My last blog post was about the long day of Joshua. This was when the Jews began their conquest of the land of Canaan, as described in the Old Testament book of Joshua. Recent news has brought up something related to another place conquered by the Jews after the Exodus – a little place called Ai (pronounced like the letter “i”). I keep up some with an organization that does archeological research related to the Bible, called Associates for Biblical Research (ABR). They have done some great research that confirms the accuracy of the Bible. So what is Ai? Ai was the second place conquered by the Jews in Canaan. They first took Jericho, where the Jews marched around the city for 7 days and then the walls fell down (from an earthquake apparently). The second place (Ai) was Northwest of Jericho and is a short distance East of Bethel. Ai was not actually a city, but just a fortress. In Joshua chapter 8 in the Old Testament, it describes Joshua using the topography of the area to hide an ambush force and draw the soldiers of Ai out of the fortress. This led the men of Ai into a trap, and so Joshua was victorious. After Ai the Israelites did the battle for Gibeon, which was when the long day happened.
Ai has been somewhat of an archeological controversy because archeologists and scholars who’ve looked for Ai have said it doesn’t exist where the Bible seems to indicate. Scholars had been identifying Ai to be at a site called et-Tell that they know does not fit the Biblical account and so it has raised questions about the accuracy of the Bible. Scholars have a great tendancy to underestimate the Bible on historical detail and assume that what scholars come up with today is more reliable than what the Bible has said. But it is not a good idea to assume scholars today will give more reliable historical information than the Bible. If it appears the historical data is in disagreement with the Bible, it generally just means we don’t have all the relevant information, or someone just hasn’t done a proper investigation of it yet. Assuming the Bible is not historical leads scholars in the wrong direction in history and archeology, just as wrong assumptions about evolution leads scientists in biology or geology in the wrong direction. Regarding the conquest of Canaan by the ancient Jews, either the Exodus is assumed to have never happened at all, or it is understood to be at the wrong time. There are two views Bible scholars and historians tend to have on when the Exodus and conquest of Canaan took place. For the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, one date is around 1200 B.C. and the other is around 1400 B.C. The date that fits the Bible is 1406 B.C. Sadly, this makes the old Cecil B. DeMille movie on the Ten Commandments wrong about the Pharoah of the Exodus. DeMille’s view of the Exodus was incorrect on the date and which Pharoah it was. But many scholars go along with the same view, which puts Rameses as the Pharoah of the Exodus and the Exodus as the later date.
But is there evidence for the earlier date of the Exodus and for the Jews conquering Canaan? Absolutely! I won’t go into all of it on Jericho here, but ABR has good evidence for the fall of Jericho around 1400 B.C. that beautifully fits the Biblical account. The location of Jericho is well known and there is evidence that the walls collapsed and evidence of fire. These and other details fit the Biblical account. ABR has also been excavating at Ai for years at a site that is now called Khirbet el-Maqatir. ABR has found pottery that suggests the 1400 B.C. date. They’ve found clear evidence for the city gate of Ai from large stones that have pivot holes in them used by the city gate. Now there is also evidence from an Egyptian scarab that further strengthens the date at around 1400 B.C. The scarab is about 3/4 of an inch long, oval in shape. The scarab is important because it can be dated well to be from between 1485 and 1418 B.C., according to Associates for Biblical Research. So this provides a means of dating the evidence that is independent of pottery dates. The ABR research on Ai fits what the Bible describes nicely and also agrees with the 1446 B.C. date of the Exodus and the 1406 B.C. date for the start of the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan. To see a picture of the scarab and more archeological evidence in Israel, go to this page from Christianity Today, or this page from ABR.