The Walls of Jericho
Here's the battle plan that God gave to the Israelites’ new leader after Moses’ death, Joshua son of Nun: March around the city of Jericho seven times and blow your trumpet seven times. Known for his readiness to heed God's word, Joshua carried out this unusual military tactic. According to his own account, at the sound of the trumpet the walls of the great city came tumbling down (Joshua 6:20). This Old Testament story's common dismissal as folklore isn't a surprise. After all, how many battles are won by a mere trumpet blast? However some archaeologists suggest that is exactly what happened.
Prominent archaeologists who have excavated the site of what they believe to be ancient, biblical Jericho include Carl Watzinger (from 1907 to 1909), John Garstang (in the 1930s), Kathleen Kenyon (from 1952 to 1958), and Bryant Wood (from the 1970s to the present).
Jericho, an important city located near the Jordan River, was inhabited by the Canaanites. Like similar strongholds of the time, it was surrounded by great walls to protect the citizens from warring tribes and animal predators. The people felt secure behind their giant barriers. Archaeologists, in excavating the supposed site of ancient Jericho, uncovered a phenomenal fortification system. The mud-brick retaining wall surrounding the city stood fifteen feet high. An eight-foot brick wall, supported by an earthen rampart, topped the retaining wall.
Before marching on Jericho, Joshua sent two spies to the city. A woman named Rahab hid them on the rooftop of her home. The biblical account says that Rahab's home was on the city wall. The spies promised that if Rahab hung a scarlet thread from her window, she and her family would be protected when the Israelites attacked the city (Joshua 2:18). During the excavations, the archaeologists discovered domestic structures between the skyscraping outer wall and a second inner brick wall. Many believe the Bible account of Rahab's home accurately describes what archaeologists found.
Usually the inhabitants of a city such as Jericho were safe from an attacking army until their food ran out. A patient army waited until the desperate and hungry citizens became too weak to defend themselves or surrendered. However, archaeologists found huge stores of grain in Jericho's excavations. When Jericho fell, it was not because of a siege. Of course, this doesn't prove that the walls simply collapsed. But archaeologists also uncovered large piles of bricks along both the outer and inner walls. By observing these bricks, some of the archaeologists determined that the walls fell outward; however, if attackers were destroying the walls to break into the city, it makes sense that the walls would have fallen inward. The outward-falling bricks formed a ramp into the city for the Israelites to enter (Joshua 6:20).
Some scholars attribute the collapse of the wall to an earthquake. Such a natural phenomenon would also explain the damming of the Jordan, which allowed the Israelites to cross the river on foot (Joshua 3:9–17). Christians believe that God could have caused an earthquake to accomplish his tasks.
The biblical destruction account describes a great fire (Joshua 6:24). Interestingly, archaeologists found a thick layer of soot throughout the city. The walls and floors were burnt and fallen bricks were found in every room. God forbade the Israelites to plunder the city, but commanded they completely destroy it (Joshua 6:17–21). The archaeological evidence seems to prove that the city believed to be Jericho was totally demolished.
A careful chronology coupled with archaeological evidence dates the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt under Moses’ leadership at 1440 B.C. The biblical account states that the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. This places the crossing of the Jordan and the attack on Jericho at 1400 B.C.
Among the debris found in Jericho, researchers found a piece of charcoal that they dated at 1400 B.C. through the testing known as carbon-14 dating. The date matches the time when Joshua destroyed Jericho.
In ancient tombs located northwest of Jericho, Egyptian amulets were found that were inscribed with the names of Pharaohs. These date from 1500 to 1386 B.C. indicating that the cemetery was used during that time period. Could the Hebrews have brought the amulets from Egypt? The Bible says that the Egyptians gave them gold and other treasures as they left (Exodus 12:35–36).