Good question...

...doesn't the archaeological record in Palestine TOTALLY CONTRADICT (and hence, DISPROVE) the Bible's claims about Joshua's "Conquest" of the Land?!

From time to time I get an email like this below...
Extensive archaeological surveys of Palestine have revealed grave discrepancies between the history of the Holy Land and the history recorded in the Old Testament. To state just a few examples, in the book of Joshua, the city of Ai is recorded as being the site of a thriving Caananite city. However excavations of Ai show that Ai was uninhabited at the time of the Israelite conquest, and the occupation of Ai during the Iron Age was an Israelite occupation. If this is truly a reading of the experience of the Israelites that has been projected into the past by the compilers of the book of Joshua, then it must be taken as a pious fiction. The same can be said for Hebron, which was inhabited during the Middle Bronze Age, but was uninhabited during the Iron Age when it should have been, as described by the book of Joshua. Finally, work in the Transjordan has seriously called into question the entire narrative in Numbers where the Israelites were supposed to have fought with an Ammorite people. As an evangelical, the idea of taking the book of Joshua as pious fiction is repulsive, but the hard data that is present militates against taking the narratives at face value. I am prepared to see the account of the book of Joshua as a digested history that describes what actually took a fair amount of time, as happening in several swoops. However, to say that the book is a pastiche of actual occurrences and pious fables is difficult to swallow. Who is to say that the most important bits aren't pious fables as well?
Although I don't see this question very often, I nonetheless SHOULD--it is a very good question and one that is often found in scholarly writings. Consider this rather strong and 'firm' statement of the position by Redford [ECIAT:265, numbers in the text are markers for my latter comments]:
A detailed comparison of this version of the Hebrew takeover of Palestine with the extra-Biblical evidence totally discredits the former. Not only is there a complete absence, as we have seen, in the records of the Egyptian empire of any mention or allusion to such a whirlwind of annihilation [1], but also Egyptian control over Canaan and the very cities Joshua is supposed to have taken scarcely wavered during the entire period of the Late Bronze Age [2]. Far more damaging, however, than this argument from silence [3] is the archaeological record. Sites such as Hormah, Arad, Jericho, 'Ai, and Jarmuth had indeed suffered violent destruction, but this had been during the Early Bronze Age or at the end of Middle Bronze and during the Late Bronze Age they had lain unoccupied (save for squatters) [4]; others such as Kadesh Barnea, Heshbon, and Gibeon were not to be settled until the Iron Age [5]. Those sites that do show massive destruction at the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age, about 1200 B.C., can as easily be explained as victims of the movement of the Sea Peoples [6]. The regions of Edom and Moab, represented in Numbers as sedentary states [7], supported only a few cities in the Late Bronze Age maintaining the north- south trade route to Damascus; the Edomite and Moabite kingdoms, which Numbers wrongly understands to be already in existence, did not put in an appearance before the ninth century B.C.[8] Finally, the overall archaeological survey of settlement patterns in the final two centuries of the second millennium B.C. does not show destruction at a single point in time, but rather a gradual settlement of pastoralists (not completed until the tenth century) [9] first in the hill country and then in regions densely populated by sedentary inhabitants.
Or the more moderate statements by Mazar [OT:AAI:282-285, selections]:
"Systematic surveys and excavations at Kadesh Barnea and in the Beersheba and Arad valleys have not produced any archaeological evidence of the Late Bronze Age, the period to which the exodus is commonly as- signed. At Kadesh Barnea, a third-millennium settlement was followed by a long gap in occupation lasting until the tenth century, when an oval fortress was erected as part of a network of such fortresses throughout the Negev. Not one Late Bronze Age or Iron Age I sherd was found in the surveys, which combed the oasis of Kadesh Barnea and its vicinity, or in the systematic excavations of the mound. Neither did the extensive studies of Y. Aharoni and his associates in the Arad valley and in the Beersheba region produce any hint of Late Bronze Age occupation. Arad itself, after the destruction of an Early Bronze Age II town, remained unoccupied until the tenth century, when the Israelite settlement there was founded. There is thus no evidence for the existence of a Canaanite "king of Arad" at Arad itself. Aharoni attempted to explain the discrepancy by suggesting that Canaanite Arad was at a different site in the region, but systematic excavations in all the mounds of the Beersheba valley, particularly at Tel Malhata and Tel Masos, found no Late Bronze Age settlement. (p.282)

"In Transjordan, the meager archaeological data shed little light on the biblical tradition of battles and conquests. Numbers 21:21-32 tells of the war of the Israelites with Sihon, king of the Amorites, ending in the capture of Heshbon. Extensive excavations at Tell Hesban have shown that the site was first occupied only in the Iron Age I. The poor remains of this period cannot qualify as the Amorite city taken and destroyed by the Israelites. (p.282)

"There is no evidence of a second-millennium Canaanite city at this spot [note: AI] or at any other site in the region. This constitutes unequivocal archaeological evidence for the lack of correlation between the story in Joshua 8, with all its topographic and tactical details, and a historical reality corresponding to the period of the conquest.(p283)

"In contrast, excavations at Tell Rumeideh [note: Hebron] have revealed no evidence of Late Bronze Age occupation, and there seems to have been a gap between the Middle Bronze Age town and the Iron Age I settlement. (p.283)

"At other sites, however, the picture is more complex. For example, at Ta'anach there is no continuity, and the Canaanite presence seems to have ended with the destruction of the town at the end of the Late Bronze Age. (p.284)

Let me list the basic issues raised by Mazar:

  1. No evidence of Late Bronze occupation in (but there should be some if the biblical account is correct):

    • Beersheva valley
    • Kadesh Barnea
    • Arad
    • Hebron
    • AI
    • Hesbon in Transjordan

  2. No evidence of destruction at AI in LB (there should be some if the biblical account is correct).

  3. Evidence of destruction/discontinuity at end of LB at Taanach (there should NOT be any, if the biblical account is correct)

The approach I will take here is as follows:

  1. Identify some of the problems associated with making the above claims (esp. with such 'certainty'!)

  2. Surface some of the problems with the 'no remains, therefore no humans' position in the field.

  3. Try to 'size' the problem--how much/how clear is the data CONFIRMING or SUPPORTING the biblical narratives?

  4. Survey the data relative to the sites in question (Jericho, AI, Hebron, Taanach, Arad, Tel Masos, Edom, Hesbon).

  5. Make some concluding remarks about the competing models of the emergence of Israel as a people in Iron Age Palestine.

  6. Make a comment or two relative to the early-dating theory of the Exodus (with biblio).

  7. (Give some summary responses about Redford's issues.)
A brief note about sources: Two works that I will consistently refer to, I do NOT have in my library. Together they cost slightly less than a thousand dollars. They are the standard reference works in the field The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East [hereafter OEANE] and The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land [hereafter HI:NENAHL]. [Tanknote 2013--I purchased these two works over the intervening 15 years since I wrote this....] The vast majority of the sources I cite below would not consider themselves 'conservative' in the least, and many would not believe in a "conquest" or "exodus" at all. Only a very few would even remotely take many of the biblical narratives as even attempts at reliable history.

