Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.3

3) Date of the Exodus and the Conquest (approx. 40 years from the Exodus)

In order to discuss the Conquest, one must first determine the date of the Exodus. According to William Dever, the date for the Exodus can be obtained from the chronology found in the OT. But such chronology does not correspond to available archaeological findings. Dever wrote:
“Work began on the Jerusalem Temple in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, and that was 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings 6.1). Since we know that Solomon died in 930 BCE (14.25-28; “Shishak” = Sheshonq I, now ca. 945-924 BCE), and he reigned 40 years (11.42), he would have ascended the throne in 970 BCE. Thus we add 480 to 966 to get 1446 BCE – the exact date of the Exodus. But such a high date does not accord at all with the archaeological record in Palestine…All authorities today agree that…[the Exodus occurred]…at the end of the Bronze Age, ca. 1250-1150 BCE.”
(Dever, 2003:8; see similar accounts in Provan et al, 2003:131; Finkelstein & Silberman, 2001:56-57; Bright, 2000:133)
Although a 13th century BC date is consented by majority of archaeologists and biblical scholars, there are still others (archaeologists in general and Christian apologists in particular) who argue for a 15th century BC date. One such scholar is the famous Christian apologist (right picture) Norman Geisler (see his encyclopaedia’s articles ‘Pharaoh of the Exodus’ and ‘Archaeology, Old Testament’). But such conclusion is untenable. I will extend discussion on this issue under the topic ‘Archaeology and the Conquest data’ below.

Another scholar who contends for an early period for the Exodus is Bryant Wood (right picture), the director of the Associates for Biblical Research whose expertise is in ancient ceramic. Based on carbon-14 dating techniques, Wood dates a piece of charcoal recovered from the excavated site of Jericho to about 1440 BC, a result contradicts the findings of the late Kathleen Kenyon.

With this early date, Wood managed to pin the burning of Jericho to the 15th century, the early date of the Israelites’ massive military invasion in the land as recorded in the OT. However, as with all archaeological findings, Wood’s hypothesis is not exempted from its provisional state.

In 1995, Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht conducted a more effective and extensive carbon-14 dating process. This time, 18 specimens from the same excavated site were examined. Significantly among them, there were 6 charred cereal grains being examined. These grains are more reliable to provide accurate date than charcoal, the specimen that Bryant Wood employed 5 years earlier. At the end of the project, Bruins and van der Plicht conclude that the destruction of Jericho is precisely at the date Kathleen Kenyon (right picture) estimated, that is in the 16th century BC. (See their 1995 essay. Further discussion of Bryant Wood’s carbon-14 dating and his discovery of ‘Jericho’s wall’ can be found at http://www.netours.com/jrs/2003/jericho-debate.htm).


Therefore there is no evidence to suggest for an early date of the Exodus. On the other hand, we possess artifactual data such as the socio-economical shifts in the 13th and subsequent centuries in Canaan, which raises the probability for the Exodus to happened at that time.

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