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Khirbet el-Maqatir Research Articles

Introduction
Few things are more exciting at an archaeological excavation than finding coins, probably because they provide a direct and tangible connection with history. There is often writing on these coins, which is an important factor in archaeology because a readable coin can help to date the stratum in which it was found. On June 1, 2011, my team in Field C at Khirbet el-Maqatir found nine coins; eight of them were from a single locus inside the central apse of the church. Three other coins were found in an Early Roman house on the east end of the site. In December 2011, another eleven coins were recovered. The table below provides the details of these 23 coins.

The Maqatir Coins

The oldest coin was from the mid-third century BC (Ptolemy 11, 285-246 BC), and the most recent was a British coin from the 19th century. This range of dates spanning two millennia yet appearing in the same stratum requires some explanation since the assumed dates for the ecclesiastical complex are from the fourth to the sixth century. The initial pottery readings and the coin dates confirm this. Thirteen of the coins date to the Late Roman or Byzantine timeframe. Six of the coins are from the three centuries before Christ. Five of the six were minted by the Hasmonean rulers. Three of the coins were from the first century AD, including a coin of Porcius Festus (Acts 26) and a coin from Year Two of the First Jewish Revolt. The final first century coin, the focus of this article, was minted by Herod Agrippa I; it was the first from the New Testament period to be found at Khirbet el-Maqatir after nine seasons of excavation. Previously, coins were limited to the lntertestamental Period, the latest being a coin of Herod the Great that was dated to his third year as king, 37 BC. 1


maqatir monastery pic2Agrippa coin found in the monastery excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Credit: Michael Luddeni.

Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, was the son of Aristobulus IV and Bernice and father of Agrippa II (Acts 25-26); he ruled as king over much of his grandfather's realm from AD 37 to 44. The Agrippa I coin dates to the sixth year of his reign, AD 41/42. Agrippa I was in many ways an enigma. He was a close friend of Emperor Caligula (AD 37-41) and also enjoyed the favor of Claudius, who came to the throne in AD 41. Claudius was emperor when the Maqatir coin was struck. Agrippa I minted coins bearing the images of these Caesars and various pagan likenesses. On the other hand, he went to great lengths to maintain peace with the local Jewish population. He persuaded Caligula to abandon his bizarre intentions to erect a statue of himself in the Jerusalem temple (Josephus, Ant. 18.8.2-9). Agrippa I also ingratiated himself with the Jewish leaders by ignominiously becoming the first ruler to persecute the nascent Christian Church (Acts 12:1-3). This was certainly in keeping with the policies of Emperor Claudius, who, according to Acts 18:2, expelled all Jews (traditional and Messianic) from Rome. In The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius poignantly confirms that "there were continual uprisings on account of Chrestus" (Life of Claudius 25.4). Chrestus is a reference to Christ.2

Agrippa's title on the obverse (front) of the coin is BASILEUS, the Greek word for "king." This title is in keeping with the Roman custom of lauding the ruler who issued a coin, and not surprisingly, was the exact title attributed to him in Acts 12:1. The reverse of Roman coins was normally for propaganda purposes, but Agrippa, as a client king, wisely placed on it three ears of barley, a traditional Jewish symbol.

The Mishnah records that during the Feast of Tabernacles in AD 41 he publically read Deuteronomy 17:15, which states, "You may not put a foreigner over you who is not your brother." When Agrippa, who like all of the Herodian rulers was only part Jewish, began to weep, the people responded, "Grieve not, Agrippa; you are our brother! You are our brother!" (Sotah 7:8). This sort of adulation led to Agrippa's gruesome death at Caesarea Maritima in AD 44 at the tender age of thirty-four. After a speech, perhaps in the still standing amphitheatre, the crowd proclaimed that his words were those of a god (clearly idolatry), and "because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:23). Interestingly, the same event was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus (Ant.19.8.2), producing a fascinating and important synchronism between biblical and secular texts.

Dec 2011 MAQ GroupIn December 2011, fourteen people people worked on the site. The seven pictured are (back row) Steve Rudd, Lou Klauder, Scott Stripling, Greg Butz, (front row) Jacob Figueroa, Ruth Baker, and Abigail Leavitt. Credit: Scott Stripling.

Circulation of Ancient Coins

All of this is informative, but it begs the question, What is a first century coin doing in a fourth to sixth century conobium-type monastery?3 There are four possible explanations for this seemingly odd occurrence. First, one of the monks may have been a coin collector. This is pure speculation and highly unlikely. Second, maybe the monastery and church are much older than at first thought. Although recent discoveries of early churches at places like Megiddo (ca. 230) have forced a rethinking of the transition from the domus ekklesia, or house church, to basilicas, or public buildings devoted to Christian worship, this second possibility also seems unlikely, especially with the appearance of a possible side apse indicating a later church (Tsafrir 1993: 12). Third, the early coins may have been part of the fill used to level out the area upon the jagged bedrock to create a flat surface for the church and monastery. Most of the early coins came from below floor level (2,914 ft. [888.23 m]), but some were found above floor level. This could be explained by scavenging or earthquake damage. Third, in Roman and Byzantine times coins may have remained in circulation for hundreds of years. This appears to be the most plausible explanation. Classical numismatist David Yagi cites examples of this prolonged circulation:

It is well-documented both by literary and archaeological evidence that ancient coins often circulated for centuries. An excellent example is the countermarking of older, worn coins in the east by the emperor Vespasian in the early A.D. 70s. The majority of these denarii were at least a century old at the time they were countermarked. The issuance of Imperial cistophori by the emperor Hadrian (117-138) is similarly convincing. Most (if not all) of the planchets used were older cistophori issued some 100 to 150 years earlier. We have no reason to doubt that these "host" coins (the coins that were overstruck) had been in circulation up until the time they were withdrawn for re-coining. (1999: 19-20)

Furthermore, a bronze coin of Domitian (AD 81-96) was in circulation in Spain until 1636, when it was re-coined in the financial reforms of Philip IV (Blanchet 1907: 26). Coins minted under Constantine (AD 323-337) were still circulating in parts of southern France during the reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870) (Friedensburg 1926: 3). Due to the high inflation of the third century AD, older Roman coinage appears to have been used much longer than contemporary money. The coinage from Pompeii confirms that a significant number of Republican coins (prior to Julius Caesar) were still in circulation at the time the city was buried by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, and they remained in circulation for another 30 to 40 years (Harl 1996: 18). This is over 150 years altogether.

The Agrippa I coin, like all bronze coins, would have remained in use much longer, especially in the provinces, than its gold and silver counterparts previously mentioned (Harl 1996: 257). So, it is certainly possible, indeed probable, that the Agrippa I coin had remained in circulation for four centuries. However, it seems to stretch the limits of plausibility to assume that the third century BC coin found in the same stratum could have remained in continual circulation. As always, archaeology raises as many questions as it answers.

Maq Monastery 2011The central apse, arch springs, and column bases were all revealed at Khirbet el-Maqatir in 2011. Credit: Scott Stripling.

Conclusion

In an ironic twist of fate, Agrippa I, who died because of his refusal to give glory to God, is 2,000 years later buttressing the historicity of the biblical narrative. Many more coins are under the accumulated debris of millennia, just waiting to tantalize us with their mysterious stories. Maybe you can be the volunteer who finds the next one!

Notes

1 See Wood, Bryant G. Three Coins from a Mountain. Bible and Spade 11.4: 86-90.
2 Other early references can be found in the following sources: Josephus (Antiquities, 18.3.3), Tacitus (Annals, 15.44.3), and Pliny the Younger (Epistles, 10.96-97).
3 Ascetic monasteries are referred to as laura, and communal monasteries as conobium.

Bibliography

Blanchet, Adrien J. 1907. Sur La Chronologie etablie Par Les Contremarques. Paris: Rolin.

Danby, Herbert. 2008. The Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University.

