Special thanks to Yosef Back and Lisa Liel, both archaeological researchers with extensive experience and knowledge, for helping me with some of the approaches.
A word about archaeology
- “Good scholars, honest scholars, will continue to differ about the interpretation of archaeological remains simply because archaeology is not a science. It is an art. And sometimes it is not even a very good art.”
William Dever. 1996. in "Is this man a biblical archaeologist? BAR Interviews William Dever, Part 1. Biblical Archaeology Review 22(4):30-39ff.
There are many such quotes that demonstrate the limits of archaeology. ‘Archaeological evidence’ depends very much on the point of view that one is coming from. Therefore, I don’t believe that we can prove the truth of Torah through archaeology as there is evidence for and against the historicity of Torah. Much of archaeology depends
on interpretation which will depend on if you are a bible minimalist (e.g. Israel Finkelstein) or a bible maximalist (e.g. WF Albright). I will therefore merely show how Zeligman’s questions are very much answerable and I will wait to bring evidence to support the divinity of Torah from archaeology at the end of the article.
on interpretation which will depend on if you are a bible minimalist (e.g. Israel Finkelstein) or a bible maximalist (e.g. WF Albright). I will therefore merely show how Zeligman’s questions are very much answerable and I will wait to bring evidence to support the divinity of Torah from archaeology at the end of the article.
It should be noted that Zeligman draws his conclusions heavily from Israel Finkelstein. However, the following respected archaeologists seem to not think too highly of Finkelstein.
See the March / April 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeological Review pages 14-5, which accuse him on one topic of using "an intellectual slight-of-hand that serves only to obscure the evidence." Or the Jan. / Feb. 2007 issue pages 66-7 that "there is a disturbing trend in Finkelstein's recent work to ignore data or simply force it into his model". Or Dr. William Dever's characterization, quoted in the May / June 2003 issue, p. 62 as someone who "changed his mind not on the basis of empirical data, but simply out of an inherent iconoclasm [and] … sense of political correctness."
A note on the difference between Torah and other histories.
Torah is different than almost all of ancient history in its objectivity.
In his "Society must be Defended", Michel Foucault posited that the victors of a social struggle use their political dominance to suppress a defeated adversary's version of historical events in favor of their own propaganda, which may go so far as historical revisionism. Nations adopting such an approach would likely fashion a "universal" theory of history to support their aims, with a teleological and deterministic philosophy of history used to justify the inevitableness and rightness of their victories (see The Enlightenment's ideal of progress above). Philosopher Paul Ricoeur has written of the use of this approach by totalitarian and Nazi regimes, with such regimes "exercis[ing] a virtual violence upon the diverging tendencies of history" (History and Truth 183), and with fanaticism the result.
To quote Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb (he received his Ph.D. in mathematical logic at Brandeis University and was a Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University) in Living Up to the Truth, “Now, in making that evaluation you must know one fact - all ancient histories were written as propaganda. This is something upon which historians and archaeologists agree. The function of ancient histories was to glorify contemporary powers, and therefore they would not record their own defeats. After all, the scribes were their employees. You see this, for example, in the following type of historical chain of events. You read in the hieroglyphs that Pharaoh X raised a great army and conquered a number of provinces, and his son Pharaoh X Jr. raised even a larger army and conquered more provinces. Then, there is a hundred year gap in the history. What happened during that 100 years? For that you have to go to the Babylonian records. That is when the Babylonians were kicking the stuffing out of the Egyptians. The Egyptians don't record that because that doesn't glorify their empire. They just leave it out.
An example is the question of the Exodus. Why is it that no ancient Egyptian records mention the Exodus? The answer is that the Egyptians never recorded their defeats. Therefore, since the Exodus was a massive defeat, you would not expect them to record it. So, its absence from their records is not evidence against the Exodus.”
See the unreliability of Manetho an important ancient Egyptian historian, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manetho.
Regarding the Greek and world historian Herotodus, the following has been said : “Just as Homer drew extensively on a tradition of oral poetry, sung by wandering minstrels, so Herodotus appears to have drawn on an Ionian tradition of story-telling, collecting and interpreting the oral histories he chanced upon in his travels. These oral histories often contained folk-tale motifs and demonstrated a moral, yet they also contained substantial facts relating to geography, anthropology and history, all compiled by Herodotus in an entertaining style and format. It is on account of the many strange stories and the folk-tales he reported that his critics in early modern times branded him 'The Father of Lies'” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herotodus
Also see the following regarding ancient Egyptian history http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/
History which is not objective is not so reliable. However, the Torah is quite different. The Torah is not only objective, it is one of the most anti Semitic works in world history. The Jewish failures, foibles and sins are bared for all to see. A quick perusal of the Torah will show that Moses does not say one complimentary word to the Jews (when he is speaking to them - he does compliment them before G-d). This is true not only of the common Jews, but even more so of Jewish heroes and kings.
Abraham and Isaac have bad sons, Jacob marries the daughters of an idol worshipping crook, who then give birth to the 12 tribes who form the basis of the Jewish people. Jacob’s children commit many acts which paint them in a poor light (the Talmud shows how they were, in reality, not so bad. However, the Torah does not cover anything up) including the stories of Dina, Judah and Tamar, Reuben and Bilhah, Simon and Levi in Shechem, etc.
The Jews glorify their ancestors as - slaves and idolaters!! Their leaders Moses and Aaron hit a water producing rock instead of speaking to it and aren’t allowed into Israel. This sin and punishment is repeated numerous times in the Torah. Aaron - father of the priestly class, builds the Golden Calf. The Jews commit sin after sin in the desert and are punished constantly. Almost all of the books of Jewish prophets are replete with reproof of the sinning of the Jews and how the prophets berate them at every turn. Even hero- kings David and Solomon are severely criticized for their sins. Do you find anything even remotely like this in ancient history? Does any other society’s historic books paint their own people and heroes in such a negative light?
On understanding Torah from withinOne of the great errors committed by secular bible scholars is that they try to understand the biblical narrative from their own point of view. Such an approach is doomed, because it cannot possibly provide an accurate portrayal of what the Torah is attempting to convey. It is axiomatic in traditional Judaism that the bible cannot be understood without the oral interpretation, given by G-d at Sinai and later recorded in the Talmud and Midrash.
For example, a common attempt to disprove the veracity of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, usually will base itself on the lack of archaeological remains of the Hebrews in the Sinai desert. The argument goes that if the Hebrews really wandered there for 40 years they would have left some remains. However, if you take the Biblical and Midrashic readings of the exodus into account, it is likely that no remains would be left. See #12 below.
Zeligman’s questions and some possible responses/approaches1: There seems to be no evidence for the Biblical flood.
Solution: The following approach is, in my opinion, the most satisfying: The flood was a supernatural event; see http://www.jewswithquestions.com/index.php?/topic/71-the-mabul/page__p__204__hl__flood__fromsearch__1#entry204
What type of evidence would a supernatural event leave over in our natural world?
Since it was not a natural event we cannot know how it affected the Earth and which if any traces of it would have been left behind.
