Correspondence: Jericho -- Joshua's Curse
February 1, 2009
Hello Dr. Aardsma,
I've spent the last couple hours intrigued by your site. Looking at the Jericho record, there's one thing that came to mind that I can't make fit with the timeline. I Kings 16:34 says "It was at this point that Hiel rebuilt Jericho", at the cost of his two sons. It makes a clear reference to Joshua's curse, as if no one up to that point had dared to rebuild. To me, this is a clear implication that at a minimum, there were no walls around Jericho going back to the Conquest. (He also was said to have created a 'foundation', implying there was none at the time.)
This would have been somewhere in the vicinity of 850 BC. The Conquest in this theory happened back at 2400 BC. Why is there evidence of walls going up in 1800 BC?
The best explanation I can give is that either there was in fact a walled city prior to Hiel, or that this timeline is incorrect. I find the former explanation unsettling --- if someone had successfully rebuilt Jericho without losing sons, the Biblical record would have conveniently failed to mention this unfulfillment of prophecy. (Although, this would have occurred during the period of the Judges --- which is far less the historical/chronological record that Kings is; or, perhaps the brief rebuilding of Jericho could even have been lost to history by the time of the divided kingdom? That would be 700+ years later...)
Actually, I think that last explanation satisfies me on my own question. Still --- I'd be curious to hear your thoughts?
Oaths are only binding on those who take them. The oath which Joshua made the sons of Israel swear to (Joshua 6:26), with its associated curse, was only binding on the Israelites. If the walls that went up at Jericho ca. 1800 B.C. were due to a non-Israelite, there would be no expectation of a fulfillment of Joshua's curse on that builder as he was not included in the oath. This seems to me to be the most likely explanation of why a previous fulfillment of Joshua's curse in relation to these earlier (1800 B.C.) walls is not mentioned in 1 Kings.
The 1800 B.C. walls were built during the period of time in which there is an almost total biblical historical silence, i.e., during the roughly 800 years between the end of the book of Judges and the beginning of the book of 1 Samuel. So we need to go to biblical archaeology and secular history to find out what was going on in Palestine at that time. We find, in brief, that this appears to have been a period of considerable political setback for the Israelites. There is a strong Egyptian presence in Palestine at that time (some say Egypt ruled Palestine), and another foreign influence (Philistines?) which enters from the north along the coast, and then spreads inland. These foreign powers appear to be responsible for the re-urbanization of Palestine, not the Israelites. So the 1800 B.C. walls --- the Middle Bronze city of Jericho --- was almost certainly not built by an Israelite.
If this is correct, then Hiel was the first Israelite to rebuild Jericho, making him the first oath-breaker and consequent recipient of the curse.
Trust this adequately answers your question.