Wilderness & Conquest 2

Wilderness & Conquest, Part 2

By Vern Crisler

Copyright, 2007, update 2009

Rough Draft

11.  Cities of the Conquest

12.  Criticism of Courville’s Model

13.  Moses & the Middle Bronze Age

11.  Cities of the Conquest

In this section, the purpose is to drill down to the cities of the Conquest, so to speak, and see what their archaeology has to say.  It is somewhat problematic, however, since it is not at all certain that the site matches made by archaeologists in their quest to identify biblical cities are correct.  William Stiebing says,

“Correlating archaeological sites with places known from ancient texts is also not always a sure thing.  Cities like Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome have remained occupied since antiquity, so their locations are not in questions.  But the sites of many other places must be determined from clues found in ancient written material, and sometimes there are two or three possible archaeological sites for a given town or city.  Archaeological excavation occasionally solves such disputes by uncovering on a site written evidence of its ancient identity.  But the locations of many ancient cities known from texts remain debatable.”  (Out of the Desert?  Archaeology and the Exodus/Conquest Narratives, 1989, p. 34.)

All too often, as we’ve said before, archaeological sites are identified with biblical cities on the basis of Iron Age material.  Such a criterion for identification is ultimately based on a circular argument, since the Iron Age is keyed to the beginnings of the Israelite settlement period on the basis of conventional chronology.  If that chronology itself is being challenged, it is simply a petitio principii (not to mention sheer chutzpah) to use cities located on such a basis to criticize alternative chronologies.

In addition, it is also possible that city locations have changed.  For instance, a City X of the Iron Age may have been located on a nearby tell during the Early Bronze Age or down through the Late Bronze Age.  At some point, the earlier City X was destroyed by an enemy, or was subject to flooding, and a New City X was built at a safer site nearby.  Failure to understand this may lead to faulty site location.  Stiebing provides a good example:

“The location of ancient Beer-sheba is virtually certain.  It is Tell es-Saba‘ (Arabic), or Tel Beer-sheba (Hebrew).  Not only has the ancient name remained associated with the site, but there is no other mound in the vicinity that fits the ancient textual description….Yet, except for a few sherds from the fourth millennium B.C., the excavations failed to turn up any evidence of occupation earlier than the beginning of the Iron Age, c. 1200 B.C. [sic].  If the Israelite conquest of Canaan took place during the Late Bronze Age, there was no city of Beer-sheba to allot to either Judah or Simeon.”  (Out of the Desert?, pp. 70-71.)

The site location for Beersheba does not even work on a conventional chronology basis, in which the Conquest is usually correlated to the Late Bronze Age.  It is true that Tell es-Saba‘ became the site location of a new Beersheba during the Iron Age, but given its relatively recent origin in the archaeological record, it is more likely that the original Beersheba is at another site, possibly as has been suggested, underneath the modern city of Beersheba.  (Cf., John Rogerson, Chronicles of the Bible Lands, 1985, 2003, p. 120; unfortunately, excavations at the modern city are, in the nature of the case, limited.)

We have already mentioned the idea of site relocation as an explanation of the apparent contradiction in the Bible regarding the sacred area at Shechem.  Was it outside the city of Shechem, as the Book of Genesis says (Gen. 12:6; 33:18-20), or was it inside the city of Shechem, as the Book of Judges says (Judg. 9:6)?  If the old city was destroyed, and a new one built around the sacred area, this apparent contradiction is given a reasonable explanation.  (See the essay on Shechem in the files area.)

We have a similar problem with the city of Emar in Syria.  Excavations at Tell Meskene show only Late Bronze remains, but Ebla and Mari texts mention the city as existing in the Early and Middle Bronze ages.  Thomas Brisco, with no thought of chronological revision, says:

“Tell Meskene has been identified as Emar….Texts from Ebla and Mari mention Emar during the third and early second millennia, but the existing remains reflect only the Late Bronze Age city….Presumably the site of the earlier city was abandoned, perhaps due to the shifting course of the Euphrates River, and now lies below the newly formed Lake El Assad.”  (Holmen Bible Atlas, 1998, p. 62.)

This may also have happened with other cities such as Beersheba, Gibeon, etc.  The mere identification of a biblical city with an Iron Age site only proves that this was the biblical city during the Iron Age.  It does not prove it was the site of the biblical city during the Early, Middle, or Late Bronze Ages.  Careful examination and excavation of nearby sites might provide some clues as to whether an ancient city has relocated.  Each site location should therefore be reviewed on a case by case basis in order to determine if this phenomenon is likely or unlikely at the relevant site.  The following are some of the more important sites:

a)  Jericho & Ai:  We have already discussed these two cities extensively in separate essays and readers are referred to those essays in our files area.  Basically, it was demonstrated that both cities were destroyed at the end of the Early Bronze Age.  At Jericho, a massive wall was brought down by a natural catastrophe (likely an earthquake), and a hastily built structure on top of it was overrun, and the city was burned.  With respect to Ai, one of the most important discoveries was that of a large heap of rocks that took a month for the excavators to remove, and was correlated to the end of the Early Bronze Age.  The archaeology of these two sites fits the biblical narrative of events so well, especially the latter, so much so that they could be called the “smoking gun” of biblical archaeology.

b)  Gibeon:  This city has been identified as the site of el-Jib, which has material from the Early Bronze Age until Roman times.  James Pritchard says, “Tombs have been discovered at el-Jib from each of six major archaeological periods in the city’s history: Early Bronze, Middle Bronze I, Middle Bronze II, Late Bronze, Iron, and Roman.”  (James B. Pritchard, Gibeon: Where the Sun Stood Still, 1962, p. 125.)  Again, “There were…scattered traces of pottery…the earliest of which reached back to the first occupation of the site at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age….”  (Ibid., p. 81).

Pritchard describes the tomb materials of the MB1, MB2, and LBA periods: “In contrast to the richness of the burials of the Middle Bronze II period was the comparative poverty evidenced by the tombs of the Middle Bronze I period.  Burials of this period were accompanied by a few plain jars, and sometimes by a four-spouted lamp and a javelin point or a dagger.  In each of the five tombs that contained some unmistakable tokens of the Middle Bronze I period there was evidence of reuse in the subsequent period.  In one instance material from a burial made in the Late Bronze Age demonstrates the very long use of the tomb.”   (Ibid., p. 135; cf., also p. 151.)

Of course, per New Courville the MB1 pottery represents the Israelite Conquest of Canaan, and is short-lived and only relatively poor.

According to the Bible, the city of Gibeon was not defeated by the Israelites at the time of the Conquest, but through trickery its people entered into a covenant with the Israelites.  For New Courville, there should then be EBA through MB1 continuity, and it is not surprising that the Israelite MB1 is found only in tombs rather than in the city itself.  Pritchard also makes the startling statement:

“These relics of the Middle Bronze I people seem to indicate a fresh migration into the town of a nomadic people who brought with them an entirely new tradition in pottery forms and new customs in burial practices.  They may have come into Palestine from the desert at the crossing of the Jordan near Jericho and may then have pushed on to settle eventually at such places as Gibeon, Tell el-Ajjul, and Lachish, where tombs of this distinctive type have been found….Since these Middle Bronze I newcomers into Palestine at Jericho camped at the site without the protection of a city wall and only later built houses, it is quite probable that they lived at Gibeon in similar temporary quarters.”  (Gibeon: Where the Sun Stood Still, 1962, p. 153.)

This matches with the Israelite Conquest, though Pritchard’s last inference is not necessary.  The Israelites did camp out at Jericho after the walls fell down (on our theory), but did not conquer Gibeon, and thus did not need to set up tents on its ruins.

Gibeon was described as a “great city” (Josh. 10:2), and Pritchard commented that “there should be some evidence for occupation of Gibeon in the Late Bronze period….”  (Ibid., p. 135.)  This is to be expected since conventional chronology places the Conquest at the end of the Late Bronze Age.  Pritchard notes that the LBA pottery found in tombs was cosmopolitan, representing Egypt, Cyprus, and other foreign lands.  The inference is that the city existed in the Late Bronze Age in order to account for the variety of LBA imports.  (Ibid., pp. 157, 158.)  Pritchard found evidence on the tell for the MB2 city (Hyksos period), which consisted of a buried house in the northwest sector of the site.  (Ibid., p. 154.)