Friedensburg, F. 1926. Die Munze in der Kulturgeschichte. 2nd ed. Berlin.

Harl, Kenneth W. 1996. Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to AD 700. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

Josephus, Flavius. 2006. Antiquities of the Jews. West Valley City UT: Waking Lion.

Suetonius, and Rolfe, John Carew. 2008. The Twelve Caesars: the Lives of the Roman Emperors. St. Petersburg FL: Red and Black.

Tsafrir, Yoram. 1993. Churches in Palestine: From Constantine to the Crusaders. Pp. 1-16 in Ancient Churches Revealed. Washington DC: Biblical Archaeological Society.

Yagi, David L. 1999. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. Vol. 11. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn.


Read Scott Stripling's full article via PDF: Maqatir-Monastery-Money-_Dr-Scott-Stripling.pdf

This article was originally published in Bible and Spade Vol. 25 No. 2 (Spring)

The bones of seven women and a boy discovered by ABR in 2013 and 2014 at Khirbet el-Maqatir were recently reburied. The remains of the Jewish residents were found in a cave, where they were hiding from the Romans during the Great Revolt of AD 69. The large cave was functioning as an olive press at the time and contained a secret cave for hiding off of the main cave. In addition to the bones, arrow heads and shoe studs from Roman soldiers, were also found in the cave, testimony to their violent deaths. The remains were quietly reburied in Ofra in January, and the residents erected a stone monument (pictured below) on the grave of the victims that tells their story and includes a reference to the vision of dry bones in Ezekiel.

CE 20170909 imageDr. Scott Stripling, who along with Dr. Bryant Wood headed up the dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir, will be giving a lecture on this story at the University of Pikeville on Oct. 21, 2017.

OFF SITE LINKS:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/234892

http://www.ritmeyer.com/2017/09/02/victims-of-great-revolt-against-the-romans-laid-to-rest-in-ofra

The problem addressed in this article is the arbitration among the three alternative views of the conquest of Ai narrative summarized in Part One. This is accomplished by testing the correspondence between the narrative in question and the material time-space context it purports to represent. Part Four is the conclusion of this series.

This is the conclusion of a four-part article.

Application of the Predicate Criterial Screen to Kh. Nisya

There are a few artifacts that have been unearthed at Kh. Nisya that suggest some occupation during LB I. Moreover, the size of the site satisfies the screen parameter of being less than 7 acres. However, there is absolutely no evidence that the site was fortified during the LBA [Livingston (1999: 13-20)]. Hence, the site of Kh. Nisya satisfies two of the three predicate criterial screen parameters. Because it fails to satisfy all three, it is not a viable candidate for Joshua’s Ai.

Livingston’s hypothesis. According to Livingston (1999: 15), the topography surrounding the site of Kh. Nisya perfectly matches the biblical requirements. While there is a valley to the west of the site for the 30E primary ambush force to lie in wait, the head of that valley is adjacent to the spring at El Bireh, which Livingston (1970, 1971, 1994) identifies as the location of ancient Bethel. Moreover, the ingress of the ambush force would have been visible from the site of Kh. Nisya itself. While there is a high ridge to the north of the site with a shallow intervening valley, there is no suitable place for the playing out of the feigned retreat maneuver in accordance with Joshua 8:14-17 because the deep and steep-sided Wadi Sheban lies immediately beyond the ridge in question to the east. 21

Application of the Predicate Criterial Screen to Kh. el-Maqatir

According to Wood (2000a, 2000b, 2000c), evidence of LB I occupation at Kh. el-Maqatir is abundant, the area of the site satisfies the screen parameter of being smaller than 7 acres, and the LB I fortification system is truly impressive, especially along the north face where the foundations of the gate have been exposed. Accordingly, of the three candidate sites, only Kh. el-Maqatir unequivocally satisfies all three predicate criterial screen parameters, and therefore it is subjected to the detailed analysis in the following section.

APPLICATION OF THE FULL CRITERIAL SCREEN TO KH. EL-MAQATIR

The formulation of engagement scenario models for the first and second battles of Ai provides the framework in which the empirical correspondence between the biblical text and the archaeological, geographical, and topographical contexts of the site of Kh. el-Maqatir can be tested. 22 The test is actually carried out by subjecting Kh. el-Maqatir and its context to the rigors of the remaining 11 parameters of the 14-parameter criterial screen of Table 3. The results of applying the full 14-parameter criterial screen of Table 3 to Kh. el-Maqatir are summarized in Table 4.

Criterial Screen Analysis

In the following paragraphs, the satisfaction of each of the criterial screen parameters is addressed, and, to the extent possible, the associated probability defined in Table 3 is evaluated. All of the estimated probability values are listed in Table 4. For each of the criterial screen parameters, the associated probability is intended to reflect the likelihood that the satisfaction of that parameter could occur accidentally; in other words, at a randomly selected site in the Benjamin hill country. Thus, the product of the 14 probability values represents the likelihood that the confluence of satisfaction of all 14 parameters of the screen is the result of a random event; in other words, akin to 14 consecutive coin tosses producing 14 heads. This, in fact, is the probability that Kh. el-Maqatir is not Joshua’s Ai.

Preliminary discussion of the selection of probabilities. While there are available data to support the estimation of probabilities for a number of criterial screen parameters, the rigorous estimation of probabilities for others would have required archaeological, geographical, and topographical data that has been inaccessible since September 2000 due to the serious state of unrest in Israel. In particular, access to the region of the Benjamin hill country defined in Figure 1 for continuing archaeological and topographical research has been prevented. However, in every case, a probability value is selected based upon available data, but not necessarily with the rigor that this aspect of the analysis deserves.

Site located in the Benjamin hill country and destroyed in the first half of LB IIA. An abundance of ceramic artifacts diagnostic to LB I have been unearthed at Kh. el-Maqatir. A total of 6 Benjamin hill country sites have been considered at one time or another as candidates for Joshua’s Ai.23 Of these, only Kh. el-Maqatir manifests substantial LB I occupation. On this basis, P1 is estimated to be 1/6 = 0.1667.

Small site with area less than 7 acres. The estimated area of the LB I fortress that existed at Kh. el-Maqatir is 3.1 acres, 24 which is believed to be accurate to within ± 62%. To calculate a probability for this parameter, the MB II sites listed in Table 7, Judea Sites, of Broshni & Gophna (1986: 82) are analyzed. Both Bethel (i.e., Beitin) and Gibeon are included in this table. Of the 44 entries in the table, 8 are cemeteries, leaving 36 occupied sites. Of these, 8 are equal to or larger than the threshold value of 7 acres. On this basis, P2 is estimated to be (36-8)/36 = 0.7778.

Fortified site with wall and gate. Very substantial LB I fortification walls have been unearthed at Kh. el-Maqatir. In fact the foundation of the wall on the north face of the fortress is an impressive 4 meters thick. Based upon a customary 3-to-1 height-to-width ratio, this translates to a mudbrick superstructure that would have risen to a height of 12 meters (i.e., approximately 40 feet). Hansen (2000: 80-172) presents a comprehensive analysis of the fortification status of LBA sites in Palestine. In particular, on page 171 of Hansen’s work, a summative table is presented, on page 172 a map identifying the location of the sites is presented, and on pages 80-166 an analysis of all the sites is set forth. Of the sites examined, 13 are situated in the central hill country, and of these 13, 10 were fortified during the LBA. On this basis, P3 is estimated to be 10/13 = 0.7692.

image.axd122Table 4. The Result of Applying the Criterial Screen to Kh. el-Maqatir: The Probability That Kh. el-Maqatir Is Not Joshua’s AiGate facing north to northeast. The foundations of a chambered gate have been exposed on the north side of Kh. el-Maqatir.25 Sealed loci adjacent to the gate foundation stones date to LB I. On the assumption that the direction in which city gates face is uniformly distributed over a range of 0-360E, the value of P4 is estimated to be 45E/360E = 0.125.

