Bronze Age Veracity
Economic, military and political factors point to the 
veracity of Joshua and Judges in the formation of Israel as a Nation.

Dr. Neil Soggie

 comment.gif© 2003, N. Soggie. All rights reserved

The problem with current theories

There is a vast divergence of opinion between archaeologists and many biblical scholars of academia concerning the topic of this paper. Fortunately, the whole principle of collegial dialogue and academic debate ensures that controversies will always exist, lest we stop thinking and all agree. In the realm Israelite origins however the range of opinions is almost incalculable. The debate ranges from the fundamentalist to the “scholarly consensus” of a 13th century emergence of the nation to the most extreme minimalist argument that it never happened.

The purpose of this origins cliodialogue (literally the discussion of concepts of history relating to the origins of Israel) will be to focus on two issues central to the historiography of biblical literature. The first is the nature and date of Israelite exodus/Canaanite conquest, and the second is the natural corollary, the evolution of Israel as a nation. For it is clear that the current models fail to satisfy the need for clarity on the issue. As such, this paper will bring focus to the issue with a proposed six stage process for the evolution of Israel from historical obscurity to the physical culture of the central highlands in the 11th century B.C.E.:

  • Stage One - Initial Conquest

  • Stage Two - Initial Division

  • Stage Three - Sturm und Drang

  • Stage Four - Collapse and Latency

  • Stage Five - Oppression

  • Stage Six - Sedentarization

Across this vast range of opinions, what is most often critiqued is the traditional interpretation of the biblical literature, portraying the conquest as a large-scale military incursion. This concept has seen many revisions over the decades, the result of a growing number of archaeologists contending that the Joshua invasion is inconsistent with the archaeological record.1 It is therefore evident that a cliodialogue must be opened on the issue of conquest and settlement. For the historical theories fail to meet the needs of modern scholars.

Generally scholars agree that there are strong inconsistencies between the literary record and the archaeological evidence, and scholasticism has birthed four pervading theories. The first theory is that the conquest was the fabrication of later ideological imagination. Termed “conquest by imagination theory” by T.L. Thompson, this theory has struggled for significant acceptance as it depends on a selective use of archaeological data and an over-reliance on the dubious argument of climactic change.2 However its radical departure from the traditional “norms” of scholasticism assures that it is a constant conversation piece at academic conferences.

In contrast, the other three theories explaining the emergence of Israel in Canaan are relatively popular. The first is the “peaceful migration” model, which is associated with the German scholars Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth. Appealing to such evidence as the Amarna letters, they concluded that the Israelite settlement of Canaan was due to a gradual immigration into the land, not a military offensive. Alt and Noth further theorized that the Israelites must have been pastoral nomads who slowly filtered into the settled land from the desert, seeking pastures for their sheep. After a long period of uneasy coexistence with the indigenous population, the Israelites eventually overran, and destroyed, the Canaanite city-states.3 This migration theory has gained in popularity and influence through the years, but clearly is at odds with the literary record of the biblical book of Joshua and its idealized image of battles and military victories.

The “Indigenous Revolt” hypothesis is the third concept for the formation of Israel. Popularized by George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald, this concept introduces the theory that actually redefines the ethnic origin of the Israelite nation. This model suggests that there was no external conquest of Canaan; it was an indigenous liberation movement among depressed Canaanite peasants living in the countryside. These peasants, who formed the lowest level of their culture’s highly stratified social order, engaged in an egalitarian rebellion, overthrew their urban overlords, and became “Israelites.” This theory, which repudiates the biblical literary scenario, has its academic defenders who argue that it is most compatible with archaeological data.4

The fourth theory was the “two-pronged” exodus popularized by Albright, but now largely abandoned. The first pillar in Albright’s theory is the internal biblical statement of Exodus 11 that the people built a store city (and the Bible states that it was named Raamses) presumably after the 13th century B.C.E. Pharaoh. The second pillar in Albright’s decision for a 13th century B.C.E. date was Glueck’s discovery that the Edomite territory was not settled with a sedentary population until the 13th century B.C.E.5 In addition, Albright affirmed that the “Habiru” mentioned in the Amarna letters refers to the Hebrew people who escaped Egypt earlier. In this argument then Albright draws close to Meyers conclusion that the Israelite exodus is equivalent to the Hyksos expulsion from Egypt. However, in order to affirm the evidence Albright then buys into the suggestion of Sayce6 of a two pronged exodus: A. the first prong roughly equivalent to the Hyksos expulsion; B. the exodus of Judah led by Moses in 1290 B.C.E. The problem with Albright’s enthusiasm, to embrace the Exodus 11 statement as a dateable indication of the exodus, does not bode well for this father of biblical archaeology. Albright’s conclusion leaves out a very simple consideration that every biblical scholar must wrestle with, the influence of redactors in the writing and transmission of the text. Secondly, it omits the consideration of a name change of an older store city (thereby changing the building date to a more ancient milieu).

It is clear that the main stream scholarly views attempt to corroborate the two most foreboding issues: A. the existence of Israel, and B. the archaeological data. However, all the aforementioned views, not to mention the traditional biblical interpretation of the conquest of Canaan, cause severe problems for some area of information. The egalitarian rebellion approach does little to acknowledge, however stylized it may be, the biblical literature. The traditional biblical interpretation of a sudden intense military conflict against centralized cities and armies seems to defy the archaeological evidence regarding the demographics of the region. Finally the gradual “peaceful” migration model defies the testimony of the Amarna letters (if indeed they are applied to the conquest). Furthermore the migration model ignores the biblical literature and even the 13th century account of the Merneptah stele that Israel existed and was not at peace with the surrounding nations.

Typically, there is a problem with all of the dating mechanisms which place the conquest period in the 13th century. For example, the problem with Albright’s decision process for dating the exodus at 1290 B.C.E. is one of assumptions. For while Glueck’s findings indicate that the Edomite territory was not settled by a sedentary population until the 13th century B.C.E., this assumes two things, if we are relating it to the dating of the exodus. The first assumption is that the Edomites of the exodus record were necessarily a largely sedentary city based people, rather then clan-village based semi-nomadic peoples. Secondly it assumes that the Israelites, upon “conquering the land” immediately gave up their semi-nomadic life-style and became a sedentary population. Both assumptions are unfounded, based on current enthographic knowledge of semi-nomadic peoples, and thereby nullify any “objective” material evidence pointing to a 13th century date for the exodus. However, despite its failures Albright’s model for basing the date on the archaeological evidence has had the lasting effect of turning a 13th century date into the “scholarly consensus” for exodus, conquest and settlement.

The problem with propaganda

At the heart of the “Origins of Israel” controversy is the biblical account of Joshua and its interpretation. Typically the overall account of Joshua leaves the reader with an emotional feeling that is very nationalistic and ideal, despite the subtle hints of problems. The summary of the whole conquest and settlement period traditionally follows a very direct line of understanding. As Philip Davies notes, “The Book of Joshua describes {the conquest} as a kind of blitzkrieg, one Canaanite city after another falling to the Israelite attack.”7 As Walzer notes, “For the modern reader, the conquest of Canaan, with all its attendant slaughter, is the most problematic moment in the history of ancient Israel.”8 From this it is clear that the traditional view of the summary of conquest is one of complete military victory. However, as the text itself indicates, this is far from the reality of the conquest. Therefore any discussion of conquest or Israelite origins requires a re-evaluation of the text to formulate a revised interpretation that can summarize the Joshua account of conquest and settlement more accurately.