Also needed for this study is a Chronological chart of the ages, and a map of the areas discussed. ...................................................................................................

  1. Identify some of the problems associated with making the above claims (esp. with such 'certainty'!)

    Here I want to simply mention some of the general limitations in this field relative to 'strong statements', especially as relates to methodology and dating procedures.

    An archaeologist has a number of tools she can use in trying to ascertain the historical date of a particular strata or assemblage of remains in a site. These include various techniques for dating (e.g. radiometric dating, thermoluminescence), inscriptional references, and especially pottery. The field is heavily dependent on the dating schema of pottery types. For illustration, the field will determine that a certain type of collared-rim jar was mainly used by Israel in the Iron Age, or that "Chocolate on White Ware" was confined to a narrow region around the Jordan Valley in the 16th century [OT:ALTB:216]. The presence or absence of such 'index remains' are key determinants in dating a site. Generally, entire assemblages of items are preferred, but the field folks work with what they get. Archaeologists use the term site formation to describe how the original occupants' behavior radically determines what materials entered the archix record--in other words, what articles were left and preserved when a site was abandoned (and all sites are 'abandoned' in some way, even those on top of which later settlements are built).

    Let me note a few of the general issues associated with the process of dating by remains (or absence thereof, in the case of claims that a site was unoccupied during some period)...

    • First is the general consensus by practitioners that 'archaeological facts' are quite slippery, especially in the area of assigning dates:
      "Since they have hardly ever been manipulated, archaeological sources are usually more dependable than literary ones, but they are difficult to use. Hence, even the construction of a firm foundation for all further investigations, dating, or the confirmation of chronological contemporaneity or noncontemporaneity, causes considerable problems, especially when we take into account the role played by chance in the way evidence has been handed down to us...techniques such as the so-called carbon 14 method have not yet achieved a degree of dependability and accuracy that would allow us to use their results without some reservations....archaeological contexts only infrequently permit a clear demarcation between one period and the next. Drawing such dividing lines is thus very much a matter of the judgment of the individual scholar..." [EHANE:4,5]
      As indicated above, radioactive dating is generally not precise enough for the 'close work' within dating periods (e.g. Early Bronze III or Iron Age I)--the 'plus and minus' figures in chronological charts indicate this quite clearly [see COWA]. Radioactive methods require MONTHLY recalibration, and although used, generally yield divergent results for the same site. Pottery dating, often depended on heavily, is also subject to a number of complexities, not the least of which is diffusion (when a nearby border culture adopts the style of another), which sometimes can yield synchronization points between the two cultures' literary chronologies [TAPA:38, 39].

    • The precision of dating is very low, yet surprisingly, we see people arguing from narrow ranges of dates. So, Finkelstein admits the problem in one case [LOF:109]:
      "At present it is extremely difficult, if at all possible, to differentiate between the pottery of the late 11th and that of the early 10th centuries BC even at excavated sites."
      But you will read Dever [OT:EEE:p77]:
      "...the destruction of the lower city at Hazor...has been dated earlier than the estimate of c.1225 BCE by Yadin....if it is moved as early as 1250 BCE, it is less likely to have been connected with the Israelite settlement..."
      Dever can make decisions on a 25 year swing? We simply do not have the requisite precision in dating to make such pivotal judgments.

    • Sometimes a later period will 'borrow' the style of an earlier period (for example, when a Late Bronze group would adopt/borrow a Middle Bronze style [OEANE, s.v. "Palestine in the Late Bronze Age", p.216]). And this even applies to buildings and structures [OT:ALTB:21]. If a LB culture did this, and left only the MB remains, it would LOOK LIKE there was no LB culture there--only the MB one.

    • An example of how counter-intuitive this can be, can be found in the case of Arad. In OEANE under 'Arad' the article's author concludes that the Iron Age I [date range of 1,200-930 BC] settlement actually lived in the EB [date range of 3,000-2,800 B.C.] houses [there was allegedly no MB or LB settlement, above]. If you reflect on this, this would mean that the EB houses--without modification or repair--survived in livable condition for between 1,600 and 2,270 years! That they could survive as ruins is a feat enough, but to be suitable for re-use in this way seems very improbable. [The situation is somewhat different for stone structures, obviously, than for mud-brick and earthworks.]

      [It should also be noted that abandonment patterns are not just at the site-level; they also occur WITHIN site structures. For example, houses get reused as storage areas, which later get reused as animal shelters. This is called a 'one way' recycling [HI:ASR:47]. This would suggest that any serious degradation over 1,600 to 2,270 years would change the re-usage patterns for this structure--WHICH IT DID NOT. Something else was going on--other than non-occupation.]

    • We know that reuse of earlier material (not just styles) occurs as well. At Hazor for example, a huge stone altar was taken from a MBII building and used in a LBIIA building (Stratum 1-b.; HI:NEAEHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.597]. This depletes earlier strata, giving a false impression of BOTH periods (if undetected).

    • Sites have a certain range of 'mobility' even for a given settlement "title". In other words, a village called "XXX" may move over the centuries from the top of a hill, to the valley below, to the Wadi-edge, etc. AI, for example, was AT LEAST two locations--the acropolis on the top of the hill and the later town built at the foot of the hill [OEANE, s.v. 'AI'] and the same phenomena occurs for Tel Masos [OEANE, s.v. "Masos, Tel"] and Arad [OEANE, s.v. "Arad"].

    • Finkelstein points out numerous difficulties with material remains of peoples in arid zones (such as Arad, Edom, Kadesh Barnea). The main problem is that arid-dwellers have a behavioral range that varies from sedentary (which builds things and leaves things at abandonment) to nomadic (which does NOT build and leave things). He is one of the major experts in this field and explicitly rejects the 'no remains, therefore no occupation' theories that under-gird much of this 'no LB cultures there' objection. [see his detailed work LOF, esp. p10ff , 30ff, 94ff]. We KNOW of cases in history of occupation (attested to by literary and/or inscriptional data) that left absolutely no detectable 'remains' [pp.27ff].

    • We pointed out above that earlier styles could be adopted by later periods, but even actual sherds can show up later strata. So Finkelstein [LOF:133]:
      "Sherds belonging to earlier occupations of a site almost always find their way into later strata. Consequently, when a stratum is dated according to a collection of sherds, rather than assemblages of vessels, which was the case in Bennett's excavations, this may confuse the dating."
      This would make a later culture (e.g. LB) appear to be an earlier culture (e.g. MB).