According to the Bible, Gibeon remained a Canaanite city during and after the Conquest, though in service to Israel.  Not much is heard about the city after that, and it is first mentioned again during the monarchy period in Israel.  Some structures that one should expect to find based on the biblical narrative are as follows:

1.  The pool of Gibeon (2 Sam. 2.)

2.  The great stone which is in Gibeon (2 Sam. 20.)

3.  A high place large enough for a thousand burnt offerings (1 Ki. 3.)

4.  A place called the “mountain of the Lord” at Gibeon (2 Sam. 21.)

Per New Courville, the first three should be Late Bronze Age structures since on our theory, David and Solomon were LB2b kings.  The fourth is identified with Nebi Samwil, which is a mountain a mile to the south of el-Jib.  (Pritchard, p. 39.)

In our opinion, the first three structures may not have been located yet.  Could it be that el-Jib is not the correct site for Gibeon?  Pritchard found inscriptions from the late Iron Age period with the name “Gibeon” in archaic Hebrew, and this convinced him more than anything else that el-Jib was the site of Gibeon.  (Ibid., p. 47ff.)  Other sites have been suggested but do not go back farther than the Iron Age.  Nor does Pritchard mention any other tells in the vicinity that might contain Early through Late Bronze Age material.  So it would seem el-Jib is Gibeon.

The spectacular find of a spiral staircase leading down to a large pool was interpreted to be an Iron Age structure.  However, Pritchard does not report any stratified material associated with the pool, so his dating must be based on an educated guess that the pool was built after the Iron Age wall.  (Ibid., p. 71.)  His says it was a “defensive measure” and because of that “it must have been cut after the building of the inner and earlier phase of the city wall which runs to the east of it.”  (Idem.)  Thus, Pritchard’s dating of the pool to the Iron Age is a logical inference rather than a conclusion based on empirical evidence.  Pritchard uses a similar argument to date the underground cistern and tunnel that leads to the pool.  Nevertheless, while the evidence for dating is less than convincing, we shall have to rely on Pritchard’s archaeological judgment for the time being.

A large pool exists to the “east of the spring of the village of el-Jib.”  (Ibid., p. 159.)  Pritchard’s reason for rejecting this as the pool of Gibeon during David’s day is that he thinks the true pool must have been within the walls of the city.  Of course, since these walls are dated to the Iron Age, Pritchard confines his candidates for the biblical pool to the Iron Age.  We think it should be at the end of the Late Bronze Age, so there is no necessary reason to seek for the pool of Gibeon within the Iron Age walls.

Pritchard did find pottery from the Early and Middle Bronze ages on the summit of the hill at el-Jib (i.e., not just in tombs):

“[W]e turned to another objective of the 1959 season: the excavation of the summit of the hill at el-Jib.  It is well known that in ancient Palestine the ‘high place’ of the city was the place of worship….A week of work produced some strange results.  Pottery from the Iron Ages and from both the Early and Middle Bronze Ages appeared, but it was unassociated with house walls and floor levels.”  (Gibeon: Where the Sun Stood Still, pp. 86-87.)

Unfortunately, these were mixed together and were not in a stratigraphic context.  The reason for this is that el-Jib had been subject to shelling during World War I.  “[T]he British,” said Pritchard, “had succeeded in virtually pulverizing by shell fire from Nebi Samwil the stratification within the area in which we had placed so much hope.”  (Ibid., p. 88.)  The reason for the shelling is that el-Jib had been the site of a Turkish emplacement.  Archaeologists are thankful for even small favors when they dig up an archaeological site, so it is great that they were able to find any EBA or MBA material on the hill.  However, archaeologists are not miracle workers; they cannot put back together an archaeological site that has been pulverized by twentieth century weapons technology.  So we have unfortunately lost crucial information about the EBA and MBA periods.

Gibeon provides an illustration of what happens when a city is lived in continuously over the centuries.  It is a good thing for the people who live in the city, but it is not so great for archaeologists.  For the latter, the best cities are those that were sacked and burned several times, thus sealing in various archaeological levels.  A similar problem is seen with the city of Jerusalem, where hardly any material exists for the existence of an LBA city, though Egyptian texts from the same time period indicate its existence.

A cemetery exists on the north end of el-Jib, making it impossible to excavate this area.  (Ibid., p. 103.)  Iron Age builders also scraped to bedrock before building the IA1 wall and “thus destroyed whatever evidence there may have been of previous occupation.”.  (Idem.)

It is hoped that further excavation of Gibeon will bring to light at least some evidence of city structures during at least the EB3 and LBA periods.  This might turn out to be the case if archaeologists would spend less time on the Iron Age levels (which they think are Israelite) and focus more on the EB3 and LBA levels.  In any case, Pritchard points out that up until his own excavations, “we have dug into but a fraction of the total area” and he believes that the “great city” of Joshua’s day will eventually come to light.  (Ibid, p. 158.)

c)  Hazor:  We have discussed the later history of Hazor in our essay “The Low Chronology & the Royal Cities of Solomon.”  It was argued that the period of Solomon is reflected in Upper City stratum 13 and Lower City stratum 1-a.  It was noted that at these levels we see repair and alteration, along with examples of biblical objects—the two capitals, and the sea—mixed with cultic objects explainable in terms of the idolatry of the divided kingdom period.

The following represents in part a chart of the archaeological periods of Hazor as given by Yigael Yadin in his book Hazor, The Schweich Lectures, 1970, 1972 p. 118:

Periods Upper City Lower City New Courville
“Hellenistic-Israelite” V No longeroccupied  
  VIII   post-earthquake
  IX   Uzziah’searthquake
“Solomon” X   Omri/Ahab
“Israelite”;early Iron Age XII Very few hutsof Stratum XII post-Solomon,divided kingdom
LB III XIII 1A Solomon
LBI XV 2  
MB IIC ‘post XVI’ none found inLower City  
MB IIC XVI 3 Abimelech
MB IIB XVII 4 Judges
MB IIA-B (transitional) ‘pre XVIII’ none found inLower City early Israelitesettlement toDeborah
MB I XVIII   Exodus/Conquest
EB III XIX   Canaaniteperiod
EB III XX Not yetoccupied Canaaniteperiod


Unfortunately, Yadin and his team did not excavate the Early Bronze Age strata to the extent we would have liked.  He says, “The small areas in which we struck EB strata do not enable us to say much about the EB cities, except that Hazor’s earliest cities were erected in that period.”  (Hazor, p. 119.)  Yadin found some EB houses under an MB2 wall, plus large quantities of EB sherds on the east side of the city.  In one area, Yadin was able to distinguish three EB strata (21-19), and also found some Khirbet Kerak material.  The city was apparently founded in the EB2 phase, with the earliest material found at level 21.  Yadin says,

“The EB Hazor reached its zenith in the EB III period.  This is attested by the abundance of Khirbet Kerak Ware already found [in 1955-8 and 1968]….The end of the EB Hazor seems to fall within the EB III, but in what seems to be a ‘post Khirbet Kerak’ phase.”  (Hazor, p. 120.)

Early Bronze material was found above stratum 20 in stratum 19:  “This group belongs to Stratum XIX, and is the last evidence we have of the EB city.”  Moreover, “Thus Hazor serves as a further testimony to a densely populated Palestine in the EBII-III periods with its flourishing large cities spreading from Galilee in the north to the northern Negev in the south.”  (Idem.)

The debris between the EB and MB strata indicated the existence of an MB1 settlement.  However, Yadin mentions that the evidence for MB1 is of a “flimsy nature.”  The reason is that:

“[T]he MB I level, like those of EB, was reached by us in limited areas only.  Altogether, the picture of the MB I settlement is not unlike the situation in many excavated tells: an extensive settlement of semi-nomadic people dwelling mainly in huts or tents….The most important types of the MB I pottery are represented by the sherds found, including the ‘Megiddo Tea-Pots’, the ‘amphoriskoi’ of the Ma‘ayan Barukh type, the four-nozzled oil-lamps and also the large and deep bowls with ledge-handles.  On the whole one may say, though, that this represents rather the northern MB I cultures than the southern—a fact to be expected.”  (Hazor, pp. 120-21.)

From these preliminary reports, it appears that the some of the Intermediate people settled for a short time on the remains of the Early Bronze Age city.  Unfortunately, the lack of significant excavation of the EBA and Intermediate strata makes it difficult to ascribe the end of the EBA city to the Israelites without further evidence.  All that can be done now is to make inferences from the archaeology of the MB1 material in general and apply it to the particular case of Hazor.  We think further excavations of EB3 levels will show that the city was massively burned at the end of  the EB3 period, and this would represent the Israelite Conquest.

The Lower City of Hazor was built either at the end of MB2a or at the beginning of the MB2b period.  The Upper City served as a citadel for the Lower City.  Both levels were destroyed at the end of MB2c, more than likely by the Egyptians of the Eighteenth Dynasty.  The city of stratum 13 was destroyed, though it is not easy to say who the invaders were (though Yadin believes they were the Israelites).  The earliest phase of the Iron Age begins at stratum 12, which in conventional chronology represents the Israelite settlement period.