The most obvious issue in interpreting Joshua is to remember the motivation of the author(s) and redactors. When writing a history, and particularly when recording a series of events central to a “national identity” it is important to highlight the successes of the campaigns. For the Hebrew people entering Canaan, and indeed for the redactors as well, national identity is clearly a central issue. For the Hebrew people were commanded by their law (assuming of course that Moses is himself a historical figure, which is an issue that is beyond the scope of this article) not to copy the practices of people like the Moabites, though their languages were essentially mutually intelligible dialects of the same language. The call to “kill everything in the land” is also obviously central to the distinctive identity formation process of this budding nation. Indeed, imbedded within the text of Joshua are consistent suggestions that this “identity formation” issue of Israel was deliberately set up to support a cultural standard of pastoralism, and the tribal semi-nomadic lifestyle. This flies in the face the “scholarly consensus” that “Conquest and Settlement” meant a sedentary settlement in towns and villages

This central theme of conquest and victory then obviously leads to what appears to be the “official state version” of the conquest and settlement of Canaan. This account even bears the name of the leading political figure, Joshua, and clearly portrays him as the heroic figure. Accordingly the key issue of national identity is also emphasized. The conclusion in chapter eleven of Joshua makes it clear, that “Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said to Moses … and the land rested from War”. As Walzer notes, this occurs after the official account highlights the thoroughness of the conquest, “they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (6:21); to the battle for the hill country, where they “destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded” (10:40); to the battle for the north, the valley of Jezreel, and the lower Galilee: “Neither left they any to breathe” (11:14).9

The importance of this nationalistic propaganda is obviously part and parcel of the Hebrew identity. Following this line, even the “failures” affirm this goal of national identity as the narrative interlude relating to Achan, in Joshua 7, clearly emphasizes the point that national identity; adherence to mosaic law; and military success are all interconnected. For example, booty from the sedentary population of Jericho was not allowed (on pain of death), yet the loot from the Ai battle was plundered with divine blessing.

It is essential to note that any population at Ai (Khirbet et Tell) would have been of a pastoralist and semi-nomadic peoples (based upon the most current demographic studies of the period from 1500 - 1450 B.C.E.). The biblical text therefore clearly suggests that the Hebrew people had no intention of changing their familiar lifestyle of semi-nomadic pastoralism. Indeed, such a lifestyle was central to their identity as people “distinct” from the Canaanite culture of the urban centers. In light of this additional information, we can see that the source of this nationalistic tone can be from one of two sources: 1. The original author recording a new nationalistic patriotism, and contemporary of the events. 2. A later redactor seeking to stir a sense of nationalistic pride.

Whatever the case may be, the conclusion can be reached that part of the role of these aforementioned excerpts reflect a stirring of national pride and identity. As any literary analyst will recognize, this does not necessarily devalue the text, but helps us understand part of the function of the text. Indeed, this function of the text has obviously worked, for though there are many failures actually mentioned in the text, still the overall traditional interpretation of the text reflects the “total conquest” understanding.

This article argues however, that the actual biblical literary historical account suggests a very different reality than the emotional nationalistic feel found in a broad summary of Joshua. For example, Joshua 16:10 recounts that the Canaanites lived intermingled with the tribe of Ephraim. Further, in Joshua 17: 12-13, the same acknowledgement is made with reference to a number of cities, almost as if there had been no military victories and that the Canaanites still controlled the urban areas.10

In reconstructing the nature and account of the conquest it is important to examine the assumptions that are often brought to the biblical material, and the implied “consumers” of the text in its final form. For the various readings of the text, including the scholastic views that suggest some other model of Israelite origin, have something to say about this issue.11

In addition to the author/ redactor’s intentions already mentioned, those that interpret the text, up until the present age, all manipulate the text in order to fit it into a predetermined framework. However, by evaluating the various perspectives of the leading “origin of Israel” theories, we can possibly find a balance of perspectives. Through this balancing of variables this article will bring an element of control to the natural confounding of person bias.

Indeed, it seems to matter little which theory of Israelite origins one ascribes to, the trend seems to be to fall for the nationalistic propaganda within the text. Even the self-described minimalists like Philip Davies interpret the Joshua testimony in the traditional fashion, thereby resulting in a rigid framework for interpreting the archaeological evidence: “The Book of Joshua describes it as a kind of blitzkrieg, one Canaanite city after another falling to the Israelite attack.”12 certainly encouraged a sense of ethnic identity. Whether these people yet called themselves “Israel,” I have no idea.”13

 While on the surface it appears that Davies has a very rigid view of the Joshua conquest narrative, which is par for the scholastic course. Davies, like most current scholars, rejects the Joshua narrative as historical, largely due to such a rigid understanding of the conquest. However, Davies does show a hint of acknowledgement that there is more to the Joshua account than the nationalistic tone, when he comments on the book of Judges and his understanding of archaeological evidence: “They eventually formed part of the population of two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. But these kingdoms also included an urban population, drawn from people other than the highland farmers. Even the Biblical narrative states clearly that both Israelites and Canaanites lived together throughout the kingdom of Israel. (See, for example, Judges 3: 5-6: “The Israelites settled among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites; they took their daughters to wife and gave their own daughters to their sons …).”14

Evolution of a nation

The need for a new model

It is apparent that the traditional forms for approaching this issue have failed to discern the true nature of the evolution of Israel. Therefore it appears that a new ecological interpretation is central to understanding the evolution of the nation of Israel. However, the test of any model is how well it fits the available evidence, and to what range that evidence extends. As this project presents and elucidates a new model for the evolution of Israel, past theories will also be presented. This progressive evolutionary model will progress from exodus and conquest to the transformation of a semi-nomadic people. For it is this final transformation that causes the eventual Israelite sedentarization in the Iron Age that represents the “scholarly consensus”. For it is at this stage in the 13th century that the physical culture becomes available to affirm the Israel of history.

One central reason why a revised theory of Israelite conquest is needed is because the traditional direct appeal to archaeological destruction layers is not accurate in identifying the nature of Israelite conquest. This is a critical problem for without knowing the true nature of the conquest we do not know what physical evidence applies and therefore cannot fix a date to the conquest based upon archaeology. Indeed, to attempt to identify destruction layers associated with these events is based upon faulty assumptions that are not supported by the overall literary account (as this article has already mentioned). Furthermore, direct appeal to such site-specific data often yields inconclusive or confusing interpretations resulting in a myriad of theories. While some of these theories have received much attention, and the popular date of the exodus and/or origins of Israel are incorporated into these models, this discussion argues that a better methodology can be found through the lens of this article’s proposal.

The proposal is simply that at approximately 1400 B.C.E. Joshua’s conquest defeated/ displaced a hinterland pastoralist population in Canaan. Such a proposal fits virtually all available evidence and provides a template for understanding the evolution of the nation of Israel. Indeed, the economic and political strategies fostered in the initial conquest and settlement periods had a profound effect on the later nature of the people identified as “Israel” and their eventual sedentarization.

