The Walls of Jericho -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 12:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: The Walls of Jericho
Author: Bryant G. Wood


The Walls of Jericho

Bryant G. Wood

When one hears the name “Jericho,” one naturally thinks of Israelites marching, trumpets sounding and walls falling. It is a wonderful story of faith and victory that we enjoy reading and telling in Sunday School class, but did it really happen? The skeptic would say no, it is merely a folk tale to explain the ruins at Jericho. The reason for this negative out-look is the excavation carried out at the site in the 1950s under the direction of British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. She concluded,

It is a sad fact that of the town walls of the Late Bronze Age, within which period the attack by the Israelites must fall by any dating, not a trace remains....The excavation of Jericho, therefore, has thrown no light on the walls of Jericho of which the destruction is so vividly described in the Book of Joshua (Kenyon 1957: 261-62).

Thomas A. Holland, who was editor and co-author of Kenyon’s excavation reports, summarized the apparent results as follows:

Kenyon concluded, with reference to the military conquest theory and the L[ate] B[ronze Age] walls, that there was no archaeological data to support the thesis that the town had been surrounded by a wall at the end of LB I (ca. 1400 BCE...) (Holland 1997: 223).

Aerial view of Jericho, looking south. The trenches and squares visible today are from Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in the 1950s and the more recent Italian-Palestinian excavation which began in 1997.

Plan of the ruins of Jericho. A—area excavated by John Garstang where he found evidence for the destruction of Jericho by the Israelites which he dated to ca. 1400 BC. B—Two 8x8 m squares excavated by Kathleen Kenyon where she found similar evidence for destruction, but misdated it to 1550 BC and attributed it to the Egyptians.

H.J. Franken, a member of the Jericho excavation staff, stated,

Miss Kenyon’s work has presented scholars with the hard fact that if Joshua was active with the incoming Israelites either c. 1400 or c. 1200 B.C. he would not have been able to capture a great walled city of Jericho, because there was no city of Jericho in these periods...the huge ruins of the Hyksos city gave rise to the folktale attached to the hero Joshua (1965: 190, 200).

According to Kenyon’s dating, there was no city for the Israelites to conquer at the end of the 15th century BC, the Biblical date for the event. The Jericho of Joshua’s time could not be found—it was lost! Through our res...

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