There actually is some evidence of a biblical flood - See Comparative Stratigraphy of Late Holocene Sediments and Destruction Layers Around the World: Geological, Climatological and Archaological Evidence and Methodological Problems by Benny J Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University, School of Human Sciences, wherein he writes, "During the last two decades, researchers have found evidence for abrupt climate change and civilisation collapse as well as sudden sea level changes, catastrophic inundations, widespread seismic activity and abrupt changes in glacial features at around 2200±200 BC. Climatological proxy data together with sudden changes in lacustrine, fluvial and aeolian deposits are clearly detectable at the Atlantic-Subboreal boundary in the archaeological, geological and dendrochronological records from around the world. A survey of ~500 excavation reports, research papers and scientific abstracts on late 3rd Millennium BC civilisation collapse and climate change was carried out in order to assess i) the nature, ii) the extent and iii) the chronology of sudden climatic and social downturns at this particular chronozone. This comparative study shows a significant pattern of abrupt glacial, eustatic, lacustrine, fluvial, pedological and geomorphic changes at around 4250±250 cal BP in many areas around the world. In addition, the majority of sites and cities (>1000) of the first urban civilisations in Asia, Africa and Europe appear to have collapsed at around the same time. Most sites in Greece (~260), Anatolia (~350), the Levant (~200), Mesopotamia (~30), the Indian subcontinent (~230), China (~20), Persia/Afghanistan (~50), Iberia (~70) which collapsed at around 2200±200 BC, exhibit unambiguous signs of natural calamities and/or rapid abandonment. The proxy data detected in the marine, terrestrial, biological and archaeological records point to sudden ecological, climatic and social upheavals which appears to coincide with simultaneous sea- and lake level changes, increased levels of seismic activity and widespread flood/tsunami disasters. The main problem in interconnecting this vast amount of data chronologically is the application of incoherent and imprecise dating methods in different areas of geological and climatological research. It is hypothesised that the globally detected evidence for sudden downturns at the Atlantic-Subboreal boundary is chronologically interconnected and that chronological deviations are mainly due to imprecise dating methods. Neither a seismic nor a climatic explanation for these significant natural and social disasters appear capable to account for the diversity of ecological alterations and great variety of damage features as well as the global extent of these events. Extra-terrestrial bodies, on the other hand, depending on their cometary constitution and their cohesive strength, can have catastrophic effects on the ecological system in a variety of patterns which match the glaciological, geological and archaeological features documented in this study." This was presented at the SIS Conference: http://saturniancosmology.org/files/cata/peiser.txt
There are several other approaches which one can take. Some claim that the last ice age was what we know as the flood. The basic problem is the age discrepancy. Those who propose this answer would say that carbon dating is inaccurate as it relates to the flood, due to the extreme atmospheric conditions which would cause leeching of radioactive carbon from objects and cause them to appear older than they really are. Archaeological researcher, Mrs Lisa Liel once expressed this opinion to me. She wrote the following, ‘We've uncovered animals trapped in glaciers which are perfectly preserved. At the slow speed glaciers are thought to have moved, it's hard to imagine a dead animal being swallowed up by ice without a considerable amount of decomposition happening during the process. We've even found mammoths with undigested food in their stomachs. I think it strains the imagination to have a woolly mammoth stand there eating grass as a glacier gradually grows over him. In other words, I believe there's abundant evidence of a global flood. It's just that we call it the great ice age.
She further wrote, ‘ A lot of the dating techniques used for antiquity and prehistory are pretty sketchy. And they rely on assumptions that are both unproven and unprovable. With carbon-14, the main assumption is that the carbon content in the atmosphere today is pretty much the same as it was 5000 years ago. But calculate the weight of enough water to cover the earth, and you have a tremendous amount of pressure. Carbon could be leached out of solids under that sort of pressure, and it's any one's guess at what ratios.
Regarding the 2011 earthquake in Japan http://www.space.com/11115-japan-earthquake-shortened-earth-days.html
The quake shortened the day by 1.8 millionths of a second. Which is pretty small, except that we have no idea what sort of quakes there have been in the past. And now we have proof that the length of the day today isn't necessarily what it was thousands of years ago. A lot of calculations are based on uniform premises, and those aren't really supportable.’
There are those who will not be satisfied with that answer because we generally do not put the last ice age at a mere 4000 or so years ago.
Finally it must be noted that almost every ancient culture has a flood story, in spite of the distance and time between each culture, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths. It seems quite unlikely that they all came up with this type of myth on their own. And there is this cuneiform tablet http://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/this-is-why-we-need-more-people-working-in-cuneiform-the-ark-tablet/ dated back as far as 1900 BC, which talks about the flood and that animals entered two by two just as the Torah states.
2: There seem to be many languages before the generation of the dispersion which, according to the Torah, seems to be the earliest development of languages other than Hebrew. Zeligman attacks this by citing archaeological knowledge that languages were developed thousands of years before that and that even Egyptian language was going through a transitional stage at that time.
Solution: I stumbled upon, what I believe to be, an effective approach to answer this attack. Talmud Yerushalmi Megillah 1:9 states two opinions as to what the verse (Genesis 11:1) means when it says that the world was "Safah Achas udevarim achadim." One opinion is that everyone spoke Hebrew (as cited by Rashi here) and the other is that they spoke 70 languages. Now, R’ E.E. Dessler in Michtav M' Eliyahu (I also heard this quoted from R’ Shlomo Wolbe, and the talmud in Gittin 6B and Berachos 35B seem to back this up) Part 2 (Essays on Rosh Hashanah) states that there is no dispute in non halachic areas of Torah.
Thus the Talmud would maintain that the whole world spoke Hebrew in addition to one their own languages (out of 70) which were derived from Hebrew. (I.E. Mozeson actually shows how all of language can be traced back to something close to Hebrew http://www.amazon.com/Origin-Speeches-2nd-Isaac-Mozeson/dp/0979261805/ref=tmm_pap_title_0)
Actually, it is most reasonable to assume that the Biblical view is that humankind spoke many languages along with Hebrew before the generation of the dispersion, because if they only spoke Hebrew till the generation of the dispersion, how did they learn so quickly after G-d confused their language? Did G-d teach each nation its language? This seems unlikely, as only Hebrew is G-d given. It seems more likely that they already knew other languages along with Hebrew as Talmud Yerushalmi indicates.
I recently saw that the commentary Torah Temimah states this exact approach. He proves it by quoting Genesis 10:20 which states ‘These are the sons of Ham according to their families, and their tongues, in their lands, in their nations.’ This means they had languages and this was before the dispersion (haflagah).
3: Question - Historical records from various civilizations date back through the time of the flood.
Solution: We see great civilizations arise prior to the flood and continue seemingly unabated. We know of these people through literature and their material remains. However exact dating of this period of time (about 4,200 years ago) remains elusive. Much of the dating of early man is dependent on radio carbon dating. There is currently an on going debate between archaeologists and scientists as to the accuracy of radio carbon dating. See debate on eruption of Mt. Thera : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thera_eruption#Dating_eruption. This debate could leave us ample time ( a few hundred years) for world populations to be ravaged by a year long flood and bounce back without us in modern times even being able to detect the event. Furthermore a cataclysmic event such as a world wide flood would severely limit the effectiveness of radio carbon dating as it is based on the premise of equal carbon in environment and normal decomposition (imagine a world instantly losing its trees) calibration methods have been introduced but the results vary. Couple this with national revelation, and the fact that all the great ancient civilizations have flood myths, I would say it is fairly save to assume it happened. Also, see flood legends in world history - http://history-world.org/floods.htm’ From archaeological researcher Yosef Back.
Archaeological researcher Lisa Liel on the reliability of carbon dating: "The troubles of the radiocarbon dating method are undeniably deep and serious. Despite 35 years of technological refinement and better understanding, the underlying assumptions have been strongly challenged, and warnings are out that radiocarbon may soon find itself in a crisis situation. Continuing use of the method depends on a "fix it as we go" approach, allowing for contamination here, fractionation there, and calibration whenever possible. It should be no surprise, then, that fully half of the dates are rejected. The wonder is, surely, that the remaining half come to be accepted.
No matter how 'useful' it is, though, the radiocarbon method is still not capable of yielding accurate and reliable results. There are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually selected dates."
--[Lee, Robert. "Radiocarbon, Ages in Error," Anthropological Journal of Canada, Vol. 19, No. 3, 1981, pp9,29.]
Shells from living snails were carbon dated as being 27,000 years old.
Science vol. 224, 1984, pp. 58-61
Living mollusk shells were dated up to 2300 years old.
Science vol. 141, 1963, pp.634-637
A freshly killed seal was carbon dated as having died 1300 years ago.
Antarctic Journal vol. 6, Sept-Oct. 1971, p.211
From the Larousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology page 109: “It is true that this method disputed by some, includes a margin of error which varies according to the age of the specimen. For example, for substances some 2000 years old the margin is in the order of 200 - 300 years. This alone makes the method unsatisfactory for classical times onwards. Moreover, the rate of disintegration can be accelerated or slowed down if the specimen has been subjected to a variety of chemical reactions. If, for instance, it has been exposed to rain.”