High ridge to north within 2 kilometers and intervening shallow valley within 1 kilometer of the site. The summit of Jebel Abu Ammar, the highest point in the local area, is 1.4 kilometers due north of the gate of Kh. el- Maqatir.26 The valley in question is the mouth of the Wadi el-Gayeh, lying immediately east of the modern village of Beitin.27 It is broad and shallow north of Kh. el-Maqatir, lying within 0.8 kilometer of the site. How should one go about estimating the probability, P5, associated with this parameter? The most logical approach, given the available data, is to employ the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai as representative of Benjamin hill country sites in general. While all three have high ridges to the north of them, only Kh. Nisya and Kh. El Maqatir have shallow intervening valleys. On this basis, P5 is evaluated as 2/3 = 0.6667.

Ambush hiding place approximately southwest within 3 kilometers of the site. The probable location of the primary ambush force encampment has been determined by means of ground surveys of the Wadi Sheban. 28 It is located 2.6 kilometers south-southwest of the gate structure. It can reasonably be assumed that most sites in the Benjamin hill country would be characterized by an ambush hiding place within 3 kilometers. Furthermore, it can reasonably be assumed that the direction in which an ambush hiding place would be located relative to a randomly selected site is uniformly distributed over a range of 0-360E. Therefore, the value of P6 is estimated to be 45E/360E = 0.125.

Suitable location for the feigned retreat maneuver to north or northeast within 3 kilometers of the site. The location in question lies 2.2 kilometers east-northeast of Kh. el-Maqatir and commands an unobstructed view of the Jordan Valley. 29 The probability of finding such a location nearby a randomly selected site in the Benjamin hill country is judged to be no greater than 45E/360E = 0.125. Accordingly, P7 is evaluated as 0.125.

Viable egress route with descent and shebarim within 3 kilometers of the site. With respect to Kh. el-Maqatir, two candidate egress routes have been defined, 30 both of which are characterized by a descent and shebarim. In the case of the first option, the shebarim formation lies 2.8 kilometers southeast of the site, and in the case of the second option, it lies approximately 2 kilometers east of the site. As was done with P5, the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai are regarded as a representative microcosm of randomly selected Benjamin hill country sites within the tract depicted in Figure 1. In the case of both Kh. Nisya and Kh. el-Maqatir, viable egress routes characterized by descents and shebarim formations exist within 3 kilometers.

However, in the case of et-Tell, egress back toward Jericho from the north side of the site would have required a precipitous descent down the steep walls of the Wadi el-Gayeh, which is not regarded as particularly viable, either for the defending Canaanite force or for the fleeing Israelites. Hence, P8 is evaluated as 2/3 = 0.6667.

Trafficable ingress routes to location. The trafficability of ingress routes to Kh. el-Maqatir has been verified by ground surveys conducted by the author and colleagues from the Kh. el-Maqatir excavation project. As was done with P5 and P8, the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai are regarded as a representative microcosm of randomly selected Benjamin hill country sites within the tract depicted in Figure 1. Trafficable ingress routes are available in the case of both Kh. Nisya and Kh. el-Maqatir. However, approach to et-Tell from the north is complicated by the steep walls of the Wadi el-Gayeh. Accordingly, P9 is evaluated as 2/3 = 0.6667.

Engagement scenarios viable. With respect to Kh. el-Maqatir, all aspects of the engagement scenarios for both battles are militarily viable, given the assets Joshua had at his disposal. However, such is not the case for either Kh. Nisya or et-Tell. In the case of Kh. Nisya, the ingress of the primary ambush force to its place of encampment would have been visible from enemy positions. In the case of et-Tell, an attack from the north of the site is not viable on account of the steep walls of the Wadi el-Gayeh. Hence, P10 is evaluated as 1/3 = 0.3333.

Ceramic artifacts appropriate. The LB I pottery that has been unearthed at Kh. el-Maqatir is suited to a small military outpost, including large, commercial-grade pithoi for storage of grains, water, and olive oil, and common ware for cooking and table service. For purposes of evaluating P11 , Kh. Nisya and Kh. el-Maqatir 31 are considered to be a representative microcosm of LB I sites in the Benjamin hill country. Since the pottery unearthed as Kh. el-Maqatir is representative of a small highland fortress, while that unearthed at Kh. Nisya is not, P11 is evaluated as 1/2 = 0.5.

Object artifacts appropriate. By the end of the 2000 excavation season at Kh. el-Maqatir, more than 100 slingstones and 3 gate post socket stones had been unearthed. 32 Employing the same approach to evaluating P12 as was applied to the evaluation of P11 , the probability of finding this combination of objects at a Benjamin hill country site picked at random is judged to be no greater than 1/2. Hence, P12 is evaluated as 1/2 = 0.5.

Convenient line-of-sight to Bethel. A direct line-of-sight exists from the hilltop above Kh. el-Maqatir to El Bireh, the probable location of Bethel. Moreover, at a height of 12 meters, the parapet of the wall near the westernmost extremity of the wall perimeter would have afforded line-of-sight contact with Bethel = El Bireh from the protection of the fortress. 33 In fact, this is true even if one should insist that Bethel = Beitin. However, the topography surrounding et-Tell and Kh. Nisya denies equivalent line-of-sight contact with either of the candidate locations for Bethel. On this basis, the probability of a randomly selected site in the Benjamin hill country affording a convenient and direct line-of-sight to Bethel is judged to be no greater than 1/3. Accordingly, P13 is evaluated as 1/3 = 0.3333.

Evidence of conflagration. During the 1999 excavation season at Kh. el-Maqatir, materials derived from Area G – that is, the area of the gate structure and an LB I context – were subjected to testing for remanent magnetization, which is an indication of superheating. Three of the samples manifested statistically significant levels of remanent magnetization, affording positive evidence of a conflagration in antiquity. Also during the 1999 season, an ash layer was exposed in square G24 that lies 80 meters southeast of the gate. Continued work in G24 and neighboring F24 during the 2000 excavation season revealed an extended ash layer superimposed on what appeared to be an LB I pavement. The thickness of the ash layer was 10 centimeters (= 4 inches) in some places. In square R14, which lies 17 meters west of the gate, a similar condition was uncovered, including a thin layer of ash (2 to 3 centimeters) along with clumps of burned and flaking limestone. Also during the 2000 excavation season, widespread evidence of a conflagration was uncovered in the form of superheated and calcined limestone bedrock and LB I pottery that had been subjected to superheating to the point of metallic hardness [Wood (2000c: 68-69)]. The probability of finding evidence of an LB I conflagration at a Benjamin hill country site picked at random is judged to be no greater than 1/3. Accordingly, P14 is evaluated as 1/3 = 0.3333.

Factors militating against preservation of ash layers. Militating against finding extensive ash layers at Kh. el-Maqatir is the fact that the entire site has been exposed and under cultivation for centuries. Furthermore, over most of the site, the soil depth above bedrock is no more than a meter and in many places bedrock is actually exposed. With such shallow stratification and extensive and ongoing cultivation, the probability that extensive ash deposits would be preserved in situ is remote.

Concluding remarks on the selection of probabilities. Based upon available data, values for probabilities P1 through P14 have been selected that are believed to be reasonable and generally somewhat conservative. That is, the combinatorial probability result of 5.343 x 10-7 is probably larger than the value that would result from a rigorous analysis with unrestricted access to all necessary archaeological, geographical, and topographical data concerning Benjamin hill country sites. The primary objective of this aspect of the analytical process has been to demonstrate a method for estimating a confidence factor associated with the factuality test result. This objective has been achieved. A secondary objective has been to select probability values with adequate credibility to demonstrate the high degree of confidence that can be placed in the result of the analysis. Refinement of the probability values is an important goal of future research.