The Bible does not say that Deborah and the Israelite tribes under her leadership destroyed the city of Hazor.  This was only done by Joshua and the Israelites of the Conquest period.

Yadin discusses a document that mentions the name of the king of Hazor.  The letter is from Shamshi-Adad, the king of Assyria to his son Yasmah-Adad, the ruler of Mari.  The name of the king of Hazor is Ibni-Adad or Yabni-Hadad.  The name “Yabni” is the same as the Hebrew “Jabin,” the Y and J being interchangeable, and the last letters being reversible.  (Hazor, p. 5.)  Scholars have also correlated these kings with the famous Babylonia king Hammurabi.  As we have argued, the time of Jabin, king of Hazor, mentioned in the Mari letters, and the time of Hammurabi, best correlates with the time of the Israelite Judge Deborah.

Since Yadin wrote, there has not been much more excavation in the Early Bronze or Middle Bronze 1 periods.  Ongoing excavations at Hazor are reported in the Israel Exploration Journal but most only discuss Iron Age and some Late Bronze Age excavations.  We hope further excavations will concentrate more fully on the Early Bronze and Middle Bronze 1 strata, and further elucidate the archaeology of Hazor.

d)  Megiddo:  We have discussed the later history of Megiddo in our “Low Chronology” essay.  Briefly, it was argued that under New Courville, the latter part of stratum 7b should be assigned to Solomon, and the destruction of its palace and temple should be assigned to Shishak (Merneptah).  Other public buildings continued into the next stratum (7a), thus showing that the same people inhabited the city.  The post-Shishak city lasted until the New Philistines destroyed it.  Later, stratum 5a-4b was destroyed by Uzziah’s earthquake, while stratum 4a was the rebuilding phase under Jeroboam 2.  It was noted that the gate (built during the time of Ahab perhaps) survived the earthquake and a new, stronger wall was built to connect to the earlier style gate.  Some interesting data about the Solomonic stratum were discussed, e.g., the Megiddo ivory handle with its depiction of a Semitic king and lion throne bearing a close resemblance to the throne of Solomon; and an ivory cache which matches the description of Solomon’s riches (1 Ki. 10:22).

The city of Megiddo has been fortified from the Early Bronze Age into the Iron Age.  (Graham Davies, Megiddo: Cities of the Biblical World, 1986, p. 21.)  Unfortunately, Megiddo was excavated prior to WWII when archaeological techniques were still somewhat primitive.  Nevertheless, enough recorded data was available in subsequent years so that archaeologists could reasonably interpret the site, though this did not solve all problems.

The greatest difficulty has been the nature of the stratigraphy with respect to the Intermediate period (Albright’s MB1).  According to Davies, “[T]he period between the end of EB III and the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age…has been, as far as the whole of Palestine is concerned, a source of particularly severe disagreement among scholars for over a generation.”  (Ibid., p. 30.)  As with Mazar, he points to the different terms used to designate this in-between period (MB1, Intermediate EB-MB, etc.), and chooses the term “Early Bronze Age IV” to designate the Intermediate period.  He points out that the “coarser” Intermediate ware is found at Megiddo alongside much finer ware.  “This would seem to imply,” says Davies, “that Megiddo was less seriously affected than other places by the factors, whatever they were, which brought about this period of widespread political and economic decline.”  (Idem.)

The following table of the archaeology of Megiddo is based in part on Yigael Yadin’s article in Ephraim Stern’s Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 1977, Vol. III, p. 833:

Stratum Conventional Date Archaeological Phase New Courville
XX before 3300 [sic] Chalcolithic Babel
XIX 3300-3000 late EB1  
XVIII 3000-2500 EB2-3  
XVII 2500-? EB3  
XVI ?-1950 EB3  
XV 1950-1850 MB1, EB3 mixture Joshua’s Conquest
XIV 1850-1800 MB1, MB2a  
XIII-BXIII-A  1800-1750 MB2a Early Settlement
XII 1750-1700 MB2b Deborah
XI 1700-1650    
X 1650-1550 MB2c Abimelech
IX 1550-1479 LB1  
VIII 1479-1350 LB2a Eli – Samuel
VII-BVII-A  1350-1150 LB2bIA1 Solomonpost-Shishak
VI-BVI-A  1150-1100  IA2 Philistines
V-B 1050-1000    
V-A / IV-B 1000-800   Uzziah’s earthquake
IV-A 800-780   Jeroboam 2
III 780-650    
II 650-600    
I 600-350    


Commenting on the Intermediate pottery, Yadin says: “The pottery of this stratum [15], as presented in the publication, shows a mixture of Early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age I-II ware.”  (Ibid., p. 839.)  This had also been Kathleen Kenyon’s conclusion.  “There remains the problem of Megiddo,” says Kenyon.  “As the material is published, there appears to be an overlap, with pottery of the Early Bronze, E.B.-M.B., and Middle Bronze [MB2a] appearing side by side in Strata XVI, XV, XIV and XIII.  But I have shown [sic] that this is due to intrusive burials and other disturbances.  No such mixture occurs in the tomb groups, and it is virtually certain [sic] that on the tell the occupation of the three periods is as distinct as it is elsewhere.”  (Archaeology in the Holy Land, pp. 155-56.)

This overlap of EB, Intermediate, and MB2a pottery in four strata is the difficulty noted above.  Yadin describes Kenyon’s analysis of the published data, which we summarize:

(1)  The middle temple (4040) was built after the two western temples (the “twin temples”) were in ruins. 

(2)  Most of the pottery in Stratum 15 should be dated to MB1 and MB2[a], the latter being found in tombs.  Kenyon argues that the tombs are dug into an earlier stratum, and some later tombs are erroneously ascribed to the earlier stratum.

(3)  In stratum 14 of the middle temple a fenestrated bronze ax-head was found, a type of weapon characteristic of MB1 and early MB2a, showing that the middle temple lasted into MB2a.

(4)  An MB2a wall and pavement were found above the round altar (in front of the middle temple), and were thus built after the presumed destruction of the middle temple.  The pottery found with the wall and pavement was MB1.  Thus the round altar must have been in ruins before the arrival of MB1.  [Note that this appears to contradict (3).]

It must be remembered the Kenyon’s interpretations are based on the published data of archaeologists who had worked at Megiddo prior to WWII.  The quality of the reports was not up to the same standards that are used today in archaeological investigations.  Thus, any interpretation based on this early data is subject to a greater margin of error than would otherwise be the case if Megiddo had been excavated using modern methods and techniques.

In order to clear up the confused stratigraphy deriving from the published data, I. Dunayevsky conducted further excavations at Megiddo.  He found a wall from the middle temple (and altar) running beneath the adjacent western temple.  “This proved,” says Yadin, “that contrary to Kathleen Kenyon’s assumption, temple 4040 was built prior to the two western temples.”  (Stern, p. 839.)  In addition, the middle temple and altar were shown to be contemporary by a temenos wall that was connected to the altar but “joined the south wall of temple 4040….”  (Ibid., p. 840.)  This means that the altar was also built before the western temples.  Dunayevsky was thus able to determine, based upon the points of contact between the walls of the temples, that the middle temple was in existence before the twin temples (contrary to Kenyon), and that the altar and middle temple existed at the same time.  Yadin says:

“Once the relative stratigraphy of the three temples and the altar had been determined, the chronology of the structures could be reconsidered.  It now appears that the temples do not date to the Middle Bronze Age I, but rather to the Early Bronze Age III….”  (Stern, Encyclopedia, p. 840.)

Graham Davies, however, believes that the three temples should be dated to the Intermediate period (his EBIV), and claims that their ascription to EB3 is based on “very flimsy evidence.”  (Megiddo, p. 31.)  His reason for this is that, “[t]he pottery found in and around the temples is a mixture of EBII-III, EBIV, and Middle Bronze I [i.e., EB2-3, MB1, and MB2a].  The MBI pottery [i.e., MB2a] is almost entirely from tombs dug down from a later floor-level and can be disregarded.  It is clear that the temples were in use in EBIV [MB1]…and the few EBII-III pieces could easily be intrusive.”  (Idem.)

Thus we have a disagreement between Yadin and Davies.  The former ascribes the beginning of the temples to the Early Bronze Age, whereas Davies ascribes them to the Intermediate period. 

Contrary to Davies’ claim that the three temples “were all built at the same time” (Megiddo, p. 31), the evidence provided by Dunayevsky and Yadin support the conclusion that the middle temple and altar were  built prior to the western temples.  The fact that they have EB3 pottery indicates they were all probably built in the EB3 phase, and the mixture of Intermediate and MB2a material with the EB3 pottery would indicate continuity through these phases, over a relatively short period of time.  For this reason, the theory of Davies that the temples were build in the Intermediate period seems very unlikely.

