Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?

Jericho ancient walls

A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence

by Bryant G. Wood, Ph.D

The story of the Israelite conquest of Jericho (Joshua 2-6) is one of the best known and best loved in the entire Bible. The vivid description of faith and victory has been a source of inspiration for countless generations of Bible readers. But did it really happen as the Bible describes it?

The site has been excavated several times in this century. Based on the conclusion of the most recent excavator, British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, most historians and Bible scholars would answer with a resounding “No, certainly not! There was no city there at the time Joshua supposedly conquered it.”

Some 30 years after her excavation of the site – indeed, 12 years after Kenyon’s death – the detailed evidence has now become available in the final report. So it is time for a new look.

Ancient Jericho is located at Tell es-Sultan, next to a copious spring on the western edge of the Jordan Valley, just north of the Dead Sea. The site’s excellent water supply and favorable climate (especially in winter) have made it a desirable place to live from the very beginning of settled habitation. A Neolithic settlement at the site goes back to about 8000 B.C.E.,* thus giving Jericho the distinction of being the world’s oldest city. At 670 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest city in the world.

The site is strategically located. From Jericho one has access to the heartland of Canaan. Any military force attempting to penetrate the central hill country from the east would, by necessity, first have to capture Jericho. And that is exactly what the Bible (Joshua 3:16) says the Israelites did…

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image credit: biblearchaeology.org