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Copyright © 1977 by Immanuel Velikovsky
Jericho was the first city west of the Jordan to be conquered
by the Israelites under Joshua. It was surrounded by a huge wall that was
wide enough to have houses built on it. Joshua sent spies into the city,
and Rahab, the harlot "let them down by a cord through the window: for her
house was upon the town wall." "About forty thousand prepared for war
passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho." "Now
Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went
out, and none came in." After a few days of siege, the earth groaned loudly
-- the Israelites thought in answer to their invocation and their blowing
the horns, and "the wall fell down flat." The conquerors entered the
defenseless city and “utterly destroyed all that was in the city" (Joshua
2:3; 4:13; 6: 1; 6:20-21).
Joshua proclaimed a curse upon anyone who would rebuild
Jericho: "He shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his
youngest son shall he set up the gates of it" (6:26). Next the Israelites
went against Ai.
Jericho's fortress wall was famous, for it was huge and
impenetrable, and only thanks to a violent earthshock did the besiegers
obtain entrance. This wall became even more famous after it fell, because
the story of it is one of the best-known episodes of Biblical ancient
For about five centuries no attempt was made to rebuild the
city accursed by Joshua. In the ninth century, in the days of Ahab, king of
Samaria, a certain Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho: "he laid the foundation
thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his
youngest son Segub, according to the, word of the Lord, which he spake by
Joshua the son of Nun" (I Kings 16:34).
This short record -- contained in a single verse -- tells not
a little. In order to mollify the Deity and overcome the curse, this
private man sacrificed two of his own sons. The ardor of Hiel, unsupported
by the king of Israel, did not result in a true resurrection of the doomed
city. For some time in the closing days of Ahab, a little band of prophets
had its seat there, as we learn from II Kings 2:15. Near Jericho or its
mound, Zedekiah, the last king on the throne of David, was seized by the
pursuing Chaldeans, in -586. Eight centuries after Hiel, in the last
pre-Christian century, Herod the Great built his winter palace and a Roman
theater close to the site.
It was the Jericho that succumbed in the most dramatic
circumstances, its great wall tumbling down, that beckoned
archaeologists from the very first. A mound, visible from afar, covered
the ancient city and its wall; an Arab village grew up nearby because of
the clean springs that stream past the mound toward the Jordan and the
Dead Sea, both in walking distance of a few hours: a fortified city that
fell in a very definite moment of history is a desideratum and a prize
that are matchless -- and archaeological fervor sensed that here great
discoveries awaited the diggers. But it was not until 1907 that E.
Sellin and C. Watzinger, German archaeologists, after having obtained
the necessary firman from the Turkish Government, lifted earth from a
portion of the mound. The great wall was found and no archaeologist
could possibly have missed it.
The excavation of this city brought to light three consecutive
levels of occupation called by the excavators the "blue", the "red", and
the "green".(1) The "blue" was ascribed to the Canaanite period, the
"red" to the Israelite period, and the "green" to the Judean period.
But in the "red" level many scarabs of the Middle Kingdom were found, as
well as pot handles impressed with seals of the same time. It was
decided that all of them had been used as unintelligible amulets many
hundreds of years after they were made.
However, thirteen years after the publication of the report of
the excavations, one of the two excavators published a repudiation of
their conclusions.(2) He put the city of the "blue" level in the third
millennium, and the city of the "red" level, on the basis of its
scarabs, he ascribed to the Middle Kingdom, a change of eight or nine
hundred years. This "red" city had a tremendous wall and a palace that
came to an end in a violent destruction. The "green" city was assigned
to the ninth century, as the work of Hiel the Israelite.
As a result of this new assignment, "in the time of Joshua
Jericho was but a heap of ruins on which, perchance, a few single hovels
This means that the Israelites under Joshua did not find a
city on the site of Jericho; the city walls could not have crumbled
during the siege by the Israelites if they were already in ruins at the
end of the Middle Kingdom.
The Turkish rule in Palestine ceased before the
end of World War I and was followed by British occupation and mandate.