Concluding remarks on the combinatorial probability result. Given the selected probabilities for the set of criterial screen parameters, the computed value for the probability of all 14 parameters being satisfied by a single site selected at random in the Benjamin hill country of Palestine is 5.343 x 10 -7, which is equivalent to only 1 chance in almost 2 million. If a randomly selected site could satisfy the criterial screen, then there would be no basis for asserting that a particular site, Kh. el-Maqatir, is Joshua’s Ai. The complement of the above probability is the confidence factor placed in the assertion that Kh. el-Maqatir is Joshua’s Ai; that is, (1 - 5.343 x 10 -7) = 0.9999994657 = 99.99994657%.

CONCLUSIONS

The result of applying the 14-parameter criterial screen of Table 3 to the archaeological, geographical, and topographical context of Kh. el-Maqatir is summarized in Table 4. In particular, evidence has been brought forward that Kh. el-Maqatir is Joshua’s Ai. Moreover, this same body of evidence demonstrates that the conquest of Ai narrative is a TNR. The strength of evidence is judged to be conclusive beyond reasonable doubt based on the probability values selected for the 14 criterial screen parameters. Accordingly, the eyewitness account view of the conquest of Ai narrative is confirmed, and the aetiological legend and pernicious myth views are both refuted by this analysis.

In addition to demonstrating a method for testing the factuality of the conquest of Ai narrative in the Book of Joshua, a method has been mapped out for calculating an associated confidence factor. The confidence factor is based upon probability values that represent the likelihood of an accidental satisfaction of the criterial screen parameters. Based upon available data, all 14 probabilities are evaluated, but not necessarily with the desired rigor in a number of cases. Thus, the more precise evaluation of some of the probabilities and the rigorous working out of the confidence factor calculation is relegated to future research. While some of the probabilities may need to be increased above their presently estimated values, such adjustments should not be expected to materially affect the overall conclusion, however. Even if the combinatorial probability result in Table 4 were to be increased by a factor of 10, the confidence factor associated with the result of this research is still virtually 100%.

Finally, this research has demonstrated the appropriate method for allowing interaction between biblical and archaeological data. With the exception of epigraphic or historiographic material, archaeological findings are inherently indeterminate; in other words, they lack the capacity to be self-determinative. Accordingly, they rely upon a determinative narrative for interpretation. Therefore, one should always proceed from the narrative to the archaeological data instead of the reverse.

Return to Part One 

Endnotes:

21. For further discussion of Livingston’s hypothesis and the topographical context of Kh. Nisya vis-a-vis the requirements of the biblical text, see Briggs (2007: 126-127).

22. For the details of the engagement scenarios, refer to Briggs (2007: 131-137) and the associated Figures 22-37.

23. In addition to the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai examined in this paper, the following three sites have been considered as candidates at one time or another in past research: Kh. Khaiyan, Kh. Khudriya, and Kh. Raddana. Refer to Briggs (2007: 51) for a brief summary of the archaeology of these three sites.

24. Refer to Briggs (2007: 127-128) and associated Figures 19-20 concerning the area of Kh. el-Maqatir.

25. Refer to Briggs (2007: 128) and the associated Figures 20-21 for a description of the gate complex at Kh. el-Maqatir.

26. Refer to Briggs (2007: 127-128 & 139) and the associated Figure 32 for additional detail.

27. Refer to Figures 32 and 33 with associated text in Briggs (2007: 13) for a description of the topography north of Kh. el-Maqatir.

28. Refer to Briggs (2007: 139) and the associated Figures 29-30 for a more detailed description of the probable location of the primary ambush force encampment.

29. Refer to Briggs (2007: 139) and the associated Figure 31 for a more detailed description of the plateau northeast of Kh. el-Maqatir.

30. Refer to Briggs (2007: 132) and the associated Figures 23-25 for the postulated egress scenarios associated with the first battle of Ai.

31. Refer to Briggs (2007: 140) for more detail on the ceramic artifacts unearthed at Kh. el-Maqatir.

32. Refer to Briggs (2007: 140-141) and the associated Figures 34-36 for a description of the object finds at Kh. el-Maqatir.

33. Refer to Briggs (2007: 141) and the associated Figure 37 for a discussion of the convenient line-of-sight to Bethel.

References

Amiran, R. 1970 Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land, p. 12. Rutgers University Press.

Boling, R.G. 1982 The Anchor Bible: Joshua. New York: Doubleday.

Briggs, P. 2007 Testing the Factuality of the Conquest of Ai Narrative in the Book of Joshua, 5th ed. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Trinity Southwest University Press.

Bright, J. 1981 A History of Israel, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.

Broshi, M. & Gophna, R. 1986 Middle Bronze Age II Palestine: its settlements and population. Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research, Vol. 261, pp. 73-95.

Callaway, J. A. 1968 New evidence on the conquest of ) Ai. Journal of Biblical Literature , Vol. LXXXVII, No. III, pp. 312-320.

Callaway, J. A. 1970 The 1968-1969 %Ai (et-Tell) excavations. Bulletin of American Society for Oriental Research, Vol. 198, pp. 10-12.

Callaway, J. A. 1993 Article on Ai in, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Stern, E. (Ed.), pp. 39-45. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Cassuto, U. 1983 The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Translated by I. Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes.

Collins, S. 2002 Let My People Go: Using Historical Synchronisms to Identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Albuquerque, New Mexico: Trinity Southwest University Press.

Collins, S. & Oller, J. W., Jr. 2000 Biblical history as true narrative representation. The Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. 2, No. 2.

Feller, W. 1957 An Introduction to Probability Theory and Its Applications. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Finegan, J. 1998 Handbook of Biblical Chronology, p. xxxv. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Finkelstein, I. & Magen, Y. (Eds.) 1993 Archaeological Survey of the Benjamin Hill Country, p. 46. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Fouts, D. M. 1992 The Use of Large Numbers in the Old Testament, With Particular Emphasis on the Use of ‘elep. Doctoral dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Fouts, D. M. 1997 A defense of the hyperbolic interpretation of large numbers in the Old Testament. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 377-388.

Frick, F. S. 1977 The City in Ancient Israel, pp. 25-55. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press.

Gottwald, N. K. 1979 The Tribes of Yahweh, pp. 270-276. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.

Hansen, D. G. 2000 Evidence for Fortifications at Late Bronze I and II Locations in Palestine. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Trinity College & Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana.

Hayes, W. C. 1975 Chronological tables (A) Egypt. Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II, No. 2, p. 1038.

Hayes, J. H. & Miller, J. M. (Eds.) 1977 Israelite and Judean History. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International.

Humphreys, C. J. 1998 The number of people in the Exodus from Egypt: decoding mathematically the very large numbers in Numbers I and XXVI. Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 48, pp. 196-213.

Humphreys, C. J. 2000 The numbers in the Exodus from Egypt: a further appraisal. Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 50, pp. 323-328.

Kaiser, W. C., Jr. 1987 Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Kelso, J. L., & Albright, W.F. 1968 The excavation of Bethel. In Kelso, J.L. (Ed.), Annual of American Schools of Oriental Research, Vol. XXXIX, Cambridge.

Kenyon, K. M. 1957 Digging Up Jericho. London.

Kenyon, K. M. 1960 Archaeology in the Holy Land. London: Benn.

Kitchen, K. A. 1992 History of Egypt (chronology). The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Freedman, D. N. (Ed.), Vol. 2, pp. 322-331. New York: Doubleday.

Kitchen, K. A. 1996 The historical chronology of ancient Egypt: a current assessment. Acta Archaeologica, Vol. 67, pp. 1-13.

LaSor, W. S. 1979 Article on archaeology in, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Bromiley, G. W. (Gen. Ed.), Vol. One, pp. 235-244. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Livingston, D. P. 1970 Location of Bethel and Ai Reconsidered. Westminister Theological Journal, Vol. 33, pp. 20-24.

Livingston, D. P. 1971 Traditional site of Bethel Questioned. Westminister Theological Journal, Vol. 34, pp. 39-50.

