 1951, pp. 101-138.
13 Kenyon, Beginning in Archaeology (New York: Praeger, 3rd rev. ed., 1972).
14 Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho (London: Ernest Benn, 1957), p. 262; "Jericho," in Archaeology and Old Testament Study (AOTS) ed. D. Winton Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967), pp. 265- 267; "Jericho," in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (EAEHL), vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), pp. 551, 564; The Bible in Recent Archaeology (Atlanta: John Knox, 1978), pp. 33-37.
15 Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho.
16 Kenyon, "British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem Excavations at Jericho 1952," PEQ 1952, pp. 4-6; "Excavations at Jericho 1952," PEQ 1952, pp. 62-82; "Excavations at Jericho, 1953," PEQ 1953, pp. 81-96; "Excavations at Jericho, 1954," PEQ 1954, pp. 45-63;
"Excavations at Jericho, 1955," PEQ 1955, pp. 108-117; "Excavations at Jericho, 1956," PEQ 1956, pp. 67-82; "Excavations at Jericho, 1957-58," PEQ 1960, pp. 88-113.
17 Kenyon and Thomas A. Holland, Excavations at Jericho Volume 4: The Pottery Type Series and Other Finds (Jericho 4 (London: British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem [BSAJ], 1982); and Excavations at Jericho Volume 5: The Pottery Phases of the Tell and Other Finds (Jericho 5) (London: BSAJ, 1983).
18 Excavations at Jericho, Vol. 3: The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Tell (Jericho 3), ed. Thomas A. Holland (London: BSAJ, 1981).
19 Kenyon, "The Middle and Late Bronze Age Strata at Megiddo," Levant I (1969), pp. 50-51; "Palestine in the Time of the Eighteenth Dynasty," in Cambridge Ancient History (CAH3), Vol. 2.1, ed. I.E.S. Edwards et al. (Cambridge: The University Press, 3rd ed., 1973), pp. 528-29; Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (New York: Norton, 4th ed., 1979), pp. 182-183.
20 Kenyon, "The Middle and Late Bronze Age Strata," p. 51; "Palestine in the Time of the Eighteenth Dynasty," pp. 528-529; Archaeology in the Holy Land, p. 182.
21 Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, p. 182.
22 The area inside the city wall was originally about 5-6 acres (John Garstang, "The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition of 1931," PEFQS 1931, p. 186; "Jericho: City and Necropolis," LAAA 19, p. 3), while the total area, including the fortification system, was approximately twice that, or 10-12 acres (John Garstang, "The Walls of Jericho," p. 187, and "Jericho: City and Necropolis," LAAA 19, p. 3; Kenyon, "Jericho," EAEHL, p. 550 [4 hectares = 9.9 acres]). Magen Broshi and Ram Gophna list the size of the site as 1.5 ha (3.7 acres; Broshi and Gophna, "Middle Bronze Age II Palestine: Its Settlements and Population," BASOR 261 [1986], Table 4), but this is no doubt the estimated size of the site as it is today. A considerable portion of the tell was removed in the construction of the reservoir and the modern road.
23 Kenyon, "Jericho," AOTS, p. 271.
24 Kenyon, "Palestine in the Middle Bronze Age," in CAH3, pp. 92-93; "Jericho," EAEHL, p. 563.
25 Kenyon, "Jericho," AOTS, p. 272; "Palestine in the Time of the Eighteenth Dynasty," CAH3, p. 528.
26 Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 229; "Palestine in the Time of the Eighteenth Dynasty, CAH3, p. 528; Archaeology in the Holy Land, pp. 177, 180.
27 James Hoffmeier, "Reconsidering Egypt’s Part in the Termination of the Middle Bronze Age in Palestine," Levant 21 (1989), pp. 181-193.
28 See below, notes 54 and 55.
29 J.A. Wilson, "Egyptian Historical Texts," Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), ed. James B. Pritchard (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 3rd ed., 1969), p. 233.
30 Wilson, "Egyptian Historical Texts," p. 238.
31 John Garstang, "The Walls of Jericho," pp. 193-194.
32 Yigael Yadin et al., Hazor 1, An Account of the First Season of Excavations, 1955 (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1958); p. 104; Ruth Amiran, Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land (Pottery) (Jerusalem: Masada, 1969), p. 135.
33 Garstang recognized the chronological significance of this bowl and correctly dated it to the 15th century B.C.E. ("Jericho: City and Necropolis," LAAA 21, p. 121). It is the common bowl of Ashdod stratum XVII (Moshe Dothan, Ashdod 2-3: The Second and Third Seasons of Excavations, 1963, 1965, Antiqot 9-10 [English Series, 1971], p. 81) and Hazor stratum 2 (Yadin et al., Hazor 2: An Account of the Second Season of Excavations, 1956 [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1960], p. 94; Yadin, Hazor: The Head of All Those Kingdoms, Schweich Lectures of the British Academy, 1970 [London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972], p. 32).
34 The majority of Garstang’s tell pottery remains unpublished. It was distributed to supporting museums and institutions in Britain and Europe. The largest collection is at Garstang’s home institution, the University of Liverpool. I have examined the known collections and found additional examples of LB I forms. I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Annie Caubet, conservator in chief, Marielle Pic and Patrick Pouys-segur, of the Dépt. des Antiquitiés Orientales, Musée du Louvre, for their kind assistance in making the necessary arrangements for me to examine the Jericho material in their collection. Travel funds for this examination were provided by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and the generosity of members and friends of the Associates for Biblical Research, Akron, PA.
35 Inverted-rim bowls with a beveled outer edge and chocolate-on-white ware begin appearing with regularity in this phase (Jericho 4, figs. 104:3; 105:4, 18; Jericho 5, figs. 168:1, 9, 15; 169:6). They are both diagnostic types for the MB III period (Lawrence E. Toombs and Wright, "The Fourth Campaign at Balatah [Shechem]," BASOR 169 [1963], p. 51; Amiran, Pottery, pp. 158- 159; Joe D. Seger, "Two Pottery Groups of Middle Bronze Shechem," in Wright, Shechem: Biography of a Biblical City [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965], p. 236; Seger, "The Middle Bronze II C Date of the East Gate at Shechem," Levant 6 [1974], pp. 123, 130; J. B. Hennesy, "Chocolate-on-White Ware at Pella," Palestine in the Bronze and Iron Ages: Papers in Honour of Olga Tufnell, ed. Jonathan N. Tubb (London: Institute of Archaeology, 1985]).
36 Kenyon, Jericho 3, pp. 354-370.
37 Based on the ceramic evidence, I would suggest reassigning Phases 44 to 52 to the LB I period.
38 Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, p. 126.
39 Kenyon, Jericho 5, p. 763, sample BM-1790.
40 Amos Nur, quoted in "The Stanford Earth Scientist," pull-out section of the Stanford Observer (Stanford Univ. News Service), November 1988, p. 5.
41 Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, pp. 139-140; John Garstang, Joshua, Judges (reprinted Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1978), pp. 136-137.
42 Sellin and Watzinger, Jericho, p. 58.
43 Kenyon found the foundations for this wall from phase one of the three phases of the defensive system. It was about 7 feet wide and she was able to trace it for about 16 feet (Digging Up Jericho, p. 216; Jericho 3, pp. 374-375).
44 Kenyon, Jericho 3, p. 110. It is also possible that the bricks could have come from a parapet wall atop the stone revetment wall, if one existed at this point.
45 Kenyon, Jericho 3, p. 110.
46 The Austro-German team and Garstang also found evidence of collapsed bricks at the base of the revetment wall (Sellin and Watzinger, Jericho, Abb. [Figure] 35.6; John Garstang, "Jericho: Sir Charles Marston’s Expedition," p. 128.
47 I am grateful to William H. Shea for this observation.
48 John Garstang, "Jericho: City and Necropolis," LAAA 21, pp. 105, 126; "The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho," PEFQS 1935, p. 67; "Jericho and the Biblical Story," p. 1219; Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, pp. 122-123; Kenyon, Jericho 3, p. 370.
49 Nur, quoted in "The Stanford Earth Scientist," p. 5.
50 Sellin and Watzinger, Jericho, Taf. (Plan) III.
51 John Garstang, "The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition," p. 192; "Jericho: City and Necropolis," LAAA 21, pp. 122-123; "The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho," p. 68; "Jericho and the Biblical Story," p. 1220; Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, p. 123. Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 232; Archaeology in the Holy Land, pp. 171, 181-182; Jericho 3, pp. 368- 370.
52 It is clear that the destruction continued beyond the excavation area, since erosion debris from  upslope was colored brown, black and red by the burnt material it contained (Kenyon, Archaeology In the Holy Land, p. 182).
53 Kenyon, Jericho 3, p. 370.
54 John Garstang, "The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition," pp. 193-194; "Jericho: City and Necropolis," LAAA 21, 123, 128, 129; "The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho," p. 66; "Jericho and the Biblical Story," p. 1218. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, p. 171;
Jericho 3, pp. 369-370.
55 Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 230.
56 I am indebted to David Dorsey for calling this prohibition to my attention.

