December 3 -- 7, 2009
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I find your articles of great interest. But I have found also a
devastating critique of your theory [on the Internet].
The problem is that before Joshua attacked and destroyed these
cities, Moses' Israelites are portrayed as attacking Sihon the Amorite
of Heshbon, and upon his demise, taking over his Trans-Jordanian
kingdom. Tell Hesban is identified with Heshbon and it is no older
than 1200 BCE; It didn't come into existence until 1,200 years after
Joshua suppossedly destroyed Ai according to the Aardsmas !
What about it?
I wonder if you have read it and I would be very glad to read a
rebuttal or at least your opinion of it.
I addressed the Heshbon question in my original presentation of the missing
millennium thesis over 15 years ago. There I wrote [Gerald E. Aardsma, A
New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel,
2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993), 92--93.]:
Heshbon was the
capital of the kingdom of Sihon, the Amorite king who confronted
Moses and the Israelites east of the Jordan river (Numbers
21:22-26). The Bible records that Sihon was defeated, all of his
people were slain, and his territory was then occupied by the
Israelites. Heshbon seems to have been a walled city (Deuteronomy
2:36) at this time, though it is not clear from the biblical
record whether it was destroyed when it was captured. In any
event, it is clear that a sudden cultural transition (from
Amorite to Israelite) should be evident in the archaeology of
Heshbon at about the time of the Conquest of Palestine. Thus, we
should expect archaeological investigation to reveal a major city
at the end of EB III, with a clear cultural discontinuity at the
EB III to EB IV transition.
For geographical and linguistic reasons Heshbon was initially
identified with the modern Tell Hesban. However, excavation
of this site between 1968 and 1976 failed to produce any evidence
for occupation there prior to about 1200 B.C. Stiebing,
noting this lack of EB occupation, scored Heshbon as being
contrary to an EB III -- Conquest connection. However, Tell
Hesban is too late for the biblical Heshbon by any
chronology, and it seems reasonable to conclude that the true
site of Heshbon must lie elsewhere.
It has been recognized for some time that there is a possible
alternative site called Tell Jalul. A single season of excavation
has been completed at this site, during which only the most
recent strata were uncovered. Further excavation is planned,
however, and occupation levels of interest to the present thesis
should be revealed over the next few years. If Tell Jalul is the
biblical Heshbon, then I predict that it will
reveal a significant city in EB III whose culture was abruptly
terminated and replaced by a typical EB IV culture.
In any event, it is clearly too early to conclude that the
archaeological evidence bearing on the biblical Heshbon is
contrary to the idea that the Conquest was the cause of the
termination of EB III civilization in Palestine, and I suspect
that this is true in many other cases as well. If Tell Jalul does
turn out to be the biblical Heshbon with appropriate EB III --
EB IV remains, then Stiebing's apparent 50% failure rate will
have dwindled to a mere 29%. I submit that serious, thorough
investigation will eventually show there to be no real exceptions
to the pattern of success which we have seen already at Ai and
But we must exercise due caution in such an investigation.
Archaeology, like all of science, is not a perfect discipline. It
has real limitations, and it is necessarily carried out by
fallible human beings. Furthermore, its work is neither
exhaustive nor complete. Are we certain of the identification of
each of the sites corresponding to the cities of the Conquest?
(It is important to reopen this question at each site, as it is
possible that some of the correct sites may have been rejected by
the archaeologist simply because they were mistakenly thought to
be outside the "biblical period".) Have the excavations been
extensive enough to reveal the whole picture at each site? Is the
archaeologist's assignment of each stratum to a specific time
period beyond question in all cases? These and other questions
should caution us against drawing overhasty conclusions.
I have subsequently learned of another site which is considered by some
professional archaeologists to be a possible alternative for the Heshbon
corresponding to Sihon's capital. This is Tell el-`Umeiri (or Tall
The major point is that the site of the biblical Heshbon, corresponding to Sihon's
capital, is still an open question among archaeologists. As long as that is
the case, one cannot logically conclude that the missing millennium thesis must be false because the archaeology of the modern Tell Hesban fails to satisfy the missing millennium's requirements for the biblical Heshbon as the critique you have found on the Internet does. Given the wealth of confirming evidence in favor of the missing millennium thesis from other sites and in other ways the only reasonable conclusion to draw from the lack of confirming evidence at Tell Hesban is that Tell Hesban does not correspond to the biblical Heshbon of Joshua's day.