Livingston, D. P. 1994 Further considerations on the location of Bethel at El-Bireh. Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Vol. 126, pp. 154-159.

Livingston, D. P. 1999 Is Kh. Nisya the Ai of the Bible? Bible and Spade, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 13-20.

Mendenhall, G. E. 1958 The census of Numbers 1 and 26. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 77, pp. 52-66.

Miller, J. M. & Hayes, J. H. 1986 A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. Philadelphia: The Westminister Press.

Na’aman, N. 1994 The ‘Conquest of Canaan’ in the Book of Joshua and in History. In Finkelstein, I. & Na’aman, N. (Eds.). From Nomadism to Monarchy. Washington: Biblical Archaeology Society.

Oller, J. W., Jr. 1996 Semiotic theory applied to free will, relativity, and determinacy: or why the unified field theory sought by Einstein could not be found. Semiotica, Vol. 108, No. 3 & 4, pp. 199-244.

Oller, J. W., Jr. & Collins, S. 2000 The logic of true narratives. The Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. 2, No. 2.

Petrie, W. M. F. 1931 Egypt and Israel, pp. 40-46. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Originally published in 1910.

Wenham, G. J. 1981 Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 56-66. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.

Wente, E. & Van Siclen, C., III 1977 A chronology of the New Kingdom, Table 1, p. 218. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization No. 39. Chicago: The Oriental Institute.

Wood, B. G. 2000a Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1995-1998. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 50, pp. 123-130. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Wood, B. G. 2000b Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1999. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 50, pp. 249-254. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Wood, B. G. 2000c Kh. El-Maqatir 2000 Dig Report. Bible and Spade, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 67-72.

Zevit, Z. 1985 The Problem of Ai: New Theory Rejects the Battle as Described in the Bible but Explains How the Story Evolved. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. XI, No. 2, pp. 58-69.

 

In memory of Vanessa Morton, ABR supporter, author and archaeology enthusiast, who went home to be with Christ on May 3, 2016.

Vanessa Morton at KeM 2010The author hard at work at Khirbet el-Maqatir in 2010. Photo by Michael Luddeni.

I fell in love with scriptural Jericho when I was eight years old. My teacher, Mrs. Walker, was standing next to the felt storyboard, tacking up flannel-backed cutouts of Rahab, the spies, and the city walls while she told us the story of how Jericho's walls 'came a-tumblin' down.'

My imagination filled in the gaps...brave Rahab gathering her family close to the red cord, the rumbling footfalls of hundreds of thousands of warriors, and the blood-chilling roar of an entire nation reverberating across the Jordan Valley. What kind of power toppled a city without even touching it?

Fast forward a few years to Wednesday night youth meetings, when our leader began to teach a faith lesson about Jericho's walls. Excited, I leaned forward in my seat, but my friends elbowed me in the ribs and snickered behind their hands about walls falling down all by themselves. A first, fragile crack splintered my young faith.

Enthralled by ancient history, I later earned a BA in history, but relegated Rahab and other heroes to that drawer in my brain's filing system labeled 'Fairy Tales and Legends.'

With a career and family, I quietly fed my history craving with tomes and journals until 2008, when I stumbled on Dr. Bryant Wood's report about Tell es-Sultan-the site of ancient Jericho. His analysis of Jericho's destruction matched Mrs. Walker's lesson from the book of Joshua. In that moment, my faith took flight like a wounded bird released from captivity.

Inspired by Dr. Wood's research, I buried myself in archaeology reports about the history of this strategically located city-state in the Jordan valley and its world of political and trading partners. When Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) announced they were seeking volunteers for Dr. Wood's 2010 dig season at Joshua's Ai (near Jericho), there was no doubt in my mind I would go.

KeM dig team 2010The 2010 Khirbet el-Maqatir dig team. The author is in the red shirt near left center of the photo. Photo by Michael Luddeni.

That season in the Holy Land took me far outside my comfort zone and resulted in the trip of a lifetime. I could talk for hours about the wild beauty of the Holy Land, or the sweaty toil of lugging archaeology tools back and forth to our dig squares every day, or the patience of our square supervisors-learned historians, all-as I mercilessly picked their brains about Jericho and Joshua's conquest.

The event that stirred my blood, however, occurred on the final weekend of the dig. Led by Joel Kramer, Executive Director of SourceFlix and creator of the Jericho Unearthed DVD, a few of us piled into an SUV and headed out of Jerusalem on Highway 1 to Tell es-Sultan. During our private tour, I walked the excavated roads where Rahab might have strolled with her friends. Standing atop the ruins, I spotted palm trees encircling spring-fed oases where she may have drawn water, and further still, to the east, the silver ribbon of the Jordan River-which would have been much wider and ferocious before last century's water projects siphoned them off for irrigation-as it rolls to its rendezvous with theDead Sea.

Moonfall cover My research and experiences led me to write Moonfall: Tales from the Levant, a novel about young people living both inside and outside Jericho's walls, a story to both enthrall and enlighten young readers like my teen daughters, to root their faith in both fact and imagination against a tide of skepticism.

As a child, did listening to the miraculous stories about Joshua's conquest of Canaan thrill you? Seize the opportunity to rekindle that sense of awe and create your own adventure on a dig with ABR. 

 

How do you know if volunteer archaeology is for you? Take this quiz to help you decide:

- The latest issue of Bible and Spade arrives. You resist opening it until bedtime so you can read it undisturbed. #Contentment
- Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of your favorite movies. #Adventure
- You can list all three languages found on the Rosetta Stone. #AncientLanguageGeek
- The 900 series in the Dewey Decimal system is your favorite hangout in the library. #HistoryIsCool
- Before wearing your brand new Indiana Jones fedora, you soaked it in teabags to give it that worn look. #newbie
- Khakis look good on you! #ArchaeologyFashionista

 

28-2 BAS_Confessions of an Armchair Archaeologist_Morton.pdf (388.44 kb)

The problem addressed in this article is the arbitration among the three alternative views of the conquest of Ai narrative summarized in Part One. This is accomplished by testing the correspondence between the narrative in question and the material time-space context it purports to represent. Part Three...

This is Part Three of a four-part article.

THE BIBLICAL TIMELINE

Material facts of all kinds, including artifacts from an archaeological locus, are devoid of inherent meaning and therefore indeterminate or not self-determinative. Meaning is ascribed to them solely by a narrative representation of a determinative kind [Oller (1996: 216); Oller & Collins (2000); Collins & Oller (2000)]. Thus, archaeological research should always operate within the framework of a determinative narrative; in other words, a TNR. In the case of archaeological research of the Bronze Age Canaanite cultures in Palestine, and because of the paucity of epigraphic or historiographic material unearthed from these cultures, the Bible assumes the role of the primary source of historical data. There simply is no other source of comparable scope, coherence, and integrity.

The Contribution of the Biblical Timeline to the Criterial Screen

A necessary component of the criterial screen is the establishment of the temporal location of the conquest of Ai according to the biblical narrative. The conquest of Ai, as recorded in chapters 7 and 8 of Joshua, would have occurred near the beginning of the Conquest, the chronology of which is determined in relationship to the date of the Exodus. As discussed in Briggs (2007: 64-72 & 83-85), the selection of the date for the Exodus is the object of intense debate, much of which is precipitated by archaeological findings. However, for determining the temporal location of the conquest of Ai we must insist on allowing the Bible to speak for itself and prevent the confounding of biblical data by archaeological data. This is true because the parameters of the criterial screen must be in strict accord with the biblical text.

