Judges 1:8, The Conquest of Canaan (part II of III)

Now the children of Judah fought against Jerusalem and took it; they struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire.

//We’re discussing the historicity of Joshua’s invasion of the promised land. Yesterday, we concluded that the most likely date of Israel’s entry into Canaan was the late 13th century. The problem is, the books of Numbers, Joshua, and Judges describe the destruction of sixteen different cities in Canaan, but only three or four of them (Hazor, Lachish, Bethel, and maybe Debir) show any evidence of destruction in this period. The Bible also describes Jerusalem and Dan as conquests (see today’s verse, and also 18:27-29, and Joshua 19:47), but these were very minor settlements in the thirteenth century and show no evidence of attack.

The Bible also reports that twelve cities were occupied by the Israelites without attack, but historians say only seven of the twelve had any inhabitants at the time. Curiously, three of the twelve (Beth-shemesh, Gezer, and Meggido) were razed to the ground in this time frame! Why does the Bible say their entry by Israel was peaceful? Another twelve cities, not even mentioned in Joshua and Judges, also show evidence of destruction, though several are near the coastline and were probably conquered by the Sea Peoples. So in many cases, the cities that the Bible says were destroyed were not; the ones that were, the Bible says were not.

It turns out that less than one third of the Bible’s claims of conquest can be confirmed by archaeology; and what’s worse, the archaeological evidence we have found contradicts the Bible. While there were battles during this period in history, they don’t seem to be where the Bible places them, and there was nothing close to the sweeping genocide described in the book of Joshua.

Is the conquest of Canaan all a fable, then? Or is the Bible exaggerating what really happened? Some possible explanations tomorrow.

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