John Garstang undertook new excavations at Jericho. He saw traces of
intense fire. "Houses alongside the wall are found burned to the
ground, their roofs have fallen upon the domestic pottery within."(4)
"Palace storerooms were burnt in a general conflagration." "White ash
was overlaid by a thick layer of charcoal and burnt debris."(5)
The consecutive settlements from the lowest level up were
called by the letters of the alphabet. One city was destroyed at the
end of the Middle Kingdom or at the beginning of the time of the
Hyksos. The invasion of the Israelites was synchronized with the end of
City "D", sometime in the days of Amenhotep III: a few scarabs of this
king were found in the cemetery, and the excavator reasoned that the
city must have fallen during the king's reign. This theory was inspired
by another theory which identified the Habiru of the el-Amarna letters
with the Israelites.
Finally, after World War II, Jericho being now a part of the
Jordan kingdom, Miss Kathleen Kenyon undertook the decisive work of
clarifying Jericho's history from the Neolithic age on. In several
painstaking campaigns she lifted one veil after another from the city of
legend and history. She was not led by any theory about the time of the
Exodus, neither by that of Garstang who claimed Exodus in the days of
Amenhotep II and Conquest in the days of Amenhotep III of the eighteenth
dynasty (Habiru theory), nor by that of Albright that the Exodus took
place in the days of Ramses II and the Conquest in the days of Merneptah
(Israel Stele), both of the nineteenth dynasty. except that in agreement
with all schemes of accepted chronology she expected to find the Old
Testament confirmed and the great walls of Jericho dating from some time
of the Late Bronze: The New Kingdom in Egypt, to which both the
eighteenth and the nineteenth dynasties belonged. Whether the Exodus
took place in the days of Amenhotep III and of the el-Amarna letters, or
in the days of Ramses 11 or Merneptah and the Israel stele, the Conquest
must have fallen into the Late Bronze or the New Kingdom in Egypt. Miss
Kenyon revised Garstang's estimates.
There was found a Jericho of the days of the Early Bronze --
the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Its defenses were destroyed, and immediately
and in great haste the people of Jericho built again, but their hastily
erected wall was destroyed by fire before having been completed. As to
the causes of these destructions, Miss Kenyon expresses herself this
way: "Earthquakes undoubtedly played their part. Owing to the
cataclysmic terrestrial upheavals which resulted in the formation of
this great cleft, the Jordan Valley is peculiarly liable to
earthquakes.,,(6) [In a sequel to Worlds in Collision, purporting to
describe earlier catastrophes, the end of the Old Kingdom will be
synchronized with the great destruction known as the overturning of the
Cities of the Plain, south of Jericho.]
In the time of the Middle Kingdom, Jericho was at its apogee
as a city and fortress. “. . . the Middle Bronze Age is perhaps the
most prosperous in the whole history of Palestine."(7) "The defenses
...belong to a fairly advanced date in that period."(8) There was "a
massive stone revetment. . . part of a complex system" of defenses.(9)
"The final buildings [of the Middle Bronze Age city] were violently
destroyed and left in ruins with all their contents."(10) Fire was one
of the agents of destruction. "Over most of the area . . . excavated
on the west side of the mound, the thick layer of burning above the
Middle Bronze Age buildings is the highest surviving layer."(11) ["And
they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the
silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and iron, they put into
the treasury of the house of the Lord" (Joshua 6:24). Miss Kenyon
reports of the last Middle Bronze Age city (MBII) that "very little
metal was found".(12)]
After the great fortress, its palace and its walls ruined and
burned, there was no Jericho again. The near-absence of Late Bronze
remains is explained by an extraordinary amount of weathering on the
site. "The houses of Late Bronze Age Jericho have therefore almost
entirely disappeared."(13) Only in one small area were foundations of
Late Bronze Age houses discovered. When Garstang excavated the site, he
found also "traces of the several houses which sprang up independently
of the fortifications upon the ruins of the city at its northern
end.”(14) The time of this settlement was near the end of the
eighteenth dynasty in Egypt, the days of Amenhotep III or Amenhotep IV
But of any fortifications that the Late Bronze Age settlement might have
had, no trace survives. Garstang thought to have found them in the
excavations that he conducted on the site between 1930 and 1936; but the
double line of wall, thought by Garstang to be of the Late Bronze age,
or New Kingdom in Egypt, was proved to date from the Early Bronze,
contemporary with the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Garstang's conclusion of a
sizable fortress in the days of Amenhotep III was shown to be wrong.
Very few traces were found above the destruction level of the Middle
Bronze Age city, which, in accordance with the statement cited above,
"is the highest surviving layer."