Biblical Date for the Exodus

The three principal passages that provide a basis for deriving a biblical date for the Exodus are as follows: (a) 1 Kings 6:1; (b) the letter from Jephthah to the king of Ammon summarized in Judges 11:26; and, (c) the genealogy of Heman in 1 Chronicles 6:33-43. These three passages consistently point to an Exodus date in the range of 1470-1406 BC – that is, in the 15th century BC and within the time frame of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. The chronological data dispersed throughout the books of Judges and 1 & 2 Samuel is a fourth source, but is not weighted significantly. A fifth source for deriving the biblical date for the Exodus is based upon the correspondence between the historical narrative in the Book of Exodus and Egyptian history; in particular, the history of the 18th dynasty. The key events in Exodus which must be reflected in the history of the 18th dynasty are as follows: (a) the Pharaoh of the Oppression died during Moses’ sojourn in Midian according to Exodus 7:6; (b) the firstborn son of the Pharaoh of the Exodus – presumably the heir to the throne – died as a consequence of the tenth plague; (c) the Pharaoh of the Exodus himself died with his entire army when he pursued Israel through the Sea of Reeds according to Exodus 14:6-28, Psalm 106:9-12, and Psalm 136:15; and, (d) the ten plagues combined with the Sea of Reeds episode severely impacted lower Egypt economically and militarily. Steven Collins has carefully analyzed the historical synchronisms between the account in the Book of Exodus vis-a-vis the profiles of the pharaohs of the 18th and 19th dynasties in Egypt [Collins (2002)]. He demonstrates the substantial correlation that exists if Tuthmosis IV is identified as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Collins’ historical synchronisms analysis is sufficiently compelling that I embrace 1406 BC as the biblical date for the Exodus, which corresponds to the end of the reign of Tuthmosis IV. This date agrees very well with the date derived from the Septuagint rendering of 1 Kings 6:1 – to wit, the Exodus occurred 440 years prior to the 4th year of Solomon’s reign.

Timeline of the Wilderness Journey

According to Numbers 33:3, the Israelites set forth from Egypt on the 15th day of the 1st month, which would have been the morning after the first Passover celebration. According to Exodus 19:1, the Israelites arrived at the base of Mt. Sinai on the 15th day of the 3rd month, which would have been exactly 2 months after leaving Egypt. From Exodus 40:17, they received the law and directions for constructing the tabernacle through Moses, and they completed the construction of the tabernacle by the end of the 1st year. According to Exodus 40:17, the tabernacle was actually erected in the 1st month of the 2nd year. From Numbers 10:11, the tribes of Israel broke camp and departed from Mt. Sinai exactly 13 months and 5 days after their departure from Egypt. Based upon available chronological data in the Book of Numbers, the date of the Israelites’ arrival at Kadesh Barnea is placed in the 15th month after their departure from Egypt. The estimate of 2 months for the duration of their trip from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh Barnea is partially based on the fact that, according to Numbers 11:20ff, the people received the miraculous visitation of quail to satisfy their hunger for meat over a period of 1 month.

The Kadesh Barnea Episode

The Kadesh Barnea episode is recorded in the 13th and 14th chapters of Numbers. While encamped at Kadesh Barnea, Moses dispatched the twelve spies to survey the land, the spies returned with their report, and the people responded to the report by refusing to trust the promise of Yahweh that he would give them victory over the tribes of the Canaanites. The apostasy of the people at Kadesh Barnea precipitated the period of wilderness wanderings, which, according to Deuteronomy 2:14, consumed 38 years. By the end of the 38 years, the entire generation which had experienced the Exodus from Egypt had died except for two men; namely, Caleb and Joshua. Chronologically, the key event in the Kadesh Barnea episode is the promise given to Caleb, which is stated in Numbers 14:24. According to this promise, he would survive the 38 years of wandering in the wilderness and would enter the land of Canaan. Allowing 2 months for completion of the spies’ reconnoitering mission, the timing of the promise to Caleb is placed in the 17th month after the Exodus.

Timeline of the Wilderness Wanderings

From Exodus 7:7, Moses was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus, and from Deuteronomy 34:7, he was 120 years old when he died while the Israelites were encamped on the plains of Moab opposite Jericho.

Another data point is derived from Exodus 16:35, where the period of the people’s dependence on manna is stated to be 40 years. According to Joshua 5:10-11, the Israelites observed Passover after having crossed the Jordan and just prior to the attack on Jericho. This Passover was precisely 40 years after the one observed the evening before the Exodus. According to Joshua 5:12, the daily provision of manna ceased at the same time. Thus, the period of time from the Exodus until the people were encamped at Gilgal nearby Jericho and ready to initiate the Conquest is determined to be precisely 40 years. Accordingly, the date I embrace for the beginning of the Conquest is 1366 BC, which lies in the first half of the LB IIA archaeological period according to Table 1.

Timeline of the Conquest

In Joshua 14:10, Caleb states that 45 years had elapsed from the time of Yahweh’s promise to him at Kadesh Barnea to the conclusion of the Conquest. Based on the estimate above that the promise to Caleb was delivered in the 17th month after the Exodus, the end of the Conquest would have occurred approximately 46½ years after the Exodus. Therefore, the duration of the Conquest was 6½ years. To be precise, the Conquest was initiated in the spring of 1366 BC, and it was completed in the fall of 1360 BC. Accordingly, the entire Conquest occurred in the first half of the LB IIA archaeological period. However, because of a 30-year bias in the ceramic dating uncertainty combined with the fact that the fortress of Ai was a small and remote military outpost, a destruction that actually occurred in the first half of LB IIA would appear archaeologically to have occurred toward the end of LB I. 9

Implications of the Biblical Timeline

In accordance with our analytical method for deriving the criterial screen for the conquest of Ai narrative, the biblical timeline is postulated to be true from the Exodus until the beginning of the Conquest. This establishes the archaeological context for the conquest of Ai narrative as lying near the end of the LB I according to the reasoning process summarized above. The conquest of Ai narrative is then subjected to a detailed analysis based upon the TNR formalism, and, in particular, upon empirical correspondence as manifested in the criterial screen. If it turns out that all of the criterial screen parameters are satisfied, then the narrative is determined to be factual. As a byproduct of this determination, the biblical timeline would be confirmed. We could then move forward or backward along the biblical timeline to consider other narratives where a similar analytical approach could be applied. On the other hand, if the conquest of Ai narrative should be confirmed as nonfactual, then at least that portion of the Bible should be regarded as either a remarkable, erroneous conception or worse: a deliberately and maliciously fabricated myth which is tantamount to a lie. Furthermore, the credibility of other portions of the Bible that rely upon the conquest of Ai narrative would be called into serious question.

DERIVATION OF THE CRITERIAL SCREEN

The criterial screen derived from exegesis of the conquest of Ai narrative is the tool for evaluating the empirical correspondence between the narrative and the material time-space context it purports to describe. In fact, the criterial screen is the desired end-product of the exegesis of the text. Table 3 defines each parameter of the criterial screen, including a symbolic definition of the associated probability and the principal passage in the text from which it is derived. The following paragraphs summarize the derivation of each of the fourteen criterial screen parameters from the biblical text.10

Predicate Criterial Screen

The first three parameters of the criterial screen in Table 3 form a predicate criterial screen. These particular parameters constitute the minimum set that is capable of discriminating between viable and nonviable sites for Joshua’s Ai. Even though the predicate screen consists of only three parameters, it is sufficiently explicit that only one of the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai survive its application. That single site is then subjected to the still more demanding requirements of the remaining eleven parameters of the criterial screen.

Explanation of the Criterial Screen

The following paragraphs describe the derivation of each of the parameters of the criterial screen listed in Table 3.

Site located in the Benjamin hill country and destroyed in the first half of LB IIA. This first parameter is of primary importance, for it culls out from further consideration all candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai that are not properly located in space and time according to the biblical text. Spatially, Joshua’s Ai was situated in the Benjamin hill country of Israel. (Refer to Figure 1 in Part Two for a more precise definition of the portion of the Benjamin hill country indicated by the biblical text and the results of past research.) Temporally, Joshua’s Ai was occupied during LB I and destroyed in the first half of LB IIA. On account of the 30-year bias in ceramic dating uncertainty and the fact that Joshua’s Ai was a small and remote military outpost, a destruction in the first half of LB IIA would appear archaeologically as having occurred toward the end of the previous period, LB I.