The 13th century exodus-conquest theory was formulated by William F. Albright in the 1930s, based largely on Palestinian archaeological evidence, and promoted by him throughout his career.1 In the years following Albright’s death in 1971, however, evidence for the proposal dissipated and most Palestinian archaeologists abandoned the idea.2 In spite of the fact that the theory runs counter to Scripture, a number of evangelicals continue to hold to this view, prompting Carl G. Rasmussen to comment, “the Late-Date Exodus/Conquest Model has been abandoned by many seems that currently the major adherents to the Late-Date Exodus/Conquest Model are some evangelicals!” 3 A strong advocate of the theory is Kenneth A. Kitchen, who recently gave a detailed exposition of it in his On the Reliability of the Old Testament.4


Albright used three sites as evidence for a conquest in the late 13th century BC: Tell Beit Mirsim, which he identified as Debir,5 Beitin, identified as Bethel,6 and Lachish.7 All three were excavated in the 1930s and in each case a violent destruction layer was found which was dated to the end of the 13th century BC. At both Tell Beit Mirsim and Beitin the destruction of a relatively prosperous Late Bronze Age city was followed by a much poorer Iron Age I culture, which Albright identified as Israelite. At Lachish, on the other hand, the destruction was followed by a period of abandonment. Albright assigned a hieratic inscription dated to “regnal year four” found at Lachish to the fourth year of Merenptah and used it to date the conquest to ca. 1230 BC, based on the high Egyptian chronology in use at the time.8

A fourth major site was added to the list when Yigael Yadin excavated Hazor in the 1950s.9 Again, a violent destruction occurred toward the end of the 13th century BC. This was followed by a period of abandonment, which, in turn, was followed by a poor Iron Age I settlement.

II. Loss of the Archaeological foundation

For the 13th century exodus-conquest theory to be valid, the Palestinian destructions would have to occur prior to the fourth year of Merenptah, ca. 1210 BC, as Israel was settled in Canaan by this time according to Merenptah’s famous stela.10 A detailed analysis of the pottery associated with the destruction levels of Tell Beit Mirsim and Beitin, however, reveals that these sites were destroyed in the early 12th century, probably at the hands of the Philistines, ca. 1177 BC.11 Inscriptional evidence found at Lachish in the 1970s indicates that it was destroyed even later, ca. 1160 BC.12 Recent excavations at Hazor, on the other hand, have sustained the ca. 1230 BC date for the demise of the Late Bronze Age city.13 But was that destruction at the hands of Joshua, or Deborah and Barak?

Only three cities are recorded as having been destroyed by fire by the Israelites: Jericho (Josh 6:24), Ai (Josh 8:28), and Hazor (Josh 11:11).14 All three pose problems for a late 13th century conquest. At Jericho and Ai, no evidence has been found for occupation in the late 13th century, let alone for a destruction at that time.15 Assigning the 1230 BC destruction at Hazor to Joshua results in a major conflict with the biblical narrative. Following the 1230 BC destruction, there was no urban center there until the time of Solomon in the 10th century BC (1 Kgs 9:15).16 The defeat of Jabin, king of Hazor, by a coalition of Hebrew tribes under the leadership of Deborah and Barak is recorded in Judg 4–5. Judg 4:24 indicates that the Israelites destroyed Hazor at this time: “And the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him”. 17 If Joshua destroyed Hazor in 1230 BC, then there would be no city for the Jabin of Judges 4 to rule.

