Jerichos inhabitants watched the army of Israel circle their city each day for six days. On the seventh day, the Israelites marched around the city seven times. When the Israelites shouted and the priests blew their trumpets, those strong walls in which the Jerichoites placed such confidence crumbled like sand. Just as Egypts so-called gods were powerless against Yahweh, Jerichos stately walls bowed before Him. Such is the biblical scenario of Jerichos fate during the time of Joshua.
In the preliminary report of her extensive excavations at Jericho, archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon adduced a purely naturalistic explanation of the biblical story. She conjectured that, at the precise moment of Israels trumpet blasts and shouts, an earthquake fortuitously crumbled Jerichos walls. In their religious naivete, the Israelites regarded this natural event as divine intervention on their behalf (Kenyon, 1957, p. 262).
Kenyons analyses demonstrate the status to which archaeology has been elevated in some circles. To many scholars, archaeology has become such a sophisticated scientific endeavor that they attach greater importance to archaeological interpretations than to biblical information. Accordingly, if archaeology cannot prove it, we are asked to suspend judgment on the integrity of a given biblical text.
Yet, archaeology can do only so much. Though it provides some valuable information regarding culture in biblical times, and has illuminated the biblical text in many unexpected ways, archaeology is woefully inadequate to address questions of theology. It is true that archaeological investigations often have confirmed biblical historicity. Bryant G. Wood, for example, has extensively analyzed the evidence from Jericho and concluded that the data are consistent with biblical information regarding Jerichos destruction (see Wood, 1987; 1990). Such evidence does confirm the historical reliability of the Biblesomething we would expect from a divinely inspired document. Archaeology, however, cannot determine Who caused Jerichos walls to fall. It is by faith that we acknowledge divine causes in human history. And it is by such faith that we know that at Gods command, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
Kenyon, Kathleen (1957), Digging Up Jericho: The Results of the Jericho Excavations 1952-1956 (New York: Praeger).
Wood, Bryant G. (1987), Uncovering the Truth at Jericho, Archaeology and Biblical Research, Premiere Issue, pp. 6-16, Autumn.
Wood, Bryant G. (1990), Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?: A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence, Biblical Archaeology Review, 16:44-58, March/April.
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