For a fascinating discussion of the flood with archaeological researcher Lisa Liel, please go to http://fkmaniac.blogspot.com/2006/03/archaeology-and-bible-revisited-or.html
Also, some 'fossils' were found to not have actually been fossils:
4: Question: Chaldeans reach Ur in Southern Mesopatamia (Ur Kasdim) only in 1000 B.C., long after Abraham was there. Why then was the town he came from called Ur Kasdim (Ur of Chaldeans)?
Solution: Firstly, we don’t know precisely where Ur was, See: http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/Ur.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ur_Kasdim
Secondly, Zeligman assumes that the biblical Kasdim means Chaldeans. But, perhaps it was from the name Kesed (Gen 22) or the like and not the Chaldean nation? Or maybe it means magicians or stargazers as in Daniel 2? Perhaps the biblical Chaldeans in Abraham’s time were not related to the ones in Nebuchadnezzer’s time, but were called Chaldeans because they were involved in stargazing.
5: Question - Zeligman claims that Philistines couldn’t have been around during the biblical periods of Abraham and Isaac since Philistines are called “Goy Kretim” in Zephania 2:5 which means a nation of Crete, also called Caphtorim in Amos 9:7. These are the Sea People who don’t appear in Israel till 12 century BC.
Answer - ‘Goy Kretim’ in Zephania does not mean a nation of Crete. Rashi cites Samuel 1 30:14 where Kret is a place to the south of the Phillistines (Egypt). Caphtorim are either a Canaanite people according to Rashi in Deuteronomy or according to the Ramban are the Phillistines who originated from Egypt (as the Torah states in Genesis 10:14). See this article with a similar approach from an archaeological perspective: http://starways.net/lisa/essays/philistines.html This article shows that it is unlikely that the Sea Peoples were the Philistines, but rather, the Philistines came from Egypt, similar to the approaches of Rashi and Ramban.
6: Question: Zeligman states that Population of Jews who left Egypt was too large to fit accurately into Egyptian historical records. Zeligman claims that there were 2 - 3 million Egyptians at the time of the Exodus and so if the Jews indeed left, such a cataclysmic exodus would surely have been recorded somewhere other than the Torah. But no such recorded history exists outside of the Torah.
Answer: This website states that there were 4- 5 million Egyptians http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/people/index.html
We have no idea if this would cause a catastrophe in Egypt or if it would be recorded. Ancient recorded histories were done in a way that makes their own kingdoms look good. An exodus and defeat of Egypt wouldn’t be recorded. Regarding populations - any assumption in what an ancient population was is complete conjecture according to Bar Ilan archaeologist Gabriel Barkay. Also see http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/people/index.html#rem2 which maintains that populations in the ancient world are hard to estimate.
Yosef Back states the following regarding the exodus - ‘Rabbi Gottlieb http://ohr.edu/2053 deals with this in living up to the truth, as do all others who deal with the topic. Basically there was no such thing as objective history then. Inscriptions are always propaganda, and as the exodus was a huge debacle for the Egyptians it would stand to reason that they would not record it. Furthermore, archaeology is the study of the remains of cultures, as such we cannot expect to find everything. Lack of evidence is not evidence of absence. In fact the idea of a mini exodus has even been espoused by mainstream archaeologists like William Dever. Same is true with Joseph.'
7: Question: There seems to be no recorded history of Joseph as viceroy.
Answer: Not true. See: http://www.aish.com/jl/li/a/48967121.html
8: Question: We don't have any record of all the countries coming to Egypt during the famine of Joseph’s time.
Answer: A quick perusal of the commentaries such as the Midrash, Ramban and Ibn Ezra will show that the Torah meant that the famine occurred in the local countries surrounding Egypt. We do not know how far it spread so we cannot know if the Hittites in Asia minor would have recorded it.
Additionally, the famine lasted only 2 years as is stated in the Midrash and Talmud, so it wasn’t historically significant and wasn’t prominently recorded.
9: Question - No mention of Hebrews in Israel or the City of Ramses after Hebrews left.
Answer: One possibility is that the Talmud states that the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews with “avodas perach” i.e. backbreaking labor. The Talmud states that these cities sank after construction. Thus we may not have anything left of those cities.
Also see Jan. / Feb. 2007 issue of Biblical Archeological Review in an article by Dr. James Hoffmeier. "The Nile Delta where the Bible says the ancient Israelite's lived has produced no historical or administrative documents that might shed light on any period" since that entire area is so wet, papyri simply don't survive there.
Regarding bible minimalists who disqualify the bible as history, Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb writes “In 1066, William the Conqueror conquered England. There are very few doubts about it. Yet there is no debris, no strewn bones, no broken walls to show us that that is indeed what he did. However, no one doubts it. In about 539 B.C.E., the Babylonian Empire which spanned a huge area, the biggest of its day, ceased to exist. The empire was conquered by another, that of the Persians, but we do not find any rubble or debris amongst the ruins of Babylon to show it. In fact, if the ruins are all we had to go by, we’d be forgiven for thinking that Babylon never was conquered because it continued to flourish as a city with hardly any change. Yet, it was conquered. It was conquered by Cyrus, king of Persia.”
Ancient mention of the Jews: The Hapiru was a term used for an underclass of nomadic people in ancient middle east. The Amarna letters make mention of them in correspondence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hapiru between the Cannanite and Egyptian kings, where the Canaanites are complaining about Hapiru destruction of Cannanite cities. Included in that are some cities such as Jerusalem and Megiddoh, which are also mentioned in Joshua 12 as being conquered by the Hebrews when they entered Canaan.
10: Question - Had Egyptians been destroyed in 10 plagues the Hittites who were constantly fighting them would have attacked. Answer: This is not a problem since the battles took place in 1300’s BCE. If we put the secular date of Exodus which is 1476 BCE, there is no question
11: Question - Why is there documentation of Exodus?
Answer: Ancient empires did not document their failings (except the Torah) and certainly not the accomplishments of their enemies.
12: Question - Why is there no evidence of desert wanderings.
Answer: Rabbi Gottlieb sums it up nicely http://ohr.edu/2053#S3 Nomads don't tend to leave many material remains. We also must mention that archaeological excavations have occurred only in areas of importance in the Sinai IE routes and cities. The Torah says we traveled in a miraculous route off the beaten path. The Sinai is 60,000 square kilometers, to say that we have thoroughly excavated and not found anything is preposterous. Additionally, the Hebrews lived in miraculous situation, Ananei Hakavod - clouds of glory, which according to the Talmud flattened mountains, kept out intruders and dangerous creatures. Due to the Manna there was very little regular food, no defecation, no changing clothes or shoes, no pottery (you don’t take pottery when you leave Egypt and are traveling through the desert especially if you have Egyptian gold, silver, etc). Additionally, the Mysterious MBI People may have been the Jews http://cojs.org/cojswiki/The_Mysterious_MBI_People,_Rudolph_Cohen,_BAR_9:04,_Jul/Aug_1983.
13: Question - Kaddesh and Etzion Geber have been excavated and no evidence of Hebrews.
Answer: Same as above. Also, we don’t know if they actually encamped in these cities or nearby.
14: Question - Edom only became a kingdom in the 7th century:
Answer from Yosef Back - ‘This is archaeological consensus, however it has been challenged recently by Thomas Levy's dig in southern Jordan. His findings can push back the dating another 200 years. That is still not enough to help out the exodus, however we have inscriptions mentioning Edomite tribes going back to the 1200's b.c.e. I deal with this more in my book.’
15: Evidence of Biblical conquests and cities: See Yosef Back’s article below
16: Question - Where did they get food after Manna ran out.
