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Volume 1, Number 5September/October 1995

Leviah—City of Og

It has been my privilege, since discovering that traditional Biblical chronology accidentally lacks a full thousand years between the Exodus and Solomon,[1] to make many consequent "armchair" discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology. (By armchair I mean that these discoveries have been made from the comfort of my office chair, without ever having to venture into the heat and sweat of even a single archaeological excavation.) The present article details yet another such discovery—one I made about a year and a half ago.

While I thrill each time I make one of these discoveries, it is not clear how much of this thrill can be passed on in print. Be that as it may, be aware at least that you are about to become one of the first few to share in this new discovery, and when you are done reading you will know some things which Biblical scholars and archaeologists who have labored over the data all their lives do not yet understand.

Figure 1: Location of the Golan.

The ground rises rapidly from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, attaining the Golan Heights plateau (Figure 1) after a final climb up a steep, meandering incline. In just 3.3 kilometers (2.0 miles) the altitude changes from 210 meters (689 feet) below sea level at the surface of the Sea of Galilee to 260 meters (853 feet) above sea level at the western end of a spur of ground which protrudes westward from the Golan (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Location of Leviah. [Map adapted from Claire Epstein, IEJ, 35 (1985): 54.]

Situated on the end of this spur are the remains of an ancient city. The site was obviously chosen for the city because of the natural protection afforded it by the surrounding slopes (Figure 3). The site is known today as Leviah.

Figure 3: North-south cross section near the western end of the Leviah spur. Vertical and horizontal scales are the same. A stick figure man is positioned on the spur near its center to indicate the approximate scale.

Leviah was discovered by Israeli archaeologists in 1968 following the annexation by Israel of the part of the Golan which it had captured in the Six–Day War of the previous year. The site was easily recognized to be of archaeological significance from the numerous Early Bronze Age pottery fragments found on the surface of the ground there, and by the presence of several massive stone walls which ran across the width of the spur (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Leviah spur showing the location of fortification walls (heavy dark lines across the spur) and excavated areas (light dashed lines). The total area enclosed by the steep banks and outer fortification wall is approximately 22.5 acres. [Figure adapted from general plan of Leviah by Moshe Kochavi, "Leviah Enclosure," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 916.]

When Leviah was first discovered, the fact that it was an ancient city was not recognized. The site was covered over by thousands of years of accumulated soil and vegetation. It looked like a large field with ancient, curiously high stone walls. The archaeologists supposed it might be just that—a walled field for keeping sheep and cattle. They called it an "enclosure" site, and speculated about the economic significance of the animals kept there relative to Early Bronze Age civilization in general. Leviah began to be called the "Leviah enclosure" within the technical archaeological literature.

The idea that Leviah had been a large animal pen persisted until 1988. In that year a trench was excavated (area B of Figure 4) within the site and, much to everyone's surprise, the remains of ancient houses were uncovered along its entire length. Clearly, Leviah had not been a walled field for shepherds to keep their flocks—it had been a fortified city. Pottery found during the excavation revealed that the site had been occupied continuously from the Early Bronze I period through Early Bronze III. And it revealed that the city had come to its final end as the result of an attack by some besieging enemy. Here is the archaeologist's description of what was found:

The abundance of whole vessels found on the floors of the houses indicates that the last settlement ended in sudden destruction. …

Excavations along the line of the outer wall (area C) [Figure 4] exposed a wide gate between towers; the bases of the latter, as much as 16 m [52 feet] thick, were preserved to a height of more than 5 m [16 feet]. … The interior of the gateway was found full of fallen bricks, charred wooden beams, and dozens of rounded pebbles, probably used as projectiles. A solid wall (3 m [10 feet] thick) was built across the width of the gate, undoubtedly an attempt by the defenders to block the entrance to the town during the last siege. Reexamination of the pile of stones that crossed the center of the site (area A) revealed that the town had another, inner wall, at least 4 m [13 feet] thick, built of carefully laid stone courses. The gate in the inner wall was also found deliberately blocked up for its entire width.[2]

Leviah was not the only site of this type, however; many other "enclosure" sites had been found in the Golan. It quickly became evident that the Leviah excavation had not just uncovered an ancient city—it had exposed a previously unsuspected civilization, resident in the Golan for a thousand years during the Early Bronze Age. Moshe Kochavi, co-director of the Land of Geshur Project of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, under whose auspices the Leviah excavation was carried out, summarized the results as follows:

The excavations at the Leviah Enclosure have helped to formulate a new interpretation of the Early Bronze Age in the Golan. As early as the fourth millennium, settlements sprang up at sites with good natural defenses. In the course of the Early Bronze Age, these settlements developed and became full fledged towns. Hence, the designation "enclosures" is no longer apt. The proximity of these towns (the distances between them could be traversed on foot in at most three hours), their size, massive fortifications, and long-lived existence attest to an intensive civilization that flourished in the Golan in the period in question. This urban civilization collapsed under the pressure of some besieging enemy.[3]

Who were the people who inhabited these cities for a thousand years? How were these cities related to one another—were they part of a united kingdom? If so, what was the name of their final king? And who besieged these cities and hurled the slingstones against them? What caused them to attack? What was the name of the conquering general?