Five other sites in Cisjordan were destroyed toward the end of the 13th century BC: Gezer, Aphek, Megiddo, Beth Shan, and Tell Abu Hawam.18 The ancient name of Tell Abu Hawam is unknown, so nothing can be said relative to its role in the conquest. The other four sites, however, are singled out in the biblical narrative as cities the Israelites could not conquer.19


1. Biblical chronology

The internal chronological data in the Hebrew Bible clearly supports a mid-15th century BC date for the exodus. The primary datum is 1 Kgs 6:1 which states, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.” Working back from Solomon’s fourth year, ca. 966 BC,20 brings us to ca. 1446 BC for the date of the exodus. The Jubilees data support an exodus date of 1446 BC as well.21

In addition, Judg 11:26 argues for a 15th century exodus-conquest. In this passage Jephthah stated in a letter to the king of Ammon, “for three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon.” Although it is not possible to calculate precise dates for Jephthah, various scholars have estimated the beginning of his judgeship between 1130 and 1073 BC,22 so the implication is that the tribe of Reuben had been occupying the disputed area from the Wadi Hesban to the Arnon River since ca. 1400 BC.

2. Egyptian history

Kitchen dates the conquest to 1220–1210 BC and consequently the exodus to 1260 BC,23 early in the reign of Rameses II (1279–1213 BC).24 One of the main arguments for an early 13th century date for the exodus is the mention of the name Rameses in Exod 1:11 (see below). If the Israelites built a store city named after Rameses II, then the exodus must have occurred during his reign. But if we look carefully at the chronology of the exodus events we see that this argument is flawed. Exod 1 presents a series of events: oppression (including the building of Pithom and Rameses, vs. 11), increase in Israelite population (vs. 12a), fear of the Israelites on the part of the Egyptians (vs. 12b), command to kill all newborn Israelite males (vs. 16). This series of events is then followed by the birth of Moses (Exod 2:1). Since Moses was 80 years of age at the time of the exodus (Exod 7:7), the building of Rameses would have taken place well before Moses’ birth in 1340 BC (according to the 13th century theory), long before Rameses came to the throne.25 In fact, since Rameses II was 25 years of age when he began his rule,26 the Israelites built the store city called “Rameses” before Rameses II was even born!

In addition, the Bible strongly implies that the Pharaoh of the exodus perished in the yam sûp. As the Egyptians were closing in on the Israelites at the yam sûp, the Lord said to Moses, “The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen” (Exod 14:18). Then, after the Israelites had crossed the yam sûp, “The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea” (Exod 14:23). The water then covered “the entire army of Pharaoh,” such that “not one of them survived” (Exod 14:28). More explicit are Pss 106:11, “The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived” and 136:15, “[the Lord] swept Pharaoh and his army into the yam sûp.” Obviously, Rameses II did not drown in the yam sûp, as he died of natural causes some 47 years after the presumed exodus date of 1260 BC.


1. Arguments for the theory

Kitchen gives three reasons why the exodus and conquest occurred in the 13th century BC.

a. Mention of Rameses in Exodus 1:11

Since the Israelites were employed to build a city which is called “Rameses” in Exod 1:11, Kitchen and those who hold to a 13th century exodus presume it was the delta capital Pi-Ramesse built by Rameses II.27 As pointed out above, however, the Israelites were employed as slave laborers to construct the store cities prior to the reign of Rameses II. It is clear, then, that the name Rameses used in Exod 1:11 is an editorial updating of an earlier name that went out of use. There was a long history of occupation in the area of Pi-Ramesse, with several names being given to the various cities there.28 The name Pi-Ramesse was in use from the time of Rameses II until ca. 1130 BC when the site was abandoned,29 possibly due to silting of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. A new capital was then established at Tanis 12 mi. northeast.

Editorial updating of names that had gone out of use is not uncommon in the Hebrew Bible. Other examples are Bethel, named by Jacob in Gen 28:19, but used proleptically in Gen 12:8 and 13:3; Dan, named by the Danites in Judg 18:29 and used proleptically in Gen 14:14; and Samaria, named by Omri in 1 Kgs 16:24 and used proleptically in 1 Kgs 13:32. Kitchen allows for editorial updating of the name Rameses in Gen 47:11,30 and Dan in Gen 14:14,31 but not for Rameses in Exod 1:11.

b. Covenant format

Based on the formats of ancient Near East treaties, laws, and covenants from the period 2500–650 BC, Kitchen has concluded that the Sinai covenant documents of Exod, Lev, Deut, and the renewal in Josh 24, most closely match late second millennium (ca. 1400–1200 BC) Hittite treaties (see Table 1).32 However, when one looks at the formats found in the biblical covenant texts, it is seen that they are highly fluid and change continually throughout. Exodus and Leviticus are largely stipulations and religious regulations, interspersed with narrative and elements of covenant terminology. Deuteronomy is a discourse by Moses, with stipulations, and interspersed with elements of covenant terminology. The focus of Josh 24 is a call to be faithful to Yahweh, couched in covenant terminology. The biblical covenant documents do not follow any set format, as seen in Tables 2–4.33

Table 1: Second Millennium BC Covenant Formats in the Ancient Near East 69

ca. 1800–1700 BC

ca. 1600–1400 BC ca. 1400–1200 BC
Mari/Leilan North Syria Hittites Hittite Corpus
Witness/Oaths Title Title Title
Stipulations Stipulations Witnesses Historical Prologue
Curses Curses Stipulations Stipulations
    Oath Deposit/Reading
    Curses Witnesses

Table 2 Covenant Format of Exodus

1:1–19:3a  Narrative

23:25–31  Blessings 34:10a  Preamble
19:3b  Preamble 23:32–33  Stipulations 34:10b–11  Blessings
19:4  Historical Prologue 24:1–2  Narrative 34:12–23  Stipulations
19:5–6  Blessing 24:3a  Recitation (=Reading) 34:24  Blessings
19:7  Recitation (=Reading) 24:3b  Oath 34:25–26  Stipulations
19:8  Oath 24:4–6  Ceremony 34:27–28  Epilogue
19:9–25  Narrative 24:7a  Reading 34:29–31  Narrative
20:1  Preamble 24:7b  Oath 34:32  Reading
20:2  Historical Prologue 24:8–11  Ceremony 34:33–35  Narrative
20:3–17  Stipulations 24:12–18  Narrative 35:1  Preamble
20:18–21  Narrative 25:1  Preamble 35:2–3  Stipulations
20:22a  Preamble 25:2–15  Religious Regulations 35:4  Preamble
20:22b  Historical Prologue 25:16  Deposit 35:5–19  Religious Regulations
20:23–26  Stipulations 25:17–20  Religious Regulations 35:20–40:19  Narrative
21:1  Preamble 25:21  Deposit 40:20  Deposit
21:2–23:19  Stipulations 25:22–31:17  Religious Regulations 40:21–38  Narrative
23:20–23  Blessings 31:18  Epilogue  
23:24  Stipulations 32:1–34:9  Narrative  