Answer - they conquered Midian, Emori, Og’s nation before they entered Israel, as the Torah states in the end of the Book of Numbers and in Deuteronomy.. They would have ample supplies. Additionally, as we have pointed out in #6, population estimates from those times are conjecture. Furthermore, it is evident from the Tanach’s description of the Jewish conquest of Canaan that it was miraculous even though it may have been made to look normal. It is conceivable that this may have been the case with food supplies as well.
17 - Archaeological evidence supporting Torah: In order to show that archaeology does not disprove Torah, I have referenced the following articles. Remember that although most of these sites are Orthodox, they are all well sourced and can be cross checked:
- http://ohr.edu/2053#S2 R’ Dovid Gottlieb on Archaeology
- Biblical Archeological Review Jan. / Feb. 2007 "The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism." By Dr. Yosef Garfinkel, professor of archaeology at Hebrew University. On the historicity of King David.
- Evidence for Samson http://www.nydailynews.com/israeli-archaeologists-uncover-seal-lending-credence-biblical-samson-existence-article-1.1126207
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48969466.html Independent sources confirm many of the major and minor characters of the Bible.
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48967121.html Contrary to popular Egyptologist belief, the Torah does contain numerous hints of contemporary life in ancient Egypt.
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48965991.html The historicity of Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet.
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48931527.html Does archeological data support the Biblical story?
- Archelogists discover Sodom and Gomorrah https://vimeo.com/229566597
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48938472.html One rabbi asserts that the Exodus never happened. What role does archaeology play in verifying Biblical events?
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48939077.html Is there archaeological evidence that supports the Bible?
- http://www.aish.com/jw/me/68495827.html The Arab onslaught to erase the Jewish people's historical connection with the Temple Mount.
- http://www.aish.com/jw/me/69739402.html Millennia of artifacts with Hebrew inscriptions prove the Jewish presence.
- http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48964966.html Despite the overwhelming evidence, why do some archeologists claim that Hebron was uninhabited during the times of Moses and Joshua?
- Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/prophet-isaiah-signature-jerusalem/
- http://www.foxnews.com/science/2017/07/25/experts-hunt-for-biblical-tabernacle-that-housed-ark-covenant.html Evidence for the Biblical Tabernacle.
“ Hebrew national tradition excels all others in its clear picture of tribal and family origins. In Egypt and Babylonia, in Assyria and Phonecia, in Greece and Rome, we look in vain for anything comparable. There is nothing like it in the tradition of the Germanic peoples. Neither India nor China can produce anything similar. In contrast with these other peoples the Israelites preserved an unusually clear picture...”[The Jews : The Biblical Period W.F. Albright 1963]
Dr. Yohanan Aharoni, in Canaanite Israel during the Period of Israeli Occupation. "Recent archaeological discoveries have decisively changed the entire approach of Bible critics. They now appreciate the Torah as a historical document of the highest caliber. ... No authors or editors could have put together or invented these stories hundreds of years after they happened."
The following are chapters in archaeological researcher Yosef Back's upcoming book
They Built Pitom and Ramses
According to Exodus 1:11, after Pharaoh enslaved
he “afflicted them in their burdens, and they built the cities of Pitom and
Ramses.” Is there any evidence of the existence of such cities? Most of the
scholars who do accept the historicity of the Exodus place it during the thirteenth
century B.C.E, since there was an Egyptian city called Pi-Ramses (Avaris), and
that city was built during the time of Ramesses II. Israel
The Talmud records a debate regarding the real names of the cities Pitom and Ramses. One opinion is that its real name was Pitom, but it was called Ramses because the buildings continually collapsed – Hebrew: mitroses – soon after their construction. Another opinion is that its real name was Ramses, but it was called Pitom because the “mouth of the deep” – Hebrew: pi tehom – swallowed the buildings soon after their construction. Apparently, the Egyptians had the Israelite slaves build in boggy areas of the Nile Delta where it was nearly impossible to lay solid foundations.
The Talmud, therefore, considers both cities as one. The Mahrasha in his commentary states that they were not actually one city, but they were located next to one another.
According to this, we have no proof that Pi-Ramses from the time of Ramesses II is the same city as the one(s) that the Israelite slaves built. Even if it is, it may be that its original name was neither Pitom nor Ramses. Often, the Torah identifies an ancient city by the name that city was given at a much later date. An example of this is the account of Abraham who pursued the five kings as far as Dan, meaning the future city of
which would be built by the tribe of Dan centuries later. Dan
In the period of the twelfth dynasty of
Egypt (circa 1938-1756 B.C.E.), a major administrative
center, originally called Rowaty, was located on the easternmost branch of the Nile, "the door of the two roads."
However, by the time Joseph arrived there, at the end of the eighteenth century
the city was known as Avaris.
This was the Hyksos’ capital during the fourteenth- and fifteenth dynasties of Egypt (circa 1785-1522 B.C.E.). It is most
likely that Joseph resided here. From Genesis 45:10, Goshen
appears to have been a part of Egypt
that lay near the 's Pharaoh, in the
Nile Delta. The Pharaoh Ahmose I, (circa 1550–1525 B.C.E.), established a royal
center there after he had driven out the Hyksos. When Ramesses II, (1279–1213
B.C.E.), built his royal city on the site, well after the exodus, he renamed it
"Pi-Ramses." Thus, Avaris is the most likely candidate for the
biblical Ramses. palace
The city had a large Canaanite population from circa 1850 B.C.E. and onward. The town was continually inhabited until the time of Thutmoses III, 1479–1425 B.C.E., who, it is likely, was the Pharaoh during the Exodus.
Judging from the remains, the people who occupied that land were probably shepherds. Also of interest there is a four-room house of the type usually associated with the Israelite settlement found in
from the same period.
According to our timeline, the settlement of Canaanites in Avaris occurred just
after the birth of Isaac. Our sages teach that the Israel
was given to Sarah as a wedding gift from Pharaoh.
Furthermore, Jewish tradition tells us that Abraham and Sarah had a large
following of proselytes.
It stands to reason that some of those people followed Abraham to land of Goshen Egypt and settled there, and that some of these
remains are from those people.
Tell el-Maskhuta is the second of the two Delta sites that have been excavated sufficiently to be positively identified as centers of Hyksos occupation. Six phases of Hyksos occupation of the site have been determined, mostly from pottery found during the excavations. So far, this is the leading candidate for the city of
of the Bible. Rashi
cites the Mechilta, which identifies Pi-Hahirot – where the Israelites
camped just before crossing the Pitom – as the site of
Pitom. In ancient times the Reed
Sea Reed Sea extended farther north, to what is today .
According to the maps of Edouard Naville, one of the first archeologists to
explore Wadi Tumilat, the sea came within two miles of Tell el-Maskhuta. Our approach complements the research of Dr.
Naville. Lake Timsah
 Edgar B. Pusch, "Piramesse," in OEAE, (
Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt),
 Talmud, ibid., Rashi
 Genesis 14:14
 Manfred Bietak, Avaris, the Capital of the Hyksos: Recent Excavations at Tell el-Daba,
, 1996, pp. 9, 19 London British
 Joseph resided in
from the time he was sold, in the year 1708 B.C.E. ( 2216 A.M.), until his death,
in 1615 B.C.E. ( 2309 A.M.)
 Ibid., p. 40
 Josephus, Against Apion 1:231
 Bietak, "
pp. 98-99. These houses have been found in abundance in the hill-region of
Judea and Center of Hyksos Rule ,
and date from the Iron Age, 1200 B.C.E. Archeologists have found that these
people were farmers and herders of sheep, consumed kosher species of animals,
and generally refrained from idolatry. This has led many to assume that the
inhabitants of these villages must have been Israelite. Samaria
 Pirkei DeRebbe Eliezer 26
 Genesis 12:5, Rashi ibid.; see also Rambam, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 1:3
 Edouard Naville, "Map of the Wadi Tumilat" (plate image), in The Store-City of Pitom and the Route of the Exodus,
Trubner and Company, 1885 London
From Joshua’s Conquest of Canaan Until His Death
1436 B.C.E. to 1408 B.C.E.
(2488 A.M. to 2516 A.M.)