Archaeology does not know the answer to these questions, and, I suspect, most archaeologists would regard it as hopeless to even attempt to formulate a response to them. But the answers are, in fact, all very obvious and very simple. They are found in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 3:1-10 records that the Israelites, while still on the east side of the Jordan River and under the leadership of Moses, captured and destroyed 60 cities from Og, king of Bashan. Leviah is one of those 60 cities.

This fact is not common knowledge today. As I stated above, I only made this discovery about a year and a half ago, and this is its first real publication. So I need to explain carefully how it is that we can be sure about this.

First, Leviah is in the right location. As we have seen, Leviah is located in the Golan. If you look at a map of Canaan at the time of the Conquest in any Bible atlas (such a map can also be found at the back of many Bibles) you will see that the Golan is part of a larger region which the Bible calls Bashan. If you then turn to the third chapter of Deuteronomy you can read all about how Moses took the entire Bashan region from Og, king of the Amorites, at the beginning of the Conquest before the Israelites crossed over the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua.

Figure 5: The chronology of Leviah relative to the chronology of Palestine and the Bible during the 2nd and 3rd millennia B.C.

Second, the timing is right. Figure 5 shows a portion of the time chart of the secular chronology of Palestine properly synchronized with the chronology of the Bible as discussed in the previous issue.[4] I have added the chronology of Leviah as revealed by modern archaeological excavation to the right side of this chart. It can be seen that "destroyed" in the fourth (Leviah) column coincides with "Conquest begins" in the second column. In other words, Leviah was destroyed at the time of the Conquest.

Third, the density of settlement is right. Deuteronomy 3 records that 60 cities were taken together with "a great many unwalled towns." This implies a high density of settlement in this limited region. In fact, in the Golan alone (not the entire Bashan), archaeological surface surveys have found that, in the Early Bronze Age II period (i.e., 200 years before the Conquest) numerous towns and cities already existed.

Evidence for the Early Bronze Age II come largely from surveys. Some twenty-seven settlement and so-called enclosure sites are spread throughout the Golan…[5]

Fourth, the description of the height of the city walls is right, and fifth, the ubiquitous presence of these walls in the Golan is right. Moses said of the 60 cities which they had taken from Og: "All these were cities fortified with high walls…"[6] The archaeologists describe Leviah and its sister-cities thus:

The "enclosure" sites are characterized by massive walls, … Some "enclosure" sites are built on an elongated promontory with a sheer descent on either side to the valleys below. These are further protected by huge fortification walls built across them … Another enclosure site erected at the extreme end of a triangular upland above the confluence of two wadis has a massive defensive wall built across it, securing it on its open, unprotected side … Other enclosures, sited in terrain that lacks naturally defensive features, are surrounded by immense walls of heaped stones …[7] [My emphasis.]

Sixth, the duration of Leviah and its associated culture in the Golan is right. We have observed above that Og was king of the Amorites. Thus, Leviah was a city of the Amorites. This makes a statement God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:16 particularly important to our identification of Leviah. After foretelling the Israelite enslavement in Egypt, and the subsequent return of the Israelites to Canaan, God explained that these things must wait because "the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." Now we know from numerous Bible passages that the Amorites were in Canaan at the time of Abraham. This passage clearly implies that they would remain resident there until God's judgment was ripe—that is, until the Conquest. Thus, we expect to find the Amorite civilization in Canaan back at the time of Abraham (i.e., Early Bronze I), and we expect to find its continued existence there until the time of the Conquest. This is exactly what is found at Leviah and its associated cities (see Figure 5).

Seventh, the nature of the Early Bronze Age IV people who took over the Golan following the destruction of its Early Bronze Age III urban civilization is right. We know from the Bible that these Early Bronze Age IV people were the Israelite half-tribe of Manasseh.[8] Before the Conquest they had wandered forty years in the wilderness—they were a nomadic tribe. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before them, they lived mainly in tents and derived their livelihood from the keeping of sheep and other livestock.[9] This is precisely the kind of people the archaeologists find in the Golan during Early Bronze Age IV.

At the end of the third millennium, nomadic and seminomadic pastoral groups were to be found in the northern and central Golan; …[10]

The fit of the modern archaeological data from the Golan to the Biblical history of the Conquest of the Bashan region by the Israelites under Moses is pretty convincing, but one might still ask whether there might be some other period in the history of the Golan equally well-suited to the Biblical narrative of the Conquest of this region. Most importantly, is there anything suitable at the traditional 1410 B.C. date for the Conquest, or the more recently suggested 13th century setting?

