Battle of Jericho
|Battle of Jericho (legendary)|
James Tissot, The Taking of Jericho
|Commanders and leaders|
|Joshua||King of Jericho †|
|Casualties and losses|
According to the Book of Joshua, the Battle of Jericho was the first battle of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. According to Joshua 6:1-27, the walls of Jericho fell after Joshua's Israelite army marched around the city blowing their trumpets. The story of the battle is not supported by the archaeological evidence, and almost all scholars agree that the Book of Joshua holds little historical value.
The story of Jericho is told in Joshua 6:1-27.
The first five books of the Hebrew Bible tell how Noah cursed Canaan to become a slave, and how God gave the land of the Canaanites to Abraham and his descendants. The children of Israel (descendants of Abraham) themselves became slaves in Egypt, but through Moses God brought them out of Egypt and to the borders of the promised land of Canaan. There Moses instructed them to seize the land by conquest, and placed them under the command of Joshua.
Joshua sent spies to Jericho, the first city of Canaan to be taken, and discovered that the land was in fear of Israel and their God. The Israelites marched around the walls once every day for six days with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day they marched seven times around the walls, then the priests blew their ram's horns, the Israelites raised a great shout, and the walls of the city fell. Following God's law of herem the Israelites took no slaves or plunder but slaughtered every man, woman and child in Jericho, sparing only Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who had sheltered the spies, and her family.
Origins and historicity
In 1868 Charles Warren identified Tell es-Sultan as the site of Jericho. In 1930–36 John Garstang conducted excavations there and discovered the remains of a network of collapsed walls which he dated to about 1400 BCE, the accepted biblical date of the conquest. Kathleen Kenyon re-excavated the site over 1952–1958 and demonstrated that the destruction occurred c.1500 BCE during a well-attested Egyptian campaign of that period, and that Jericho had been deserted throughout the mid-late 13th century. Kenyon's work was corroborated in 1995 by radiocarbon tests which dated the destruction level to the late 17th or 16th centuries. A small unwalled settlement was rebuilt in the 15th century, but the tell was unoccupied from the late 15th century until the 10th/9th centuries. In the face of the archaeological evidence, the biblical story of the fall of Jericho "cannot have been founded on genuine historical sources".
Almost all scholars agree that the book of Joshua holds little of historical value. It was written by authors far removed from the times it depicts, and was intended to illustrate a theological scheme in which Israel and her leaders are judged by their obedience to the teachings and laws (the covenant) set down in the book of Deuteronomy, rather than as history in the modern sense. The story of Jericho, and the conquest generally, probably represents the nationalist propaganda of the kings of Judah and their claims to the territory of the Kingdom of Israel after 722 BCE; these chapters were later incorporated into an early form of Joshua written late in the reign of king Josiah (reigned 640–609 BCE), and the book was revised and completed after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586, and possibly after the return from the Babylonian exile in 538. The combination of archaeological evidence and analysis of the composition history and theological purposes of the Book of Joshua lies behind the judgement of archaeologist William G. Dever that the battle of Jericho "seems invented out of whole cloth."
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- Creach, Jerome F.D (2003). Joshua. Westminster John Knox Press.
- Dever, William G. (2006). Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?. Eerdmans.
- Jacobs, Paul F. (2000). "Jericho". In Freedman, David Noel; Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans.
- Killebrew, Ann E. (2005). Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, and Early Israel, 1300–1100 B.C.E. Society of Biblical Literature.
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