If Jericho is such a stunning confirmation of the Bible, then why is this not well-known and acknowledged widely? The answer is to do with the chronology or dating of the Fall of Jericho. The date the Bible gives for the Fall of Jericho should agree with the date that archaeology gives. However, in the opinion of many scholars there is a discrepancy of at least 150 years, so that they believe that Jericho was destroyed 150 years before Joshua even turned up! Thus they hold that there was no fortified City of Jericho when Joshua led the Conquest of the Land, and the whole story is a myth.
Considering how well the destruction of City IV matches the Biblical description, you might have thought that they would question their assumptions, rather than quickly dismissing the Bible.
However, it is often the case that people are quick to reject the veracity and accuracy of the Bible. Before, we jump to any conclusions, we need to be sure about two things: (1) the Biblical date of the Conquest and (2) the archaeological date for the destruction of Jericho. The problem is, both of these are disputed.
As far as the Biblical date is concerned, some put it close to 1600 BC, others close to 1400 BC, and others 1200 BC.
*When was Jericho destroyed according to archaeology?
Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger who led the first major expedition to Jericho (1907-1911) dated its fall to the Middle Bronze Age (1550 BC), but this disagreed with what many thought was the Biblical date (1400 BC). Then John Garstang who excavated from (1930-1936) dated this City IV to the Late Bronze Age (1400 BC), which seemed to agree with the Biblical date. Then Kathleen Kenyon excavated (1952-1958), and concluded it was Middle Bronze Age Jericho after all, and on that basis she dated its destruction at about 1550 BC. Her conclusions have generally been accepted, despite Bryant Wood’s arguments for a Late Bronze (1400 BC) date. Moreover, Kenyon’s date has recently been confirmed by accurate radiocarbon dating.
In 1995, high-precision radiocarbon dating was used for 18 samples from Jericho, including 6 samples of charred (carbonised) cereal grains from the burn layer and dated the destruction to 1562 BC plus or minus 38 years (Hendrik J. Bruins/Johannes van der Plicht). Thus radiocarbon dating puts Jericho’s destruction between 1600-1524 BC, agreeing with Kenyon. So the evidence seems to support a date for the destruction of Jericho City IV close to 1600 BC.
Now the problem is that most scholars think that the Exodus from
Egypt happened in about 1450 BC (or even 1200 BC), which would place Jericho in the Late Bronze Age at the time of the Conquest. That would mean that there was no strongly fortified City at Jericho for Joshua to conquer, since it had been destroyed 150 years before. Thus many have concluded this is not Joshua’s Jericho, and that there is no evidence at Jericho for the Bible. Kenyon thought it had been destroyed by the Egyptians, although it does not fit their usual campaign strategy of starting a long starvation siege just before the harvest when food supplies were low.
But we have seen how otherwise the archaeology of Jericho agrees perfectly with the Biblical account. This cannot be just a coincidence. The problem is simply that they have their Bible Chronology wrong. If we take the Bible as our authority for Chronology and calculate backwards through the times of the Kings and the Judges to Joshua, I believe we get the date for the Conquest at 1599 BC, in perfect agreement with the archaeology at Jericho! (You can check all the details of this at the Bible Chronology Section of our website: www.oxfordbiblechurch.co.uk) With the right Bible Chronology for Israel, there is a perfect agreement between the Bible and the archaeology of Jericho.
The Walls indeed came tumbling down, just as the Bible says!
To understand the controversy over the Biblical date for the Exodus, let us consider the 3 main theories.
*1. The most popular is a late Exodus at about 1200 BC. However to uphold this, you have to shorten the period of the Judges (as given by the Bible) by hundreds of years. You can only do this by regarding the time-periods given by the Bible as inaccurate and rejecting the clear testimony of the Bible concerning timings. So if this approach discards and rejects the great weight of Biblical data how can it claim to be a Biblical date for the Exodus?
All it has in its favour is the flimsy sychronism in Exodus 1:11: “Therefore they (the Egyptians) set taskmasters over them (the Israelites) to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply (store) cities, Pithom and RAAMSES.” One of these store cities was called RAAMSES. So what? Well, they say it must have been named after the famous ‘Raamses the Great’ who reigned from about 1250 BC, which dates the Exodus to that time. It should be clear how weak this argument is, since there are other reasonable explanations for how the city got its name. The word (name) Raamses was no doubt around before the king of that name.
Personally, I do not believe this date of about 1200 BC for the Exodus and Conquest, qualifies in any sense as being Biblical.
*2. A more valid Biblical date for the Conquest is 1400 BC. Those who hold to 1200 BC have to ignore one Scripture in particular - 1 Kings 6:1.
