Another approach is to try to make minor adjustments in the GAD for Israel’s entry into Canaan to account for the discrepancy at one site or another between the Biblical tradition and the archaeological record. This argument is frequently heard with reference to the two best-known conquest sites, Jericho and Ai. Thus, it is sometimes suggested that the Late Bronze Age remains from the 14th century B.C. at Jericho evidence the city Joshua conquered about 1325–1300 B.C. At Ai, a small village existed between about 1200 and 1050 B.C., with a break around 1125 B.C. Perhaps, some suggest, this small village was the one Joshua destroyed about 1125 B.C. The problem with these kinds of adjustments is that they are not applicable overall to a range of sites. They are limited to explaining a single site and are internally inconsistent among sites. The major adjustments for Jericho and Ai, for example, are internally inconsistent. Jericho and Ai were the first and second stops on the route of the Israelite conquest. Their destruction cannot be separated by hundreds of years without overturning the Biblical sequence of events.


Since this paper was written, evidence of 18th Dynasty occupation has been reported at the site of Pi-Ramesse (letter to John Bimson from Manfred Bietak, March 17, 1987) and at Tell er-Retabah, one of the candidates for Pithom (verbal communication to John Bimson from Hans Goedicke, April 24, 1987). This new evidence changes the picture completely and makes it possible that Exodus 1:11 does refer to activity in the 15th century B.C. However, this strengthens rather than weakens our main point, that Exodus 1:11 does not prove a 13th-century B.C. date for the Exodus.


For an excellent discussion of the tactics employed against the Canaanite cities, see Abraham Malamat, “How Inferior Israelite Forces Conquered Fortified Canaanite Cities,” BAR 08:02. The Israelites are said to have besieged only two cities, Lachish and Eglon, and these sieges lasted only two days and one day, respectively (Joshua 10:31–35). The reason why siege warfare was effective in these instances is that the armies of these two cities had already been defeated by Joshua, and their kings put to death (Joshua 10:1–26). If forces existed to defend these cities, they would have been greatly reduced and thoroughly demoralized.


According to Zevit, the Hebrew letter ayin ([), the first letter of Ai in Hebrew, was polyphonous in Biblical times—that is, it had two sounds, a guttural sound and a g-type sound, as in Arabic gazza (English, Gaza). The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint distinguishes between the two sounds and uses a gamma to translate the Hebrew ayin. Thus, concludes Zevit, the Hebrew name was pronounced Gai, not Ai, probably referring to some topological feature of the site.


On this mountain, between Bethel and Ai Abraham built an altar and for the first time invoked the Lord by his name, Yahweh.


Bryant G. Wood’s recent findings concerning Jericho suggest a somewhat different approach to redating and explaining the MB II C destructions. These findings are contained in his paper “Jericho Revisited: The Archaeology and History of Jericho in the Late Bronze Age,” read at the Symposium Who Was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? held in Memphis, Tennessee, April 23–25, 1987, under the auspices of the Near East Archaeological Society (publication forthcoming). Analyzing the recently published pottery from the tell of Jericho, Wood shows that the city fortified in MB II C actually survived through LB I and was destroyed about 1400 B.C. It now seems likely that other cities thought to have been destroyed at the end of MB II C also continued into Late Bronze I, and were destroyed in that archaeological period. This may be the case also at Khirbet Nisya, where local LB I pottery seems to continue after MB II C.

Thus instead of considering a wholesale redating of the end of MB II C, we should perhaps be thinking in terms of extending the occupation of several MB II C cities down through LB I. It nevertheless seems certain (in the light of Bietak’s work) that MB II C ended in the 15th rather than in the 16th century B.C. so that we have at least two waves of destruction within that century, the first at the end of MB II C and the second at the end of LB I. The first wave may in fact have resulted from campaigns by Thutmosis III or his successors, with only the second being the work of the Israelites. Much more detailed work, of the sort done by Wood on the Jericho pottery, is now required to clarify the situation.



For the most recent and detailed analysis of the Late Bronze Age remains at Jericho, see Piotr Bienkowski, Jericho in the Late Bronze Age (Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips, 1986).


