Researching AI -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 22:3 (Summer 2009)
Article: Researching AI
Author: Bryant G. Wood

Researching AI

Bryant G. Wood

Leen Ritmeyer

After the Israelites defeated Jericho in the southern Jordan Valley, they then attacked the fortress of Ai in the highlands (Jos 7-8). Both of these sites have produced archaeological findings that have seemed to be in conflict with the Bible. Scholars have been quick to point out that these discrepancies lead to the conclusion that there was no Conquest as described in the book of Joshua. But is the problem with the Bible or with the interpretations of the archaeologists? After reviewing the archaeological findings at both Jericho and Ai, I believe the problem is faulty interpretation of the archaeological evidence, not the biblical record. As discussed in my next article, the difficulty with Jericho is that Kathleen Kenyon was wrong in her dating of the destruction level. With regard to Ai, the dilemma arises from the fact that the site has been incorrectly located. For an in-depth review of the misguided research on the location of Ai, see my recent article in Critical Issues in Early Israelite History (2008).

Scholars had come to the conclusion, largely through the influence of W.F. Albright (1924), that Joshua’s Ai should be located at et-Tell, about 9 mi (15 km) north of Jerusalem. Et-

Michael Luddeni

Kh. el-Maqatir, looking south-southeast. The Hasmonean fortress can be seen on the left side of the photo and the Bronze Age fortress in the center.

Survey of Israel

The geography of Kh. el-Maqatir, which meets the geographical requirements for Joshua’s Ai: near Beth-aven (=Beitin, Jos 7:2), east of Bethel (=EI Bireh, Jos 7:2), Wadi Sheban is a good candidate for the ambush site between Bethel and Ai (Jos 8:9,12), Jebel Abu Ammar north of Kh. el-Maqatir is the highest hill in the region and could have been the command center of the main army (Jos 8:1), Wadi el-Gayeh would be the shallow valley north of Ai where Joshua spent the night (Jos 8:13-14), and Kh. el-Maqatir is near Bethel (Jos 12:9).

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