1Kings 6:1: “It came to pass in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the Land of Egypt, in the 4th year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the 2nd month, that he began to build the house of Jehovah.”
This says that in the 480th year after the Exodus, Solomon began to build the Temple. Now since there is general agreement that Solomon started his reign between 1031-970 BC, this would put the Exodus at 1447 BC or before, and the Conquest at 1407 BC or before. This is certainly in better agreement with the Bible, and if there was no more scriptural evidence, we would accept this date.
However, according to the Book of Judges this period of time was actually much longer than 480 years, and Paul in Acts 13:17-22 confirms the time period given in Judges. This creates a problem for those who believe the Bible is inerrant, for a true Biblical Chronology needs to harmonise ALL the Biblical data. When we can do this, then we can truly give a Biblical date for the Conquest.
Is this possible? I hope to show you that the answer is ‘Yes!’
*3. A date for the Conquest of 1600 BC fits all the Biblical data.
We saw that 1Kings 6:1 says that in the 480th year after the Exodus, Solomon began building the Temple (in his 4th year).
This seems impossible to reconcile this with Acts 13:17-22.
Acts 13:17: “The God of this People of Israel chose our fathers and exalted the People when they dwelt as strangers in the Land of Egypt and with an high arm brought He them out of it.” This describes the Exodus.
Acts 13:18: “And about the time of 40 years suffered He their manners in the wilderness.”
Acts 13:19: “And when He had destroyed seven nations in the Land of Canaan, He divided their land to them by lot.”
This took a further 7 years.
Acts 13:20: “And after that He gave unto them judges about the space of 450 years, until Samuel the prophet.”
Samuel ruled about 30 years.
Acts 13:21: “And afterward they desired a king and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of 40 years.”
Acts 13:22a: “And when He had removed him, He raised up unto them David to be their King.” David ruled 40 years.
After David came Solomon, who reigned 4 years before he began building the Temple (1Kings 6:1).
Now 1Kings 6:1 gave 480 years from the Exodus to the Temple. For the same period of time these verses give us: 40 years in the Wilderness + 450 years of the Judges + 40 years for Saul, which is a total of 530 years, which is 50 years more than 1Kings 6:1! We have not even included in this total the time from Jericho to the Division of the Land, the time of Samuel’s rule, the time of David and the first 4 years of Solomon.
In fact the full breakdown for this time period is:
1. “In the Wilderness 40 years” (Acts 13:18).
2. Jericho to the Division of the Land (7 years).
3. The Judges until Samuel 450 years (Acts 13:20).
4. Samuel 30 years.
5. Saul 40 years.
6. David 40 years.
7. The first 4 years of Solomon
(the Temple was started in his 4th year).
The total time then from the Exodus to the building of Solomon’s Temple is: 40 + 7 + 450 + 30 + 40 + 40 + 4 = 611 years
But 1 Kings 6:1 tells us that this time is only 480 years!
This is a difference of 131 years.
Paul’s statement is in agreement with the total of years traced through the Book of Judges. So we get the same contradiction if we add up the times of the Judges. Is the Bible in error or is God leading us to a deeper revelation of the Redemption Chronology (His way of reckoning time)?
The period of the Judges is summarized in Judges 2:11–23.
There are 7 Cycles of a repeating pattern of Servitude and Freedom:
(1) Israel goes into sin.
(2) Israel as a result comes into Servitude (bondage) to foreign nations – she loses her own sovereignty.
(3) Because of the oppression she repents and prays for deliverance.
(4) God answers by raising up Judges who bring deliverance.
(5) When the Judges died, Israel falls away from God into sin again and so the next Cycle begins.
Now remember one part of Scripture gives the time of Exodus to the Temple as 480 years, while another gives the same period of time as 611 years – a difference of 131 years!
Let us now calculate the total of the 7 Periods of Servitude recorded between Judges 3:8 and 1Samuel 7:2,3 (see the Appendix for a more complete explanation of the Chronology of this Period):
PERIODS OF SERVITUDE
(1) Under Cushan-Rishathaim (Judges 3:8) 8 years
(2) Under Eglon, King of Moab (Judges 3:14) 18 years
(3) Under Jabin, King of Canaan (Judges 4:3) 20 years
(4) Under the Midianites (Judges 6:1) 7 years
(5) Under the Philistines and Ammonites (Judges 10:8) 18 years
(6) Under the Philistines (time of Samson - Judges 13:1) 40 years
(7) Under the Philistines (time of Samuel -1Samuel 7:2,3) 20 years
= 131 years
This gives the solution to the apparent contradiction between 1Kings 6:1 and the evidence from the rest of Scripture concerning the length of time from the Exodus to the Temple. 1Kings 6:1 measures it as 480 years, whereas the other scriptures have it as 611 (480 + 131) years. The discrepancy is 131 years, exactly the same as the total length of the Periods of Servitude! The resolution is clear. In 1Kings 6:1, God is not counting the times when Israel were out of fellowship. He is using the paradox of 1Kings 6:1 to reveal an important spiritual principle about how He counts time.