According to most archeologists and academics, there was no nation of Israel in the land of Canaan until the latter part of the thirteenth century B.C.E. – some two hundred years after Joshua conquered the land according to the Bible’s account. The earliest agreed-on evidence of Israelites in Canaan comes from the Merneptah Stela, which has been dated to about 1210 B.C.E. Furthermore, archeological evidence shows that the cities of Jericho and Ai – both of which, according to the Bible, were conquered and destroyed by Joshua – were not inhabited at all during that period in history. In fact, there is almost no evidence of the existence of any walled cities in the area at the time of the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (approximately 1200 BCE). The Bible’s detractors single out the cities of Ai and Jericho, demonstrating that Jericho was uninhabited at the time that it was supposedly conquered, as was the site of Khirbet et-Tel, which they assume to be the site of the city of Ai.
Archeologists bolster this claim by pointing to the archeological evidence of the four-room house. These houses began to appear throughout Israel in the Early Iron Age (1200 B.C.E.-1000 B.C.E.) and have generally been attributed to the early Israelites, because almost no idols or nonkosher species of animals have been found in their surroundings. By the thirteenth century B.C.E. Israel’s neighbors Philistia, Edom and Moab were established in the land, but there is no evidence of their having been there earlier, whereas the Bible places these nations there from at least the time of Joshua.
This evidence would seem to indicate that there was no Israelite settlement prior to the thirteenth century B.C.E.
These objections to the Biblical accounts are based on the assumption that the Bible itself claims that these cities were settled and subsequently conquered during the thirteenth century B.C.E. The truth is, though, that by using Talmudic sources we would have to place the Exodus from Egypt in the year 1476 B.C.E. (2448 A.M.) This is based on the acknowledged date of the destruction of the first Temple – 586 B.C.E. (3338 A.M.) – and the Talmud’s assertion that this destruction took place 890 years after the Exodus. This would place the Israelites’ entrance into Canaan and the conquest of Jericho in the year 1436 B.C.E. (2488 A.M.).
Kathleen Kenyon excavated Tel es-Sultan in the 1950s. Situated northwest of the modern-day city of Jericho, Tel es-Sultan is assumed to be the Biblical Jericho. Kenyon claimed that the city was destroyed sometime around 1550 B.C.E., most likely by the Hyksos. This would have been long before Joshua’s time. Her claim is based on the fact that she did not find at the site any of the type of imported pottery typical of the fifteenth century B.C.E., when Joshua would have lived, and that the walls dated to the Middle Bronze Age. However, she did not publish an analysis of the pottery that she did find. Secular academics have since used her thesis in their attempts to debunk the Bible’s account of history.
Some twenty years before Ms. Kenyon’s expedition, John Garstang conducted a dig in Tel es-Sultan and published a detailed study of his findings, including the types of pottery he found at the site. He concluded that the city was destroyed sometime around the year 1400 B.C.E., which is well within range of the Bible’s account. He himself did not recognize the significance of the evidence he had in his pottery findings, as the methodology he used was still in the developmental stage at that time.
In 1990 Dr. Bryant Wood, an expert in Late Bronze Age pottery, affirmed that Garstang’s dating of the site is accurate, as it corresponds to the Egyptian pottery record. Indeed, pottery from the Late Bronze Age was found at the site, including the very pottery Kenyon had been looking for to date the site. It was discovered later that Kenyon was digging in what was the poor section of the town. Even at her excavation site, however, there was local pottery dating from the fifteenth century B.C.E. Wood also pointed out that Egyptian scarabs bearing names of pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty were found in the city’s cemetery, and all of these pharaohs lived later than 1550 B.C.E.
In 1983 the British Museum conducted a carbon-dating analysis on charcoal remains from the destruction level at the Jericho site, dating it at circa 1410 B.C.E., but these findings were later found to be faulty. More tests were conducted in the early 1990s, and the samples were carbon-dated to 1590 or 1527 B.C.E., fully supporting Ms. Kenyon’s position. Most academics considered this to be the final nail in the coffin for the veracity of the biblical account. Yet there is an ongoing debate over how radiocarbon dating applies in archeology today. In general, radiocarbon (also termed C-14) dates are 100 to 150 years earlier than those of the Egyptian pottery record, which serves as the basis for archeological dating in the Middle East. Jericho is just one example of this discrepancy. The debate rages regarding the date of Mt. Thera’s eruption as well. Due to the controversy over radiocarbon dating from this period, and to the evidence of pottery and scarabs that date from later than 1550 B.C.E., coupled with the fact that Wood’s proposed date falls within the range of our tradition, we can certainly consider Dr. Wood’s findings regarding Jericho to be valid.
Jericho was the first city the Israelites conquered when they entered Canaan. Tel es-Sultan boasts impressive remains, including evidence of a well-fortified city. Massive stone retaining walls have been found there that stood approximately 10-15 feet high. These retaining walls supported a large earthen rampart that was plastered over to enable people to build on top of the rampart. An additional mud-brick wall that was 6 feet thick and 20-26 feet tall surrounded the perimeter of the city atop the retaining wall. At the crest of the earthen rampart stood another mud-brick wall, which enclosed the upper city. This would have given the city two lines of defense: the invading army would first encounter the perimeter wall, which was made up of the retaining wall together with the mud-brick wall. An attacker from the outside would have had to scale walls that, together, rose about 35-40 feet (over ten meters) in order to gain entrance to the lower city. From there the invaders would have had to scale the rampart until they reached the internal fortifications of the upper city.
Archeological digs have revealed that when the mud-brick wall fell, it collapsed and fell outward to the ground; it did not fall inward, as it would have had it been pushed by an external enemy force. It is likely that the rubble of these fallen walls made it easier for the Israelite invaders to scale the retaining walls and enter the city.
The Bible (Joshua 6:20) states that the wall “fell in its place.” The Talmud interprets this to mean that the walls of Jericho sank into the earth. However, the Talmud points out, the verse uses the term fell, not sank; moreover, the Talmud asks what advantage there was to the wall’s having sunk as opposed to having fallen over. The Talmud goes on to explain that the wall was as wide as it was high, so had it simply toppled over, it would have remained a barrier, just as it was before.
Apparently, the Talmud is referring to the retaining wall described above, not to the mud-brick wall, which did indeed topple over. In order to enable the invading Israelites to charge into the city, the retaining wall was buried by the debris of the mud-brick wall in such a way that the Israelites were able to charge upward. Had the retaining wall simply collapsed it would have remained a formidable obstacle for the invaders, because the rampart was still in place.
Trenches have been dug at various points around the circumference of the city where the wall would have been located. Evidence of destruction as described in the book of Joshua was found all around. The retaining wall was found buried by the remains of the mud-brick wall for almost the entire circumference of the city, with the exception of the northern wall. Excavations reveal that the northern section of the mud-brick wall remained intact, and houses were found there that used the city walls as support. The Bible student will remember that Rahab’s house was built into the wall itself and that she and her family survived the attack. It is very tempting to suggest that these homes were those of Rahab and her family.
There is evidence of a major fire that occurred at the site of the northern wall. Evidently, the fire was set after the wall was destroyed, matching the account in Joshua 6:24. Massive stores of grain were also found, attesting to the brevity of the siege and the fact that the conquest took place shortly after the previous year’s crops were gathered into the storehouses. The Bible states that the Israelites crossed the Jordan in the spring and that the siege lasted for just seven days. Thereafter, other than a single palatial structure, dated to about 1325 B.C.E., the site was abandoned until the eleventh century B.C.E. Thus the archeological evidence does indeed support this biblical account.
Another major source Bible detractors employ to give credence to their claims is the city of Ai, supposedly located on the site of Khirbet et-Tel, situated about two miles to the east of the village of Beitin, which scholars identify as the biblical Beth El. According to all opinions, this site of Khirbet et-Tel contains no remains from the time of Joshua’s conquest. The city has been found to have been inhabited twice: once around 3300-2250 B.C.E., during the Early Bronze Age, and again around 1200-1150 B.C.E., during the Iron Age. The Iron Age inhabitants built the city themselves and did not wage any war to conquer it from others. During the fifteenth century B.C.E. this site was not inhabited at all and so could not have had anything to do with any conquest or war with Israelites.
