The Historicity of the Fall of Jericho

The majority of archaeologists living today do not believe that the walls of Jericho miraculously fell down as described in Joshua 6:20-24. Based on the research of Kathleen Kenyon, they believe that modern archaeology has disproven that the city of Jericho fell when the Israelites entered the land because the city had already been destroyed by the time Israel arrived. The archaeologist Bryant G. Wood has challenged this criticism of the Bible through his own archaeological work that will be summarized in this response.

The following evidence favors the Bible’s chronology of the events of the destruction of Jericho: 1. The shards of pottery found in the ruins of City IV match those made during the 15th century. 2. The scarab beetles found in the graveyard of the city have written on them the names of Hatshepsut (1507-1458), Tuthmosis III (1504-1425), and Amenhotep III (1386-1349). 3. The jars filled with grain left in the rubble indicate that the city fell suddenly without a long siege and not all the spoils were taken. 4. The city was burned to the ground as indicated by layers of ash found in the ruins and the fire damage on the jars of grain.

The conclusion that the city of Jericho had already been destroyed by the time Israel arrived is based on Kenyon’s excavation of a small part of the city in the 1950s in which she failed to find any foreign Cypriot pottery which was common at the time of the exodus in 1446 BC. But this conclusion ignores the dating of the local pottery found in City IV and the Cypriot pottery that had already been found in the city by John Garstang in the 1930s. Because Kenyon overlooked the Cypriot pottery that had already been found in the city by Garstang, she came to the wrong conclusion. If she had known about this earlier discovery, then she could not have used the absence of Cypriot pottery as an argument against the dating of Jericho’s destruction in the Bible. This is why when doing research, we must first fully analyze the discoveries of those came before us before doing our own work. Sometimes, the research has already been done for us and we just need to know where to look.

The differences of opinion on the date of Jericho’s destruction illustrate the importance of presuppositions. All archaeologists look at the same body of evidence, but how they interpret that evidence is based on the lens of their worldview. Since many archaeologists living today do not believe in miracles, they are more likely to agree with those conclusions which support their worldview. Even though Wood has revealed that Garstang found evidence of Cypriot pottery in Jericho before Kenyon did her research, the majority of archaeologists continue to believe in Kenyon’s dating of Jericho’s destruction even though the basis upon which Kenyon came to her conclusions has been disproven. Because people have already made up their mind that the walls of Jericho did not miraculously fall down, the evidence to the contrary is dismissed or ignored. When searching for the truth, people tend to agree with those who advocate positions that confirm the beliefs they already have. Because of the effects of sin, we are prone to self-deception and will accept illegitimate arguments not based on facts. People are comfortable in the echo chamber they have built for themselves. There the voice of truth is drowned out by the viciously circular quest to be proven right all along.

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