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  THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AI

"Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, 'Go up and spy out the region.' So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3) When they returned to Joshua, they said, 'Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there.'" (Joshua 7.1-3)

So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5) who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. (Josh 7.4-5)

Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2) You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city." 3) So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4) with these orders: 'Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. 5) I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. 6) They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, `They are running away from us as they did before.' So when we flee from them, 7) you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The LORD your God will give it into your hand. 8) When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the LORD has commanded. See to it; you have my orders." 9) Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai -- but Joshua spent that night with the people." (Joshua 8.1-9)

27 "But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua. 28) So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29) He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day." (Josh 8.27-29).

To the Archaeologist and academic Biblical scholar, this story is one of the major proofs that the Biblical account is just an agglomeration of myths and legends. For them the case is clear. There was no city of Ai at the time the Bible says there was. In fact according to the archaeologists there had not been a city there for hundreds of years. No city, the Biblical story of the conquest of the land of Canaan must therefore be wrong.

Let us try something different, let us make an assumption that the Biblical story is exactly true and see what happens to the archaeology.

The following is a chart of the archaeology of the City of Ai, which is generally accepted to be accurate by the archaeological community.

Description

Period

Chronology

Unwalled Village

EB BS IB

3100-3000 BC

1st Walled City of 27.5 acres

EB IC

3000-2860 BC

2nd city, 1st city walls widened and strengthened

EB II

2860-2720 BC

3rd city, new walls built outside previous walls

EB IIIA

2700-2550 BC

4th city, 3rd city walls doubled in width and strengthened

EB IIIB

2550-2350 BC

Unwalled village settlement (2.75 acres)

Iron I

1220-1050 BC

Now according to the accepted chronology, the Conquest took place at the beginning of the Iron Age. (See chart at the end of lecture I). There was NOTHING there. Absolutely nothing according to the archaeologists. But at the end of the early Bronze Age there was a strongly fortified city there and it was destroyed and no walled city was ever built on the site again. Does that ring a bell from the Biblical account?

Site of Ai from the air.

Let us follow our scenario. Let us assume that the conquest took place exactly as the evidence shows in the case of Ai, at the end of the early Bronze Age. But the dates are obviously wrong because the Bible maintains that the conquest took place around 1400 BC and the archaeologists maintain it took place around 1200 BC.

But we have seen that both these dates are based upon Egyptian chronology and we have already shown on what a tenuous basis this was formulated. Let us therefore take as an hypothesis that the early Bronze Age ended around 1450 BC and that was the time of the Exodus. What does that do to the archaeology of the Bible Lands and how can that be reconciled with Egyptian chronology? Next week we shall start looking at the other major sites in the area starting with the most famous of all Jericho.

Any questions?

 



Bibliography
  1. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East by Eric M. Meyers (Editor), American Schools of Oriental Research (ISBN: 0195065123)
  2. The MacMillan Bible Atlas by Yohanan Aharoni, Michael Avi-Yonah, Anson F. Rainey, Zeev Safrai (ISBN: 0025006053)
  3. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land by Ephraim Stern, Ayelet Lewinson-Gilboa, Joseph Aviram (ISBN: 0132762889)
  4. Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology : An Introductory Handbook by Walter E. Rast (ISBN: 1563380552)
  5. Biblical Archaeology by George Ernest, Wright (ISBN: 0664204201)
    (Out of Print)
  6. The Bible and Recent Archaeology by Kathleen Kenyon, P. R. S. Moorey (ISBN: 0804200114)
  7. Archaeology of the Land of Israel by Yohanan Aharoni (ISBN: 0664244300)
  8. Redating the Exodus and Conquest by John J. Bimson (ISBN: 0905774108)
  9. The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ISBN: 038542583X)
  10. The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine: M. Weippert (ISBN: 9995284383)

 




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