The flaw in this argument is that there is no proof that Khirbet et-Tel is the site of Ai. There are at least two other areas that should be considered as possible sites for the city: Khirbet el-Maqatir and Khirbet Nisya.
There are many hints in the Bible itself that can help us locate the city of Ai. Furthermore, the majority of Jewish commentaries on the Bible maintained that there were two cities named Ai. Thus, there is no need to match any one site to all the references of Ai found in Biblical sources.
This author favors the site of Khirbet el-Maqatir as being the city of Ai mentioned in the book of Joshua, for the following reasons:
· Ai is adjacent to Beth Aven. Khirbet el-Maqatir is 1.5 km southeast of Beitin, which is the most likely candidate for Beth Aven.
· Ai is east of Beth El. Khirbet el-Maqatir is 3 km northeast of El-Bireh, the most likely candidate for Beth El.
· Ai was a small fortress; it was smaller than Gibeon. A fortress about 3 square acres in size has been found at Khirbet el-Maqatir dating to the time of Joshua, and pottery from the fifteenth century B.C.E. was found at there. The site of Gibeon is about is about 11 square acres.
· There was an ambush site between Beth El and Ai. There is a very deep valley called Wadi Sheban between Khirbet el-Maqatir and El-Bireh. This valley is not visible from either Khirbet el-Maqatir or El-Bireh and could easily conceal a large ambush force.
· There must be a valley north of Ai, since the king of Ai saw Joshua and his men marching down into the valley. Wadi Gayeh is situated just north of Khirbet el-Maqatir and separates Khirbet el-Maqatir from Jebel Abu Ammar, where Joshua was most likely camped. The hill of Jebel Abu Ammar is visible from Khirbet el-Maqatir.
· Ai was destroyed by fire. Abundant evidence of destruction by fire has been found at Khirbet el-Maqatir in the form of ash, burned pottery, burned stones and burned bedrock.
In order to locate Ai we must first locate Beth El and Beth Aven; but this is where things can become a bit confusing. As we have mentioned, most academics claim that the village of Beitin is built on the site of ancient Beth El. Beitin was first associated with Beth El on May 5, 1838, when the famous explorer Edward Robinson visited the area, arriving in the village of Beitin. Based on the similarity of the names Beitin and Beth El, and on the fact that the ancient Church historians Eusebius and Jerome stated that Beth El was located 12 Roman miles north of Jerusalem, Robinson identified Beitin as Beth El. He calculated the distance according to his horse’s rate of travel, which was approximately 3 miles per hour. The journey took him about 3 ¾ hours.
William F. Albright firmly endorsed this assumption of Robinson’s. As we have noted, Ai must be east of Beth El. In a watershed article published in 1924, Albright wrote, “Since the writer has scoured the district in question in all directions, hunting for ancient sites, he can attest [to] the fact that there is no other possible site for Ai than [Khirbet] et-Tel.”
Other than the problems mentioned above with the theory that Khirbet et-Tel is Ai, we have no archeological evidence to support the hypothesis that the site of Beitin is Beth El. Archeologists point to a burn layer in the city, dated to circa 1250 B.C.E., which, they claim, proves that the Israelites destroyed the city. However, according to our timeline this date is 186 years after the conquest of Canaan. Furthermore, there is no Biblical account of the burning of Beth El, nor was there any Canaanite habitation at the site of Beitin during the Late Bronze Age I. According to our model the Late Bronze Age I, specifically 1436, is the date of conquest.
Dr. David Livingston has challenged the identification of Beitin as Beth El. He claims that the site of El-Bireh, just east of Ramallah, is a more suitable location for Beth El, based on the following quotations:
Eusebius: “Bethel [Genesis 12: 8] now is a village twelve signs [i.e., milestones] on the right, going up from Aelia toward Neapolis....”
Jerome: “Bethel, the village at the twelfth milestone from Aelia on the right side going to Neapolis….”
Both Eusebius and Jerome speak of mile markers, not just measurements of distance. A few of these stone mile markers have been found between Jerusalem and Shechem (i.e., Nablus/Neapolis), and their inscriptions have been published. Three of these mile markers were numbered by Thomsen; they are 261, 262 and 263 – the fifth, fourth and third, respectively. Of these, only on the fifth is the actual mileage inscription still visible.
Eugene Germer-Durand presents compelling evidence that the 0 milestone was located inside Jerusalem proper and not at the Damascus Gate. He suggested that the milliarium aureum (“golden 0 milestone”) may have been located near the temple of Jupiter or near a temple of Venus, or even as far south as Mt. Zion. To corroborate his claim he cited the examples of the central milliarium aureum of Rome and London, giving their locations. He then demonstrated that measurements from the third milestone found at Shufat would place the theoretical first milestone close to, but not at, the Damascus Gate. This precludes any possibility that the 0 milestone could have been at that gate. Charles Clermont-Ganneau agreed with him. Hadrian’s column, located at the Damascus Gate, was not used as a mile marker. It was probably a commemorative pillar, similar to the pillar of Trajan in Trajan’s Forum.
To further bolster this claim, Dr. Livingston cites another quote from Eusebius, this time in the identification of the city of Rama (today A-ram): “Rama (Joshua 18:25). Tribe of Benjamin, city of Saul. At the sixth sign [i.e., mile marker] from Ailias [i.e., Jerusalem] as one goes toward the northern region of Bethel.”
The fifth milestone on the road leading north from Jerusalem was found with clear number inscriptions in both Latin and Greek. Based on the fact that the fifth marker was found at least one mile southwest of A-Ram, one would expect to find the sixth marker near the south side of A-Ram. The seventh would then have been located where the road leading north out of the village intersected the main road.
According to this, Beitin is about two Roman miles too far north to be considered a candidate for the location of Beth El, as the twelfth Roman mile would land in the region of El-Bireh.
Most scholars today identify El-Bireh with the ancient site of Beeroth, due to the similarity of the names. However, as we have shown, the fact that a city has a similar-sounding name does not always indicate that it is built on that ancient site. Furthermore, Eusebius and Jerome mention that the city of Beeroth is located between six and seven miles from Jerusalem, past Gibeon on the road to Nicopolis (Emmaus). Today if the Beeroth of the times of these Christian scholars was located in the same location as its biblical counterpart, it would be located somewhere between Nebi Samuel and the city of Bidu.
In Tevuot Haaretz, Rabbi Yehosef Schwartz writes: “…In Shemot Rabbah, ch. 32, it is written that there is a distance of 3 mil – 2¼ miles – between Jericho and Ai. Therefore, this city of Ai cannot possibly be the Ai near Beth El, because Beth El is more than 20 mil [15 miles] from Richa [Jericho]. This statement [referring to Ai as being near Beth El] must, therefore, be referring to the Ai that was near the present-day Richa.”
In a footnote, Rabbi Schwartz adds: “If we examine the passage cited from Shemot Rabbah a little more closely we will find that it refers to a residence of a king, so it can refer only to the Ai near Beth El, because it was here that the king in question dwelled. I suppose, therefore, that there is a transcriber’s error, and that it should read, ‘between Beth El (not Jericho) and Ai is only 3 mil,’ and in truth this is the approximate distance between Beitin [which may refer to Beth Aven] and Chirbath Medinat Gai.”
According to Rabbi Schwartz, this midrashic statement tells us that there is a distance of three mil between the cities of Beth El and Ai. The Talmudic mil is approximately a kilometer. The distance as the crow flies between Khirbet el-Maqatir and Beitin is approximately 3,050 meters. The distance between these two sites is well within the range of the midrashic passage we have cited above.
Those who prefer to identify Khirbet Nisya with Ai point out that in Khirbet el-Maqatir no remains from the Persian period have been found, whereas the Bible’s account would indicate that something from this period should be there. Khirbet Nisya does hold such ruins. One possible solution to this problem is that both locations are called Ai, and Khirbet Nisya is the Ai that was inhabited during the Persian era. As we have pointed out, many commentators asserted that there were two cities called Ai.