Table 3: Covenant Format of Leviticus

1:1–2a  Preamble

13:59  Epilogue 22:33  Historical Epilogue
1:2b–3:17  Religious Regulations 14:1–2  Preamble 23:1–2a  Preamble
4:1–2a   Sub Preamble 1 14:3–31  Stipulations 23:2b–22  Religious Regulations
4:2b–5:13  Religious Regulations 14:32  Epilogue 23:23–24a  Preamble
5:14  Sub Preamble 1 14:33  Preamble 23:24b–25  Religious Regulations
5:15–19  Religious Regulations 14:34–53  Stipulations 23:26  Preamble
6:1  Sub Preamble 1 14:54–57  Epilogue 23:27–32  Religious Regulations
6:2–7  Religious Regulations 15:1–2a  Preamble 23:33–34a  Preamble
6:8  Sub Preamble 1 15:2b–31  Stipulations 23:34b–42  Religious Regulations
6:9–18  Religious Regulations 15:32–33  Epilogue 23:43  Historical Epilogue
6:19  Sub Preamble 1 16:1–2a  Preamble 23:44  Recitation (=Reading)
6:20–23  Religious Regulations 16:2b–33  Religious Regulations 24:1  Preamble
6:24  Sub Preamble 1 16:34  Epilogue 24:2–9  Religious Regulations
6:25–30  Religious Regulations 17:1–2  Preamble 24:10–23  Narrative
7:1  Sub Preamble 2 17:3–16  Stipulations 25:1–2a  Preamble
7:2–10  Religious Regulations 18:1–2a  Preamble 25:2b–17  Stipulations
7:11  Sub Preamble 2 18:2b–29  Stipulations 25:18–22  Blessings
7:12–21  Religious Regulations 18:30  Epilogue 25:23–37  Stipulations
7:22  Sub Preamble 1 19:1–2a  Preamble 25:38  Historical Interjection
7:23–27  Religious Regulations 19:2b–36  Stipulations 25:39–54  Stipulations
7:28  Sub Preamble 1 19:37  Epilogue 25:55  Historical Interjection
7:29–36  Religious Regulations 20:1–2a  Preamble 26:1–2  Stipulations
7:37–38  Epilogue 20:2b–27  Stipulations 26:3–12  Blessings
8–10  Narrative 21:1a  Preamble 26:13  Historical Interjection
11:1–2a  Preamble 21:1b–23  Religious Regulations 26:14–39  Curses
11:2b–44  Stipulations 21:24  Recitation (=Reading) 26:40–44  Blessings
11:45  Historical Epilogue 22:1  Preamble 26:45  Historical Epilogue
11:46–47  Epilogue 22:2–16  Religious Regulations 26:46  Epilogue
12:1–2a  Preamble 22:17–18a  Preamble 27:1–2a  Preamble
12:2b–7a  Stipulations 22:18b–25  Religious Regulations 27:2b–33  Stipulations
12:7b–8  Epilogue 22:26  Preamble 27:34  Epilogue
13:1  Preamble 22:27–30  Religious Regulations  
13:2–58  Stipulations 22:31–32  Epilogue  

Table 4: Covenant Format of Deuteronomy

1:1–2a  Preamble

13:59  Epilogue 22:33  Historical Epilogue
1:2b–3:17  Religious Regulations 14:1–2  Preamble 23:1–2a  Preamble
4:1–2a   Sub Preamble 1 14:3–31  Stipulations 23:2b–22  Religious Regulations
4:2b–5:13  Religious Regulations 14:32  Epilogue 23:23–24a  Preamble
5:14  Sub Preamble 1 14:33  Preamble 23:24b–25  Religious Regulations
5:15–19  Religious Regulations 14:34–53  Stipulations 23:26  Preamble
6:1  Sub Preamble 1 14:54–57  Epilogue 23:27–32  Religious Regulations
6:2–7  Religious Regulations 15:1–2a  Preamble 23:33–34a  Preamble
6:8  Sub Preamble 1 15:2b–31  Stipulations 23:34b–42  Religious Regulations
6:9–18  Religious Regulations 15:32–33  Epilogue 23:43  Historical Epilogue
6:19  Sub Preamble 1 16:1–2a  Preamble 23:44  Recitation (=Reading)
6:20–23  Religious Regulations 16:2b–33  Religious Regulations 24:1  Preamble
6:24  Sub Preamble 1 16:34  Epilogue 24:2–9  Religious Regulations
6:25–30  Religious Regulations 17:1–2  Preamble 24:10–23  Narrative
7:1  Sub Preamble 2 17:3–16  Stipulations 25:1–2a  Preamble
7:2–10  Religious Regulations 18:1–2a  Preamble 25:2b–17  Stipulations
7:11  Sub Preamble 2 18:2b–29  Stipulations 25:18–22  Blessings
7:12–21  Religious Regulations 18:30  Epilogue 25:23–37  Stipulations
7:22  Sub Preamble 1 19:1–2a  Preamble 25:38  Historical Interjection
7:23–27  Religious Regulations 19:2b–36  Stipulations 25:39–54  Stipulations
7:28  Sub Preamble 1 19:37  Epilogue 25:55  Historical Interjection
7:29–36  Religious Regulations 20:1–2a  Preamble 26:1–2  Stipulations
7:37–38  Epilogue 20:2b–27  Stipulations 26:3–12  Blessings
8–10  Narrative 21:1a  Preamble 26:13  Historical Interjection
11:1–2a  Preamble 21:1b–23  Religious Regulations 26:14–39  Curses
11:2b–44  Stipulations 21:24  Recitation (=Reading) 26:40–44  Blessings
11:45  Historical Epilogue 22:1  Preamble 26:45  Historical Epilogue
11:46–47  Epilogue 22:2–16  Religious Regulations 26:46  Epilogue
12:1–2a  Preamble 22:17–18a  Preamble 27:1–2a  Preamble
12:2b–7a  Stipulations 22:18b–25  Religious Regulations 27:2b–33  Stipulations
12:7b–8  Epilogue 22:26  Preamble 27:34  Epilogue
13:1  Preamble 22:27–30  Religious Regulations  
13:2–58  Stipulations 22:31–32  Epilogue  