It is here acknowledged that the stratigraphy at Megiddo is not easy to interpret, nor is there much in the Bible about Megiddo throughout its history that can be of much help in sorting out the archaeology of the site.  The city is mentioned at the time of Joshua’s conquest, but was not destroyed.  In fact the Canaanites continued to dwell in the city, even though put under tribute by the Israelites during the Settlement period.  The city is mentioned in the song of Deborah, but only in passing.  It would seem that Megiddo’s chief claim to fame is its use in the Book of Revelation as an eschatological symbol.

For New Courville, the mention of the city at the time of the Conquest and its occupation by Canaanites, provides a clue that could help make sense of the archaeology.  In the New Courville theory, Early Bronze Age IV (using Davies’ terminology) represents the Israelites at the time of the Conquest.  Since the Israelites did not conquer Megiddo but put it under tribute, the situation described by Kenyon, Yadin, and Davies has a ready explanation, i.e., Megiddo was “less seriously affected” by the Israelites for the reason that the Israelites did not destroy the city (Judg. 1:27, 28).  Though put under tribute for a time, the city was still mainly occupied by Canaanites, who were “determined to dwell in that land.”

From our perspective, the Intermediate period Israelites over-ran the EB3 civilization, and when they settled down, they began the MB2a culture in the Holy Land.  Thus, the Intermediate pottery would not reflect an “age” of two hundred or so years coming in between EB3 and MB2a.  Rather, it reflects only a short period of time, probably not more than six to ten years in northern Israel (forty years in the Negev).  The pottery of MB2a gradually replaced the Intermediate pottery and overlaps it in some cases.  There is thus no need to appeal to “intrusions” to explain the mixture of EB3, MB1, and MB2a in four different strata.

The temples, therefore, were, as Yadin says, EB3 temples, and since the Israelites did not destroy the EB3 city, there should be continuity in its buildings.  Thus Davies could also be correct that the temples remained in use during the Intermediate period.  The temples might then be Canaanite in origin, lasting from the EBA period into the MB2a period.

We cannot agree with Davies’ claim that the temples were built during the Intermediate period.  The Intermediate people do not show anywhere else that they built large structures, much less temples.  Rather, they were a “nomadic” group, who, at least west of the Jordan, did not build towns.  Kenyon says, “The newcomers therefore were essentially nomads.  They destroyed existing towns, but did not create their own.  It is perhaps one of the clearest instances in the long history of Palestine of the temporary triumph of the Desert over the Sown.”  (Archaeology in the Holy Land, p. 137.)  If either Kenyon or Davies claims that these temples should be ascribed to the Intermediate period, it would certainly be a unique instance of Intermediate architecture, for in that case these would be the only instances.

However, we agree with Davies that the middle temple (4040) remained in use during the Intermediate period.  The paving over the middle temple altar does not mean the middle temple itself was destroyed (as per Kenyon’s point 4 above).  Davies says,

“On this pavement (which was mistakenly [sic] ascribed to Stratum XIIIB in the report) was found a small deposit of clearly EB IV pottery, including a curious lamp with seven interconnecting cups.”  (Megiddo, p. 32.)

Davies believes that this paving over the altar, as well as the filling with rubble of the main part of the cult room, represents a significant change in religious practice: “These two changes seem to point to a move from a cult with a strongly public character and a long tradition (the round altar) to a much more enclosed style of worship, in which perhaps only a few priests participated.”  (Megiddo, p. 33.)  (Davies does not say why the paving was “mistakenly” ascribed to MB2a.)

This may have something to do with the Israelite presence in the land, which forced all public expressions of heathenism into more private expressions.  However, given the paucity of information in the Bible about Megiddo, and the difficulties of stratigraphic interpretation, this can only be a guess at this point.  Megiddo was a great commercial city in the Holy Land throughout its history, a focal point of trade with Syria perhaps, but it seems to have been of little importance in the more spiritually oriented view of the Bible.

e)  Dan:  The City of Dan was sometimes used as a boundary city in the phrase “From Dan to Beersheba.”  It refers to the approximate length of Israel from north to south.  The name Dan as a geographical marker is used anachronistically in Gen. 14:14 where Abraham pursued Lot’s kidnappers “unto Dan.”  Aside from this editorial updating of the text, the name of the city before the Conquest was “Laish.”  (Judg. 18:29.)   Laish is mentioned in the records of Thutmose 3, as well as in the Mari documents, and in the earlier Execration texts.  These are records of non-Israelites, who would have retained the traditional name Laish.  In later times Dan would be the place where Jeroboam set up one of the golden calves in order to lure the people away from the Temple at Jerusalem (1 Ki. 12:29).  Sometime during King Asa’s day, Ben-Hadad of Syria attacked the city of Dan, along with other cities (1 Ki. 15:20).

In the days of the Judges — when there was “no king in Israel” — the tribe of Dan had not occupied its promised inheritance (Jug. 18:1)  This was because the Amorites had forced the Danites into the mountains, probably very soon after the beginning of the Early Settlement Period (Judg. 1:34).  Men were sent to spy on the city of Laish (as it was then called), and it was noted that Laish had no allies, and their erstwhile friends the Sidonians were far away (Judg. 18:7).  The Danites found a Levitical priest living in the house of Micah, and they took him on their way to Laish (nearly precipitating a war with Micah and his neighbors).  After this the Danites went to the people at Laish and “struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire” (Judg. 18:27).  Then they “rebuilt the city and dwelt there” (Judg. 18:28).  It was at this point that the Danites renamed the city after their ancestor Dan, and set up the carved image taken from Micah’s house, “all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (Judg. 18:31).

It is said that Dan had priests all the way to the captivity of the land (during the Divided Kingdom period):

“[A]nd Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manesseh, and his sons were priests” etc (Judg. 18:30).

It seems fairly certain that the name “Manesseh” is a copying error for Moses, since the priestly line came through Levi, not Manesseh.  This would indicate that the burning of the city probably happened sometime in the middle of the Early Settlement period.

The following is a chart based on Avraham Biran’s Biblical Dan, 1994, p. 11, passim; and Ephraim Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 1, 1993, pp. 323 ff.).  This shows the correlations of the Danite levels, the archaeological ages, and the chronological revisions of the New Courville theory:

Strata Archaeological Age New Courville
1 IA2c, Persian, Hellenistic & Roman  
2 IA2b, gate destroyed Babylonian conquest
3 IA2b, gate complex Jeroboam 2
4b-a IA2a, partial destruction Uzziah’s earthquake
5 IA1b, destroyed Asa, Ben-Hadad
6 IA1a Divided Kingdom
7a LB2b, Ramses 2 Solomon, Jeroboam 1
7b LB2a  
8 LB1, Mycenaean tomb, Thutmose 3  
9 MB2c, destroyed Abimelech
10 MB2b, tombs, Execration texts  
11 MB2a/b, gate & ramparts, Mari documents Deborah
12 MB2a Israelite Settlement
13 MB1 Joshua’s Conquest
14 EB3 Laish
15 EB2  


There was not much archaeological investigation of the Early Bronze Age for the reason that it would have required the removal of Middle Bronze Age structures, which Biran was reluctant to do.  (Biran, Biblical Dan, p. 37.)  However, a clear sequence was obtained from a deep probe of one area on the tell:

“Seven phases of occupation could be discerned belonging to Early Bronze II (Stratum XV) and Early Bronze III (Stratum XIV periods,….Remains of walls, floors, a silo and a destruction level characterize this period.” (Biran, Biblical Dan, pp. 37-40.)

It is not clear from Biran’s comments whether the destruction level was at the end of the period or somewhere in between.  At another point he asks what brought the EBA civilization at Laish to an end, but admits that he does not know the answer to the question: “There is no evidence of violent destruction, but the areas excavated are too small to enable us to determine the nature of whatever calamity befell the city.”  (Ibid., p. 44.)  Apparently, a “calamity” overtook the city at some point.  Still, Biran points to signs of continuity: “In at least two excavation areas, remains were found which are attributed to a period sometimes called Middle Bronze I….”  (Ibid., p. 45.)

On the New Courville theory, Middle Bronze 1 in the Negev represents forty years of the wandering of the Israelites, and in the north, it represents Joshua’s Conquest and its immediate aftermath, say about ten years in the north after the 40 years in the Negev wilderness.  MB2a would represent the Early Settlement Period of the post-Conquest Israelites.  From what can be gleaned from the Bible, the original Canaanites were driven from Laish by Joshua and the Israelites, but that afterward the Canaanites came back to the city and forced the Danites into the mountains. The MB1 material at Laish represents the initial Conquest, not a permanent settlement by the Danites, so that the same EB3 people (and culture) would have continued on in the city for quite some time.  The EB3 people of Laish would then have been contemporaneous with the Israelite MB2a culture elsewhere (as with Megiddo).  Of course, the EB3 people of Laish eventually adopted some MB2a culture.