In order to clearly evaluate this article’s model of the conquest of semi-nomadic peoples it is obvious that much of the current variability of the period relating to sedentarization must be cleared up. For the historical inconsistency of interpretations relating to surveys of early Israelite settlements has itself caused a great deal of confusion. For example, Aharoni’s survey of the emergence of sites in close proximity to each other suggests that the late thirteenth century was the time of Israelite settlement.15 This difficulty comes largely from the fact that much of the Iron I culture displays continuity with the Canaanite culture of the Late Bronze period. Therefore, while Yadin argued for an earlier date for various sites,16 others interpreted these sites as much later. However, Brimson argues that Bryant Wood’s model for dating these sites has finally brought some refined insight to this issue of variability, setting the start of Israelite sedentarization at the transition point between the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C.E.17

In light of this structure of dating the sedentarization of Israel, this project proposes the following model for a legacy of semi-nomadic conquest. This proposal has six stages of evolution from exodus to sedentarization. The first stage was obviously the crossing of the Jordan and the “Initial Conquest” of semi-nomadic peoples throughout Canaan. This first stage included the division of the land via military infiltration and Hivite political alliances. The warfare in this initial stage was typified by weakening the ability of city-states to mount a unified counter-offensive. This initial phase had as a goal the displacement of the hinterland pastoralists, control of rural water resources and in-land trade routes. This first stage also included the direct pillage of livestock and land resulting in the adoption of the Canaanite pastoralists’ material culture (as is recorded in the biblical account).18

This new clio clearly has aspects of the Peaceful Settlement or Infiltration Model proposed by Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth. However, while Alt and Noth suggest that the initial infiltration into an “unoccupied region”19 was peaceful this project displays an opposite picture. For it is clear through demographic studies that the land was both “occupied” and the initial conquest was not “peaceful” as the literary account suggests. However, the evidence based upon demographic analysis and literary records suggests that the conquest was focused primarily upon the pastoralist population.

The dimorphic economy of Canaan as the basis of a new model

In order to better understand the model however, it is essential to review the cultural data on this time period to understand the essential logic of this proposal.  In light of this revised approach this article will review Canaanite history, in order to understand the possible logic of the Israelite conquest under the leadership of Joshua ben Nun. In such a way this study shall construct a socio-economic template, based on an ecological understanding of the archaeological evidence, to better understand the Canaan that is purported to relate to the Joshua literature.

To begin at 3000 B.C.E. it appears that in Canaan, the artifactual civilization rose briefly, in which the initial urban phase of the Early Bronze Age I-III periods developed.20 Finally, urban Canaanite culture collapsed toward the end of the third millennium B.C.E. and experienced a massive shift of the population from urban centers to a pastoral lifestyle.21 In the late part of the 1500’s B.C.E. the region was subjected by the ruling Pharaohs and most of the prime cities were occupied by at least a small contingent of Egyptian troops to ensure allegiance.

Along the central hill country the trend of de-urbanization was significant with sites like Ai being permanently abandoned from use as sedentary urban centers around the period of Bronze III (2350-2250 B.C.E.)22 In contrast to Ai (and much of the central valley region west of the Jordan) however, the rest of Canaan appears to have experienced a revival of urbanization during the Middle Bronze Age (approx. 2200 B.C.E. - 1500 B.C.E.). In this Dever notes that nearly all the old urban Early Bronze “tell sites”, many of them abandoned for centuries, were reoccupied by strong sedentary populations.23 Apparently an unprecedented number of urban settlers inundated the central hill country, while a significant increase is also found in the fertile valley region.24 In contrast to the prosperity and urbanization of the Middle Bronze Age, the Late Bronze Age was typified by a sharp recession in settlement.25

The socio-economic shift appears to have been most pronounced in the hill country, a region containing such biblical sites as Ai and Bethel.26 It is in these areas that the most severe demographic shift (from sedentary to pastoralist populations) occurs, with a drastic reduction of the number of sedentary settlements.27 This has long been considered evidence of a shift to a semi-nomadic existence by the population. This tendency towards a pastoralist lifestyle was also prevalent in the trans-jordan region north east of the Dead Sea during this time period.28

While the reason for such a shift is unclear, Finkelstein argues that it may have been caused by a multitude of factors from population pressure, confiscation by authority or heavy taxation. Evidence for these reasons is cited with reference to the modern demographic shift in the 18th and 19th centuries under heavy Ottoman taxation which brought about the destruction of the rural frameworks of Palestine and southern Syria. Apparently in this modern example, large parts of the sedentary population became nomadized.29

The trend in Canaan during the age immediately prior to the (traditional date of) the conquest (approx. 1446 B.C.E.) was from urbanization and towards nomadization. This has been determined through the thorough ecological analysis of archaeological sites. This methodology is firstly the identification of isolated sanctuaries, either unrelated to any settlement or secondly, those located close to a permanent site, but that lay outside the fortified areas.

Four reasons are used to argue for the validity of equating isolated shrines with pastoralist populations in Canaan:

1. The phenomenon is unknown in those periods of antiquity characterized by urban activity.

2. Faunal analysis of the remains at Shiloh suggest a population of pastoralists. That is to say, the ratio of sheep/goat bones to cattle bones was higher in the Middle Bronze II age while the opposite ratio was true in the urbanized Iron I age.30

3. At both Shechem and Lachish, there were also temples within the bounds of the city. The necessity for extra shrines is difficult to explain except as serving the needs of non-sedentary groups outside the settlements.31

4. Most of these shrines were situated in typical “frontier zones” like the central hill country, the Jordan valley and the trans-Jordanian plateau.32 While Finkelstein and Dever do not give identity to any of these groups it is possible that some of the pastoralists were from the massive Hyksos expulsion from Egypt in the 1700 - 1600’s B.C.E.

The Late Bronze Age does show some destruction under Egyptian influence. In the region mentioned in the literary account of Joshua, there was an especially weak central region for many reasons. First the largely pastoralist population in this region. Secondly, this population had suffered serious set-backs under the conquest of Egyptian rulers like Ahmose.33 With the defeat of the Hyksos by Ahmose, this region was apparently significantly weakened. However, the first real substantial campaign against the inland region was by Thutmose III.34 The result was a weakened pastoralist population, city-states under independent rule with some allegiance to Egypt (when it suited them). However, these Egyptian conquests do not account for everything according to Finkelstein. He states: “There is no solid archaeological evidence that many sites across the country were destroyed simultaneously, and such campaigns would fail to explain the wholesale abandonment of hundreds of small rural settlements in the remote parts of the land.”35 It is the contention of this study that the Finkelstein findings of a demographic shift, were the result of years of Egyptian pressure, from 1530 - 1470 B.C.E.. The decline of the Hyksos as a force (under Egyptian influence) and additional resource pressures that resulted from both Egyptian taxation and urban demands for trade.

In recognizing this basic population shift, the next step is to interpret what this demographic paradigm means for the life of people within Canaan, politically and economically. The very basic principle that is central to this project is the understanding that a pastoralist society is not isolated in any meaningful sense from the sedentary populations that surround it.36 Indeed, one cannot truly understand any nomadic people group except as they relate to the larger regional systems. Despite the pastoralist lifestyle, these Canaanites still appear to have had a high level of material culture. This is likely due to the close tie between the pastoralist and sedentary populations. This close relationship may be largely due to the economic function of such a dimorphic society.37 For while the semi-nomadic pastoralists supply the sedentary dwellers with animal products, the sedentary supply grain and limited manufactured goods.38 Hence the disruption of the economic efficiency of either group dramatically effects the whole of society.