Joseph A. Callaway, “New Evidence on the Conquest of Ai,” Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968), pp. 312–320; for further discussion, see Yigael Yadin, “Is the Biblical Account of the Israelite Conquest of Canaan Historically Reliable?” BAR 08:02; Ziony Zevit, “The Problem of Ai,” BAR 11:02.


In 1960 when Late Bronze Age material was found in some tombs at Gibeon, Pritchard believed he had discovered the first traces of Joshua’s city; but the following excavation seasons were to disappoint his expectations. See James B. Pritchard, “Culture and History,” in The Blble in Modern Scholarship, ed. J. P. Hyatt (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1965), pp. 318–319.


Pritchard, “Culture and History,” p. 319.


Philip C. Hammond, excavation reports under “Hebron” in Revue Biblique 72 (1965), pp. 267–270; ibid., 73 (1966), pp. 566–569; ibid., 75 (1968), pp. 253–258.


Yohanan Aharoni, Volkmar Fritz and Aaron Kempinski, “Tel Masos (Khirbet et-Meshash),” Israel Exploration Journal (IEJ) 22 (1972), p. 243; Excavations in the Negev: Beersheba and Tel Masos (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology, 1974), pp. 13–14.


Aharoni and Ruth Amiran, “Arad,” in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah, Vol. 1 (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 74–89.


“Where Is Biblical Debir?” BAR 01:01; Moshe Kochavi, “Khirbet Rabud + Debir,” Tel Aviv 1 (1974), pp. 2–33, and the comment by Edward F. Campbell, “Moses and the Foundations of Israel,” Interpretation 29/2 (1975), p. 152.


William F. Albright, “Further Light on the History of Israel from Lachish and Megiddo,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 68 (1937), p. 24.


See David Ussishkin, “Lachish—Key to the Israelite Conquest of Canaan?” BAR 13:01; “Excavations at Tel Lachish 1978–83: Second Preliminary Report,” Tel Aviv 10 (1983), pp. 169–170.


While the recent excavations at Lachish have redated the end of the final Late Bronze stratum (stratum VI) to c. 1150 B.C., they have also indicated a destruction of the previous stratum (stratum VII A) in the 13th century B.C. It remains to be seen whether this earlier destruction should be dated to c. 1230–1220 B.C., i.e., to coincide with the date usually favored for the conquest. But even if this proves to be the case, it will only increase the number of suitable destructions from two, to three, and will not substantially affect the present argument. Note, however, that Bryant G. Wood, Palestinian Potter of the Late Bronze Age: An Investigation of the Terminal LB II B Phase, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto, 1985, pp. 468–472, also lowers the destruction of Bethel (Beitin) from the 13th century B.C. into the 12th century B.C. on the basis of the ceramic evidence, thus taking another city out of the 13th century scenario.


Norman K. Gottwald, “Were the Early Israelites Pastoral Nomads?” BAR 04:02; P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., “A Major New Introduction to the Bible: Norman Gottwald’s Sociological-Literary Perspective,” Bible Review, Summer 1986, pp. 42–50; Bernhard W. Anderson, “Mendenhall Disavows Paternity: Says He Didn’t Father Gottwald’s Marxist Theory,” ibid., pp. 46–50. For an admirable discussion of these theories, see George W. Ramsey, The Quest for the Historical Israel (Atlanta: John Knox, 1982), pp. 77–98.


For a more detailed presentation of the following arguments, see John J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest, 2nd ed. (Sheffield, U.K.: Almond Press, 1981), hereafter Redating. The present article also contains the results of more recent research which will be treated in detail in a third edition of Redating, now in preparation.


For the location of Pi-Ramesse and the excavations at the site, see Manfred Bietak, “Archaeological Exploration in the Eastern Nile Delta,” Proceedings of the British Academy 45 (1979), pp. 225–289.