The earthen rampart and city gate complex were built during the transitional MB2a/b period, but the pottery making up the fill was “overwhelmingly Early Bronze Age…with some sherds of the Middle Bronze IIA.”  (Ibid., p. 60-62.)  This would seem to indicate that the MB2a culture had influenced the city of Dan, even if only to a small extent.

The gate is one of the famous arched gates that the original builders eventually found necessary to fill in due to structural unsoundness.  For that reason it is still visible.  (Cf., Ibid., pp. 76, 77.)  The other gate, called the Triple Arched Gate, was found on the western facade, along with a wide stepped stairway.  (Ibid., pp. 83, 87.)  The mud-bricks used to build the gate were determined by the sherds in them to be from the Early Bronze period.  “No sherds,” says Biran, “dated later than the Transitional Middle Bronze IIA-B period were found.”  (Ibid., p. 89.)  Further:

“After many years of research we have reached the conclusion that the material culture represented in the ramparts and the gate belongs to one homogeneous period—the Transitional Middle Bronze II A-B period,….This is the time when the Old Babylonian Kingdom reached the height of its power during the reign of Hammurabi.”  (Biran, Biblical Dan, pp. 89-90.) 

Our theory is that the Danites were the people who built the rampart and gates after destroying what was still largely an Early Bronze Age city.  It is hoped that further excavations might reveal what caused the “calamity” that ended the EB3 city, but the fact that Early Bronze Age and MB2a sherds were found in the fill for the new building projects of MB2a/b, suggests that there was some overlap of the two cultures.  It was this Early Bronze Age and MB2a culture at Dan that represents the Canaanites who had pushed the Danites into the mountains.  It was their city that was attacked and burned by the Danites, who then commenced to build a defensive system to prevent the same from happening to them.  In any case, given the genealogy of Jonathan, and the view that MB1 represents the Conquest, it seems like a real possibility that the MB2a/b transitional period represents the rebuilding of the city by the Danites.

With respect to Ben-Hadad’s attack on the city of Dan during King Asa’s time (1 Ki. 15:20), we would correlate this with the destruction of stratum 5 at Dan.  According to Biran:  “The fate that befell the city of Dan of Stratum V also affected the area of the workshops.  As in the other excavated areas, here too a layer of destruction and ash was found above the installations and the room with the snake house.  As mentioned, this destruction did not bring about the abandonment of the site….”  (Ibid., p. 155.)  Ben-Hadad’s campaign into Israel is dated to about 885 B.C.

It is possible that the Tel Dan stele which mentions the “house of David,” the “king of Israel,” and “Hadad,” may be a description of this event.  (Biblical Dan, p. 277.)  Unfortunately, it was not in its original context but was found in a secondary context, part of wall the bordered a piazza near the gate of the city.  (Ibid., p. 275.)  Biran gives the latest date for the secondary usage as the time of the Assyrian conquest, but for us this would be the Babylonian conquest (as discussed below).  Biran believes the first use of the stele would be in the 9th century which he correlates to Dan 4.  (Ibid., p. 11.)  Of course, for us, stratum 4a would be the period just after Ben-Hadad’s destruction of Dan 5, and would thus make sense on our theory..

The next level is Stratum 4a, and we would tentatively correlate the destruction of store rooms and a sanctuary complex to the earthquake of Uzziah’s day.  (Ibid., pp. 165, 168, 181.)  The city of 4a was not visited by total destruction, as Biran notes, and this would be consistent with the selective nature of earthquakes (on our theory).  In addition, level 4a saw the initiation of extensive new construction projects, which in our opinion was a post-earthquake building project, probably initiated by Jeroboam 2.  (However, Biran ascribes it to Ahab based on conventional chronology.)

For New Courville, the Babylonian conquest would be matched to the destruction of  structures of Stratum 2.  Biran correlates Stratum 2 to the Assyrian conquest.  (Ibid., p. 206.)  This is likely due to the confusion over the proper dating of the Babylonian conquest with respect to the archaeological strata.  We follow Peter James et al., in regarding the “Assyrian palace ware” as essentially Babylonian, and destructions ascribed to the Assyrians should really be ascribed to the Babylonians.  Biran says:

“An abundance of pottery, including decanters, storage jars, cooking pots, lamps, and an ostracon with the inscription lb‘l plt [belonging to Ba‘al Pelet] indicate that Dan was inhabited right up to the Babylonian occupation—which left no layer of ash to testify to a conflagration.”  (Biran, in Ephraim Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, p. 331.)

On our theory, there is no need to posit a missing Babylonian stratum.  What Biran describes as Assyrian is really Babylonian.  The Assyrians did not usually destroy captured cities, but repopulated them with their allies.  Even though Biran claims that Dan was on the “direct marching route” of the invading Assyrian army, he admits that the annals of Tiglath Pileser 3 do not mention Dan as a city captured by the Assyrians.  (Biblical Dan, p. 246.)   It is therefore much more likely that Level 2 destructions should be ascribed to the Babylonians.

f)  Lachish:  Lachish has been located at the site of Tell ed-Duweir, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and was excavated in the 1930’s by J. L. Starkey.  After Starkey’s murder by Arab bandits, his assistant Olga Tufnell took over the task of publishing the results of the excavations in four volumes, Lachish I, II, III & IV, dealing respectively with the Lachish letters, the Fosse Temple, the Iron Age, and the Bronze Age.  (For a review of early excavations, see G. E. Wright, “Judean Lachish,” in D. N. Freedman & E. F. Campbell, eds., The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, 2, 1964, pp. 301ff.)  David Ussishkin took over the work during the 1970’s through the early 1990’s and published four volumes in 2004 titled The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973-1994).

Lachish in the Bible  —  According to the Bible, Joshua encamped and fought against the Amorite city of Lachish, “and the Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, who took it on the second day, and struck it and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword…” (Josh. 10:31-32).  Since Lachish was a tell city, it was probably not significantly damaged by the Israelites during this attack, and probably received only localized destruction.  Recall that Hazor was the only tell city that was burned to the ground (Josh. 11:13).  Much later, the city was fortified during the divided kingdom period by Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11:9).  At another point Amaziah, king of Judah, fled a conspiracy against him, but assassins caught up with him and killed him at Lachish (2 Ki. 14:19).  During the days of Hezekiah (701 B.C.) the Assyrian king Sennacherib captured all the fortified cities of Judah, including Lachish, which appears to have become the king’s headquarters (2 Chron. 32:9).  In order to turn away the Assyrian king from any further designs of conquest, Hezekiah offered a great quantity of gold and silver, but “from Lachish” Sennacherib sent out an army with the intention of conquering Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, divine judgment cut short the planned conquest, and Sennacherib returned to his land in humiliation and was assassinated by his own sons (cf., 2 Ki. 18:; 2 Chron. 32; Isaiah 36).  In 587 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar 2 conquered Lachish along with the rest of Judah: “Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah…when the king of Babylon’s army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah” (Jeremiah 34:7).

Excavation Chart  —  The following is based in part on archaeological information found in E. Stern’s, Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 1977, Vol. 3, pp. 735ff.; Hershel Shanks & Dan Cole, Archaeology and the Bible: Early Israel, 1990, Vol. 1, pp. 124ff.; and A. Mazar’s, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 1990, charts on pp. 196, 242, 301, 372.  The oldest layers of the city are represented at the bottom of the chart, while the younger are progressively higher:

Strata Archaeological Period New Courville
1 Persian, Hellenistic Post-exilic
2 IA2c, partly rebuilt, then destroyed Possibly Edomites
3 IA2b, all buildings destroyed Sennacherib to Nebuchadnezzar 2
4 IA2b, major construction Jeroboam 2
5 IA2a, destroyed Omri to Uzziah Earthquake
IA1b, unfortified  
6 IA1a, destroyed by Sea Peoples? Asa
7 LB2b Solomon to Rehoboam
8 LB2a, Amarna Late Judges, Samuel
9 LB1b  
LB1a, Fosse, Temple 1  
MB2c, palace, rampart, destroyed Middle Judges, Abimelech
MB2b, not excavated Middle Judges, Deborah
MB2a, not excavated Early Judges
MB1, cemetery Conquest
EB3, not excavated Canaanite period


Early Levels  —  Unfortunately, there has been very little excavation of the earlier periods at Lachish, and at this point evidence of occupation during the Early Bronze Age and the MB1 period comes mainly from tombs.  According to Olga Tufnell, the EBA city was not burned, in contrast to other cities at the end of EBA.  (Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 3, p. 739.)  With respect to MB1, Tufnell says, “In this period, newcomers arrived who were not immediately concerned with rebuilding the towns they had destroyed, and few buildings can be attributed to them.  Knowledge of this phase is derived from their varied burial customs and from the offerings placed in the tombs.”  (Ibid, p. 739.)  While the Israelite destroyed many towns or cities of the Canaanites, they did not, as noted, burn or destroy tell cities, i.e., the cities on mounds, such as Lachish.  Hazor is the only one specifically mentioned as being burned with fire.  So the lack of a burn level at the end of Early Bronze Lachish is consistent with the biblical narrative.