Radak, Metzudat David and Rashi are all of the opinion that there are two places called Beth El. The place called Beth El in the book of Joshua, located in the tribal province of Benjamin, was not the same one that Jacob renamed in the book of Genesis. The city that Jacob called Beth El is referred to as Luz in the book of Joshua and was located in the tribal province of Ephraim.
Dr. Livingston explored a small hill called Ras et-Tahuneh, slightly northeast of El-Bireh. Surface surveys at the site have shown evidence of occupation as early as the Chalcolithic, Early Bronze and Middle Bronze periods (as well as during several later periods, including the Iron Age). Livingston conjectures that this was the highest point in Beth El, in the province of Ephraim. It would be here that Jeroboam ben Nebat placed one of his two golden calves. This site seems to be the ideal candidate for the location of the city of Luz, situated just north of the Beth El that is in the tribal province of Benjamin. This latter Beth El is the one described in the book of Joshua.
On the windswept slopes of Mt. Kabir in the modern Jewish village of Alon Moreh, one is greeted with a beautiful view of the typical Samarian landscape. With tall mountains protruding from flat plain-like valleys, the scene is breathtaking. If the visitor looks westward across the valley he will see Mt. Ebal, just to the north of the city of Shechem. If he strains his eyes a bit he will be able to see a pile of stones just north of its peak, where the mountain plateaus. If he is accompanied by a tour guide, at this point his guide will pull out a Bible and begin to read the section from Deuteronomy describing how Moses commands the Israelites to build an altar on Mt. Ebal upon entering the Land. He will then proceed to the book of Joshua, showing that Joshua did just as he was commanded. Proudly, the guide will explain that this pile of stones he is looking at is more than likely the altar that Joshua built when he was here.
Indeed, according to Dr. Adam Zertal, the archeologist who excavated the site, the stone installation that we are looking at is an altar. In fact, this altar almost fits the description of the altar of the Temple, as defined by the Mishnah in tractate Midot (the altar on Mt. Ebal differs in that it is slightly rectangular). This altar predates the Mishnah by more than a thousand years!
Furthermore, Dr. Zertal’s team found animal bones, all of them male, with the vast majority of the bones coming from cattle or sheep. Many of the bones showed evidence of having been cut at the joint. These findings seem to correlate with the rules that are applicable to an olah-offering as found in the book of Leviticus. The remainder of the bones came from fallow deer. The bones were all found to have been burned on an open, low-temperature flame, indicative of an altar’s flame.
Dr. Zertal dates the site from circa 1250 B.C.E.-1150 B.C.E. These dates are based on the pottery found there, coupled with a very rare scarab that was made during the reigns of either Ramses II or Ramses III. As we have noted, these are the dates secular scholars and archeologists usually assign to the Israelite conquest of the Land.
According to our timeline, these dates do not match that of the Exodus. The Talmud relates an interesting story regarding this altar:
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan river to enter the Land of Israel, a miracle occurred for them: the waters stopped flowing and they walked on dry land. They were commanded to take twelve stones from the area where the water had been. They then proceeded to bring these stones to Mt. Ebal, where they assembled them to form an altar. Moses commanded them to write the Torah on the twelve stones in the seventy original languages. From there the altar was to be dismantled and the stones transported to Gilgal.
In total there were three sets of twelve stones set up by Moses and Joshua:
· On the eastern bank of the Jordan River in the land of Moab; these were also inscribed with the text of the Torah in the seventy original languages
· In the Jordan River, at the site where the Israelites crossed the river
· In Gilgal; the stones were first brought to Mt. Ebal, set up as an altar, dismantled, then brought to Gilgal, which was their final stop
The purpose of these stones was to serve as a memorial to this miraculous event. The stones in Gilgal were known until the time of the Mishnah.
According to Jewish tradition no altar remained on Mt. Ebal. Therefore, the pile of stones on that site cannot be Joshua’s altar. It would seem that these stones would have been a large bamah – a personal/communal altar. Dr. Zertal dates this altar to the time when the Mishkan stood in Shilo. During that time it was forbidden for the Israelites to build private altars. Alternatively, this altar could have been made by non-Jews in the area. Dr. Zertal noted that Biblical altars are all square, whereas the one they found at Mt. Ebal was slightly rectangular. Many other non-Jewish Near Eastern cultures built rectangular altars in those times. This may be a remnant of one of those.
The city of Gibeon was an important site in the land of Canaan, located northwest of Jerusalem. After the destruction of Jericho and Ai, the inhabitants of Gibeon (one of the seven nations that were known as the Hivites) sent delegates to deceive the elders of the Israelites into making a peace treaty with them by pretending that they had come from a far-off land. According to the Torah, the Israelites were commanded to destroy all the inhabitants of the Land who were of the seven nations of Canaan. The Gibeonites’ ruse was soon discovered, and the decision was made to spare them – despite the fact that that the oath of the peace treaty was not binding (as it had been made through deceit). The Gibeonites were subsequently assigned to perform lowly tasks for the Israelites.
Excavations conducted between 1956 and 1962, led by University of Pennsylvania archeologist James B. Pritchard, revealed that the site had been occupied during parts of the Early- and most of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 3000–1550 B.C.E.) and in the latter part of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 B.C.E.), at which time the town was a dependency of the city-state of Jerusalem and was probably not fortified. The earliest extra-Biblical source for this is found on a list of cities engraved on one of the walls of the Amum temple in Karnak, Egypt. This relief commemorates the invasion of Israel by Shoshenq I (945-924 BCE).
Significant remains were discovered, most of them from the Israelite period. Among these finds were sixty-three wine cellars from the eighth- to the seventh centuries B.C.E. Hebrew inscriptions of the name Gibeon (גבען) were found written on the handles of wine storage jars. Most of these were excavated from a large pool matching the biblical description. This sealed the identity of Gibeon in Biblical archeology with the site of Al-Jib. Pritchard published articles on their production of wine, the Hebrew inscriptions, the rock-cut wine cellars, and the well-engineered water conduits that supplied the city with water.
The first temporary occupation at the site was in the Middle Bronze Age. There was a more permanent occupation later on in the same period. However, the only evidence found of occupation during the Late Bronze Age (the time of Joshua, according to our chronology) was some pottery and other deposits found in tombs that had been cut at a much earlier date.
Nevertheless, this does not indicate that there was no Late Bronze Age city there. It is quite probable that early constructions were robbed, their materials to be used for building projects later in antiquity.
According to the book of Joshua, Hazor was a mighty city. King Jabin of Hazor initiated the northern alliance of Canaanite city-states to stand against Israel. Joshua and his men surprised the Canaanite forces at the waters of Meron and decimated their ranks, pursuing them as far as Sidon. The army of Joshua then turned back to Hazor, killing its king and burning the city, utterly destroying it.
Modern archeology has borne out the importance of the city of Hazor. The site covers some 200 acres and is the largest tell in the Land of Israel. Ample evidence has been found in the excavation of the fifteenth-century city to conclude that the city was destroyed by fire. In the upper-city area from this period the Long Temple was destroyed and was never rebuilt. Another Temple was found covered by a 15-cm-thick layer of ash on its floor and a 70-cm-thick layer of mud-brick debris above that. Further evidence of major destruction was found throughout the site. Most archeologists have attributed this destruction to Thutmoses III, from one of his campaigns through Canaan. However, there is no evidence to suggest this connection. It seems more logical, in light of our finds, to attribute this destruction to the Israelite invasion.
Despite this destruction, the city of Hazor was resettled by the Canaanites, for we find that the Israelites had to deal once again with Jabin. See next chapter: “Hazor Revisited.”
Why don’t we find Israelite settlements outside of urban areas until the middle-Judges/Iron Age I?
There is much scriptural evidence to suggest that the early phases of Israelite settlement in the Land took place in the preexisting Canaanite cities. As we have noted, only three cities were burned by fire when the Israelites entered the Land: Jericho, Ai and Hazor.