Kitchen has selected portions from Exod–Lev, Deut, and Josh 24, and rearranged them to match the late second millennium Hittite treaty format, with the exception of the order of blessings and curses.34 An example of this methodology is presented in Table 5. The result is an artificial format that does not correspond to the reality of the biblical texts. Kitchen has merely manipulated the biblical data to support his preconceived conclusion as to when the exodus took place. The format of the biblical material is varied and complex and cannot be dated to a particular time period based on ANE treaty formats.

Table 5: Comparison of Kitchen’s Rearranged Covenant Format With the Actual Format of Joshua 24

Kitchen’s Rearranged Format70 Actual Format
2a  Title/Preamble 2a  Preamble
2b–13  Historical Prologue 2b– 13  Historical Prologue
14–15  Stipulations 14–15  Stipulations
26  Depositing Text 16–18 Oath
22, 27 Witness 19–20  Curses
20c  Blessings (implied) 21  Oath
19–20b  Curses 22  Witnesses
  23  Stipulations
  24  Oath
  25–26a  Depositing Text
  26b–27  Witness

Table 6 Early Second Millennium BC Law Code Formats in the Ancient Near East71

Lipit-Ishtar(ca. 1926 BC) and Hammurabi (ca. 1760 BC)

Moreover, oaths, which are an important component of the biblical covenant (Exod 19:8; 24:3b, 7b; Josh 24:16–18, 21, 24), only are found in Hittite treaties from 1600–1400 BC, not in the 1400–1200 BC treaties Kitchen claims are the closest to the biblical format (see Table 1).

c. Lack of a royal residence in the delta 36

It is clear from the narrative of Exod 2–14 that there was a royal residence in the eastern delta where the Israelites were residing at the time of the exodus. Moses was rescued from the Nile and later adopted by a royal princess (Exod 2:5–10); after returning from Midian, Moses confronted Pharaoh, both in his palace and on the banks of the Nile; 37 and the Israelite foremen appeared before Pharaoh (Exod 5:15–21). Kitchen claims there was no royal center in the vicinity of Pi-Ramesse from the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos, ca. 1555 BC, until Horemhab began rebuilding, ca. 1320 BC. “Thus an exodus before 1320 would have no Delta capital to march from.” 38

This is not the case. Excavations at Ezbet Helmi, a little over a mile southwest of Pi-Ramesse, from ca. 1990 to the present, have revealed a large royal compound occupying some 10 acres. 39 The compound was located just south of where the Pelusiac branch of the Nile flowed in antiquity, bearing out the biblical depiction of the royal palace being in close proximity to the Nile. It consisted of two palaces and other building complexes that were in use during the early 18th Dynasty. The northwestern palace, Palace F, originally built in the late Hyksos period, was constructed on a 230 x 150 ft. platform approximately 100 ft. from the riverbank. A ramp on the northeast side gave access to the palace. To the northeast of Palace F was a middle class settlement, including workshops. A series of royal scarabs were found there, covering the period of the early 18th Dynasty from its founder, Ahmosis (ca. 1570–1546 BC), to Amenhotep II (ca. 1453–1419 BC).40 Southwest of Palace F were storage rooms and possibly part of a ritual complex.41


Figure 1. Royal citadel of Moses’ time at Ezbet Helmi. Excavations by the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo under the direction of Manfred Bietak have uncovered a walled-in area of ca. 10 acres enclosing a complex of buildings made of mud brick, including two major palaces, workshops, military areas, and storage and cultic facilities. (Based on Bietak, Dorner and Jánosi “Ausgrabungen 1993–2000,” figs. 4, 33 and 34b.)

The main palace, Palace G, was located 255 ft. southeast of Palace F, with an open courtyard between the two. Palace G occupied an area 259 x 543 ft., or 3 ¼ acres. To the immediate southwest were workshops and further to the southwest were city-like buildings.42 Palace G was built on a platform 23 ft. high with entry via a ramp on the northeast side. The entrance led into a large open courtyard 150 ft. square with columns on three sides. Proceeding to the southwest, one passed through three rows of columns into a vestibule that had two rows of columns. This marked the beginning of the palace proper, which probably had one or more stories above. The vestibule led into a hypostyle hall to the northwest and a reception hall with four rows of columns to the southwest. It was undoubtedly here in this reception hall where Moses and Aaron met with Pharaoh. Beyond these rooms were the private apartments of the royal family. These would have included private reception rooms, banquet rooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms and sleeping quarters.43

2. Treatment of the biblical chronological data

a. 1 Kings 6:1

To explain the 480 years of 1 Kgs 6:1, Kitchen appeals to the oft-repeated explanation that the figure is not a total time span, but rather 12 generations made up of ideal (or “full” as Kitchen says) generations of 40 years each.44 There is no basis for such an interpretation, biblical or otherwise. Nowhere in the Bible is it hinted that a “full” or ideal generation was 40 years in length. Quite the contrary, in the Hebrew Bible 40 years is often stipulated as a standard period of elapsed time.45 Moreover, there were more than 12 generations between the exodus and Solomon.46 In 1 Chr 6:33–37, 18 generations are listed from Korah, who opposed Moses (Num 16; cf. Exod 6:16–21), to Heman, a Temple musician in the time of David (1 Chr 6:31; 15:16–17). Adding one generation to extend the genealogy to Solomon results in 19 generations from the exodus to Solomon, not 12. Using Kitchen’s estimated length of a generation of ca. 25 years47 yields a total estimated time span of 475 years, a figure that compares well with the 480 years of 1 Kgs 6:1.