Lachish was occupied during the Hyksos period and was a fortified city with glacis and fosse, including a palace.  An inscription from the MB2b period was found that contained early alphabetic writing.  (Ibid., p. 741.)  Late Bronze Age levels show sparse occupation, though Lachish 7 was in existence at the time of Amarna.  Lachish 6 is the final Late Bronze Age level and represents a thriving, prosperous city.  Its destruction was possibly brought about by the Sea Peoples, whom we’ve tentatively correlated with the time of Asa.  For New Courville, Lachish 5 might represent the time of Omri to the days of Jeroboam 2, and its destruction the result of the earthquake of Uzziah’s day.

Lachish 4 — The Centuries of Darkness group assigns the end of Lachish 4 to Sennacherib’s time:  “The deeper Level IV, which also seems to have met a violent end, actually provides a perfectly good match with the city besieged and captured by Sennacherib in 701 BC.”  (Centuries of Darkness, 1991, p. 178.)  In our opinion, this is partly correct, but not entirely.  Lachish 4 did not meet a “violent” end, if it’s meant that the city was destroyed by fire.  Ussishkin points out:

“Level IV came to a sudden end, but it seems clear that this was not caused by fire.  In any case, the data points to the continuation of life without a break at the end of Level IV.  The Level IV fortifications continued to function in Level III, and other structures of Level IV were rebuilt in Level III.”  (“Answers at Lachish,” Shanks & Cole, eds., Archaeology and the Bible: Early Israel, 1990, Vol. 1, p. 136.)

For New Courville, the beginning of Lachish 4 probably represents the rebuilding phase that occurred after the earthquake of Uzziah’s day, and the city would last relatively unscathed through Lachish 3 until its destruction during the days of Nebuchadnezzar.  It is agreed that the “sudden end” of Lachish 4 was the result of Sennacherib’s attack on the city, but the evidence does not support the idea that the Assyrian king destroyed the city or completely burned it with fire, if that is what the CoD groups meant by “violent end.”

Lachish 3 — Olga Tufnell assigned the destruction of Lachish 3 to the Assyrian conquest under Sennacherib in 701 B.C.  On the other hand, Kathleen Kenyon believed that Lachish 3 pottery must have come much later than Samaria 6 pottery, which she had dated to 720 B.C.  This was because the Samaria pottery was very different from Lachish 3 pottery, so that a long time span must have ensued between them.  She concluded that the end of Lachish 3 was caused by Nebuchadnezzar’s 597 B.C. invasion of Judah (the same view held by Starkey).  Both Kenyon and Starkey believed that the next city, Lachish 2, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s later 587 B.C. invasion of Judah.  They pointed to the close resemblance of the pottery of Lachish 3 and 2 as proof of the short time span between these two cities.  Tufnell did not agree with this view.  According to Ussishkin:

“In her opinion there was a clear typological difference between the pottery of Level III and Level II….Tufnell also discerned to phases in the Level II gate, each of which had been destroyed by fire.  If there were two phases within Level II, this made it even more unlikely that only a decade separate Level II and Level III.”  (Archaeology and the Bible, p. 131.)

The Centuries of Darkness Theory — The CoD group correlates Lachish 3 with the 587 B.C. destruction of Jerusalem and Judah by Nebuchadnezzar.  (Cf., Centuries of Darkness, pp. 176ff.)  While Starkey and Kenyon’s correlations are possible, New Courville tentatively goes along with the CoD group on this point, though without any strong commitment either way.  Lachish 3 was completely burned, which is what one would expect from Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion in 587 B.C.—i.e., depopulation, burning, and destruction of the land of Judah.  Describing the destruction of level 3, Ussishkin says:

“The palace-fort and the city gate were burnt down to their foundations, the city was razed to the ground, and houses were burnt and buried under the debris.  Signs of conflagration are visible everywhere; in some places the accumulated destruction debris—including mud-bricks baked hard by the intense fire—reach a height of nearly 6 feet.”  (Archaeology and the Bible, p. 141.)

In contrast, the earlier 597 B.C. invasion appears to have been for the purpose of placing the country in vassalage, not necessarily to destroy it.  Thus, even though the difference amounts to less than a decade, the 587 B.C. invasion seems more likely as the cause of the destruction of Lachish 3, though, of course, the Starkey-Kenyon theory is still a distinct possibility.

Ussishkin’s Theory — Against the Starkey-Kenyon view, David Ussishkin follows Tufnell in believing that the burning of Lachish 3 was carried out by Sennacherib in 701 B.C., not by Nebuchadnezzar.  He admits, however, that Sennacherib did not record such a destruction in his annals, nor do the famous reliefs of the battle show any destruction of the city.  (Cf.,  Archaeology and the Bible, p. 141.)

In our opinion, Ussishkin’s arguments in favor of Sennacherib’s time are not compelling.  He first claims that Sennacherib burned the city of Lachish, then considers whether Lachish levels 5, 4, or 3 are candidates for Sennacherib’s time.  Level 5 is rejected because it was a city that was “possibly” unfortified.  Lachish 4 is also rejected because its sudden end was “not caused by fire.”  (Ibid., p. 141.)  The fact that there was continuity between Lachish 4 and 3 is also advanced as a reason to reject Lachish 4 as the city conquered by Sennacherib.  Ussishkin then concludes for Lachish 3 as the city conquered by the Assyrian king:  “The finds from this level correspond well with the accounts of the Assyrian attack describing the tragic fate of Lachish.  The strong fortified city of this level was completely destroyed by fire.”  (Ibid., p. 141.)

Nevertheless, Ussishkin never proved that Sennacherib destroyed the city of Lachish in 701 B.C.  This theory is actually independent of any archaeological data at Lachish.  It is an a priori assumption, based not upon archaeological data but rather on an interpretation of the biblical text and the annals and reliefs of Sennacherib.  On the basis of this information, it is concluded that Sennacherib destroyed the city with fire.  As noted, however, there is no evidence from Sennacherib’s annals or reliefs for such a total destruction of the city.  Ussishkin admits,

“Although the burning and destruction of Lachish are not specifically recorded in Sennacherib’s annals, and in fact are not shown on the surviving parts of the relief…, it nevertheless seems likely [sic], considering the importance Sennacherib attached to Lachish, that the city was razed after its conquest.”  (Archaeology and the Bible, p. 141.)

Ussishkin in fact invokes signs of burning on the “upper section of the relief” even though this section “has not been preserved.”  (Ibid., p. 141.)  Thus, the supposed evidence for the burning of Lachish by Sennacherib is entirely promissory, and an appeal is made to non-existent reliefs, and to probability (“seems likely”) rather than to actual data.  In sum, the fact that Lachish 3 was completely destroyed by fire provides no independent grounds for assigning it to Sennacherib’s time, since there is no proof that the Assyrian king ever burned Lachish.  Without this proof, there is no reason why a burn level at Lachish must necessarily correlate to Sennacherib.  In any case, since there is no evidence to support Ussishkin’s initial assumption, there is no grounds for rejecting the end of Lachish 4 as the conquest of the city by Sennacherib.  By the same token, there is no a priori reason to reject the end of Lachish 3 as the conquest by Nebuchadnezzar.

Lachish 2  —  The aftermath of the destruction of Lachish 3 was a “poor habitation level lying on the ruins of the destroyed city gate of Levels IV-III.”  (Ussishkin in Archaeology and the Bible, p. 137.)  This is consistent with the Bible’s description of the time after the fall of Judah: “Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard [of Nebuchadnezzar 2’s forces] carried away captive the rest of the people who remained in the city….But the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers” (2 Ki. 25:11-12).