    • One of the MAJOR problems is that one of the basic building techniques in the highlands, such as Bethel/AI, was to remove previous debris[ LOF:133]:
      "Indeed, in almost every multi-period highland site west of the Jordan, intensive building activity in later periods removed all architectural traces of the scanty earlier occupations. This happened because the basic building technique in the highlands was always to remove all earlier material in order to establish the walls directly on bedrock."
      This would have a HUGE impact on determining whether the 'removed previous' period had been there! If they scraped the site clean before they began to build, we are totally in speculation to say an older settlement wasn't there because of 'no remains' [LOF:133f]. LOF gives examples of Jerusalem, Khirbet Rabud, Tell en-Nasbeh, Khirbet ed-Dawwara, Giloh, Shechem, and Bethel. At Lachish, the builders of Level IV (IA2) "apparently destroyed much of the Late Bronze acropolis, removing earth to be used as fill for the structure's foundations." [HI:NEAEHL, s.v. "Lachish", p.901].

    • We also know that when a culture swings more to the shepherding model, it does NOT build buildings in hill country (such as AI, Shiloh), radically affecting site formation [HAP:280].

    • Dislocation/displacement of artifacts occurs after abandonment! It is known that new sites will deplete artifacts from abandoned sites [HI:ASR:192]. This is a special case of re-use, but it really can foul up the understanding of the 'cannibalized' site! It makes it look radically different (smaller, or less occupied).

    Mazar, whose statements about the difficulties I cited at the first of this piece, himself states the tentativeness of the 'conclusions allowed' by archaeological evidence [OT:AAI:285]:
    Yet, the archaeological record is anonymous, and its use to prove any historical theory must be accompanied by a rigorous critical approach to the archaeological material itself. Archaeologists tend to determine precise dates of destruction, for example, on relatively flimsy evidence. In the discussion of the Israelite conquest it would therefore be best to treat the archaeological evidence with circumspection and to avoid basing far-reaching conclusions on it.
    These factors alone should give us pause before reaching 'firm' conclusions about the non-occupation of these sites!

  2. Surface some of the problems with the 'no remains, therefore no occupation' position in the field.

    If we focus for a moment specifically on the 'no remains implies no occupation' issue, we can see how the above methodological issues impact some our questions. Let's note some of these in summary:

    1. Nomadic peoples--while toward the non-sedentary end of the behavioral spectrum--do not leave remains in arid areas (e.g. Arad, parts of the Negev, parts of Transjordan).

    2. We know from literary sources of 'invisible nomads' which demonstrate the above situation. Finkelstein [LOF:27-30] documents several examples of peoples who are mentioned in historical/literary documents from ancient times YET who left NO trace (archaeologically) of their existence in the field(!):

      1. Edom and Seir in the Late Bronze Age [referred to in numerous Egyptian documents]
      2. Arabs in Neo-Assyrian times [referred to in numerous royal records of Tiglath-Pileser II, Sargon II, Esarhaddon, etc.]
      3. The early Nabataeans [referred to by Diodorus of Sicily and Hieronymous of Cardia]
      4. The Sinai Saracens of the Byzantine period [referred to by Ammonius, Egeria, Nilus, Procopius,]
      5. Bedouin of the Medieval period [referred to in Bedouin historical sources]
      6. Even Bedouin tribes in the first part of the 20th century [known from modern sources]

      It is important to recognize that these people are 'invisible' in the archeological record! They were obviously 'really there', but we have found no trace of them in the dirt. Much of the areas under discussion in this piece fall into these land and cultural categories (e.g. Arad, Edom, parts of Transjordan, Kadesh Barnea, etc.)!

    3. In addition to the fact that nomads did not leave remains in MB/LB period in arid areas, they were also not likely to build/leave remains in the hill country (above).

    4. And hill sites have their own problems: "Because, like so many hill country sites, most of Khirbet Rabud is eroded to bedrock, remains of ancient occupation were discerned only in a narrow strip adjacent to the city wall, in two trenches..." [OEANE, s.v. "Rabud, Khirbet", p.401]

    5. Erosion was a major problem at the Jericho site as well. Kenyon describes the site in [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Jericho", p.680]:
      "Jericho, therefore, was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age II. It is very possible that this destruction is truly remembered in the Book of Joshua, although archaeology cannot provide the proof. The subsequent break in occupation that is proved by archaeology is, however, in accord with the biblical story. There was a period of abandonment, during which erosion removed most of the remains of the Late Bronze Age town and much of the earlier ones. Rainwater gulleys that cut deeply into the underlying levels have been found.
    6. If depletion activity is at work, then even those sites which were NOT occupied by nomadic-behavior groups would manifest a 'no data' situation as well.

      Although it is tempting to brand the 'no remains, therefore no occupation' argument as an argument from silence, the situation is somewhat more complex. Indeed, it would be theoretically difficult to ever prove that a site was unoccupied! If there are other and better ways to explain the absence of material remains (as above), the argument for 'no remains, therefore no occupation' becomes presumptive at best.

      The above arguments dealt with ONE type of objection--that some of the alleged cities in Joshua's conquest narratives did not exist at that time (much less were destroyed). A different kind of objection argues from lack of evidence of destruction in that time frame. But one of the pre-eminent scholars of the ANE--Cyrus Gordon--in concert with Rendsburg, points out that this alleged lack of uniform destruction evidence for the Conquest of Joshua is (1) predicted by the text--Israel did not actually destroy that many cities ; and (2) is actually not that big of a deal--in the context of other known historical conquests! So, [OT:BANE:172,173]:

      "Most of the captured cities were not destroyed. In fact, Hazor is singled out as the only city burned out of quite a number captured in the north. The Hebrews did not come to destroy but to occupy the land and keep it in as good a condition as possible. The few exceptions of destroyed cities (e.g., Jericho, Ai, and Hazor) do not invalidate the general rule.

      "Nevertheless, there is a strong counterargument regarding the silence of the archeological record vis--vis the Conquest. Other known conquests in world history, well attested in historical documentation, also have little archaeological evidence to substantiate them. These include the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, the Norman conquest of England, and the Arab conquest of Palestine. And yet, of course, no one would deny the authenticity of these events.

      We will see below that we DO have significant data to support the Conquest narratives, but this point is made here to show that we don't need archaeological confirmation of every single fact in the narratives to build a case for its reliability!

  3. Try to 'size' the problem--how much/how clear is the data CONFIRMING or SUPPORTING the biblical narratives?

    Here I want to zoom out a bit and look at the overall pattern of archix data for the conquest and period. Does this data tend to support the narratives? How one-sided is the data? Is the overall countenance of the period in line with conditions related in the biblical text? Let's look at the confirming data now...

    1. First of all, most of the field agrees that the period immediately AFTER the Conquest--the United Monarchy--is more or less confirmed (or at least 'not contradicted') by the archeological record. Sites during the Iron Age are everywhere, manifest Israelite pottery (e.g. collared-rim jars), housing structures (e.g. the four room house), and even paleo-Hebrew inscriptions (e.g. Arad has hundreds). The vacancy at Jericho until much later can be demonstrated from the record [OEANE: s.v. "Jericho"]. So this part of the historical narrative is generally confirmatory [TAPA:34, 122].