The principle is true that economic and political areas are influenced by this dimorphic societal structure, however other issues also have to be considered in the reconstruction of such a historical society. A central issue to any culture in any age is obviously the issue of resources, resulting in a multifarious interaction among the animals, land and people to produce a complex web of ecological relationships. Barfield typifies the sheep/goat pastoralists, which is what the people of the Canaanite region were, as “economic specialists” that have a “symbiotic relationship with their sedentary neighbors with whom they have constant contact, trading meat, animals, wool, milk products, and hides for grain (which constitutes the bulk of their diet) and manufactured goods.”39

It is apparent from the studies of Finkelstein that the Canaanite pastoralists population of the Late Bronze age was one that was of a complex system. Raising a variety of species provides a pastoralist group with many benefits, including the ability to efficiently exploit a wider range of available vegetation. Cattle and sheep, for example, are grazers that favor grasses that require a specific rotation, since sheep and goats will eat the vegetation too low for the cattle to use afterward.40

To better understand the Canaanite pastoralists we must look to modern groups like the east African tribal groups. From these tribal groups it is clear that the Canaanites likely existed in a daily cycle of pastoral movement. A base is normally located near a well from which the herd will travel in search of food. How often a species requires watering, and how far the animals can travel to find it, sets a limit on how large an area a pasture can be used. The more time the animals spend traveling to reach water, the less time they have to graze and their mortality rate rises accordingly. For example, McCabe demonstrates that in environmental conditions similar to Canaan, cattle will remain within 6 kilometers of the primary wells, while sheep and goats remain within 4 kilometers of the wells (however, while cattle require daily watering, sheep need only be watered every second day).41

The second most notable issue for considering a Canaanite pastoralist system is the cycle of herd management. Pastoralism is a risky enterprise, in that the cycles of growth and collapse have different rhythms depending on the percentage of large stock in the herd and the number of breeding females. In theory, the minimum time for a cattle herd to double is six years, and three years for sheep and goats.42 This is important when we later examine the role of economic warfare against the Canaanites. For with the destruction of a herd, there is a long period of rebuilding affording a “window of opportunity for another population to “fill the economic gap” without a sudden glut on the market.

With this basic structure of Canaanite life in the 15th Century B.C.E. developed it is important to go back to various interpretations of this cultural existence as it relates to Israelite origins. According to Finkelstein the Israelite’s may have emerged from a group that began their pastoralist lifestyle in the early sixteenth B.C.E.. While it is clear that Finkelstein’s work is a “defining moment” in the understanding of the demographic shift of Canaan, this article suggests that an actual historical exodus and subsequent actually occurred in the later half of the 1400’s B.C.E. Along with this suggestion is the theory that Joshua’s conquest was primarily against this pastoralist population. Such a suggestion nullifies Finkelstein’s argument about origins. For, while Finkelstein argues that the Israelites likely were an indigenous people that went through a cycle of urban life to pastoralization and back to sedentarization, this suggestion of actual conquest and emigration better fits the literary account of events, bringing another dimension to the debate.43

Further support to this theory is the logic of the economic; military and resources issues that fit so neatly into the literary account. For an analysis of Joshua’s military strategies reveals an uncanny logic to the Biblical account.

In some ways it appears that Joshua may have simply employed a strategy the Hebrew people had been using for a generation. The tried and trusted method of simply displacing the pastoralist populations that already existed. Textual evidence of this is suggested in the phrases used to refer to the “desert” within the wanderings. For a cursory example, the most common reference to the “desert” wanderings uses the phrase “Mibar” to describe the wilderness within which the Israelites lived. This “Midbar” tends to be used in literature as a “place to lead cattle and sheep”, in other words a “pasture-land.” Hence, the biblical text seems to suggest that the Israelites attempted to follow a region of pastureland (for the obvious reasons of supporting their herds). Such travels would inevitably necessitate the forcible removal of the current pastoralist populations (or perhaps the sheer bulk of the Israelite tribes was enough displace these minor semi-nomadic groups). This of course is in line with Glueck’s suggestion that regions like Edom were not occupied by a major sedentary population.44

While the historicity of the exodus itself is under debate, the literary record does suggest an consistency for following areas that were pastoralist regions in this late bronze age. It is logical therefore to understand the wilderness wanderings as employing this practice of displacement, for it is certainly suggested by the text. Some evidence of this comes from the site of Tell Iktanu, where evidence suggests a pastoralist population was present in the late 1400’s B.C.E. The sites of Tell Iktanu and Tell Hammamm both give evidence of Intermediate Bronze Age settlements,45 interrupted by a semi-nomadic interlude, until the Early Iron Age. Indeed both sites are located in the region occupied by the Israelites before the final crossing into Canaan. From this evidence it does seem logical that the semi-nomadic peoples associated with these site had fallen to Moses in the latter days of the wilderness wanderings. With these sites there was ample water for supporting large herds and people groups. Animal bone analysis does provide evidence for goats and sheep and some cattle.46 Clearly such sites would have been easy prey for the nomadic Hebrews as they sought to establish authority over the Moabites of that region.

Obviously another key issue to be considered in the evaluation of any settlement pattern is water. Indeed, the biblical literature acknowledges that this was a key concern of the Israelites, as there are several references in the exodus literature of the people complaining for lack of water.47 The prime water resources that the people would desire would likely be the “predictable” water sources common to the area: Namely cisterns and source-wells.

Stage One - Conquest

At the beginning of the Joshua conquest it was clearly important to secure a natural spring in order to ensure access to water in the low, dry Jordan valley where the average annual rainfall is 1-200 mm. However, as the Israelites moved into the nearby hill-country the primary water source shifts as annual rainfall rises to 600 mm. Hence, rain and dew were to become a main source of water indeed, this is highlighted by the fact that west of the Jordan there are no streams that did not dry up outside of the rainy season. Since most of the parts of Canaan were likely without rain from May to September cisterns and wells were vital. Logically then, when Joshua made his conquest of the Jordan valley, he secured a key natural spring (Jericho). Then, in his first attack into the hill country he secured a massive cistern that would ensure him control of the entire area (Ai).

Once the river Jordan was crossed, Jericho would be the logical step in the continued practice of Pastoralist hinterland control. This is clear from the site of Tell es-Sultan (ancient Jericho), which lies next to a natural spring. Every encampment at Jericho was due to the natural spring and the ‘oasis’, which it waters. Hence it is not the value of the city of Jericho itself, which is the key to Joshua’s conquest stratagem. This may also shed some light upon why the Israelites were not allowed to plunder the city. A secondary reason is likely sociological and political in that Joshua was intent on the people not adopting the sedentary Canaanite lifestyle, but continue with the lifestyle and covenantal identity that developed in the wanderings.

While the victory at Jericho may have seemed unusually cruel it did allow the Israelites to secure the water resources and grazing lands of the central region of the western Jordan Valley. The clear fact that the people intended to remain as pastoralist peoples, and that this was a key aspect of their conquest strategy is attested to by the biblical literature and its stylized account. This stylized account also affirms this sociological intent with a narrative commentary noting “Joshua’s curse upon the city”, in effect declaring that the Israelites had no intention of inhabiting the site.

It seems clear that based upon the previous strategies of Joshua, that we would expect to see a fairly important water source at the site of Ai. In preparation for the next phase of Israel’s conquest of Canaan, Joshua sent men from Jericho to the city of Ai. The literary account makes it appear that Joshua wasted little time in organizing the spy mission. These individuals were sent from Jericho, not Gilgal. The men obeyed and went up to the hill country and searched the area surrounding Ai, and brought back to Joshua a rather optimistic report regarding their ability to conquer the old fort known at Ai (literally: “The ruins’). From archaeological and demographic evidence we know that any population at Khirbet et Tell was likely simply semi-nomadic pastoralists seeking refuge at this natural fortification. This is consistent with the report that victory would be easily achieved. Joshua, then sent out the suggested number of troops, which were promptly routed.

It is clear from the biblical text that Ai was considered to be a key strategic site for the Israelites, as elaborate tactical maneuvers were used in the capture of Ai. Joshua selected 30,000 men, and sent them away by night to make the thirteen mile journey to Ai, and then lie in wait on the west side of the city. The next day, Joshua took the main army of Israel up to the north side of the city of Ai. In addition to that move another 5,000 troops were sent to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai.