The Lachish Letters  —  The Lachish Letters were found in the second phase of Lachish 2, and were initially dated to just before Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion.  Harry Torczyner’s work on the Lachish Letters seemed to confirm the destruction of Level 2 to Nebuchadnezzar.  (Cf., Centuries, p. 172.).  Nevertheless, the CoD group believes that Torczyner’s work was not up to the task and he made critical errors in his identifications of names mentioned in the letters.  Still, conventional chronologists accepted an early date for Lachish Level 2, even if they disagreed with Torczyner’s translations.  The CoD group says:

“The dissection of Torczyner’s work took many years.  Yet by the time it was all over no one seems to have noticed what had really happened.  Almost without exception, the very scholars who had systematically pulled his case to pieces still accepted his date for the Letters.”  (Centuries of Darkness, p. 173.) 

In contrast, the CoD group points out that a certain “Tobiah servant of the king” in Lachish Letter 3 may be Tobiah, governor of Ammon, and enemy of Nehemiah.  They would thus place Lachish 2 in the time of Nehemiah, c. 440 B.C.  The destruction of Lachish 2 would then be the work of Philistines.  Unfortunately, there is no real proof that the Tobiah of the Lachish Letters is the same as the Tobiah of the post-exilic period, and thus there is no compelling reason that the Lachish Letters should be assigned to the time of Nehemiah.

During the neo-Babylonian period and into the Persian period, the land of Judah was inhabited by an assortment of people who were allowed to settle there by the neo-Babylonian kings.  Among these races were Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites (cf., Ezra 9:1).  These groups would become a snare and a source of frustration for returning Jewish émigrés: “Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah.  They troubled them in building [the Temple], and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-5).  In addition, some of the Jews who had returned to Israel violated the laws of separation by marrying non-Jews: “For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is intermingled with the peoples of those lands.  Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass” (Ezra 9:2).

It is thus difficult to discern who had control of Lachish after the exile.  It is unlikely to have been the Jews, since only the poor were left in Judah.  So the question is who built the fortifications of Lachish 2, and who destroyed it?  This destruction sealed the Lachish Letters in place, to be later recovered in the twentieth century.  Most of  the letters were addressed to “my lord Yaush,” an army commander.  (Cf., Olga Tufnell, in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 1977, p. 746.)  Unfortunately, there appears to be precious little that could settle the issue of dating.  So we have to take the best guess on who lived in Lachish 2 and who brought it to an end.  The CoD group thinks the destruction of Lachish 2 was caused by the Philistines.  (Centuries, p. 175.)  This makes some sense because Lachish 1 has a material culture reflecting the culture of coastal cities.  They would thus place the end of Lachish 2, or the beginning of Lachish 1, during the days of Artaxerxes I (444 B.C.)  Aside from the speculative correlation of the Lachish Letters with the time of Hezekiah (and thus Artaxerxes), there is little evidence to solidify these correlations.

At some point the Edomites overran the land of Judah, and the city of Lachish became an administrative capital in Idumaea.  (Tufnell, in Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, p. 746)  Level 2 may therefore have been occupied by non-Jewish émigrés, and was possibly defeated by Edomites.  Level 1 might then represent the post-exilic return of the Jews and Persian occupation.

The l’melekh handles  —  In the destruction level of Lachish 3 were found storage jar handles with royal Judean impressions and emblems.  The inscriptions included the phrase “belonging to the king” (l’melekh), and also had some names of towns.  The emblems were either the four-winged or two-winged sun disks.  Since these inscriptions and emblems were found at Lachish 3 levels, Ussishkin redated them all back to the time of Sennacherib in 701 B.C.  (Archaeology and the Bible, p. 144.)  This went hand in hand with a redating of Palestinian stratigraphy by archaeologists, and it effectively deprived the later Judean kingdom of any representation in the archaeological record.

Kenyon, in a letter to Ussishkin, objected to the redating of Lachish 3 to the late eighth century:

“I have, of course, been considering the new Lachish evidence very carefully…I still find it very difficult to accept the Lachish III remains as belonging to the Assyrian destruction of c. 700 B.C., both on the grounds given in Samaria-Sebaste 3 (the report on the excavations at Samaria), and because it leaves the seventh century B.C. a complete blank for progress as indicated by pottery forms…I do not have a closed mind on the subject…but I do think that there are problems to be accommodated.”  (Archaeology and the Bible, p. 146.)

The CoD group also protested against this, especially the redating of Palestinian stratigraphy.  They believed it was due to a misunderstanding of the “Assyrian Palace Ware” (Petrie’s term).  This ware (and we agree) is really neo-Babylonian ware and should be diagnostic of the post-Assyrian empire period.  (Cf., Centuries of Darkness, pp. 180-82.)  The stratigraphy of the late Judean kingdom should therefore be restored and the “Assyrian Palace Ware” levels should be interpreted as neo-Babylonian levels.  This would prevent the phenomenon of a “complete blank” in the archaeology that would normally represent the late Judean kingdom.  It would also provide less reason to redate Lachish 3 to the Assyrian period.

12.  Criticisms of Courville’s Model

Surprisingly, Courville says very little about the MB1 pottery in the Negev and at Kadesh-barnea.  He is aware of the MB1 pottery in these areas: “Archaeology reveals that the area was populated by a people in Middle Bronze I who had mastered the problem of a water supply.”  (EP, 2:254; footnote referencing Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 1960 [1959], p. 68.)  A little later Courville says that the MB1 people are the Israelites after the Conquest:  “Middle Bronze I, by the altered interpretation, represents the culture of the Israelites after the Conquest, when they had opportunity to settle down in their new inheritance and utilize their inherent abilities.”  [Footnote, referencing his own discussion in Exodus Problem, Vol. 1, p. 91.]  “At this time,” continues Courville, “the area of the Negeb was also occupied by certain tribes who preferred this type of life and who were then responsible for solving the problem of water supply….The culture at this time is the same as that for the territory to the north for the same period [citing Glueck], indicating that this occupation was an expansion of Israelite territory.”  (EP, 1:264.)

Following the reference to his own discussion in the first volume of The Exodus Problem, we find that Courville identifies the Conquest of Canaan with the end of the Early Bronze Age: “The identification of the invaders at the end of Early Bronze IV as the Israelites is further evidenced by the tribal organization of the invaders.”  (EP, 1:88.)  The correlation of the Conquest to the end of the Early Bronze Age is correct in our view.  Kenyon’s terminology for the tribal invaders is Intermediate Early Bronze-Middle Bronze, and at the end of this period a new culture begins the Middle Bronze Age, which she calls Middle Bronze I.  (Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, 1960, p. 136.)  Albright ends the Early Bronze Age with Early Bronze IV, and correlates the “invaders” with Middle Bronze I.  Kenyon’s new culture would then be his Middle Bronze II A.  (The Archaeology of Palestine, 1960 [1949], p. 82; for further clarification of the confusing terminology, see below, “Moses & the Middle Bronze Age”)

Courville recognizes the distinction between the two periods: “The new pottery that appears at this point [end of EBA] was characterized by rims made for the first time in Palestine on a ‘fast wheel’ [citing Kenyon].  In the period following, the fast wheel was used also in shaping the lower body part of the pottery [citing Kenyon].”  (EP, 1:91.)  In her discussion, Kenyon ascribed the “new pottery” to the Intermediate Early Bronze-Middle Bronze period, and the pottery of the “period following” to the Middle Bronze I period.  (Kenyon, p. 136; Albright’s MB2a.)  So great was the change in culture from the end of the EB-MB period to the MB1 period, that Kenyon thought another invasion had taken place.  (Kenyon, p. 162.)  Courville disagrees and thinks Kenyon’s MB1 period [Albright’s MB2a] should be ascribed to the Israelites, who had given up their semi-nomadic life and settled down to their promised inheritance.  With this we agree, and will discuss it more thoroughly in the next chapter.

Nevertheless, Courville makes some confusing remarks about the people of the Intermediate period:  “It is to be expected that this Intermediate period would not be apparent generally in Palestine but rather in a more diffuse form elsewhere than in the Jericho area.”  (EP, 1:91.)  But why should this be expected?  Apparently, because the base-camp of the Israelites was concentrated near Jericho, and most of the people would stay in this vicinity while the warriors were out fighting in different parts of the land.  Apparently, then, Courville thinks the Intermediate period only lasted as long as the initial Conquest, about six years.  From our point of view, however, the Intermediate period pottery lasted beyond the Conquest and for the first few years of the Settlement period, so there would be no reason for the pottery to be “diffuse” as compared to its concentration at the Jericho area.