    2. We have literary records of the apiru terrorizing Palestine during these times. The apiru are generally considered to be a generic term for wandering peoples, probably different groups of Israelites, Philistines, Sea Peoples, and neo-Hittites. The term is used in Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt and can range in period from EB to LB--generally referring to a wandering military aristocracy [POTT:6ff], so it cannot be primarily a reference to the Hebrews [HI:COBW:115]. The Tel Amarna tablets contain correspondence from Palestinian city-states requesting military support from Egypt to fight off these apiru. The apiru problem in Canaan seems to intensify just as Israel is starting the 'conquest'. Part of this phenomena is easily explained by conquest traditions--at least in the few military battles Israel actually engaged in. [TAPA:99]

      The Tel Amarna tablets reflect the political conditions of LB Palestine, and its relationship to Egypt. DeVries describes these tablets, found in the royal tombs in Egypt [HI:COBW:114-115]:

      "Over 350 clay tablets discovered in the complex of rooms, apparently the office of records and correspondence or royal archives, have provided the most valuable information. These tablets are often referred to as the Amarna tablets or Amarna letters (note: dated 1375-1350 BC.). They were inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform, the international language of diplomatic correspondence of that day. They contain correspondence to Egyptian officials from the leaders of other major powers in the ancient Near East such as the Hittites, the Mitannians, and the Assyrians. The vast majority of tablets contain correspondence from kings of Egypt's vassal city-states in Syria-Palestine. These letters are especially valuable because they reflect the political situation in Canaan at that time. The letters indicate that Canaan was in turmoil and that Akhenaton was neglecting that area. During the Amarna period Canaan was comprised of a number of small city-states. The letters written by the vassal city-state kings in that region to Akhenaton addressed a number of problems including the Habiru, conflict between neighboring city-state kings, and dishonest Egyptian commissioners. The letters came not only from city-states in Canaan such as Jerusalem, Hebron, Shechem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, but also from the territory of Phoenicia and Syria. Often the letters included pleas for military assistance because the city-states faced imminent danger at the hands of the Habiru, also called the SA.GAZ. For instance, Abdi-Heba, king of Jerusalem, made an urgent plea for archers because the Habiru were not only plundering the area but also threatening to take control of it. Rib-Addi, the king of Byblos, wrote more than fifty letters to Akhenaton assuring the Egyptian king of his faithfulness, reporting territories that had been lost to the Habiru, and repeatedly requesting military assistance. The repeated requests and the absence of any acknowledgment that assistance was received suggest that Akhenaton did not respond.
      There is a distinct possibility that this apiru word was much more narrowly used at this time, of the Israelites in the Egyptian records, as indicated by contexts of slave labor in building pyramids! So, Malamat [OT:EEE:18] points to:

      • The Papyrus Leiden 348: a decree by an official of Ramesses II concerning construction work at his new capital of Pi-Ramesses, declaring "Distribute grain rations to the soldiers and to the Apiru who transport stones to the great pylon of Ramassess"

      • An ostracon in hieratic script referring to the Apiru engaged in construction work at the city of Pi-Ramesses.

      [Malamat's view is "each and every Israelite is a Hebrew and likely an Apiru, while not every Hebrew or Apiru is necessarily an Israelite", p.18].

    3. The biblical accounts of the prominence and destruction of LB cities Hazor, Bethel, Lachish , and a few smaller cities all conform to the archaeological data [TAPA:100, 113; OT:AAI:284,285]

    4. The settlement of the hill country by Israel in the 1,200 - 1,000 B.C. period is well documented archaeologically [TAPA:110].

    5. The fact that YHWH would not let the Israelites disturb the Ammonites in Transjordan due to their connection to Abraham (Deut 2) certainly accords well with the archix data that says that their material culture showed no disruptions up through Persian times [OEANE, s.v. "Ammon", p.103f]--in spite of the turbulence right next to them in Palestine.

    6. The fact that some of the non-Israelite peoples of the desert became a part of Israel (e.g. Kenites, Judg 1.16) is seen in the fact that shasu (their Egyptian name) show up in the hill country: "According to the Papyrus Anastasi I, however, the Shasu were found in the hill country..." [OT:EEE:p.42]

    7. Debir (Khirbet Rabud) is a typical example of the Shephelah cities (as well as most of the cities of the Conquest). It was overthrown and the residual people (those who had not abandoned/migrated from it) killed [Josh 10.38]. It was NOT destroyed or burnt--according to the general approach of Deut 6.10 ( When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you -- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant... ). Accordingly, the material culture of the site should show a 'mixed' character--some local, some Israelite. The archix data shows an LB occupation, pre-Israelite pottery (Mycenaean and Cypriot), followed by an Iron I stratum. The later record shows a destruction stratum probably due to Senacherib's campaign in 701 BC, with distinctly Israelite remains: two stamp seals inscribed in Hebrew and a four-winged lamelekh seal [OEANE, s.v. "Rabud, Khirbet", p.401]. This precisely conforms to the biblical narrative.

    8. There was wholesale destruction of cities at the end of MBIII (at the very edge of LB--where the conquest narratives begin to play). Some of these would be due to Sea Peoples, Egypt, and other marauders, but Israel could certainly have played their part--esp. in respect to the large important sites such as Hazor. Many other cities were repopulated by 1450 B.C. [OEANE: s.v. "Palestine, Late Bronze"].

    9. Continuous settlements in the LB period also reveal a massive migration/abandonment by the rural population! [OEANE: s.v. "Palestine, Late Bronze"]. Under either the fear of apiru and/or the fear of the Israelites, many of the people who were more nomadic (and also less likely to find refuge in the more fortified and defensible towns) would have migrated from the land [as I argued was the intent in Did God order the genocide of the Canaanites?].

    10. Similar to the above is the fact that there seemed to be a massive abandonment of the highlands in LB, especially in the Hebron area [HAP:218f].

    11. Mazur (who cannot be accused of being a 'conservative'!) indicates some of the confirming/non-contradicting data in OT:AAI:282-285:
      "Undoubtedly, the biblical story of the battle of Jericho is legendary, but in this case archaeological evidence does not run directly counter to the biblical tale, as is asserted by some scholars.

      "Chapter 10 of the book of Joshua tells of the battle with a coalition of kings of the Shephelah and the hill country--the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Yarmut, Lachish, and Eglon. In the course of this battle Joshua conquers Makkedah, Libneh, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, and at the conclusion of the tale, the conquest of wide areas is described: "the hill country, the Negeb, the Shephelah, and the slopes . . . from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, all the land of Goshen, and up to Gibeon" (Jos. 10:40-41). The location of some of the towns (Makkedah, Libneh, and Eglon) is not established. The other towns may be identified with certainty, and among them, Jerusalem, Lachish, Hebron (Tell Rumeideh), and Debir (Khirbet Rabud in the southern Hebron hills) have been excavated. Most of these sites produced Late Bronze Age remains. Lachish is the best known. The last Canaanite town at this site (stratum VI) was destroyed during or after the reign of Ramesses III, in the mid-twelfth century B.C.E., and remained in ruins until the days of David and Solomon.