SNAG 0017Table 3. Criterial Screen for the Conquest of Ai Narrative

Small site with area less than 7 acres. According to Joshua 7:2-3, the fortress of Ai appeared to be so small that the spies recommended that only a contingent of 2E or 3E would be sufficient to take it. In accordance with Joshua 10:2, the area of Ai was smaller than that of Gibeon. Analysis of the area of Gibeon at the time of Joshua summarized above and detailed in Briggs (2007: 117-118) is based upon available data in Broshi & Gophna (1986: 82) and Finkelstein & Magen (1993) and yields the estimate of 11 ±4 acres; to wit, its area lay between a minimum value of 7 acres and a maximum value of 15 acres. Accordingly, I interpret the requirement that the area of the fortress of Ai be less than that of Gibeon to mean that the maximum value for the area of the fortress of Ai must be less than the minimum value for the area of Gibeon; namely, 7 acres.

Fortified site with wall and gate. There is no specific and direct biblical statement that Ai was fortified. However, a number of statements in the text of Joshua 7 and 8 present conclusive evidence that it was indeed fortified. In particular, the lines of evidence supporting fortification are as follows:

a. In Joshua 7:5, the flight of the Israelites after the first battle of Ai is described as having started from before or in front of the gate of the fortress. The existence of a gate implies that of a wall as well.

b. An unfortified location would not have a “front” face. The fact that Joshua 8:11 describes the residual attack force under Joshua’s command as “arriving in front of the city” is only reasonable if the Israelites acquired a position that was before or in face-to-face opposition to the principal wall face and gate of the fortress of Ai.

c. The divinely mandated ruse is not reasonable unless it was necessary for the Israelites to trick the Canaanites to leave the fortress open. If the site of Ai was unfortified, the overwhelming Israelite offensive force (5,730 versus a Canaanite defensive force estimated to be 750, or a 7.6-to-1 numerical advantage) could have entered it with impunity from any direction without employing a feigned retreat and ambush strategy.

The result of applying the predicate criterial screen. If S is the set of all sites in Israel, without regard to geographic location or period of occupation, then the parameters of the predicate criterial screen progressively narrow the set of candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai. As a result of completing the application of the first parameter, the set of potentially viable candidates is reduced to S1 , the sites in the Benjamin hill country that were occupied during LB I and destroyed in the first half of LB IIA. Application of the second parameter narrows the set of candidates further to S2 , those members of S1 that are smaller than 7 acres. Application of the third parameter narrows the set of candidates still further to S3 , those members of S2 that were fortified with wall and gate. In fact, as is demonstrated in the next section, S3 is populated by just one site. The function of the 4th through the 14th parameters of the criterial screen is to confirm the correct identification of that one site as Joshua’s Ai. For purposes of calculating a number of the probabilities P4 through P14 associated with the remaining 11 criterial screen parameters, the candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai are treated as a representative microcosm of the set of all fortified Benjamin hill country sites occupied during the time of Joshua.

Gate facing north to northeast. According to Joshua 8:11, the residual attack force “arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai.” Thus, the principal gate of the fortress, or perhaps the only gate, was in the north or northeast face of the wall.

High ridge north of the fortress within 2 kilometers and intervening shallow valley within 1 kilometer. According to Joshua 8:11, most of the 22E residual attack force was encamped north of the fortress in a location which was hidden from the view of the men of Ai. Joshua 8:11 further states that there was an intervening valley between this camp and the fortress. Hence, the Israelite camp must have been located on a high ridge, probably forested, which lay north of Ai.11 Moreover, Joshua and his immediate subordinates would have required an elevated location close to the fortress of Ai from which to direct the battle. The value of 2 kilometers is set for the threshold of proximity of the high ridge relative to the fortress. Ridges that were more distant than this could not satisfy all of the biblical requirements. Furthermore, according to Joshua 8:13, Joshua made his camp and “spent the night in the midst of the valley,” probably taking with him a small detachment of men from the residual attack force. Thus, from Joshua 8:11-13, two separate but related aspects of the topography north of Ai are derived. First, there must have been a high ridge north of the fortress, and then there must have been an intervening valley where Joshua and his men spent the night. The fact that the valley in question was shallow is indicated by Joshua 8:14, which states that the king of Ai was able to observe all of Joshua’s movements and the place where he and his men set up camp. The value of 1 kilometer is set for the threshold of proximity of the valley relative to the fortress.

Ambush hiding place approximately southwest of the fortress within 3 kilometers. While the Canaanites were fixated on Joshua’s visual presentation of the detachment from the residual attack force on the north side of the fortress,12 it was essential that the 30E primary ambush force of Joshua 8:3-9 remain hidden from view. The topography surrounding the site of Ai had to be such that the primary ambush force could not be seen from either Ai or Bethel, the neighboring Canaanite city to the west. Based upon the combination of mildly contradictory directional indicators provided in the text (“behind” Ai, to the west of Ai, and “between” Ai and Bethel), it is concluded that the place of ambush was approximately southwest of the fortress.13 A proximity factor of 3 kilometers is selected because Joshua instructed the primary ambush force to acquire a position that was not far from the fortress according to Joshua 8:4.

Suitable location for the feigned retreat maneuver north or northeast of the fortress within 3 kilometers. According to Joshua 8:14ff, the Israelite force deployed frontally against the north-facing wall and gate of the fortress allowed itself to be driven back as in the first battle of Ai, and it feigned retreat toward an “appointed place before the desert plain;” that is, a location which commanded a view of the Jordan valley to the east.14 The location was such that once the men of Ai had been drawn into pursuit of the Israelites, they would have been prevented from quick return to their fortress, thus opening a significant window of opportunity for the primary ambush force to penetrate the fortress and set a fire. Accordingly, the topography to the north and northeast of Ai would have been characterized by an expanse suitable for maneuvering armies, a view of the Jordan valley, and a natural barrier obstructing the rapid return of the Canaanites to their unprotected fortress. A proximity factor of 3 kilometers is selected for this parameter since the location in question could not be so far to the east as to obscure Joshua’s raised weapon signal in accordance with Joshua 8:18.

Egress route with descent and shebarim within 3 kilometers. According to Joshua 7:5, in the first battle of Ai the Canaanites chased the fleeing Israelites as far as a specific location or landmark designated ‘the Shebârîym’, a term which is unique to this passage. Based upon available lexical data, this term denotes a prominent feature characterized by broken or jointed rock, quarrying, or possibly a ruin. To simplify nomenclature, the specific landmark spoken of in Joshua 7:5 is denoted ‘the Shebarim’ without diacritical marks, and candidate features observable in the region that may correspond to this specific one are denoted ‘shebarim’ or ‘shebarim formations’. According to Joshua 7:5, the features of a descent and the Shebarim were present along the egress route traversed by the Israelites in the first battle of Ai described in Joshua 7:4ff. Since these features characterized the route along which the men of Ai pursued the fleeing Israelites, they would necessarily have to exist within a short distance of Ai. A proximity factor of 3 kilometers is therefore selected. 15

Trafficable routes to location. According to Joshua 8:3, Joshua and the entire army of Israel left the camp at Gilgal near Jericho and marched to a staging encampment close to the fortress of Ai. According to Joshua 8:9, the 30E primary ambush force initiated a nighttime march toward their assigned place of ambush close to and southwest of the fortress. In fact, they probably completed their ingress under cover of darkness to minimize observability from actual or potential enemy positions. The next morning, according to Joshua 8:10-11, Joshua led the residual attack force along a different route to a point north of the fortress, a march that was completed in a single day. Thus, there needed to be a well-defined, trafficable route, such as an existing road or a wadi network, to support each of these three marches.16

