What is your view on the widely held belief that the conquering of the
Canaanites at Jericho is not supported by the archeological
excavations and finds at Jericho? The Israelites were supposed to have
entered Jericho in 1407 BC, but many archeologists believe they didn’t
enter until 1230-1220 BC. Kathleen Kenyon’s research in 1952-1958
concluded that Jericho was destroyed in 1550 BC (probably from an
earthquake as Jericho sits on a faultline) and there was no city to
conquer by the time the Israelites arrived. What about DNA evidence that
the Canaanites and Israelites were the same people?


There are two views of the timing of the conquest of the Promised Land by
Joshua. Actually, there are three, since some deny that this event
happened at all. I will not go into the reasons I reject this third
theory now. You can see my chapter on history and archaeology in “Reasons
for Belief” ( for a copy) for that.

The two common dates given for the conquest are some time near the end of
the 15th century BC and some time in the 13th century BC. It is true that
Kathleen Kenyon concluded in the 1950’s that Jericho was destroyed in 1550
BC. However, her conclusion was based on what she did NOT find, which was
imported pottery from Cyprus. More recent work by Bryant G. Wood (“Did
the Israelites Conquer Jericho?” Biblical Archaeology Review
(September/October 1990) 45-59.) showed two kinds of physical evidence
which makes Kenyon’s conclusion questionable. First, the Canaaninte
pottery shards found in the ruins of Jericho from the time it was burned
put the date of the destruction at around 1400 BC. Second, carbon-14
radiometric dating showed that the city was burned around 1410 BC. The
evidence for this as the date of the destruction of Jericho is looking
very strong.

Those who support a later date for the destruction of Jericho do so,
perhaps partly because until the past fifteen years or so, many believed
that the date of the second half of the fifteenth century BC was ruled
out. Once archaeologists commit themselves to a particular theory, it
can be hard for them to change their views. In addition, many
archaeologists are skeptical that the Hebrews could have been in Canaan as
early as 1400 BC, causing them to prefer a later date. I cannot
absolutely rule out the later date, but given the physical evidence in
Jericho and the most likely chronology of biblical events, I believe the
earlier date is most likely correct.

There is other physical evidence for the earlier date, aroung 1410 BC for
the conquest of Jericho. This is found in the ruins of Hazor. According
to the account in Joshua, there were three cities destyroyed completely by
fire at the time of the conquest. One of these was Hazor. This city has
been excavated carefully by the archaeologist Yigael Yadin. At Hazor he
found evidence of a massive destruction by fire. To quote Yadin, “There
is evidence of a massive destruction. I once called it the mother of all
destruction.” (see Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out (Harvest House, 1997)
for references, as well as my book, Reasons for Belief). This destruction
occurred at about the same time as that of Jericho.

About the genetic similarity between the “Canaanites” and the Israelites,
I would have to see the evidence there. I am not sure what study you are
referring to. It would be extremely difficult to define a Canaanite in a
modern context. Perhaps the study is of present-day Palestinians or of
Arabs from Jordan or Palestine. The Jewish people have mixed their
bloodlines with many peoples of the Middle East. I would not be surprised
at all to find that there is a lot of genetic similarity between them and
other people in the Levant. Abraham lived in Canaan and many of his
family members, which included servants from Canaan, would have had
genetic similarity to the tribes in that area. I am not sure what one
could conclude from genetic similarity between Israelites and Canaanites.
That is exactly what one would expect.

There is quite a bit of other evidence which supports the general
description of the events of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan by the
Hebrews. More information can be found in my book and The Stones Cry Out
(references above). It would be an overstatement to say that the conquest
is proven in detail by archaeology. It is more accurate to say that
archaeology supports but does not prove the events described in the Old
Testament happened in the second half of the fifteenth century BC.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.