      "At Debir too there is evidence of a Canaanite town destroyed at the end of the Late Bronze Age.

      "The archaeological record of the southern Shephelah and the southern Hebron hills does not therefore contradict the biblical record (except in the case of Hebron [note: I deal with this below]), nor does it provide proof of its authenticity.

      The final Canaanite city at Hazor (stratum XIII) reveals some signs of decline and was violently destroyed. The excavators credit this destruction to the Israelites. The destruction was assigned in broad terms to the thirteenth century.

      "Archaeology does not enhance or detract from the authenticity of Judges 1:8.

      "Limited excavations were conducted by Albright in the village of Beitin, the site of Bethel, uncovering a fortified Late Bronze Age Canaanite town, destroyed at the end of the period and re- established in the Iron Age I as an Israelite settlement.

      "The second part of Judges I notes the towns and regions not conquered by the Israelites; these include towns such as Beth Shean, Ta'anach, Dor, Yibleam, Megiddo, Gezer, Accho, and others, some of which have been excavated. In some sites (Beth Shean, Megiddo, and Gezer), the survival of Canaanite culture is evident (with a touch of Sea Peoples culture) throughout the Iron Age I.

      The picture emerging from these archaeological finds is complex and ambivalent. Some sites show a correlation between the archaeological record and a biblical tradition of conquest. The catastrophe of Late Age Hazor corresponds to the biblical tradition of the conquest and burning of that important Canaanite city. The same is true of Lachish, the most important Canaanite city in the Shephelah.

      "There is a correlation, though, between the descriptions of "the territory that remained" (which mention Megiddo and Beth Shean as unconquered cities) and archaeological finds showing a continuity of Canaanite culture at these sites well into the Iron Age I.

    12. The lack of evidence of wholesale destruction by Israel accords well with the biblical text (as noted by Gordon/Rendsburg above), but also is supported by the archix pattern that there was not wholesale discontinuity between MBIII and LBI [HAP:221].

    13. The overall character of the LB/early IA period as one of tremendous upheaval--indeed, destruction of the LB 'system'--fits well with the Conquest, the conflict with the coastal peoples, the decline of Egypt and Hittite power. This is a general pattern noted in the literature:
      "The breakdown of LB society came swiftly. Tied to both the Egyptian Empire and the international economy, the southern Levant was pulled down along with the rest of western Asia after 1200 BCE. With the collapse of the Egyptian and Hittite Empires for internal reasons and the appearance of the Sea Peoples as a threat to parts of the eastern Mediterranean, including the coast of the southern Levant, the city-state structure of the southern Levant also collapsed. Some sites, such as Megiddo, persisted as independent city-states after 1200 BCE, while others were destroyed in internecine warfare. The subsequent Iron Age, while continuing certain aspects of Bronze Age material culture, such as its ceramic styles, was marked by new technologies and an entirely new sociopolitical and ethnic configuration, notably the rise of national states." [OEANE: s.v. "Palestine, Late Bronze"]

      Finkelstein refers to "the collapse of the Egyptian system in Canaan and the degeneration of the Late Bronze city-states" [LOF:136]

      "New peoples entered the archaeological record in the Near East after the dissolution or decline of the 'great powers' around 1200 B.C. The two following centuries are sometimes called the 'dark age,' largely because of a dearth of historical records. It does not mean that there were no thriving Near Eastern communities during this period. Yet there was a measure of disruption as the old order collapsed. The Hittite empire disappeared around the end of the thirteenth century; Assyria slipped into decline after the murder of King Tukulti-Ninurta I in 1207 B.C.; and Egypt withdrew within its own borders under the combined effect of economic difficulty, internal unrest, and the onslaught of the so-called "Sea Peoples." It was during these troubled times that the Israelites settled the hill country of the southern Levant while the Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples, took control of the coastal plain. " [HI:AC: 184]

    14. Interestingly, Gordon/Rendsburg place the Conquest neatly into this context [OT:BANE:169]:
      " As noted earlier, the Hebrew tribes escaped from a weakened Egypt. They entered Canaan at a time when the world had no strong empire. The absence of great powers was a necessary factor in Israel's conquest and settlement of Canaan and subsequent rise to nationhood, which could only have happened in a prolonged period when small states had a chance to come into being and evolve their own way of life. As stated previously, the Egyptian empire in Canaan had come to an end, and the traditional power to the north, the Hittites, had also crumbled in the wake of the Sea Peoples invasion. A local factor that permitted the Israelites to establish themselves in the land of Canaan was the lack of a unified front opposing the new arrivals. Canaan was governed by a series of city-states; there were literally dozens of them dotting the landscape. The Amarna letters attest to traditional rivalries among the cities, so that military cooperation to stop the advance of the Israelites was not to be expected. Moreover, after centuries of Egyptian rule in the country, the cities clearly were weakened and were in no position to deal with a new force. The Bible may allude to this with the statement that God had sent the sir'ah, or hornet, in advance to crush the enemy (Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20). The hieroglyphic sign used for the pharaoh was a bee, so that the sir'ah would refer to the Egyptian king having weakened the Canaanites during years of military occupation."

    15. The case of Hazor is also instructive. Hazor was one of the leading cities of the time, and it is one of the few cities that Joshua & Co. burnt with fire (Josh 11.13: "Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds -- except Hazor, which Joshua burned. 14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities"). Archix confirms both the 'infighting' (described by Gordon/Rendsburg above) between cities--manifested by repeated destruction layers in the site, AND a destruction/fire at the end of LB. Ben-Tor describes the findings in OEANE [s.v. "Hazor", p.3]:
      "The last LB city at Hazor was violently destroyed. A level consisting of fallen mud brick, debris, ash, and burnt wood (in some places more than 1 m thick) was encountered almost everywhere in both the upper and lower city. It is the best indication of Hazor's catastrophic end. In areas C and H there is evidence of the deliberate mutilation and desecration of cult objects. Yadin (the excavator) fixed the date of that destruction in the last quarter of the thirteenth century BCE and tended to attribute it to the conquering Israelites, as described in Joshua 11.10"
      Notice an unusual aspect here--the attack on the cultic objects. Although most of the other cultures in Canaan shared the same pantheon of deities, Israel was the only one who had an explicitly 'no other gods' issue. Other internecine conquests simply re-used the temples and cultic materials (e.g. the destruction layers in the Fosse temple in Lachish [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Lachish", p.899-900] and the temples in Stratum 1-b and 1-a at Hazor [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.598]); Israel would have had a major problem with this. As such, this data fits much better with the Israelite conquest/settlement, than with some other local conquest/gradualism scenarios (contra Redford, Dever).