The battle plan worked as the pastoralist men of Ai counterattacked with the help of Bethel (which according to the dimorphic nature of a pastoralist/ urban society depended upon the pastoralists for their own economic survival), only to discover the Hebrews had retreated only to draw them away from their ruin. Bethel, the stylized literary account suggests was set ablaze, though the true extent of the fire is not suggested in the text. One thing is clear, the pastoralists of the Bethel/ Ai district were routed, and those who had sought refuge at the “The ruin” (Ai) were killed. According to the proposed resource based strategic model then, we would expect to see a fairly comprehensive water system at Ai, in order to justify such a large and rapid military campaign.

According to Joseph Callaway who excavated the site of Ai (Khirbet et Tell) from 1964 - 1972 that is exactly what we find. Indeed, the water resources at Ai are immense, with an elaborate system that dates to the early bronze age. This system provided a consistent supply of water. Located inside the walls at Ai (which literally means, “The Ruins”, for Ai was actually the ruins of an ancient fortified city), this reservoir was well protected, built above ground and lined with imported red clay approximately 2.5 meters deep and 25 meters wide. Undoubtedly this elaborate reservoir was an important commodity to a people who were trying to control the water resources necessary to survive in this parched land.

The importance of the water system at the Ai site to the Israelites is confirmed by the continual improvements made by the Israelites to that site. For in the Iron Age I (the time of Israelite settlement into sedentary life) it appears that the new settlers built an additional system of cisterns. Indeed, similar Iron Age construction was found at a site known as Raddana which is located the central hill country near to Ai. Ai therefore achieved the resource based goal of controlling water in the region.

Finally, there was the economic goals that such a conquest strategy would provide, based upon the interdependence of all ancient cultures in issues of trade and resources. Hence it is crucial to evaluate the very nature of Canaanite economics in that the political and economic contexts are interrelated and define each other. For it is clear that Canaan’s essentially agrarian economy depended upon the integral presence of hinterland peoples in the social structure, thus according to Dever, Canaan was largely dependent upon the domestic mode of production.

Due to this interdependence between economics and political structure in Canaan it is apparent that when the pastoralists of the hinterland were displaced by the Hebrew people, the urban centers became economically and politically vulnerable and isolated. Indeed reality brings a deeper understanding of the Gibeonite alliance made in Joshua, and the Shechemite alliance alluded to in the Amarna letters and biblical literature. That is, with the combined force of displacing pastoralist peoples and the control of the Hivite regions obtained through the Gibeonite alliance Joshua effectively pacified any possible unified Canaanite offensive.

While the internal biblical literary evidence suggests that a previous covenant48 with Gibeon existed, most scholars doubt the reality of a ruse to gain this treaty.49 However as Halpern suggests, this does not necessarily nullify the fact of the existence of a covenant between these groups, even the type of suzerain-vassal covenant recorded in Joshua.50 Indeed, the record of the Gibeonite treaty suggests a larger political and economic trend that developed within the conquest, and continued after the settlement period.

As Mendenhall suggests, the period of 1406 B.C.E. through the Amarna period is one of a unique political climate within Canaan. This dominant feature is the political dichotomy between the city-states and the hinterland. Outside of the fortifications the outlying territory fell under the control of the “habiru”, who blatantly denied the figure-head authority of Egypt and her garrison vassals. While this project does not agree with Mendenhall’s theory of gradual infiltration over the centuries, he does highlight a significant point.51 The arrival of the Yahwistic religion marks the polarizing of the countryside and the city-states. However while Egyptian garrisons in vassal cities might defend crucial trade route junctures, their lack of mobility left the Hebrew people controlling the highland52 and to a large extent, disrupting trade in the rest of the region.

The Amarna testimony, along with the Joshua record then suggest that the Gibeonite treaty was not an isolated event. For the Amarna account makes it clear that the “Habiru” are clearly on organized group, though modular, which fits the record of Joshua. As Knudtson notes, it was not uncommon for the “Habiru” to formulate alliances with local figures or communities.53 At this point, this project agrees with Mendenhall’s suggestion that people from the country-side gradually defected to the “Habiru” in a protest against their more urban over-lords.54

One must always be mindful that the Hebrew people required a place of relative safety away from the less mobile city-state forces. Moreover, it is important to note that the implied Shechemite alliance55 and the obvious alliance recorded with Gibeon did bring some significant strategic benefits. Foremost is providing a “safe-region” out of range for the garrison forces. This safe haven therefore provided a safe base for weakening the cities of the southern campaign.

In addition, it is apparent from later references, that the people of Gibeon and Shechem are of the same ethnic stock, and two thirds of the “Hivite” population of the region.56 This suggests that the covenantal renewal at Mt. Ebal was indeed a time of entering into a political alliance with Shechem. The natural result then is that the relatives of the people of Shechem would also seek a relationship, and be so desperate for such an alliance as to agree to a vassal-suzerian agreement:

“Thus the Gibeonite ambassadors introduce themselves with the formula, “We are your servants.”57

Understanding these issues illustrates an important aspect of the policies of the central campaign. The first policy is to discourage a movement of the Hebrew people towards sedentarization, as is suggested by the curse upon Jericho and the story of Achan. The second policy was the defeat of the pastoralist population and therefore making Bethel dependent upon the new Hebrew population economically. The third policy is the encouragement of a continued semi-nomadic pastoralist lifestyle that had typified the earlier generation. This is evidenced by the permission to loot the cattle and belongings of the pastoralist population defeated at “The Ruin” Ai. Finally, entering into league with the Hivites of Shechem and Gibeon effectively divided the land of Canaan to avoid a united opposition against both the northern and southern city-states.

The strategy alluded to in the literary record (though accidental) suggests that the Hivite alliance was indeed a calculated step in affording control of the central hill country. In particular the Hivite treaties enabled Israel to formulate a strategy of wedging through and separating the Canaanite league. As Halpern points out, “It isolated completely the southern Canaanite city-states from the northern, reducing the probability that the latter could come to the aid of the south.”58 This was a tactic that was used throughout the following millennia as a method of conquering the region.59

Obviously such an alliance would mean that the Hebrew/ Hivite alliance straddled from the trans-Jordan region through to the coastal plain. This meant that the trade and communication routes were effectively broken, this combined with the already mentioned control of the water supply meant that Joshua’s strategy of the central campaign was to obtain a complete strategic; political and economic stranglehold on the south.

Stage two: Division of Land

According to this article therefore, the first stage of Israelite evolution was the initial conquest designed to displace the pastoralist peoples of the Jordan valley and central hill-country. This included control of key water resources and disruption of economic stability through the slaughter of the pastoralists at Ai. This also included the Hivite and Shekemite alliances that assured an extended range of control (though these people were now essentially dependent upon the Hebrew people anyway, due to the economic disruption of the region). This brings us to the second stage of Israelite evolution, the “Initial Division” of land.

As Joshua’s strategy was to obtain a complete strategic; political and economic stranglehold on the region it is clear that the stage of division and possession of the land would follow this same pattern.

History does seem to support this as it is clear that the Egyptian ascendancy which was propitiated through the vassal kings of Canaanite city-states was clearly eroded during the reigns of Amenophis III (1405-1368) and of Ahkenaton (1377-1358). It is also clear that “renegade elements” known as the Habiru were attempting to capitalize on the erosion of Egyptian rule over Canaan. It is against this background that this project can understand how it was that the Hebrews came into tenancy of the land. As two of the El-Amarna letters show, Shechem had a history of acts of disloyalty toward Pharaoh. In the first, Biridiya of Megiddo, a loyal Egyptian vassal, accuses Labayu governor of Shechem of raiding his territory with designs to capture Megiddo:

To: Pharaoh My Lord, My Sun!

From: Biridiya, Governor of Megiddo

Your servant renews his oath of loyalty to Pharaoh by bowing to his feet seven times seven times.