Umberto Cassuto made a study of the use of numbers in the Hebrew Bible.48 He discovered that when a number is written in ascending order (e.g., twenty and one hundred), the number is intended to be a technically precise figure, “since the tendency to exactness in these instances causes the smaller numbers to be given precedence and prominence.” 49 Conversely, numbers written in descending order (e.g., one hundred and twenty), are non-technical numbers found in narrative passages, poems, speeches, etc.50 The number in 1 Kgs 6:1 is written in ascending order, “in the eightieth year and four hundredth year,” and thus is to be understood as a precise number according to standard Hebrew usage, not as a schematic or symbolic number as some would have it.

b. Judges 11:26

Since there is no convenient way to dispose of the 300 year time period from the conquest to Jephthah in Judg 11:26, Kitchen resorts to an ad hominem argument; it was so much hyperbole from an “ignorant man”:

Brave fellow that he was, Jephthah was a roughneck, an outcast and not exactly the kind of man who would scruple first to take a Ph.D. in local chronology at some ancient university of the Yarmuk before making strident claims to the Ammonite ruler. What we have is nothing more than the report of a brave but ignorant man’s bold bluster in favor of his people, not a mathematically precise chronological datum.51 ...For blustering Jephthah’s propagandistic 300 years (Judg. 11:26) is fatuous to use this as a serious chronological datum.52

The fact of the matter is that Judg 11:26 comports well with the other chronological data in the Hebrew Bible, as well as external data, to support a 15th century exodus-conquest.

3. Treatment of the Palestinian archaeological data

a. Jericho

Kitchen attributes the lack of evidence for 13th century occupation at Jericho to erosion: “There may well have been a Jericho during 1275-1220, but above the tiny remains of that of 1400-1275, so to speak, and all of this has long, long since gone. We will never find ‘Joshua’s Jericho’ for that very simple reason.” 53 Jericho has been intensely excavated by four major expeditions over the last century and no evidence has been found, in tombs or on the tell, for occupation in the 13th century BC. Even in the case of erosion, pottery does not disappear; it is simply washed to the base of the tell where it can be recovered and dated by archaeologists. No 13th century BC pottery has been found at Jericho. A very good stratigraphic profile of the site was preserved on the southeast slope, referred to as “Spring Hill” since it is located above the copious spring at the base of the southeast side of the site. The sequence runs from the Early Bronze I period, ca. 3000 BC, to Iron Age II, ca. 600 BC, with a noticeable gap ca. 1320–1100 BC.54

b. Ai

With regard to the new discoveries at Kh. el-Maqatir,55 Kitchen comments, “The recently investigated Khirbet el-Maqatir does not (yet?) have the requisite archaeological profile to fit the other total data.” 56 The “requisite archaeological profile” for Kitchen is, of course, evidence for 13th century BC occupation. Similar to Jericho, there was a gap in occupation at Kh. el-Maqatir in the Late Bronze II period, ca. 1400–1177 BC.

c. Hazor

Kitchen attempts to deal with the problem pointed out above, namely, if Hazor was destroyed ca. 1230 BC, there would be no city for the Jabin of Judg 4 to rule and for Deborah and Barak to conquer, since Hazor was not rebuilt until the tenth century BC. His solution is that following the 1230 BC destruction, the ruling dynasty of Hazor moved their capital elsewhere: “after Joshua’s destruction of Hazor [in 1230 BC], Jabin I’s successors had to reign from another site in Galilee but kept the style of king of the territory and kingdom of Hazor.” 57 But where would this new capital be located? Kitchen does not suggest a candidate. Surveys in the region have determined that there was a gap in occupation in the area of Hazor and the Upper Galilee from ca. 1230 BC to ca. 1100 BC, ruling out Kitchen’s imaginative theory.58 The Bible clearly states that Deborah and Barak fought “Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor” (Judg 4:2), who is also referred to as “Jabin king of Hazor” (Judg 4:17). The simple (and biblical) solution is that Joshua destroyed an earlier city at Hazor (see below) in ca. 1400 BC, while Deborah and Barak administered the coup de grâce in ca. 1230 BC.


If the biblical data are used as primary source material for constructing a model for the exodus-conquest-settlement phase of Israelite history, a satisfactory correlation is achieved between biblical history and external archaeological and historical evidence, as outlined below.59

1. Date of the exodus-conquest

As reviewed above, the internal chronological data of the Hebrew Bible (1 Kgs 6:1; Judg 11:26, and 1 Chr 6:33–37) consistently support a date of 1446 BC for the exodus from Egypt and, consequently, a date of 1406–1400 BC for the conquest of Canaan. External supporting evidence for this dating comes from the Talmud. There, the last two Jubilees are recorded which allows one to back calculate to the first year of the first Jubilee cycle as 1406 BC.60

2. Support from Palestinian archaeology

Evidence from the three sites that were destroyed by the Israelites during the conquest, i.e., Jericho, Ai, and Hazor, correlates well with the biblical date and descriptions of those destructions.61 Moreover, evidence for Eglon’s palace at Jericho (Judg 3:12–30), dating to ca. 1300 BC, and the destruction of Hazor by Deborah and Barak ca. 1230 BC (Judg 4:24) during the Judges period also support a late 15th century BC date for the conquest.62

3. Support from Egyptian archaeology

a. Rameses

The area of Pi-Ramesse in the eastern delta has not only revealed evidence for a royal residence from the early 18th Dynasty, the time period of Moses according to biblical chronology, but also for a mid-19th century BC Asiatic settlement that could well be that of Jacob and his family shortly after their arrival in Egypt.63 This supports a 15th century exodus, as Jacob would had to have entered Egypt much later, in ca. 1700 BC, with a 13th century exodus.

b. Amarna Letters

The ‘apiru of the highlands of Canaan described in the Amarna Letters of the mid-14th century BC, conform to the biblical Israelites. The Canaanite kings remaining in the land wrote desperate messages to Pharaoh asking for help against the ‘apiru, who were “taking over” the lands of the king.64 Since the Israelites under Deborah and Barak were able to overthrow the largest city-state in Canaan in ca. 1230 BC65 and the Merenptah Stela indicates that Israel was the most powerful people group in Canaan in ca. 1210 BC,66 it stands to reason that the ‘apiru who were taking over the highlands in the previous century were none other than the Israelites.

c. Israel in Egyptian inscriptions

The mention of Israel in the Merenptah stela demonstrates that the 12 tribes were firmly established in Canaan by 1210 BC. It now appears that there is an even earlier mention of Israel in an Egyptian inscription. A column base fragment in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin preserves three names from a longer name list. The first two names clearly can be read as Ashkelon and Canaan, with the orthography suggesting a date in the 18th Dynasty.67 Manfred Görg has translated the third, partially preserved, name as Israel.68 Due to the similarity of these names to the names on the Merenptah stela, Görg suggests the name list may derive from the time of Rameses II, but adopting an older name sequence from the 18th Dynasty. This evidence, if it holds up to further scrutiny, would also support a 15th century BC exodus-conquest rather than a 13th century BC timeframe.