      Notice Yadin's comments on the post-destruction settlement [HI:NENAHL, s.v. "Hazor", p.603]:

      "Important evidence for understanding the process of Israelite settlement is the remains of stratum XII. These remains, which clearly belong to the twelfth century BCE, when Hazor ceased to be a real city, are essentially identical with the remains of the Israelite settlements in Galilee. This indicates, in the opinion of this writer, that the Israelite settlement, which was still seminomadic in character, arose only after the fall of the cities and provinces of Canaan.
      The post-destruction settlement should be considered as basic evidence as to who the invaders were. The gap between the strata is simply too short for much change in territorial control. In other words, the Sea Peoples could not have captured Hazor and then relinquished control to a tiny Israel neither that quickly nor without a fight! The evidence is clearly in favor of an Israelite conquest of Hazor.

    16. Similar arguments apply to the case of Lachish. It is generally accepted that the archaeological data fits the biblical narrative quite nicely. Even Ussishkin, who disputes the biblical account, says [OEANE, s.v. "Lachish", p.323]:
      "The biblical record, which describes a large Canaanite city destroyed by swift attack, fits the archaeological evidence. On the other hand, the motive for the destruction remains obscure: the Israelites did not settle at the site or in the surrounding region until much later.
      Ussishkin does not tell us why the motive is obscure to him--the biblical account is rather clear: (1) the battle was 'provoked' by the Canaanites and was 'ahead of schedule' (Josh 10.3-5); (2) the Israelites had to continue the military campaigns before beginning settlement of the various regions (such as Lachish); and (3) Judah had more central real estate to deal with FIRST than the outlying Lachish.

      What WOULD be a mystery is why the Sea Peoples would not have settled it or why they would have killed the inhabitants! (Those that generally look for alternatives to the biblical records suggest that the destruction was done by the Sea Peoples (Philistines) in their bid to 'liberate Canaan from Egyptian oppression'.) The Philistines, from what we know, were more interested in vassal-states than in destruction of major cities (witness the relation with Israel in the later book of Judges). Lachish was very, very close to the Sea Peoples' cities on the coast (which would allow easy resettlement) and was a large population for the time. When the Sea Peoples actually destroyed a city, their pattern was to resettle it, like they did in Ashkelon [OEANE, s.v. "Philistines, Late Philistines", p.310]. Thus, the abandonment with later resettlement fits the Israelite pattern much better than the Philistine pattern.

    In short, we have TONS of positive/supportive data: background, post-conquest, specific "destruction" locations, populace movement behavior, settlement patterns. And 'positive' data is so much more compelling than the 'absence' of data...Whatever 'challenges' we are left with after we examine the specific site difficulties below MUST BE kept in perspective.

    Indeed, one of the formative scholars of our day can go so far as to say:

    "Archaeological and inscriptional data have established the historicity of innumerable passages and statements of the Old Testament; the number of such cases is many times greater than those where the reverse has been proved or has been made probable" (W. F. Albright, cited in HI:ABH:114)

  4. Survey the data relative to the sites in question (Jericho, AI, Hebron, Taanach, Arad, Tel Masos, Edom, Hesbon)

    So far we have made a couple of points:

    1. Interpretation of data is very difficult in many of these problem areas--esp. for very firm opinions.
    2. Absence of data does not mean absence of occupation (in the specific areas of arid zones, and hills)
    3. Absence of data is not determinative for these issues anyway (cf. literary/historical data).
    4. We do have TONS of supporting/confirming data already.
    5. The overall picture is more positive than negative--and we must keep this in mind as we look at any data that might be considered ambiguous.

    So now we are ready to look at the specific site objections I noted at the beginning. Let's look at each contrary claim, note any "counter-contrary" data, and apply the things we learned above.

    Just to restate the obvious, we have concrete archix data for most (if not all) of the contrary claims. And, even if the data is sparse in many cases, this fact alone--given the incredible odds against ANY data surviving to the present time!--indicates that they are only the top of the iceberg of what must have been the case. In other words, that one sherd survived all the natural and socio-political forces that tended to 'erase' it, means that there must have been many, many more sherds that started out and did NOT make it into the archix record. [For an example of how this principle is used by professionals in the field, LOF:131: "The Iron I material from Edom is of great historical importance since even a few Iron I sherds found in an Iron II site indicate that a settlement already existed"]

    What we have seen so far:

    1. The processes of site formation leave huge 'certainty gaps' in our ability to reconstruct occupancy patterns.
    2. The model of "no remains, therefore no human occupation" is flawed on several counts.
    3. There is a substantial amount of data that SUPPORTS the biblical narratives/models of the conquest.
    4. The contrary data points are generally simply incorrect or too ambiguous to be decisive.

  5. Make some concluding remarks about the competing models of the emergence of Israel as a people in Iron Age Palestine.

    Dever [OT:EEE:80-81] would summarize and endorse a "mainstream" model of the rise of the Israelite people in Palestine, that would be shared by many--Dever, Finkelstein [LOF], Redford [ECIAT], and Davies [ISAI]:
    "In any case, all we can say thus far is that between the late 13th century B.C.E. and sometime in the mid-11th century B.C.E., there occurred such far-reaching socioeconomic, technological, and cultural changes in central Palestine that the millennia-old Bronze Age may be said to have given way to a new order, the Iron Age, dominated soon by the emergent Israelite state. Yet all of these developments appear to be part of indigenous sociocultural changes at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age. They are natural and even predictable oscillations in the long settlement history of Palestine, not unique episodes that the archaeologist or historian is forced to explain by positing marauding hordes from the desert, wholesale destructions, and abrupt changes in material culture (much less divine intervention).
    The model that these scholars propose is one of gradual cohesion of disparate groups in central Palestine--with an occasional internecine clash--into a people known as "Israel". The processes of group identity and oscillations in sedentary/nomadic lifestyles are seen to be adequate to produce the massive changes pointed to above.

    But can we really understand the changes in Palestine under such a 'gradualism' model? Would a biblical narrative-based model do a better job of explaining the data than suggested above? Let's look at some of the basic predictions of the biblical model and see how they stack up against the gradualist model.

    The biblical model and predictions:

    The biblical model has a million Israelites entering Palestine from the west, over Jordan, at the very end of the Late Bronze age. YHWH had promised to "send the hornet" before them to facilitate the conquest, and accordingly, the land was in great political disarray. Because of the centuries of warfare--both internecine and international between Egypt, the Hittites, the Mittani--the internal city-states had been reduced to more pastoral lifestyles, and the only cities still heavily fortified were long-standing centers of commerce and vassal administration. The conquest SHOULD HAVE BEEN easy.

    And so it started. Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, made some initial 'big wins' and left their archaeological mark in the dirt (e.g. Hazor, Jericho, Lachish). They began densely settling the initial areas. But much of the designated land was NOT 'conquered'--it was peacefully settled during the period of the Judges. The inhabitants of those later cities had abandoned them and taken up residence elsewhere (movement was quite simple, since they were already living in the nomadic lifestyle generally). YHWH had 'driven the inhabitants out' as He had promised (Josh 3.10). We would, therefore, expect to see significant population and settlement growth at the borders of central Palestine--which is exactly what we find.

