Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 10, 1952
NUMBER 35, PAGE 10-11b

Archaeology And The Fall Of Jericho

Bill J. Humble, St. Petersburg, Florida

One of the most unique military campaigns in all history culminated in the capture and destruction of the city of Jericho by the army of Israel under the leadership of Joshua. These events occurred about 1400 B.C. and are recorded in Joshua 6. The uniqueness of this particular campaign is readily explained; for it was through miraculous events that Jericho fell into the hands of the Israelites after they had obeyed God's instructions for the capture of the city. These instructions were given to Joshua by the Lord and were as follows: "And ye shall compass the city, all the men of war, going about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams horns before the ark: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And it shall be, that, when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him." (Josh. 6:3-5) Any military commander giving similar instructions today would justly be accused of treason or insanity; but not so the Lord! Such a campaign, successfully pursued, would demonstrate to the Israelites that the city had fallen through God's power and would emphasize anew the truth that "God's ways are not our ways, neither his thoughts our thoughts."

Fall Of The City

Obedient to the Lord's instructions, the Israelites compassed Jericho once daily for six days. At the order of their commander, Joshua, they did not shout nor even converse with one another as they marched each day. How strange and terrifying this procedure must have appeared to the already demoralized inhabitants of the doomed city! After bracing for an expected attack, and after seeing the invader appear before their city, the only sound from the threatening army being that of seven priestly trumpeters.

On the seventh day the army of Israel continued their marching until the city had been compassed seven times, after which the priests blew the trumpets. "And it came to pass when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city." (Josh. 6:20) Thus was fulfilled the promise of the Lord, made at least a week earlier, "See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor." (Josh. 6:2)

The Voice Of Archaeology

There are few narratives in the Bible, which have been ridiculed more completely or unmercifully by modernistic critics than that of Jericho's fall. Modernists, beginning with a bias against the miraculous, scoff at the possibility of such events as the Bible records and attempt to dismiss the narrative as "just another myth" which has crept into the Bible. Fortunately, however, for the believer in the verbal inspiration of the scriptures, archaeologists have uncovered the site of ancient Jericho; and their findings have gone far toward establishing the historical accuracy of the Bible's account of the fall of the city.

The first work at Jericho was attempted in 1907 by Prof. Ernst Sellin and a German archaeological society. Their work was continued (1930-1936) by Prof. John Garstang, and it is he who is credited with the rediscovery of ancient Jericho's fate. When Garstang came to the walls which had existed and been destroyed at a period contemporary with Joshua, the discoveries were amazing.

So amazing were they, in fact, that the three prominent archaeologists associated with the party (including Garstang) prepared a careful statement of exactly what they had discovered. A part of this signed statement follows:

"The outer wall suffered most, its remains falling down the slope. The inner wall is preserved only where it abuts upon the citadel, or tower, to a height of eighteen feet; elsewhere it is found largely to have fallen, together with the remains of buildings upon it, into the space between the walls which was filled with ruins and debris. Traces of intense fire are plain to see, including reddened masses of brick, cracked stones, charred timbers and ashes. Houses alongside the wall are found burned to the grounds their roofs fallen upon the domestic pottery within...As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city." (Quoted by Free, Joseph, Archaeology and Bible History, p. 130)

This statement and others from Dr. Garstang have confirmed the Bible record in the following ways. (1) The walls of Jericho collapsed and "fell outwards" as if being pushed by some gigantic force from within the city. Had an attacking army been battering the walls down, their efforts would have pushed the ruins of the walls within the city, instead of their falling outward. Archaeology, then confirms the fact that Jericho's walls were destroyed by some such force as that described in the Bible. (2) In reality there were two parallel walls around Jericho. The twelve or fifteen feet between the walls had been bridged with timbers and houses had been built upon the wall in an effort to alleviate the crowded housing condition in the city. How remarkably this confirms the Biblical statement that Rahab the harlot's house was built "upon the wall." (Josh. 2:15) (3) Archaeological evidences point to an intense fire at Jericho at the time the walls collapsed, and the Bible states specifically that the Israelites "burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein." (Josh. 6:24) (4) Garstang's conclusion is that the city was destroyed about 1400 B.C. This date, of course, fits with remarkable accuracy into the general picture of Bible Chronology. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, for example, dates the exodus 1448 B.C., which would necessitate a date of 1408 or 1407 for Jericho's capture.

An Example Of Faith

In Paul's great catalogue of faith, the fall of Jericho is included: "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days." (Heb. 11:30) It is to be observed, however, that God destroyed the walls after they had compassed the city about seven days. This is but another illustration of that principle announced so often in the Bible: saving faith is an obedient faith. There is no doubt that men are saved today through faith; for "without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him." But as the faith of the Israelites availed in the destruction of Jericho's walls only after they had obeyed completely the Lord's commandments; so our faith avails in the salvation of our souls only when it impels one to obedience of the gospel.

The captors of Jericho are witnesses to the power of an obedient faith. "Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:1-2)