With new discoveries and additional analysis, the arguments for a 13th century exodus-conquest have steadily eroded since the death of its founder and main proponent William F. Albright in 1971. Although Kenneth A. Kitchen has made a determined effort to keep the theory alive, there is no valid evidence, biblical or extra-biblical, to sustain it. Biblical data clearly place the exodus-conquest in the 15th century BC and extra-biblical evidence strongly supports this dating. Since the 13th century exodus-conquest model is no longer tenable, evangelicals should abandon the theory.

This article was first published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48/3, (September 2005) 475-489. Posted here with permission.

Recommended Resources for Further Study


1. On the development of the 13th century exodus-conquest model, see John J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest (Sheffield, England: Sheffield, 1981) 30–73; Carl G. Rasmussen, “Conquest, Infiltration, Revolt, or Resettlement?” in Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, eds. David M. Howard, Jr., and Michael A. Grisianti (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003) 143–4.

2. Instead of considering the biblical model of a 15th century exodus-conquest, however, the majority of Palestinian archaeologists rejected the concept of an exodus-conquest altogether, in favor of other hypotheses for the origin of Israel. The most popular theory today is that Israel did not originate outside of Canaan, but rather arose from the indigenous population in the 12th century BC. For a recent discussion of this view, see William G. Dever, Who Were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). For a critique, see John J. Bimson, “Merenptah’s Israel and Recent Theories of Israelite Origins,” JSOT 49 (1991): 3–29. Some scholars allow for a small “Egypt exodus group” which became the nucleus for 12th century Israel [Pekka Pitkänen, “Ethnicity, Assimilation and the Israelite Settlement,” TynBul 55.2 (2004) 165].

3. “Conquest,” 153.

4. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

5. Later excavations at Kh. Rabud have shown that this is the more likely candidate for Debir (Moshe Kochavi, “Rabud, Khirbet,” OEANE 4.401.

6. Beitin is more likely Beth Aven. See Bryant G. Wood, “The Search for Joshua’s Ai,” forthcoming.

7. William F. Albright, “Archaeology and the Date of the Hebrew Conquest of Palestine,” BASOR 58 (1935) 10–8; idem, “Further Light on the History of Israel from Lachish and Megiddo,” BASOR 68 (1937) 22–6; idem, “The Israelite Conquest of Canaan in the Light of Archaeology,” BASOR 74 (1939) 11–23.

8. “Further Light,” 23–4.

9. William F. Albright, The Biblical Period From Abraham to Ezra (New York: Harper & Row, 1963) 27–8.

10. Michael G. Hasel, “Israel in the Merneptah Stela,” BASOR 296 (1994) 45–61.

11. Bryant G. Wood, Palestinian Pottery of the Late Bronze Age: An Investigation of the Terminal LB IIB Phase (Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto, 1985) 353–5, 447–8, 471–2; cf. Bimson, “Merenptah’s Israel,” 10–1.

12. David Ussishkin, “Lachish,” OEANE 3.319.

13. Kenneth A. Kitchen, “An Egyptian Inscribed Fragment from Late Bronze Hazor,” IEJ 53 (2003) 20–8.

14. Eugene H. Merrill, “Palestinian Archaeology and the Date of the Conquest: Do Tells Tell Tales?,” GTJ 3.1 (1982) 107–21.

15. On Jericho, see Thomas A. Holland, “Jericho,” in OEANE 3.223; on Ai, identified as Kh. el-Maqatir, see Bryant G. Wood, “Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1995–1998,” IEJ 50 (2000) 123–30; idem., “Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1999,” IEJ 50 (2000) 249–54; idem., “Khirbet el-Maqatir, 2000,” 246–52.

16. Doron Ben-Ami, “The Iron Age I at Tel Hazor in Light of the Renewed Excavations,” IEJ 51 (2001) 148–70.

17. All Scripture quotations in this paper are from the NIV.

18. Wood, Palestinian Pottery, 561–71; cf. Bimson, “Merenptah’s Israel,” 10–1.

19. Gezer­--Josh 16:10 and Judg 1:29; Aphek­--Judg 1:31; Megiddo and Beth Shan­--Josh 17:11–12 and Judg 1:27.

20. Kenneth A. Kitchen, “How We Know When Solomon Ruled,” BARev 27.4 (Sept–Oct 2001) 32–7, 58.

21. Rodger C. Young, “When Did Solomon Die?” JETS 46 (2003) 599–603.

22. Bimson, Redating, 103 (1130 BC); John H. Walton, Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) 48 (1086 BC); Leon Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 411 (1078 BC); Kitchen, Reliability, 207 (1073 BC).

23. Reliability, 159, 307, 359.

24. Kenneth A. Kitchen, “The Historical Chronology of Ancient Egypt, A Current Assessment,” Acta Archaeologica 67 (1996) 12.

25. Rasmussen, “Conquest,” 145.

26. Peter A. Clayton, Chronicles of the Pharaohs (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1994) 146.

27. Kitchen, Reliability, 256, 309–10.

28. Bryant G. Wood, “From Ramesses to Shiloh: Archaeological Discoveries Bearing on the Exodus–Judges Period,” in Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, eds. David M. Howard, Jr., and Michael A. Grisanti (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003) 258, 260–2.

29. Kitchen, Reliability, 255.

30. Reliability, 348, 354, 493.

31. Reliability, 335, 354, 493.

32. Reliability, 283–94.

33. David A. Dorsey sees an overall similarity to ancient Near East vassal treaties in that Gen 1:11–Exod 19:2 represents a historical introduction to the treaty, Exod 19:3–Num 10:10 is the treaty itself, and Num 10:11–Josh 24 is the historical conclusion to the treaty, but he does not push the evidence beyond that general observation (The Literary Structure of the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999]) 47–48, 97–98.