Pharaoh should know that since he recalled his archers to Egypt, Labayu, Governor of Shechem, has not stopped raiding my territory. We cannot shear our sheep, nor even leave the city for fear of Labayu’s soldiers. Because you have not replaced the archers, Labayu is now strong enough to attack the city of Megiddo itself. If Pharaoh does not see fit to reinforce the city, Labayu will capture it. The people of Megiddo are already suffering from hunger and disease.

I beg Pharaoh to send one hundred soldiers to protect Megiddo from Labayu or he will certainly capture the city.60

Labayu answers the charge that he was revolting against Pharaoh by expanding his domain in taking Megiddo in the following correspondence:

To: Pharaoh, my Lord, my Sun!

Your servant, who is less than the dust under your feet, renews his oath of loyalty to Pharaoh by bowing seven times seven times.

I have received Pharaoh’s letter. Your fears are unfounded. I am far too insignificant to be a threat to my Pharaoh’s lands. I am and always have been a faithful servant of Pharaoh. The proof that I am neither a criminal nor a rebel can be seen in my regular payment of tribute and my willingness to obey all of the commands of your provincial governor.

Despite the fact that wicked lies have been spoken against me, my lord pharaoh has not taken the time to look personally into my case. The only crime that can be charged against me is that I invaded Gezer. This is based, however, on the Pharaoh’s confiscation of my own lands. Milkilu has committed even worse offenses than I have and no move has been made to take his possessions.

On another occasion, Pharaoh wrote me concerning my son. I had no idea that he was consorting with the Habiru! I have since handed him over to Addaya. Even if my lord wrote concerning my wife, I would not withhold her. I would not even refuse to obey Pharaoh’s command to thrust a bronze dagger into my heart!61

From this letter we know that Pharaoh’s provincial governor was still at least a “figure head” ruler in Canaan (and may be the actual “king”). Likely, Pharaoh’s official presided over a territory of several city-states. However large the region, it is clear that Megiddo and Shechem were sister vassal cities, locked in political competition. We may assume that the political power that each exercised as well as their political arrangement was more or less comparable.

It is clear that each city-state was fairly significant. Both governors had scribes who knew Akkadian, the international language of diplomacy, as members of their administration. They also commanded armies. The fact that Biridiya requested one hundred soldiers suggest that these armies were relatively small in that only one hundred soldiers were needed to assure Megiddo safety from threat of Labayu’s forces.

The popular thought is that this perpetual rivalry between city states in their attempts to expand their local domains came to an end with the formation of Israel. Local rule was politically redefined in terms of solidarity under Joshua’s attacks and subsequent rule.

Obviously this scenario, which is supported by the success of the first campaign, is that Joshua began to control the hinterland, and following Joshua’s campaigns the Hebrews, occasionally under the guise of Shechem’s military, carried on their continued campaign? In so doing the Hebrews would succeed in avoiding the united attack of an army larger than a few city-states. With such a strategy the Israelites would be free to control the hinterland, the major trade routes, key resource centres and eventually (it was the hope of the Deuteronomistic redactor at least) live at peace in the land they were promised.

It is clear from the El Amarna letters that the Hebrews (referred to as the Habiru or Apiru) were considered an “annoyance” in terms of the country-side. It is also clear that Shechem quickly agreed to the Hebrew presence (according to the biblical record) as the Amarna letters mentioned that even the son of the ruler of Shechem was found to be allied with the Hebrews:

“Labayu’s own son has been found to be cavorting (riding?) with their renegade bands and has since been handed over to Addaya, (who was apparently empowered to punish the wayward son of the governor.)"62

One issue is clear, the Hebrew people where present in the hinterland, and this restricted travel and trade within the city-states for the next generation. In addition, the nature of the Hebrew peoples activities was identified to be military and economic in nature, as is made clear by a letter from Abdu-Heba of Jerusalem:

“To the king, my Lord, thus speaks Abdu-Heba,…While the king, my Lord lives, I will say to the commissioner of the king, my Lord: “Why do you favor the Hapiru and are opposed to the rulers?” And thus I am accused before the king, my Lord. Because it is said: “Lost are the territories of the king…seized everything, and …the land of Egypt… Oh king, my Lord, there are no garrison troops here!… May the king take care of his land! …I repeat: Allow me to enter the presence of the king, my Lord, and let me look into both eyes of the king, My Lord. But the hostility against me is strong, and I cannot enter the presence of the king, my Lord. May the king send garrison troops, in order that I may enter and look into the eyes of the king my Lord. So certain as the king, my Lord, lives, when the commissioners come, I will say: Lost are the territories of the king. Do you not hear to me? All; the rulers are lost…my Lord, send troops of archers, the kings has no more lands. The Hapiru sack the territories of the king, If there are archers (here) this year, all the territories of the king will remain (intact); but if there are no archers, the territories of the king, my Lord, will be lost! To the king, my Lord thus writes Abdu-Heba, your servant. He conveys eloquent words to the king, my Lord. All the territories of the king, my Lord, are lost.”63

It should also be noted that the Hebrew people did fail to displace all the Canaanite peoples in the hinterland regions. This is affirmed in the Joshua and Judges literary accounts and is affirmed with the linguistic range of meaning attributed to the “Habiru.64 This supports the recorded trend of local alliances of Canaanite towns joining the Hebrew/Israelite league and become culturally and economically integrated.65

This second stage of Israelite evolution with the “Division of the land” is essentially the beginning of the process observed by Mendenhall and Gottwald, where pastoralist and urban tensions begin to increase. The consequences of this new Hebrew control of pastoralist regions was that the city-states were now largely dependent upon this new pastoralist population for resources, creating an anxious economic mood. Further, practical mobility for any type of trade or military operation was heavily restricted by this new population controlling the hinterland. The practical result of such a new environment would likely not been seen in history for at least a decade, as the dimorphic societal structure began to crumble.66

Stage Three: Sturm und drang

The affirmation of the existence of Stage 2 comes with the evidence for Stage 3, “The Economic Sturm Und Drang”. It appears unequivocal that the whole Hebrew strategy does have a momentous commercial impact upon the administrative districts, based upon Megiddo’s solicitation for aid, as accounted for in the Amarna administrative texts, which as expected, names Shechem (and its governor Labayu) as the threat:

“To: Pharaoh My Lord, My Son!

From: Biridiya, Governor of Megiddo

Your servant renews his oath of loyalty to Pharaoh by bowing to his feet seven times, seven times.

Pharaoh should know that since he recalled his archers to Egypt, Labayu, Governor of Shechem, has not stopped raiding my territory. We cannot shear our sheep, nor even leave the city for fear of Labayu’s soldiers. Because you have not replaced the archers, Labayu is now strong enough to attack the city of Megiddo itself. If Pharaoh does not see fit to reinforce the city. Laybayu will capture it. The people of Megiddo are already suffering from hunger and disease.10   

As the Hebrew population develops better relationships with the remaining pastoralist populations67 and begins to exercise its collective power through disruption of trade, the political will of the region breaks. This is evidenced by the dramatic shift in the interest that Egypt has with the region during the Amarna age. This stage is clearly an aspect of Israel’s history as Lemche argues it is part of the “evolutionary Israel”68. This too is also a key concept of Mendenhall and Gottwald’s “Peasant Revolt” model. Further, the historical literary evidence of the Amarna letters provides ample evidence of the nature of the “economic sturm und drang”(storm and stress).