    We literally see an explosion of Iron Age sites in central Palestine, Transjordan, the Negev, and the Beersheva valley. Consider some of the data:

    "At the end of the second millennium BC the southern arid zones experienced a third surge of human activity. In the centre of the Beersheva Valley, the large and rich site of Tel Masos emerged. A few other settlements were founded in the vicinity and about 350 sites--from single buildings with several installations to small villages--were established in the Negev Highlands" [LOF:104]

    "[Moab] experienced a significant increase in the number of settlements during the Iron Age." [OEANE, s.v. "Moab", p.38]

    "In Iron Age I, the population and number of settlements [of Edom] increased." [OEANE, s.v. "Edom", p.190]

    "The Iron Age was a period of settlement expansion in every area of the Negev." [OEANE, s.v. "Negev", p.121]

    "Recent surveys have shown that many previously uninhabited sites in the hill country were first settled in the period between the twelfth and tenth centuries B.C." [TAPA:p.110]

    What this amounts to a population explosion that goes considerably beyond normal patterns (e.g. 350 detectable sites in the Negev Highlands ALONE!). In the biblical model, this is easily explained as the demographic and geographic changes resulting from the influx of an additional million outsiders into central Palestine.

    [This is next to impossible to explain in a 'gradualist' model at all--there is no source for these many additional people. "Waves of settlement" have to come from somewhere!]

    Israel essentially took over the material culture of the inhabitants of central Palestine--with the general exception of their religious and cultic practices (later they even did this, and it was a big mistake). This was in keeping with Deut 6.10 ( When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you -- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant... ). So, we would expect the material culture remains of Israelite IA sites to be largely 'Canaanite', but with disuse and/or abuse of the temples/cultic objects (exactly what we find at the early destruction sites--Hazor, Jericho, Lachish). [This religious 'intolerance' is also difficult to explain in the gradualist/alliance views--the patterns previous to this were NOT exclusivist and major shifts to an El or YAH deity are very difficult to explain in an 'emerging unity' movement.]

    But this 'purity' did not continue for very long. The Israelites soon went after the gods of the nations around them, and so a confusion of Yahwistic and pagan religions occurred (and we have numerous Late Monarchy inscriptions testifying to this). And so the material culture of IA2 would reflect more and more a mixed character.

    And, politically, the Conquest/Settlement was a 'shock to the international system'. It introduced discontinuities in settlement patterns and structures (e.g. there was an increased emphasis on defense fortification in the border areas after the 'coming out' of Israel under the United Monarchy), and even was noticed by the shrinking Egyptian empire.

    The Merenptah Steele, dated around the end of the 13th century, is the first (and only) mention of Israel, by that name, in Egyptian literature. It is written in prose, with a poetic ending, and describes the alleged conquests of Merny over his enemies. The relevant section reads thus [HI:ANET:378]:

    The princes are prostrate, saying 'Mercy!'
    Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows.
    Desolation is for Tehenu; Hatti is pacified;
    Plundered is the Canaan with every evil;
    Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
    Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;
    Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;
    Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!
    All lands together, they are pacified;
    Everyone who was restless, he has been bound.
    Gordon/Rendsburg explain one of the more interesting aspects of this [BANE:150]:
    We still need to discuss what is perhaps the most important piece of evidence, namely, the Merneptah Stela. This inscription com- memorates the military conquests of Pharaoh Merneptah (1224-1214), first boasting of his victory over Libya and then ending with several lines about Canaan. The text mentions Israel; in fact this is the only reference to Israel in all of Egyptian literature. Earlier we discussed the Egyptian writing system, which not only spelled out words phonologically, but also included determinatives to allow the reader easier comprehension. When the Merneptah Stela refers to other conquered peoples and places, it uses the foreign land determinative to mark them. Such is the case, for example, with larger entities such as Canaan and Hurru and with individual cities such as Gezer and Ashkelon. But when Israel is mentioned, the people determinative is used (i.e., a man, a woman, and the plural marker). We interpret this orthography to refer to the Israelites as a people without a land, a situation that matches their condition as slaves in the land of Egypt. The scribe knew they originated in Canaan, and thus he included them in his listing of Merneptah's enemies from that region, but he distinguished the Israelites by marking them as a people, not a foreign land.
    The interpretation of the lack of the "land" determinative is tricky, to say the least. The interpretation above makes Israel into 'slaves in Egypt'. For the "gradualists", it makes them into native Canaanites(!). But for Yurco, it makes them into the main troublemakers in Canaan. Yurco, the discoverer of the battle reliefs at Karnak of Merenptah's campaign in Canaan, is convinced that the battle reliefs match the Stela text (above). His explanation of this [given in OT:EEE:27-55] is very persuasive. He links the four battle scenes to the four main Canaanite 'troublespots' in the stela:
    "Accordingly, the central hill country of Canaan, south of Beth Shan and Megiddo and north of Jerusalem--another Egyptian-controlled anchor point--was the logical area for initial Israelite penetration and settlement, indeed, an area where Lawrence Stager has found early evidence of Israelite settlement. This accords with Israel appearing in Merenptah's campaign as a new, previously unattested people, and it explains how they could have been Pharaoh's major foe. It is likely that their meddling with the towns of Ashkelon, Gezer, and Yano'am prompted Merenptah's campaign. The advent of a new pharaoh traditionally was a time for unrest among Egypt's vassals. This analysis also suggests how these early Israelites came to possess chariots; they got them from the city-states by connivance or capture, for there were chariots in those cities. Or, as Papyrus Anastasi I suggests, the occasional Egyptian passing through the hill country might be ambushed and his chariot stolen.
    [Yurco's explanation of chariots was in defense of his position that the 4th battle scene was of the fight against Israel. It matches the poem (if you accept Yurco's versification), and is the only scene that takes place in the hills of Canaan. The opponents, however, have chariots and are wearing Canaanite clothing--gowns that reach to the ankle. Yurco's answer to the chariot issue is reasonable, and the fact that Israel took over the material culture, clothing, towns, etc. of the prior inhabitants explains why this portrayal of them would be reasonable as well.]

    What I find 'discontinuous' about this is the abruptness of Israel's debut. She is not known ANYWHERE else, until she has earned the wrath of Pharaoh! In the previous period's main information cache--the Amarna tablets--there is not the slightest hint of a people named 'Israel' in the land, as invaders, as a coalition (a la gradualists), as a city-state. And, in the conquest-lists of the earlier Pharaohs'--minute in location detail--there is no indication of (1) an Israelite city-state; or (2) any 'emerging group' of city states.

    The lack of the 'land' determinative may simply reflect the obvious reality that Israel's land had not been 'proven' or 'defined' or even 'acknowledged' by Egypt. [Indeed, there may be subtle 'put down' in there, especially since the political embarrassment of the exodus would still be fresh on the minds of the Egyptian ruling class.]

    It is difficult to see how this rapid-transformation scenario could be explained by Dever's "natural and even predictable oscillations".