"It is a sad fact", wrote Miss Kenyon, "that of the town walls
of the Late Bronze Age, within which period the attack by the Israelites
must fall by any dating, not a trace remains. . . . As concerns the date
of the destruction of Jericho by the Israelites, all that can be said is
that the latest Bronze Age occupation should, in my view, be dated to
the third quarter of the fourteenth century B.C. This is a date which
suits neither the school of scholars which would date the entry of the
Israelites into Palestine to c. 1400 B.C. nor the school which prefers a
date of c. 1260 B.C."(15)
We carefully followed this trend of thought and we see that,
under the great walls of Jericho, the theories of Conquest in the days
of Habiru (El-Amarna) and the Conquest in the days of Merneptah (Israel
Stele) are equally well-buried.
In Conclusions to her Digging up Jericho, Kathleen
Kenyon wrote with a sigh:
"At just that stage when archaeology should
have linked with the written record, archaeology fails us. This is
regrettable. There is no question of the archaeology being needed to
prove that the Bible is true but it is needed as a help in
interpretation to those older parts of the Old Testament which from the
nature of their sources ... cannot be read as a straight-forward
And what a pity it is. "When Joshua wished to lead the
Children of Israel into the Promised Land, he said to his spies 'go view
the land and Jericho', because Jericho was the entrance into central
A tragic note is heard in Kenyon's report. She intended to
discover the truthfulness of the written record. Some other scholars
did not share Kenyon's regret. Professor Martin Noth pointed to the
Jericho discrepancy as the best and most decisive proof of the
unreliable character of the historical parts of the Old Testament. It
became a major issue for Old Testament studies. When Professor Wright
of Harvard expressed himself as trusting the historical truth of Old
Testament records, he was accosted by Professor Finkelstein of Los
Angeles University with reference to the walls of Jericho that were in
ruins long before the Israelites reached them.(17)
The conclusion reached by the excavator of the great-walled
Jericho -- a Middle Bronze city, destroyed only a short time after the
end of the Middle Kingdom -- is in perfect agreement with the time table
of Ages in Chaos: the Israelites arrived at the walls of Jericho
only a single generation after the end of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt,
still in the Middle Bronze (the beginning of the Hyksos occupation).
There is complete agreement between the archaeological finds and the
In the days of Ahab, Hiel, his subject, built on the ruins of
Jericho. No wonder that the few buildings that were erected at that
time and the few tombs that were used, date from the time of Amenhotep
III and IV (Akhnaton). Hiel's building activity in Jericho falls in
their time because they were contemporaries of Ahab. Over sixty-five of
Ahab's letters addressed to these pharaohs are in the el-Amarna
collection, found in the short-lived capital of Akhnaton.
The stumbling block is really a foundation stone; the great
walls of Jericho fell suddenly when the Israelites under Joshua, after
crossing the Jordan, were closing in on the city; and the temporary
reoccupation almost six hundred years later is, once more, a case of a
complete agreement between archaeology and the written record; it
verifies the present reconstruction and is verified by it.
1. E. Sellin and C. Watzinger,
Jericho, Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen (Leipzig, 1913).
2. C. Watzinger, "Zur Chronologie der Schichten von
Jericho," Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen
Gesellschaft, LXXX (1926), 131-36.
3. Ibid., p. 135.
4. John Garstang, The
Foundations of Bible History (1931), p. 146.
5. J. Garstang and J.B.E.
Garstang, The Story of Jericho (1940), p. 104.
6. Kathleen Kenyon, Digging Up
Jericho (London, 1957), pp. 175-176.
7. Ibid., p. 212.
8. Ibid., p. 214.
9. Ibid., p. 215.
10. Ibid., p. 229,
11. Ibid., p. 261.
12. Ibid., p. 232.
13. Ibid., p. 261.
14. John Garstang, The Foundations of
Bible History, 'Joshua, Judges', (New York, 1931), p. 14 6.
15. K. Kenyon, op. cit., pp.
16. Ibid., 266.
17. G. Ernest Wright, "Is Glueck's Aim to Prove that the
Bible is True?", The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, (Anchor
John J. Bimson, "The Conquest of Canaan and the Revised
Chronology," S.I.S. Review I, 3 (Summer 1976), pp. 2ff.
G. Gammon, "The Walls of Jericho," Ibid., pp. 4-5.
Editor's Note: The material presented here was already
completed in its entirety back in the late 1950's immediately after
the appearance of K. Kenyon's book - Digging Up Jericho.