Stage Four: Collapse and latency

The next phase is a little more difficult to give a clear description of, except to characterize it as Stage 4, “Collapse and Latency”. Clearly this phase is key to Alt’s view of “Israelite” origins, though this project states that this is but one phase in Israelite origins, and not its only mode of development.69 This is the stage where the dimorphic economic structure between pastoralists and urban centers has collapsed. Although occasionally an urban centre would attempt to expand its power, this period was not typified by pastoralist pressure upon the cities. Indeed this was largely a period of Israel becoming a latent part of the regional structure, as a massive group of pastoralists. The character of this period is supported by a model put forward by Coote and Whitelam, as they suggest that Israel’s origins are to be found in this context at the close of the Late Bronze Age.70 This period also sees the rise of the Philistine’s as a major power along the coastal region.71 The decline of inter-regional trade, the relative latency of the region, and the rise of the Philistine threat would then all likely factor in to Egypt becoming once again involved in the region. Therefore, for economic and security reasons the Pharaohs of Egypt began campaigns of the Phoenician/ Philistine regions, and then naturally in-land to Canaan. Therefore this fourth stage of “Collapse and Latency” ended in the reign of Ramesses in the thirteenth century B.C.E., giving birth to a crucial stage in Israelite identity.72

Stage five: Foreign Oppression

According to this new model, stage five can be characterized as the “Foreign Oppression” phase. In this stage the Hebrew people begin to view themselves as people who have things in common with their Canaanite neighbors. This phase comes about due to the military oppression the region experiences under Ramesses II and his successor Merenptah. With the common oppression of all the people groups of the region, the Israelite socio-cultural taboo against the sedentary life-style is reduced. This project agrees with Lemche’s claim that the thirteenth century also brought with it significant technological advances that allowed for the adaptation of the Israelite pastoralists to a sedentary agrarian life-style.73 This is also the phase at which Albright had used the “destruction” of specific sites to date the conquest of Joshua. However, it is evident that the regional turmoil and pressure from Egypt, with a massive regular army is a more likely cause of these thirteenth century layers.

However, while Finkelstein; Coote and Lemche all view the process of sedentarization to have begun prior to the conquest by Merenptah, Bimson points out that Wood’s refined model for dating this era makes it clear that sedentarization did not start until shortly after this conquest.74

Therefore, since the Merenptah inscription of the famous stele predates the sedentarization process, the central region to which the stele refers indicates a nomadic people. As Bimson points out, Finkelstein75 has assembled archaeological evidence for a large population of pastoralists existing during the Late Bronze Age. In Finkelstein’s view then this population emerged into “Israel” during the Iron Age I. However, as Bimson makes clear, the nomadic people were viewed as “Israel”, and not merely “ancestral to Israel” as Finkelstein claims.76

Bimson makes the point very clear that the Stele also refers to Israel, not as a city-state, but as a regional grouping of people. This issue is argued in both the structure of the stele and the semantic phrase with specific reference towards Israel. The resulting picture is that Merenptah conquered three city-states and a region in the central area of Canaan, of “foreign peoples” called “Israel.77 Since there is a co-variation between oppression and sedentarization; and a time-order relationship it is logical to say that, in part at least, the oppression of Egypt caused this cultural shift of Israel.

Stage Six: Sedentarization

This final stage in the emergence of Israel, where it is recognizable to archaeology, is Stage Six: “Sedentarization”. This final phase is characterized by a shift in the reign of Ramesses III to an emerging society that formed a sedentary agrarian society. The pottery of this hill-country though referred to as Israelite, likely became dominant in the pottery repertoire of the hill country sites because they were ideally suited to the largely self-sufficient economy of these people.78

This final phase of Israelite origins is the one that has the greatest amount of support as it is described as the “scholarly consensus” by Philip Davies. For while Davies’ scholastic time frame is different from the biblical text, the account of Davies, and the literary record both suggest that, “(Israel’s) material culture is generally indistinguishable from that of the surrounding population …They established, for whatever reason, a new conglomeration of settlements in the central highlands79 of Palestine … the need for cooperation and the non-urban lifestyle almost certainly encouraged a sense of ethnic identity.80 It is clear that this process of national evolution has a profound impact on the historiography of biblical literature and interpretation. Yet, this is only the beginning of the process of dialogue, lest we stop thinking and all agree.

Stage One - Initial Conquest  (1406-1401 B.C.E.)  

Conquest of Semi-Nomadic Pastoralist

Stage Two - Initial Division  (1401-1390 B.C.E.)

Tribal Allotment of the Land;  Integration or Conquest of Remaining Pastoralist Groups  and Organization against the Urban Centres.

Stage Three - Sturm und Drang  (1390 - 1350 B.C.E.)

Active Disruption of Trade and Exercise of Pressure upon Urban Centres. Decreased Egyptian interest in Canaan .

Stage Four - Collapse and Latency  (1350 B.C.E. - 1250 B.C.E.)

The Collapse of International Trade and the weakness of the region results in a relative peace. This is interrupted by the occasional attempt at Urban Imperialism. Egyptian interest in Canaan on the increase.

Stage Five - Oppression  (1250 - 1200 B.C.E.)

Egyptian conquest and oppression of the region results in bringing Israel closer to other powers in the region (due to the common experience of suffering oppression). This period brings technological advances and the need for self-sufficiency.

Stage Six - Sedentarization  (1200 - 1120 B.C.E.)

Emergence of a Sedentary “Israelite” Culture in the Central Hill Country.


1 Silberman, Neil "Who were the Israelites" Archaeology (Vol. 45, 1992, March): 23

2 Merling, David The Book of Joshua: Its Themes and Role in Archaeological Discussions (Berrian Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1997): 20-54.

3 Ibid., Silberman: 28

4 Shanks, Hershel. " 'David' Found at Dan," Biblical Archaeology Review, (20[2] March/April. 1994): 30

5 Free, Joseph P.  Archaeology and Bible History (Wheaton, Illinois; Van Kampen Press, 1950): 99.

6 Sayce, A.H. The Early History of the Hebrews (Curtis Books, N.Y.; N.Y., 1987), 158

7 Davies, Philip. "What
Separates the Minimalist from the Maximalist?" Biblical Archaeology Review (Vol. 26, No. 2, 2000): 26

8 Walzer, Michael.  "The Idea of Holy War in Ancient Israel" Journal of Religious Ethics (Vol. 20, Issue 2, Fall, 1992): 215

9 Ibid., Walzer: 217

10 Web page downloaded Jan. 28/03: 

11 Chikatu, P.T.  "The Audience Presupposed in the Conquest, Infiltration and Revolt Models: A Sociological Analysis" Journal of Theology for Southern Africa (Vol. 84, 1993): 11

12 Ibid., Davies: 26

13 Ibid., Davies: 27

14 Ibid., Davies: 72

15 Aharoni, Y. "Problems of the Israelite Conquest in the Light of Archaeological Discoveries" Antiquity and Survival (Vol. 2, 1957): 135

16 Yadin, Y.  "The Transition from a Semi-Nomadic to a Sedentary Society in the Twelfth Century B.C.E." In: Cross, F.M. Ed. SYMPOSIA - 1900 to 1975 (Association for the Study of Religion, Camridge, MA., 1979)

17 It is contested that on the basis of Wood's model no "settlement site" can be dated with a high level of confidence before the early twelfth century B.C.E.. IN: Bimson, J.J. "Mernenptah's Israel and Recent Theories of Israelite Origins" Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (Vol. 49, 1991): 4.

