Searching For Clues To The Conquest At Heshbon -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 03:2 (Spring 1974)
Article: Searching For Clues To The Conquest At Heshbon
Author: Anonymous


Searching For Clues To The Conquest At Heshbon

One of the puzzles of biblical archaeology is the date of the conquest of Canaan. An excavation which hopes to shed some light on this question is that of Heshbon, being sponsored by Andrews University and under the directorship of Siegfried H. Horn.

After the Israelites had spent 40 years in the wilderness, they came up along the eastern side of the Dead Sea on their way to the promised land. The inhabitants of this harsh region were unfriendly to the Israelites and a number of battles resulted. One of these was with Sihon, king of the Amorites, whose capital was Heshbon.

“And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites saying, ‘Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the King’s Highway, until we be past thy borders.’ And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong. And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites.” (Numbers 21:21–26).

Heshbon is about 15 miles east of the northern end of the Dead Sea, in modern Jordan. The 1973 dig marked the third season of excavations for the Andrews team. The first two seasons were somewhat puzzling to the archaeologists for no ancient remains of consequence earlier than the seventh century B.C. were found. Scholars were beginning to wonder if Heshbon even existed at the time of the conquest.

Then, as happens so often in archaeology, during the third and last planned season, remains from an earlier period turned up.

Pottery remains from the Iron I period (12th-11th centuries B.C.) were found in various areas of the mound. And pure Iron I layers were uncovered on the western side of the tell. In one sector, the Iron I layer was associated with a rock fall and the remains of a possible wall.

A very intriguing Iron Age structure came to light on the southern side of the mound. First it was thought that bedrock was reached when a hard, flat, rock-like surface appeared. But when a potsherd (a broken piece of pottery) was observed to be embedded in it, a probe was undertaken and revealed that it consisted of plas...

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