Viable engagement scenarios. The battle strategy described in the conquest of Ai narrative must be viable with respect to the geographical and topographical context of the site of Joshua’s Ai as well as with respect to the military technology possessed by the Israelite army.17 The key elements of the strategy are the feigned retreat maneuver, Joshua’s raised weapon signal, the role of the secondary ambush force of Joshua 8:12, and the primary ambush force assault described in Joshua 8:14-17. While the biblical text is unusually detailed, certain aspects of the engagement are not specifically addressed. This can be overcome by formulating an engagement scenario model that effectively interpolates the missing detail between the data points supplied by the text. It is essential that the engagement scenario model be realizable in its topographical context, given times, distances, available lines-of-sight, degree of forestation, etc. In particular, there must have been a viable means for Joshua’s raised weapon signal to be relayed to the 30E primary ambush force, and the ambush force must have been able to quickly penetrate the unprotected fortress once the signal was delivered. A key aspect of the Israelite’s military technology was the fact that they were neither trained nor equipped for siege warfare. In other respects, their military technology and strategy would have been a derivative of that manifested in the campaign of Tuthmosis III against Megiddo, ca. 1479 BC.

Ceramic artifacts appropriate to a small highland fortress. Not only must the ceramic artifacts be diagnostic to LB I & IIA, but the kinds of wares represented must be appropriate to a small and remote military outpost, including large storage vessels and common wares for cooking and serving food. One would not expect to find exotic imported wares at the fortress of Ai. Moreover, the ceramic materials found at such an outpost would most likely be dominated by LB I materials. In particular, because of the durability of large storage jars, only vessels of this genre which are diagnostic to LB I would be expected at the site of Joshua’s Ai.

Object artifacts appropriate to a small highland fortress. In addition to the appropriate kinds of ceramic artifacts, one would expect to find objects that attest to a military location, such as gate post socket stones, sling stones, and possibly flint arrow and spear heads.

Convenient line-of-sight to Bethel. Since, according to Joshua 8:17, the fighting men of Bethel joined those of Ai in pursuing the Israelites, there must have been a means for the king of Ai to signal his counterpart at Bethel. The location of the fortress and the topography between it and Bethel would have allowed signal passing between the two locations.

Evidence of conflagration. According to Joshua 8:19, the 30E primary ambush force set a fire as soon as they had penetrated the fortress. Moreover, according to Joshua 8:2 & 28, the Israelites burned the entire fortress after they had removed “its spoil and its cattle,” making it a permanent heap of ruins. Therefore, evidence of a conflagration would be expected.

APPLICATION OF THE PREDICATE CRITERIAL SCREEN

Three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai emerge from past research as follows: (a) the traditional site, et-Tell; (b) Kh. Nisya; and, (c) Kh. el-Maqatir. Depicted in Figure 1 is the portion of the Benjamin hill country of interest to this research (namely, the 16 square kilometer tract bounded by grid coordinate 144,000 on the south, 148,000 on the north, 171,000 on the west, and 175,000 on the east) and the location of the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai with respect to each other and the geographical and topographical features in the vicinity. 18 19 The predicate criterial screen consists of the first three parameters listed in Table 3, of which the first is of primary importance. These three parameters constitute the minimum set which suffices to cull out the non-viable candidates for Joshua’s Ai, leaving only a single, viable candidate.

Application of the Predicate Criterial Screen to et-Tell

While et-Tell is properly located in the Benjamin hill country, there is universal agreement among archaeologists that the site was not occupied during the LBA [Callaway (1993: 39-45)]; therefore, it fails to satisfy the first criterial screen parameter. Moreover, the area of the EBA city at et-Tell is 27.5 acres, which is nearly 4 times the screen value of 7 acres. Finally, while the EBA city at et-Tell was fortified, the only exposed gate structures are in the south or southeast sectors of the city, which contradicts the fourth parameter of the criterial screen in Table 3. Hence, the site of et-Tell satisfies, at best, only one out of three predicate criterial screen parameters, and therefore it is not a viable candidate for Joshua’s Ai.

Callaway’s hypothesis. Joseph Callaway postulates that the conquest of Ai described in chapters 7 and 8 of Joshua actually took place during IA I [Callaway (1968: 312-320)]. He identifies the small, unwalled IA village that was situated on the acropolis of et-Tell as the Ai of Joshua, the area of that site being approximately 3 acres and thus satisfying the second criterial screen parameter. While Prof. Callaway is free to speculate on a skirmish at the site of et-Tell which might have occurred during the IA, such does not correspond with the battle described in Joshua 7 and 8. Rather than taking liberties with the biblical text in an attempt to harmonize it with archaeological evidence, the present analysis is directed toward identifying a site that corresponds precisely with the biblical text as written.

SNAG 0018Figure 1. Locations of the Three Candidate Sites For Joshua's Ai

Zevit’s hypothesis. Zevit (1985) postulates a battle scenario for the conquest of Ai as it might have played out at the site of et-Tell. Actually, there are a number of factors in the topography surrounding et-Tell which fail to correspond with the narrative of Joshua 8. In particular, there is no suitable hiding place for the 30E ambush force southwest of the site in accordance with Joshua 8:2-9.20 While there is a high ridge to the north, the intervening valley is the Wadi el-Gayeh, which is deep and steep-walled at that point. Thus, the topography north of the site precludes the playing out of the battle scenario as described in Joshua 8:9-28.

ABR Editorial note: ABR does not endorse Mr. Brigg's view that the Exodus occurred in 1406, and the Conquest in 1366. We believe the biblical texts require a date of 1446 for the Exodus and 1406 for the beginning of the Conquest.

To Part FourTo Part Four >> Back to Part Two

Endnotes

9. In Briggs (2007: 120-122) the factors contributing to temporal uncertainty are analyzed, which leads to the conclusion that the uncertainty associated with ceramic dating of archaeological contexts of the Late Bronze Age has a mean value of 30 years and a standard deviation around the mean value of 30 years. The mean value represents a bias such that archaeological contexts will always appear to be more ancient than they truly are.

10. Refer to Briggs (2007: 87-114) for the detailed exegesis of the biblical text in support of the formulation of the criterial screen.

11. Refer to Briggs (2007: 109) for a discussion of the data in support of at least the high ridges in the Benjamin hill country being forested at the time of Joshua.

12. This detachment, denoted the ruse attack force, was probably 3E in size to emulate the attack force of Joshua 7. It is noteworthy that if the king of Ai had accurately assessed the magnitude of the threat to the north, he would have secured the fortress and forced the Israelites to engage in a prolonged siege, for which they were neither trained nor equipped. Thus, Joshua would have kept most of the residual attack force hidden from view.

13. Refer to Briggs (2007: 100-101) for detailed exegesis of the biblical text supporting the derivation of the 6th criterial screen parameter.

14. Refer to Briggs (2007: 105-106) for detailed exegesis of the biblical text concerning “the appointed place”.

15. Refer to Figures 9-11 in Briggs (2007) for illustrations of candidate shebarim formations; refer to Briggs (2007: 131-132) and the associated Figures 22-25 for postulated engagement scenarios for the first battle of Ai.

16. Refer to Briggs (2007: 133-137) and the associated Figures 23-31 for the postulated engagement scenario for the second battle of Ai.

17. Refer to Briggs (2007: 60-63) for a discussion of the ancient military technology pertinent to this research.

18. For additional detail concerning the candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai refer to Briggs (2007: 51-53).

19. For additional detail concerning the locations and topographical contexts of the three candidate sites for Joshua’s Ai, refer to Briggs (2007: 123-128) and the associated Figures 14-21.

20. For the detailed exegesis of the biblical text in regard to the location of the encampment of the primary ambush force, refer to Briggs (2007:100-101). The combination of directional indicators in the text require that this encampment be approximately southwest of the fortress of Ai.

References

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