I've been taught that at the time the Israelites would have come upon Jericho, it was little more than an unfortified, and very sparsely populated town, whereas the biblical account makes it sound like a thriving, well fortified place. How do I reconcile this with scripture? Could it be that the archaeological research is wrong? Are there other possible and plausible dates for when Joshua would have come through this area than the 15th or 13th centuries BC so as to match more correctly with the biblical record? Or is there another way of reading the text here that would explain these apparent discrepancies? -- Rob Orr (Florida State University)

There are two major proposals for the dating of the Conquest under Joshua: the late 15th century BC (approximately 1406) and the 13th century; scholars are divided. So how you interpret the evidence will hinge somewhat on which century you believe the Bible indicates for the Conquest. I believe the biblical account is correct; Jericho was a major urban center and militarily a strategic target for the invading Israelites (Joshua 6).

As for the population, the second city of the region was Ai (Joshua 7), and had a total of 12,000 adult inhabitants. (Not impressive for a city population in our day!) Jericho was certainly bigger. Does a city (town) of 25 or 50,000 sound impressive? Probably not. In the 8th century BC, a much more significant power in the area was Assyria; Nineveh had some 120,000 inhabitants -- ten times the size of Ai, perhaps several times the population of Jericho.

There are many great books to read on the subject, and I would point you to the excellent work by Randall Price, Digging Deeper. In short, scholars often tend to minimize the truth content of the Scriptures. And yet such skepticism is not warranted.

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