    One final discontinuity that should be mentioned is that of the Hebrew language. Although the subject matter is VERY complex, let me make a simple point. Hebrew is considered a dialect of Canaanite, in the North-West Semitic language family. By 1000 BC, Canaanite was divided into several "regional" dialects: Phoenician, Hebrew, Edomite, Moabite, and Ammonite [e.g. POTW:169]. The main reason I bring this up is that the emergence of the Hebrew language ITSELF is difficult to explain without there actually being a starting point to create the linguistic change. Even though the language has definite 'continuities' with the Canaanite of pre-Exodus times (e.g. in the Amarna letters), it nevertheless manifests some very unique elements. So HI:HHL:43:

    "Within the Canaanite group, Hebrew has a special place, almost half-way between Phoenician and Old Aramaic, and, in its turn, a centre of innovations which spread throughout the neighboring areas.
    It is different enough from the mainstream Canaanite that it is "possible to speak of two contrasting groups, one 'Hebraic' the other 'Phoenic'" [HI:HHL:43n81].

    My point here is that once Israel left Canaan and went into Egypt for 400 years, the common language frameworks of Canaan and Israel would begin to diverge. When they met again at the Conquest, Hebrew became a 'centre of innovations' to Phoenician Canaanite and Phoenician became an influence on Hebrew. But this type of interaction between languages requires an initial distance between them--something almost impossible to get under the gradualist scenarios. HI:HHL:46 points this out:

    "With regard to their origin and diffusion, linguistic changes correspond to the absence or presence of foreigners and to the extent of commercial and political relations between the different areas."
    Without going into too much detail, I simply want to argue that the emergence of Hebrew--as a distinct dialect from the other 'regional' dialects--is best explained under the 'invasion' model than under a gradualist model.

    And finally, we have a very stubborn fact--the Exodus story is one of the most persistent memories of the Jewish culture. Even Redford (no believer in an exodus, to say the least!) admits this [ECIAT:412]:

    "Despite the lateness and unreliability of the story in Exodus, no one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was one of long standing. It is found in early poetry (e.g., Exodus 15) and is constantly alluded to by the prophets. One cannot help but conclude that there was an early and persistent memory of a voluntary descent into Egypt by pastoralists in which one Jacob, who was later to achieve a reputation as an ancestral figure, played a leading role. Those who had made the descent, the tradition went on to elaborate, had not only prospered and multiplied, but had for a period of four generations grown exceedingly influential in Egypt. Subsequently a strong hostility had been evinced by the autochthonous population toward the Asiatic interlopers; and the latter had been forced to retire to the Levanthine littoral whence they had come.
    [Redford, since he cannot see the exodus as being even remotely historical, opts for the memory to be that of the Hyksos--Israel used the memory of SOMEONE ELSE for their own national identity! I am not sure what is easier to believe: this theory or the miracles in the Wilderness!]

    In summary, I consider the biblical model of the Conquest/Settlement to be a better predictor of the data we find, than competing theories (especially the 'gradualist' views):

    1. It explains the large and sudden population explosions in the border communities of Israel.
    2. It explains the large and sudden emergence of a 'new' (but mixed) material culture in the central areas.
    3. It explains how 'Israel' got such significant and sudden attention from Egypt.
    4. It explains how the mixed material culture came to be.
    5. It explains the uncommon aspects of the 'destruction' phenomena--specifically the anti-cultic behavior.
    6. It explains how most of Transjordan was 'spared' from the disruptions/warfare that occurred in Palestine.
    7. It explains the emergence of the Hebrew language as a dialect of Canaan.
    8. It has tons of supporting archaeological data for the details.
    9. It has adequate explanations for (and generally, contrary data against) the alleged 'contradictions' in the archix record.
    10. It is the only model that actually explains the 'stubborn persistence' of the Exodus story in the history of the Jewish people.


  6. Make a comment or two relative to the early-dating theory of the Exodus (with biblio)

    All I want to point out here is that there is a small, but growing, contingent of writers that are beginning to resurrect the higher date for the Exodus. This tank-piece is essentially using (for argument) the later date for the Exodus in the 1200's, as opposed to the earlier date in the 1400's. This 1400's date changes ALL of the arguments above, making some much easier and yet also creating new problems. I want here to mention the literature supporting and discussing the earlier date (also a more traditional date, and one that I used in my piece on genocide).

    1. John J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 5 (Sheffield: Almond, 1978), esp. 61-68;
    2. Manfred Weippert, "The Israelite 'Conquest' and the Evidence from Transjordan," in Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1900-1975), ed. Frank M. Cross (Cambridge, Mass.: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979), 15-34;
    3. Rudolph H. Dornemann, The Archaeology of the Transjordan in the Bronze and Iron Ages (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1983), esp. 20-24;
    4. Gerald L. Mattingly, "The Exodus-Conquest and the Archaeology of Transjordan: New Light on an Old Problem," Grace Theological Journal 4 (1983): 245-62;
    5. James A. Sauer, "Transjordan in the Bronze and Iron Ages: A Critique of Glueck's Synthesis," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 263 (1986): 4-9.
    6. Patrick E. McGovern, The Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Ages of Central Transjordan: The Baq'ah Valley Project, 1977-1981 (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1986);
    7. J. Maxwell Miller "The Israelite Journey through (around) Moab and Moabite Toponymy," Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989): 577-95.

  7. (Make some summary comments about Redford's issues.)

    Although the reader may already be able to respond to the [numbered items] in the opening quote from Redford, let me simply sum up the material above:

    1. We have seen that the conquest was not a 'whirlwind annihilation' (one wonders how much exegesis Redford has actually done of the biblical conquest narratives). Plus, Yurco's understanding of the Merneptah stela and battle scene would certainly count against this statement by Redford.

    2. We have seen that Redford does not represent a consensus view here. We have seen the summaries by Gordon and other scholars that point out that Egyptian control was spotty and inconsistent at this time.

    3. (I am glad he admits that it is an argument from silence.)

    4. We saw the data that contradicted this--there were quick adequate support for these events.

    5. We saw the problem with this position from Finkelstein's work and just the presence of literary records (plus some archix data).

    6. We saw that destruction patterns did NOT match the known motives/patterns of Sea People expansion, but rather seemed to be uniquely attributable to Israel and her religious imperatives.

    7. They are not represented in Numbers as 'sedentary states' (exegetical mistake again).

    8. The literary data more than adequately disposes of this 'absence' argument. Redford is dependent here on Bennett, who is decisively refuted by Finkelstein on methodological grounds in chapter ten of LOF.

    9. Another exegetical error--the portrait of conquest/settlement movements in Joshua/Judges do NOT portray this period as a point in time event sequence. Redford has simply misunderstood the narratives.


After looking through all this data, I personally still find the biblical model of the Conquest/settlement to be a better "fit" for the data of archeology and historical sources. Although some of the data could go either way, much of it is simply too 'resistant' to reinterpretation...And the vast amount of data confirming, illustrating, or supporting the OT narratives lend substantial credibility to the history-writing of those ancient authors.

Glenn miller, 8/20/97


The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)