18 Joshua 8 is an example of this practice.

19 Drinkard, J.F. "The History and Archaeology of the Book of Joshua and the Conquest/ Settlement Period".  Review and Expositor (Vol. 95, 1998): 179

20 Richard, S. "The Early Bronze Age - The Rise and Collapse of Urbanism". The Biblical Archaeologist (1987): 22-40.

21 Dever, William G. "The Middle Bronze Age - The Zenith of Urban Canaanite Era". The Biblical Archaeologist (Vol.50, September, 1987): 149

22 Harrison, R.K. Introduction to the Old Testament 121.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing Company (1991):  121

23 Ibid., Dever: 150

24 Finkelstien, Israel "Searching for Israelite Origins" Biblical Archaeology Review (vol. 20, July, 1981): 39

25 Ibid., Dever: 61-62.

26 Ibid., Finkelstien: 39

Ibid., Finkelstien: 41. 

28 Internet Article from the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History: December 29/00 

29 Ibid., Finkelstien: 40.

Ibid., Finkelstien: 41.

31 Saheh, H. "Animal Remains" Excavation of Shiloh 1981-1984: Preliminary Report (Tell Aviv, 1985): 159-165.

32 Ibid., Finkelstien: 41

33 Pritchard, James (ed.) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 1969. Princeton: Princeton University Press: 233

34 Bietak, Manfred. 1987. "Comments on the Exodus." Egypt, Israel, Sinai: Archaeological and Historical Relationships in the Biblical Period. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University: 59

35 Hoffenheimer, James, K. 1990. "Some Thoughts on William G. Dever's "'Hyksos', Egyptian Destructions, and the End of the Palestinain Middle Bronze Age." Levant, Volume 22:  87

36 Barfield, Thomas J. The Nomadic Alternative (Prentice Hall; New Jersey, 1993): 3

37 Amihai, Mazar.  Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (Toronto: Double Day, 1990): 240-257

Ibid., Finkelstien: 43

39 Barfield, Thomas J. The Nomadic Alternative (Prentice Hall; New Jersey, 1993): 8

40 Barfield: 21

41 Dyson-Hudson, Rada; McCabe, Terrance "Nomadic Pastoralism" Annual Review of Anthropology (1985): 89-90.

42 Dahl, Gudran; Hjort, Anders.  Having Herds: Pastoral Herd Growth and Household Economy (Stockholm: University of Stockholm: 1976):22.

43 Finkelstein, I.  The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Israel Exploration Society; Jerusalem, 1988): 17.

44 Free, Joseph P. Archaeology and Bible History (Wheaton, Illinois; Van Kampen Press, 1950): 99.

45 Prag, K. "Preliminary Report on the Excavations at Tell Iktanu, Jordan". Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Vol. 24: 125

46 Internet Article from the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History: logged December 29/00 

47 Helms, S.W. Jawa: Lost City of the Black Desert (Ithaca, New York; Cornell University Press, 1981): 9

48 2 Samuel 21: 1-10 suggests divine retribution for the attack upon the Gibeonites.

49 Noth, Martin. The Book of Joshua cited in Halpern, Baruch "Gibeon: Israelite Diplomacy in the Conquest Era" Catholic Biblical Quarterly (Vol. 31): 304

50 Halpern, Baruch. "Gibeon: Israelite Diplomacy in the Conquest Era" Catholic Biblical Quarterly (Vol. 31): 303

51 Mendenhall, G.E. "The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine" The Biblical Archaeologist Reader (Doubleday Publishing, New York, N.Y., 1970): 110 - 118.

Ibid., Halpern, Baruch:  311

53 Notes on Knudtson, J.A. Die El-Amarna-Tafeln (1964) in: Halpern, Baruch "Gibeon: Israelite Diplomacy in the Conquest Era" Catholic Biblical Quarterly (Vol. 31, 1975): 312

54 Mendenhall, G.E. "The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine" The Biblical Archaeologist Reader (Doubleday Publishing, New York, N.Y., 1970): 110 - 118.

55 Since the Joshua literary account reports that during part of the central campaign there was a "Covenant Renewal" at Mt. Ebal outside of Shechem, it can be assumed that the Shechemites entered into a covenant relationship with the Hebrew people. This is affirmed by later biblical references to Shechem as being in a postive relationship with Israel, as well as explicit evidence from the Amarna letters.

56 Apparently the remaining 1/3 of the Hivites resided in the hills of Hermon and were in a vassal relationship to Hazor - noted in Halpern, Baruch "Gibeon: Israelite Diplomacy in the Conquest Era" Catholic Biblical Quarterly (Vol. 31, 1975): 313

57 Joshua 9:5-11

58 Ibid., Halpern: 314.

59 Jeroboam used a similar tactic by establishing a strong fortress at Penuel which cut Jerusalem off from the Judahite garrison at Mahanaim, and from the use of the traditional King's Highway in Transjordan. Halpern notes that the formation of such a league might have been feasible due to the literary evidence mentioning a number of southern and northern kings (Jos. 10 -11) unite in turn to face the Israelite fore. Moreover, a pan-Canaanite league is mentioned in the first verses of chapter 9; in the course of the narrative, however, the editor appears to forget it. The concept is certainly, in limited application, consonant with the Canaanite situation depicted in Amarna. IN: Halpern, Baruch "Gibeon" Catholic Biblical Quarterly (Vol. 37): 314.

60 Internet article downloaded - Jan.15/01: 

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid.

63 Amarna Letter from the King of Jerusalem (translation) Internet Article, Feb. 21/01: 

64 The historical use of the term "Habiru" carries a triangle of meanings including: 1. A lower class/ formerly slave people; 2. A disruptive country-side military force; 3. An ethnically diverse but unified group.

65 Judges 1-3 gives clear indication of this type of integration.

66 Biddle clarifies that the literary structure actually gives a picture that is very much contrary to the "traditional interpretation of the conquest". Such structure suggests that at the end of the "conquest" period, the Hebrew people were indeed in danger due to the Canaanite elements remaining both in their midst and along the fringes of the region. The Gibeonites who were incorporated into the conquering pastoralists and worked as "hewers of wood and drawers of water"; the Anakim along the region of Gaza; Gath and Ashdod, Gesher and Maacah, the Jebusites and the inhabitants of Gezer. From all of these structural commentaries, the text is clearly expressing that while Joshua was intent on "keeping the morale of the people up" the actual state of conquest was tentative at best. Based Upon: Biddle, Mark E. "Literary Structures in the Book of Joshua" Review and Expositor (Vol. 95, 1998): 196

113 Internet article downloaded - Jan. 15/01:  <======

67 As supported by the Judges 1 account.

68 Lemche, N.P. "Ancient Israel."  Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Press, (Sheffield, U.K., 1988).

69 Drinkard, Joel F. "History and Archaeology of the Book of Joshua and the Conquest/ Settlement Period". Review and Expositor (Vol. 95, 1998): 182.

70 Coote, R.B. & Whitelam K. The Emergence of Israel. (Almond Press, Sheffield, U.K., 1987)

71 As is suggested by the literary account in Judges.

72 Bimson, John J. "Merenptah's Israel and Recent Theories of Israelite Origins". Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (Vol. 49, 1991): 19

Ibid., Lemche: 90

74 Ibid., Bimson: 12

75 Ibid., Finkelstein: 123 

Ibid., Bimson: 19

See Appendix C about the Mernenptah Stele "Understanding Israel's Position in the Stele" Model based upon Bimson, John J. "Mernenptah's Israel and Recent Theories of Israelite Origins". Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (Vol. 49, 1991): 21-22

Ibid., Bimson:  7

79 It is important to remember that Davies here is speaking of an "Iron-Age" Israel. According to the traditional biblical chronology this would be a description of the time period of the Judges.

80 Ibid., Davies, Philip: 27

Dr. Neil Soggie received his D.Min. from Faith Lutheran Seminary in Tacoma, WA. and teaches at Atlantic Baptist University, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.