For Goedicke’s finds at Tell er-Retabah, see Hershel Shanks, “The Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea, According to Hans Goedicke,” BAR 07:05; on Tell el-Maskhuta, see John S. Holladay, Tell el-Maskhuta: Preliminary Report on the Wadi Tumilat Project 1978–79 (Malibu, CA: Undena Publications, 1982), pp. 44–50.


The woman and her dog had both been killed by blows from a chisel-type, shaft-hole battle-axe, a type commonly associated with the Hyksos. King Seqenenre of the native 17th Dynasty (c. 1575–1550 B.C.) received fatal blows from the same kind of weapon. See Holladay, Tell el-Maskhuta, pp. 44–47 and figs. 73–74. For the suggestion that this find may be connected with the enslavement of the Hebrews by the Hyksos, see Ian Wilson, Exodus: The True Story Behind the Biblical Account (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), pp. 65–66.


See Bimson, Redating, p. 67; also Mo‘awiyah Ibrahim, James Sauer and Khair Yassine, “The East Jordan Valley Survey, 1975,” BASOR 222 (1976), p. 54; Terence M. Kerestes et al., “An Archaeological Survey of Three Reservoir Areas in Northern Jordan, 1978,” Annual of Dept. of Antiquities, Jordan (ADAJ) 22 (1977–78), pp. 108–135, tables 1, 2 and 3; Gerald L. Mattingly, “The Exodus-Conquest and the Archaeology of Transjordan: New Light on an Old Problem,” Grace Theological Journal 4/2 (1983), pp. 245–262.


J. Maxwell Miller, “Recent Archaeological Developments Relevant to Ancient Moab,” in Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan, 1, ed. A. Hadidi (Amman: Dept. cf Antiquities, 1982) p. 172.


Nelson Glueck, The Other Side of Jordan, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1970), p. 141. The first edition (1940) of this work contained Glueck’s original view. For Middle and Late Bronze Age sites discovered by Glueck himself, see Thomas L. Thompson, “Observations on the Bronze Age in Jordan,” ADAJ 19 (1974), pp. 66–67 and references cited there.


Donald Redford, “Contact Between Egypt and Jordan in the New Kingdom: Some Comments on Sources,” in Hadidi, Studies in History and Archaeology, pp. 118–119; Kenneth A. Kitchen, “Some New Light on the Asiatic Wars of Ramesses II,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 50 (1964), pp. 53, 63; Kitchen, “Two Notes on Ramesside History,” Oriens Antiquus 15 (1976), pp. 313–314.


Robert Ibach, “An Intensive Surface Survey at Jalul,” in Heshbon 1976, ed. L. T. Geraty (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1978), pp. 215–222.


See Bimson, Redating, pp. 51–55; also Wood, Palestinian Pottery, pp. 356, 553.


Patricia M. Bikai in a review of Bimson, Redating, in Orientalia 49 (1980), p. 214 (our emphasis).


Cf. Wood, Palestinian Pottery, pp. 593–599.


See William H. Shea, “Exodus, Date of the,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), pp. 233–237; for Goedicke’s theory, see Shanks, “The Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea, According to Hans Goedicke,” BAR 07:05.


An argument for placing the Exodus during the sole reign of Thutmosis III will be included in Bimson, Redating, 3rd ed.


Rivka Gonen, “Urban Canaan in the Late Bronze Period,” BASOR 253 (1984), pp. 61–73.


Aharoni, “Nothing Early and Nothing Late,” Biblical Archaeologist 39 (1976), p. 73.


Aharoni, “Nothing Early and Nothing Late,” p. 73. Most of the MB II enclosure at Tel Masos was destroyed by erosion, and only 18th-century B.C. pottery was found. We are assuming that occupation continued to the end of MB II, as at Tel Malhata, but the three seasons of excavation in the 1970s admittedly produced no evidence for this.


Judea, Samaria and the Golan, Archaeological Survey 1967–68, ed. Kochavi (Jerusalem: Carta, 1972) (in Hebrew), p. 74, site no. 215.


Cf. James Weinstein, “The Egyptian Empire in Palestine: A Reassessment,” BASOR 241 (1981), pp. 45.


