“Large Cities That Have Walls Up To The Sky”: Canaanite Fortifications in the Late Bronze I Period -- By: David G. Hansen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 16:3 (Summer 2003)
Article: “Large Cities That Have Walls Up To The Sky”: Canaanite Fortifications in the Late Bronze I Period
Author: David G. Hansen

“Large Cities That Have Walls Up To The Sky”:
Canaanite Fortifications in the Late Bronze I Period

David G. Hansen

One of the most vociferously attacked historical accounts in the Bible is the Old Testament description of the Israelite Conquest of Canaan as recorded in the book of Joshua. According to many critics, the archaeological evidence supports neither the Biblical version nor date of the Conquest events. In a recent analysis of the status of archaeology in contemporary Israel, the Israeli archaeologist Ze’ev Herzog asserted:

Jericho and its Walls as drawn by ABR staff Artist Gene Fackler based on archaeological evidence. Houses were found between the upper and lower city walls, as was apparently the case with Rahab’s house (Jos 2:15). The lower mud brick wall was built on top of a stone retaining wall which held in place a massive earthen embankment which surrounded the tell or mound on which the city was built. Although the mud brick walls collapsed when the Israelites attacked Jericho, the retaining wall remained intact and can be seen at the site yet today.

This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel (Watzman 2000).

Two well-known and respected investigators, I. Finkelstein and N. Silberman, have published a book that presents a new version of the origin or ancient Israel (2001). Based on their analysis of archaeological research, they conclude the Old Testament stories are,

creative expressions of a powerful religious reform movement that flourished in the kingdom of Judah in the Late Iron Age. Although these stories may have been based on certain historical kernels, they primarily reflect the ideology of the worldview of the writers (23).

The New York Times recently printed a favorable review of a newly published Torah and accompanying commentary, Etz Hayim (Massing 2002). The reviewer, approvingly notes that the Torah now explains that Abraham probably never existed, nor did Moses. He further notes that,

the entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying cry for a fledgling nation (15).

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