Courville then goes on: “And this is exactly the situation that is revealed archaeologically.  The evidence of this archaeological phase, other than at Jericho, is so meager that many scholars have preferred to disregard it entirely.  By this view, the Middle Bronze is made to follow the end of the Early Bronze immediately.”  (EP, 1:91.)  Courville then cites Albright, who said that the Intermediate period in which Palestine was in the “throes of tribal upheaval” was one of the “least known times” in the archaeological history of Palestine.  (Albright, p. 80.)  From this Courville concludes for an extremely short and “diffuse” pottery horizon for the Intermediate period.  Unfortunately, Courville attempts to downplay Albright’s statement that this was the situation “[u]ntil recently.”  Albright goes on to explain, however, that he had found the Intermediate pottery at Tell Beit Mirsim, that Nelson Glueck had found it in the Transjordan and in the Negev.  This allowed him to conclude that the pottery evidence shows the “virtually complete abandonment of the country to nomads.”  (Albright, p. 82.)  Since Albright wrote, a number of other archaeologists have written extensively about the Intermediate pottery, especially Dever.

Apparently, Courville’s downplaying of the distribution of Intermediate pottery is in order to associate the Middle Bronze pottery with the Israelites.  Thus, he refers to the “Egyptian influence” of the “early culture following the end of the Early Bronze Age.”  (EP, 1:93.)  He then cites Albright’s description of the “sources of wealth of Hyksos Palestine” including the “preponderance of weapons and ornaments made in Egypt” and claims that this correlates to the Israelites “in the early phases of their settlement in Canaan.”  However, Albright’s descriptions of the Hyksos culture refers to the Middle Bronze II B-C period.  (Albright, p. 87.)  The following is based in part on Albright’s chart of the archaeological ages correlated with Egyptian history:

Period Mirsim Megiddo Parallels
Late Bronze 1a Gap 9 Tell el-‘Ajjul 2
Middle Bronze 2c D 10 Last Hyksos phase
Middle Bronze 2b E2 11 Middle Hyksos
Middle Bronze 2b E1 12 Early Hyksos
Middle Bronze 2a F 13 Thirteenth Dynasty.
Middle Bronze 2a G 14 Late Twelfth Dynasty
Middle Bronze 1, 2a I, H, G 15 composite stratum


Since the Intermediate period is correlated to Mirsim I-H (Albright, p. 82), it is easy to see how difficult it would be to sustain Courville’s argument that the Hyksos phase could be matched with the early Israelites.  There is simply no way to bring the MB2b and MB2c Hyksos material into correlation with Albright’s MB1 period.  There are at least two major strata standing in the way of such temporal compression.  This also shows the difficulty of Courville’s attempt to match the Hyksos with the Amalekites who attacked the Israelites during the period of the Exodus.  It would face the same difficulty of a mismatch between the later strata and the earlier MB1 stratum (the time of the Amalekites on Courville’s theory).

Thus, there is no need to downplay the Intermediate pottery horizon, and especially if it is done so on the basis of a misplacement of later Middle Bronze Age strata.  In our opinion, this has misled Courville into a faulty understanding of the relation between biblical history and archaeology for the subsequent Judges and Kingdom period.  As I mentioned before, I believe the main problem here is that Courville sometimes confuses Albright’s terminology for the Intermediate invaders with Kenyon’s terminology for them.   The following section shows how easy it is to make this mistake.

13.  Moses & the Middle Bronze Age

Albright has pointed out that Middle Bronze Age I (hereafter MB1) pottery follows the Early Bronze Age IV (hereafter EB4) pottery.  This was based on his excavations at Tell Beit Mirsim (biblical Debir) in which he found that MB1 strata follows EB4 strata and comes before MB2A strata:

“In the 1950 campaign at Tell Beit Mirsim it [MB1] was found to be characteristic of Strata I-H, especially of H, where it had freed itself from typically Early Bronze influence; it lay stratigraphically between Stratum J (Early Bronze IV) and G-F (Middle Bronze II A).  Subsequently both phases I and H [MB1] were found in numerous other sites and burials, always in the same stratigraphic or typological relationship.”  (W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books [1960]), p. 82).

There is some confusion in labeling regarding these periods.  Kathleen Kenyon used the term Middle Bronze I to refer to what Albright meant by MB2A. ( Edwards, Gadd, Hammon, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press, [1971 ed.], Volume I, Part 2, p. 567).  She advocated using J. H. Iliffe’s Palestine Archaeological Museum classification “Intermediate Early Bronze-Middle Bronze” to refer to Albright’s I-H strata at Debir, thus covering Albright’s MB1 pottery period.

T. L. Thompson in his The Settlement of Sinai and the Negeb in the Bronze Age referred to this Intermediate period between the Early Bronze age and the Middle Bronze age as EB IV / MB1.  William G. Dever, however, speaks of the “Early Bronze IV” period in Palestine as a “non-urban interlude” between the Early Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze Age.  (T. Levy, ed. The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, New York: Facts on File, Inc. [1995], p. 282.)  His term EB IV is synonymous with the term “Intermediate Bronze Age” (p. 286).  In a footnote, Dever says his term EB IV is the same as Albright’s MB1, and Kenyon’s Intermediate EB-MB. (p. 295).  This would make it the same as Thompson’s EB4/MB1 period.  In the same volume, David Ilan contrasts Middle Bronze Age I-III with the “preceding Intermediate Bronze Age” (p. 297).  It seems Ilan’s complaint is more relevant than he might have realized: “All the same, our discipline is plagued by a confusion and overlapping of cultural and chronological terms.” 

Albright describes his EB4 period as a supplement to the previous EB3 period.  It is the time of the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period, and represents a period of “West Semitic expansion.”  (The Archaeology of Palestine, p. 77.)  Associated with this strata are “open-air monuments in Transjordan.”  It is difficult to know who Albright’s EB4 people are but they may be either Moabites, Amorites, or even Amalekites.  Albright does mention that two stelae that are attributed to the EB4 period — the stelae of Shihan and of Baluah — are from Moab, but this does not necessarily rule out the other two groups as bearers of this pottery.  Indeed, it may represent Amorite occupation of certain sections of southern and eastern Palestine.  R. Amiran in her Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land considered this pottery so indistinct that she only allowed a small space in her book for reproductions of it — and her interpretation of who the bearers of this pottery were hardly went beyond Albright’s discussion.

Albright’s pottery classification at Tell Beit Mirsim (Debir) established the following sequence:

MB2A – Stratum F-G

MB1 – Stratum H-I

EB4 – Stratum J

The order of the above sentences is the order of the stratum on the ground, too.  EB4 pottery is below MB1 pottery and MB1 pottery is below MB2A pottery.   Unfortunately, Donald B. Redford, in his Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press [1992], p. 65), claims that Albright’s EB4 is the same as Dever’s EB4:

“Likewise, EB IV, while morphologically descended from EB III, represents a lapse into nomadism (by survivors?) and shares something in common with the succeeding ‘MB I’ period.  Of late the solution to this state of confusion has involved a tendency to lump EB IV and MB I together under a variety of heads: ‘Intermediate EB-MB I’ [sic] (Kenyon), ‘MB I’ (Mazar), ‘Intermediate Bronze’ (Lapp, Kochavi), ‘EB IV, a, b, c’ (Dever)” (Ibid, p. 65).

Nevertheless, Dever clearly identifies his EB IV period as the same as Albright’s MB1 and Kenyon’s Intermediate EB-MB.  So Albright’s EB4 (Stratum J) cannot be equated with Dever’s EB IV.  Indeed, Dever equates his EB4 with Albright’s Stratum H-I, which is MB1, not with Albright’s EB4, which as noted above, comes before MB1.  Here is a brief table of classification of the terminology:

Level Albright Kenyon Dever
Stratum F-G MB2A MB1  
Stratum H-I MB1 Intermediate EB-MB EB4
Stratum J EB4    


Other archaeologists suggest using MB1A for EB4-Intermediate Bronze, but it’s not clear how they are using EB4 (Albright’s old way or Dever’s?).  (See Levy, The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, p. xvi.)  More confusingly, Yohanan Aharoni introduces a rather odd terminology when he refers to the Early Bronze and Middle Bronze pottery styles as Early Canaanite or Middle Canaanite.  Thus, if we follow Aharoni, we’d have to call Albright’s MB1, “MC1” for Middle Canaanite 1.  The main problem with Aharoni’s terminology, however, is that it makes unwarranted assumptions about who the pottery styles represent.

In order to avoid confusion, I will use the designation that Rudolph Cohen uses in his article “The Mysterious MB I People,” (Biblical Archaeology Review, [1983], 9:4 pp.16-29).  The term “MB1” will be a catch-all term that is identical to Thompson’s EB4/MB1, Dever’s EB IV, Kenyon’s Intermediate EB-MB, Lapp & Kochavi’s Intermediate Bronze or IB, and last but not least Albright’s MB1.  It does not include Albright’s EB4, which, more confusingly, he later changed to EB3B.


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