Zevit, “The Problem of Ai,” BAR 11:02; also note the earlier objections of Joshua M. Grintz, “Ai which is beside Beth-Aven,” Biblica 42 (1961), pp. 201–216.


Edward Robinson Biblical Researches in Palestine I (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1856), pp. 449–450.


Albright, “The Israelite Conquest of Canaan in the Light of Archaeology,” BASOR 74 (1953), p. 14. For several examples of the transfer of names, see Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 2nd ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1979), pp. 123–124.


It is also possible that “Beitin” is not the Arabic equivalent of “Bethel” at all. J. Alberto Soggin, Joshua (London: SCM Press, 1972), pp. 102–103, points out that although the transformation from Hebrew lamed to Arabic nun certainly occurs, “this does not always necessarily happen. Terminations in -el and derivatives are also to be found in Arabic.” Soggin thus suggests there may be no connection between the two names, despite their similarity. See also, David Livingston, “Location of Biblical Bethel and Ai Reconsidered,” Westminster Theological Journal (WTJ 33/1 (1970), p. 32, note 46).


Robinson, Biblical Researches, pp. 449–450.


Robinson, Physical Geography of the Holy Land (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1865), p. 41.


A low ridge to the northeast of Beitin cannot qualify, for it would not be described as a mountain (Hebrew, har), and since et-Tell lies southeast of Beitin this ridge is in no sense between the two sites. Zevit implies that a low hill immediately west of et-Tell is the mountain in question (see “The Problem of Ai,” BAR 11:02), but this is also probably too small to be described as a har, and in any case is about two miles from Beitin and thus does not suit the wording of Genesis 12:8, which requires a mountain close to Bethel.


Zechariah Kallai, “Kateph,” IEJ 15 (1965), p. 178.


Bireh is sometimes assumed to be the site of Biblical Beeroth, but Eusebius (Onomasticon 48.9) clearly places Beeroth much farther south. It should lie between modern Biddu and Nebi Samwil. Aharoni, Land of the Bible, p. 431, places it at Khirbet el-Burj.


For a much fuller discussion of the points raised here against locating Bethel at Beitin, and in favor of its location at Bireh, see Livingston, “Location of Bibbcal Bethel,” and “Traditional Site of Bethel Questioned,” WTJ 34/1 (1971), pp. 39–50. The latter is a response to Anson F. Rainey, “Bethel Is Still Beitin,” WTJ 33/2 (1971), pp. 175–188.


Kochavi, Judea, Samaria and the Golan, p. 178, site no. 94.


When this site was first proposed in 1970, its name was unknown and so it was described as “unnamed” (Livingston, “Location of Biblical Bethel,” p. 43). However, on a map produced by Claude R. Conder and Horatio, Lord Kitchener (The Survey of Western Palestine [London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1883]) the site is featured and given the name “Khirbet Nisieh,” which is here modernized as Khirbet Nisya.


Independently of any archaeological considerations, John W. Wenham noted some years ago the apparent discrepancy between Joshua 7:3 and 8:25. The latter verse gives the population of Ai as 12,000. Wenham plausibly suggested that an original figure of 1,200 had been changed to the larger total by textual corruption, citing other places where numbers have been distorted by a factor of ten (e.g., compare 2 Samuel 10:18 with 1 Chronicles 19:18). See Wenham, “Large Numbers in the Old Testament,” Tyndale Bulletin 18 (1967), pp. 21 and 41. For the possibility that the “thirty thousand” in Joshua 8:3 should be translated as “thirty picked troops,” see the same article by Wenham, p. 26.


For example, Rainey in a review of Bimson, Redating, in IEJ 30 (1980), p. 250; Zevit, “The Problem of Ai,” BAR 11:02.


The results of the first six seasons are now being prepared for publication by Livingston.


A multiple burial on the eastern side of the hill contained pottery from the end of LB II, i.e., just before the beginning of the Iron Age. However, the burial alone need not indicate occupation of the site at that time since burials often occurred away from settlements during the Late Bronze Age. The only other pottery that could be classed as Late Bronze would appear to be from the MB–LB transitional period. It is therefore in harmony with our suggestion that the site was destroyed and abandoned at the very end of MB II.