In the book of Deuteronomy it is written: “It shall be that when the Lord your God will bring you to the Land that was sworn to your Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give to you – great and good cities that you did not build, houses filled with every good thing that you did not fill, hewn-out cisterns that you did not have to hew, vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and you shall eat and be satisfied.” These verses clearly show that Israel was to dwell in the Canaanites’ fully furnished houses. In his farewell address to the nation in Shechem, Joshua quotes this section of Torah.
In the book of Leviticus it is written: “When you shall come to the land of Canaan that I give you as an inheritance, and I will place a tzaraat-affliction on the house in the land of your possession….” Rashi cites a midrash from Vayikra Rabbah that states that this was a good tiding for the owner of the house, because the Amorites used to hide their wealth within the walls of their houses, and the tzaraat-affliction would enable the Israelites to discover these treasures.
On this issue I would agree in part with those archeologists who would claim that the Jewish nation came from the Canaanites. Yes, they inhabited their Canaanite cities and used Canaanite pottery and other wares, as the Bible relates, but not because they are descended from the Canaanites but rather because they subjugated these nations. This situation continued for some 200 years, until some Israelites left these cities for the hill-country, to found the many Israelite settlements there in the thirteenth century B.C.E.
Evidence of Israelite inhabitation of Canaanite buildings is evident in Hebron and Shechem. In Hebron, a structure in area 6 in the city center showed damage from fire in the Late Bronze Age, but the area was refurbished and was used throughout the Iron Age, until the Babylonian exile (1200-586 B.C.E.)! This is also true of the Middle Bronze Age wall that surrounded the city throughout the same period.
In the city of Shechem, both the wall and fortress temple date to the Middle Bronze Age and were in use until the time of the Judges (1125 B.C.E.). See the “Shechem” section, in chapter 6.
 See footnote # 103.
 Jericho: Joshua 6:24; Ai: ibid., 8:18
 See footnote 7 for more information
 The fact that the walls date to the Middle Bronze Age and not the Late Bronze Age does not present a problem. In both Hebron and Shechem, the cities’ Middle Bronze Age fortifications were used well into the Iron Age.
 Joshua, chapters 2 and 6
 This is in line with the biblical narrative, which describes Jericho as a fortified city; see Joshua 2:5, 15, and ibid., 6:5, 20.
 Dr. Bryant Wood, from his article, “The Walls of Jericho,” which was originally published in the Spring 1999 issue of Bible and Spade Magazine
 Tractate Brachot 54b
 Sellin and Watzinger, Jericho, Blatt 13, Tafel III
 Joshua 2:15
 Ibid., 3:15
 Ibid., 6:3-5; 15-22
 Judges 3:13 mentions that Eglon, in alliance with Ammonites and Amalekites, captured the “City of Palms.” Rashi and Radak cite the Targum Yonatan, which states that the City of Palms was Jericho. According to our timeline, Ehud assassinated Eglon in the year 1348 B.C.E. Garstang believed that this structure was Eglon’s palace. See: Garstang, "Jericho: City and Necropolis," 106-10; idem, "The Story of Jericho: Further Light on the Biblical Narrative," AJSL 58 (1941): 368-72; idem, "The Story of Jericho: Further Light on the Biblical Narrative," PEQ 73 (1941): 168-71; and John Garstang and J.B.E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho, rev. ed. (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1948), 177-80. A twenty-three-year discrepancy in ancient pottery dating, as we find here, is negligible. Furthermore, Garstang found remains of much imported pottery and an inscribed clay tablet, which attests to the affluence of its owner. It is certainly tempting to say that this could have been Eglon’s palace.
 Ibid., 6:26; Joshua declared a ban on the city, cursing anyone who would rebuild it. Heil of Beth El transgressed this ban (see Kings I 16:34). This happened during the reign of Ahab, which, according to our timeline, was about 898 B.C.E. That being case, how could there have been settlement on that site from the eleventh century B.C.E.? In Samuel II 10:5, we find King David admonishing two of his servants, who had been humiliated by Hanun king of Amon, to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back. This would have occurred in the eleventh century B.C.E.
 Tevuot Ha’aretz ch.3 part 1.; Radak to Joshua 7:3
 Joshua 7:2
 Ibid., Genesis 12:8
 Joshua 7:3, 10:22
 Ibid., 8:9
 Ibid., 8:11
 Ibid., 8:14
 Ibid., 8:28
 12 Roman miles are equivalent to 11 American miles.
 Edward Robinson and Eli Smith, Biblical researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea..., Volume I (John Murray, London, 1841) pp. 448-449
 Bryant Wood, “Researching Ai,” Summer 2009 issue of Bible and Spade
 Albright, 1934:11 and 1939: 48
 The Late Bronze Age I lasted from 1550 B.C. E. to 1400 B.C.E.
 Kelso 1968:28, 58; Dever 1971:463
 Dr. David Livingston, “Locating Biblical Beth El,” Fall 1998 issue of Bible and Spade
 Nehemiah 11:31
 Joshua 16:2
 Ibid., 18:13
 Kochavi 1972:178
 Kings I 12:26-27
 1:5; 10
 Tractate Sotah 35b
 Deuteronomy 12:8-9; Talmud, tractate Zevachim 117a-b
 Joshua 9
 Stratum XV in the upper city and stratum II in the lower city
 Amnon Ben-Tor, “Tel Hazor, 2001,” IEJ( Israel Exploration Journal) 51, 2001, pp. 235-8, esp. 238
 Yadin, Hazor, the Head of All Those Kingdoms, 45:100-1
 Yigael Yadin, “The Fifth Season of Excavations at Hazor, 1968-1969,” BA (The Biblical Archeologist) 32, 1969, p. 52; idem, Hazor, the Head of All Those Kingdoms, Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1970 (Oxford University Press, 1972) pp. 103, 125; idem, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (Random House, 1975) pp. 260, 261; Ben-Tor, “Hazor,” in NEAEHL, 2:604; and Amnon Ben-Tor et al., Hazor V: An Account of the Fifth Season of Excavation, 1968, James A. de Rothschild Expedition at Hazor (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1997) p. 102
 Yigael Yadin et al, Hazor III-IV: An Account of the Third and Fourth Seasons of Excavation, 1951-1958, Text, James A. de Rothschild Expedition at Hazor (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1989) p. 228
 Yadin, Hazor, the Head of All Those Kingdoms, p. 80; and Yadin et al, Hazor III-IV, p. 227
 Concerning Area C, see Yigael Yadin et al., Hazor I: An Account of the First Season of Excavations, 1955, James A. de Rothschild Expedition at Hazor. (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1958) p. 73; and idem, Hazor II: An Account of the Second Season of Excavations, 1956, James A. de Rothschild Expedition at Hazor (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1960) p. 92. Concerning Area K, see Yadin et al., Hazor III-IV, p. 287. Concerning Area P, see Ben-Tor et al., Hazor V, p. 382.
 Hebrew University annual dig reports from Hazor; from the year 1994, found online
 Joshua 24:13
 Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Discovering Hebron,” BAR 31:05, Sept/Oct 2005
 How was it that the city of Hebron had a wall? Hebron was one of the three cities of refugee listed in the Torah, which Joshua consecrated on the Canaanite side of the Jordan (Joshua 20:7). The Talmud (tractate Makkot 10A) states that cities of refuge were not walled. Yet we find in the halachot of Purim, on the subject of walled cities whose walls are from the time of Joshua son of Nun, that Hebron is considered a city of uncertain status and therefore people living there read the Megillat Esther on both the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar. This was the ancient custom in the city and is attested to by Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai, better known by the acronym HIDA (Birkei Yosef 688:4), as well as the responsa of Divre Yehosef Schwartz (#2, p. 11b). Therefore, the inhabitants of Hebron must have expanded the city outside of the walled portion to comply with the ruling of the Talmud. This was most likely the case in Shechem as well.
 Lawrence E. Stager, “The Shechem Temple,” BAR 29:04, Jul/Aug 2003