The total time of Servitude (131 years) is exactly the difference between the two measurements of the time from the Exodus to the Temple (480 years and 611 years). This gives us a perfect way to reconcile both measurements and uphold the accuracy and inerrancy of Scripture. The actual length of time was 611 years, but the 131 years of Servitude, when Israel were out of fellowship with God, were not counted by God in 1Kings 6:1. That is why God measures it as only 611 - 131 = 480 years in 1Kings 6:1.
The Principle of UNRECKONED TIME. During these times of Servitude they were under the enemy’s dominion and God could not forward his Plan through His People, because they were in sin and out of fellowship. Likewise, when you break your fellowship with God, His work in and through your life stops until fellowship is restored. In His forgiveness, He blots out this time from His rememberance. These Periods of Servitude are a classic example of UNRECKONED TIME. He erased them from His Redemption Chronology, because they formed no part of His Plan of Redemption. God designed this ‘contradiction’ to get our attention and cause us to discover His Redemption Chronology and the associated principle of unreckoned time, (but we will only discover it, by holding fast in believing that His Word is perfect). He did this in 1Kings 6:1, by giving a measurement of time on His
Redemption Chronology, rather than giving the total time as man measures it. Only on the Redemption Chronology is it true that Solomon’s 4th year is the 480th year from the Exodus, for the 131 years of Servitude were unreckoned! The actual time was 611 years.
God’s main purpose in human history is Redemption. Therefore He counts time according to a Redemption Chronology which measures the progress of his Plan of Redemption in the earth. So He measures Redemption-Time according to His representatives (people) at that time (whether Gentiles, Israel or the Church). In the Old-Testament, God moved His Plan of Redemption forward through His People (Israel), who would bring forth the Messiah. But man’s free will means that even His people sometimes rebel against God’s Plan in sin and so delay it. During such times God’s Plan of Redemption came to a halt, until His people came back into fellowship with Him. During such times, GOD DID NOT COUNT THAT TIME. Therefore we call it UNRECKONED TIME. God does not count time during which His purposes are delayed because of sin. He overlooks this time-period in His Redemption Chronology. This is also the forgiveness of God (1John 1:9). He REMEMBERS OUR SINS NO MORE! Just as God blots out our sin, He blots out the times of sin, so that there are times of history that He blots out of His Redemption Chronology!
Likewise in our own lives, the times we were in sin will be blotted out of God’s record as far as our personal chronology is concerned. They have no value to God and in His grace He blots them out. Thank God, He blots out the times of sin. But what a shame to enter eternity with little of our life remaining that has not been blotted out! Only as our life is in fellowship with God can we bring forth that which has eternal value. God's plan and destiny for us is built into our spirit, but it is only as we walk in fellowship with Him, that His plan can come forth into our life (Ephesians 2:10). When we get out of fellowship, God's plans are put on hold (the clock measuring the progression of God's purpose in our life is stopped).
We see God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will working together. Free will is genuine and has a real effect on the course of time, but with regard to the Purposes of God, He is still sovereignly working out His Plan according to His Timetable and man can’t impede it.
Thus God used this apparent contradiction in the Bible to reveal wonderful spiritual truth to us. By holding to our faith in the accuracy and truth of all Scripture we discover the key of unreckoned time that resolves the contradiction and causes all the Chronological Scriptures to harmonize together beautifully.
In Summary, by accepting all the Scriptures as being true, we find
that the time-period from the Exodus to the Temple was actually 611 years, not 480 years (which is 131 years longer). This would result in a date for the Exodus and Conquest 131 years earlier than that calculated by those who assume it is just 480 years from the Exodus to the Temple.
We saw that those who built their Biblical Chronology solely on the 480 years of 1Kings 6:1 get a date for the Exodus between 1508-1447 BC, and for the Conquest between 1468-1407 BC. This led to a contradiction with the archeological evidence from Jericho. However, we have now seen that a true Biblical Chronology that takes into account ALL the relevant Scriptures, accepting them all as accurate and inspired, and harmonising them, gives an extra 131 years between the Exodus and the Temple. Taking this into account, we get a true Biblical date for the Exodus between 1639-1578 BC, and for the Conquest between 1599-1538 BC. This now is in perfect agreement with the Kenyon’s date of 1550 BC (now generally accepted) for the Fall of Jericho in the time of Joshua.
Thus we have seen that archaeology perfectly confirms the Bible in the case of the story of Joshua and Jericho!