It is frequently assumed that the Ai of the late monarchy and post-Exilic periods was not located at et-Tell but at another site somewhere in the general area. While a shift in location is theoretically possible, no site with suitable occupation periods has yet been found in the vicinity of et-Tell. See Zevit, “Archaeological and Literary Stratigraphy in Joshua 7–8, ” BASOR 251 (1983), p. 34, note 14. Some commentators have assumed that the Aiath mentioned in Isaiah 10:28 is Ai, but if Ai is to be located at Khirbet Nisya, Aiath must be distinguished from it. The topographical list of Isaiah 10:28–32 suggests a site for Aiath near Deir Dibwan, and a possible candidate is Khirbet Haiyan where some Iron Age II sherds were found, see Kochavi, Judea, Samaria and the Golan, p. 178, site No. 96. (We owe this suggestion to Gordon Franz.) A more detailed investigation of the site than hitherto undertaken would be needed to check this possibility.


The reoccupation of Khirbet Nisya, from the Iron Age onwards, though in harmony with the Biblical references given above, may seem discordant with the statement that Joshua “burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day” (Joshua 8:28). However, this is only a problem if one assumes a late origin for this verse. Yehezkiel Kaufman, The Biblical Account of the Conquest of Palestine (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1953), presented a strong case for archaic elements in the Book of Joshua and argued for an original composition early in the period of the Judges. Such a date for the statement in Joshua 8:28 would agree with finds at Khirbet Nisya, that suggest no resettlement before c. 1200 B.C. Out of respect for the ancient text, later editors left the statement unchanged.


Redford, “Contact Between Egypt and Jordan,” p. 117.


Shea, “The Conquests of Sharuhen and Megiddo Reconsidered,” IEJ 29 (1979), pp. 1–4; see also Bimson, Redating, pp. 125–126, 151.


Bietak, “Avaris and Piramesse,” pp. 232–237. Bietak has refined and supported his revision in “Problems of Middle Bronze Age Chronology New Evidence from Egypt,” American Journal of Archaeology 88 (1984), pp. 471–485.


Kathleen M. Kenyon, “Palestine in the Time of the Eighteenth Dynasty,” in Cambridge Ancient History, ed. I. E. S. Edwards et al., 3rd ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1973), vol. 2, part 1, pp. 541–542.


William G. Dever, “The MB II C Stratification in the Northwest Gate Area at Shechem,” BASOR 216 (1974), pp. 45, 48.


A major implication of our scheme is the redating of certain Cypriot pottery styles, including the so-called Bichrome Ware, which appeared in Palestine at the end of MB II C. Bichrome Ware’s arrival at a supposed date of 1550 B.C. has sometimes been used as a criterion for dating the fall of the MB II cities to that time. As shown in detail in Bimson, Redating, pp. 137–171, this argument is circular, since the date of Bichrome Ware’s arrival is not independently fixed with such precision, and can therefore be redated along with the destruction of the MB II cities. A lengthy discussion of how a lower date for Bichrome Ware can be harmonized with finds at Alalakh (Tell Atchana, in Syria), where ceramic chronology interacts with inscriptional evidence, will be included in the forthcoming third edition of Redating, along with other ramifications of the chronological revision.


Partly published in summary as Gonen, “Regional Patterns of Burial Customs in Late Bronze Age Canaan,” Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society (1984/85), pp. 70–74, and partly in “Urban Canaan,” see endnote 28.


For further discussion, see Bimson, Redating, pp. 220–223, and sources cited there.


For discussions of the social changes indicated by the hill-country settlements, see Thomas L. Thompson, “Historical Notes on Israel’s Conquest of Palestine: A Peasants’ Rebellion?” JSOT 7 (1978), pp. 20–27; Keith W. Whitelam, “Recreating the History of Israel,” JSOT 35 (1896), pp. 45–70, especially pp. 60–62 and sources cited there.