34. Reliability, 284 Table 21. Blessings always follow curses in the late second millennium Hittite treaties, whereas the opposite is the case in the biblical texts. This alone shows that the biblical writers were not slavishly following a late second millennium covenant format.

35. Kitchen, Reliability, 286–7, 289, 291–3, 493.

36. Kitchen, Reliability, 310, 319, 344, 353 no. 4, 567 note 17, 635.

37. Exod 5:1–5; 7:10–3, 15–23; 8:1–11, 20–9; 9:1–5, 8–19, 27–32; 10:1–6, 8–11, 16–7, 24–9; 12:31–2.

38. Kitchen, Reliability, 310.

39. Manfred Bietak, Avaris, the Capital of the Hyksos: Recent Excavations at Tell el-Dab‘a (London: British Museum, 1996) 67–83; idem., “The Center of Hyksos Rule: Avaris (Tell el-Dab‘a), in The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. Eliezer D. Oren (Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1997) 115–24; idem., “Dab‘a, Tell ed-,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt 1, ed. Donald B. Redford (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 353; Manfred Bietak, Josef Dorner, and Peter Jánosi, “Ausgrabungen im dem Palastbezirk von Avaris. Vorbericht Tell el-Dab‘a/Ezbet Helmi 1993–2000,” Egypt and the Levant 11 (2001) 27–119; Manfred Bietak and Irene Forstner-Mueller, “Ausgrabungen im Palastbezirk von Avaris: Vorbericht Tell el-Dhab‘a/Ezbet Helmi, Furehjahr 2003,” Egypt and the Levant 13 (2003) 39–50.

40. Bietak, Avaris, 72; Bietak, Dorner, and Jánosi, “Ausgrabungen 1993–2000,” 37.

41. Bietak, Dorner, and Jánosi, “Ausgrabungen 1993–2000,” 36.

42. Bietak, Dorner, and Jánosi, “Ausgrabungen 1993–2000,” 36–101.

43. Bietak, Dorner, and Jánosi, “Ausgrabungen 1993–2000,” 36–101; Bryant G. Wood, “The Royal Precinct at Rameses,” Bible and Spade 17 (2004) 45–51.

44. Reliability, 307. As far as I can determine, this concept originated with William F. Albright in “A Revision of Early Hebrew Chronology,” JPOS 1 (1921) 64 n. 1.

45. During the flood it rained for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:4, 12, 17); 40 days after the ark landed Noah sent out a raven (Gen 8:6); Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah (Gen 25:20), as was Esau when he married Judith (Gen 26:34); the embalming of Jacob took 40 days (Gen 50:3); the spies spent 40 days in Canaan (Num 13:25; 14:34); Joshua was 40 when he went with the spies to Canaan (Josh 14:7); Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness (Exod 16:35; Num 14:33, 34; 32:13; Deut 2:7; 8:2, 4; 29:5; Josh 5:6; Neh 9:21; Ps 95:10; Amos 2:10; 5:25); Moses was on Mt. Sinai 40 days and nights the first time he received the law (Exod 24:18; Deut 9:9, 11), as he was the second time (Exod 34:28; Deut 10:10); Moses fasted 40 days and nights for the sin of the golden calf (Deut 9:18, 25); there were 40 years of peace during the judgeships of Othniel (Judg 3:11), Deborah (Judg 5:31), and Gideon (Judg 8:28); the Israelites were oppressed by the Philistines 40 years (Judg 13:1); Eli judged Israel 40 years (1 Sam 4:18); Ish-Bosheth was 40 when he took the throne following Saul’s death (2 Sam 2:10); David reigned for 40 years (2 Sam 5:4; 1 Kgs 2:11; 1 Chr 29:27), as did Solomon (1 Kgs 11:42; 2 Chr 9:30), and Joash (2 Kgs 12:1; 2 Chr 24:1); Elijah traveled 40 days and nights from the desert of Beersheba to Mt. Horeb (1 Kgs 19:8); Ezekiel lay on his right side for 40 days for the 40 years of the sins of Judah (Ezek 4:6); Ezekiel predicted that Egypt would be uninhabited for 40 years (Ezek 29:11–13); and Jonah preached that Nineveh would be overturned in 40 days (Jon 3:4).

46. Bimson, Redating, 77, 88.

47. Kitchen, Reliability, 307.

48. My thanks to Peter Gentry of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for calling this study to my attention.

49. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1961) 52.

50. Cassuto, Documentary, 52.

51. Reliability, 209.

52. Reliability, 308.

53. Reliability, 187.

54. Nicolò Marchetti, “A Century of Excavations on the Spring Hill at Tell Es-Sultan, Ancient Jericho: A Reconstruction of Its Stratigraphy,” in The Synchronisation of Civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C. II, ed. Manfred Bietak (Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaftren , 2003), 295–321.

55. For references, see note 15 above.

56. Reliability, 189.

57. Reliability, 213.

58. Israel Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1988) 107.

59. For an overview of the evidence, see Wood, “From Ramesses,” 256–82.

60. Young, “Solomon,” 600–1.

61. Wood, “From Ramesses,” 262–9.

62. Wood, “From Ramesses,” 271–3.

63. Wood, “From Ramesses,” 260–2.

64. Wood, “From Ramesses,” 269–71.

65. Wood, “From Ramesses,” 272–3.

66. Wood, “From Ramesses,” 273–5.

67. Manfred Görg, “Israel in Hieroglyphen,” BN 106 (2001) 24.

68. Görg, “Israel,” 25–7.

69. Kitchen, Reliability, 287 Table 25; 288 Table 26.

70. Kitchen, Reliability, 284 Table 21.

71. Kitchen, Reliability, 287 Table 24.


Shechem is the natural capital of the hill country of central Canaan. It is protected by mountains, has an abundant water supply, and is blessed with wide, fertile fields to the east and west. Throughout much of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages and into the Iron I period, it was the most powerful city-state in the region...

Attempts to correlate the findings of archaeology with the biblical record for the period under review have seemingly met with insurmountable ob­stacles. Much of the scholarly community today has despaired of making any valid connections and has dismissed biblical history prior to the king­dom period as nothing more than myth and legend...


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