It would certainly be a curiosity of extreme proportion were history to repeat itself in such wealth of detail, and, in fact, it doesn't—the answer in the case of either of these more conventional dates for the Conquest is an unequivocal, no. Indeed, what is found archaeologically in the Golan at these more conventional dates only reinforces that they are wrong.

Specifically, Moses stated:[11]

So the Lord our God delivered Og also, king of Bashan, with all his people into our hand, and we smote them until no survivor was left. And we captured all his cities at that time; there was not a city which we did not take from them: …
This is a record of profound discontinuity in the Bashan region. Every city was captured, and no Amorite survived. But no such discontinuity is found anywhere near the two conventional dates mentioned above.

These conventional dates are both situated in the Late Bronze Age, which follows the Middle Bronze Age and precedes the Iron Age (see Figure 5). What actually is found in the Golan is basic continuity from the Middle Bronze into the Iron Age—i.e., there is basic continuity right through these conventional dates:

Most of the sites were first settled in the Middle Bronze Age IIB and in many instances continued in use through subsequent periods. …

In the Late Bronze Age, the number of identified settlements decreased by half. The majority of them represent the uninterrupted settlement of sites first occupied in the Middle Bronze Age II that continued into the Iron Age.[12] [My emphasis.]

The conclusion is clear—these conventional dates are wrong. The archaeological data harmonizes completely with the Biblical record of the Conquest in the Golan at the close of Early Bronze Age III, and only at the close of Early Bronze Age III.

As usual, the archaeological data are brilliantly illuminated by the Bible—in this case, the simple history recorded by Moses some four and a half millennia ago—when the chronology of the Bible is properly understood. The ruins called Leviah are not just another dusty pile of heaped stones from some unknown people of antiquity. They are the remains of one of 60 Amorite cities belonging to the kingdom of Og, conquered by Moses while the Israelites were still on the east side of the Jordan River at the beginning of the Conquest. And beyond this, Leviah is the beginning of the material evidence that the Biblical record of the Conquest of Bashan is not myth or imagination as some have claimed. In the face of presently available archaeological evidence, the only genre of literature to which the Biblical record of the Conquest of Bashan can legitimately be assigned is that of simple, sober history. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

Up to the present time I have focused our attention in this class on why Biblical chronology is important to the conservative Christian. I now want to discuss the scope of Biblical chronology briefly, and then introduce the age of the cosmos problem which stands at the beginning of that scope.


Biblical chronologists attempt to answer questions of the form: "When did the Biblical/historical event X take place?" Typical questions of this form which fall within the scope of Biblical chronology are: "When was Jesus born?", "When did Solomon begin to reign?", and "When did Noah's Flood take place?" By answering such questions Biblical chronologists seek to build an accurate chronology of Biblical history.

Questions about the date of extra-Biblical historical events—such as when Norway was first inhabited, or when the Pilgrims came to America, or when my grandfather was born—are outside the scope of Biblical chronology. Questions regarding the timing of future world events which arise from Biblical prophecy are also outside the scope of Biblical chronology—they belong to the field of Biblical eschatology. (Questions in both of these categories are frequently impacted by the results of Biblical chronology, however.)

The proper scope of Biblical chronology is thus seen to be all Biblical/historical events back to the creation of the physical universe, the event with which Genesis 1 begins.

The Age of the Cosmos

Within this scope, the question, "When did Creation take place?" looms large today because of the enormous difference which exists between the date of Creation which has traditionally been calculated by Biblical chronologists and the age of the cosmos which modern science computes. Though a large number of claims have been made to the contrary, this problem is real and it remains unsolved. When I say this problem remains unsolved, I mean that there does not seem to have been any hypothesis advanced so far which is able to integrate all of the available Biblical and scientific data bearing on this question into a single, rational whole. Indeed, the hypotheses which have been advanced as "solutions" to this problem are generally horribly lopsided, doing violence either to pertinent Biblical or scientific data.

I hope you do not find it shocking or alarming that there are things which we do not yet know in the field of Biblical chronology. Let me remind you that the cosmos in which we live is the product of an infinite Creator. We should not be surprised when, as we probe about in this cosmos, we run into puzzles for which our finite minds can find no ready solution. Let me suggest that the only truly alarming situation would be if it were otherwise.

I do not mean to imply that the age of the cosmos problem is intrinsically unanswerable, however. It is a hard problem—perhaps even a very hard problem, if we judge from the length of time it has gone unsolved—but I have no doubt that it will eventually yield to rational investigation.

In the meantime, we answer those who ask us whether this problem shows that the Biblical history of the world is false or fanciful by pointing out the Bible's "track record" in this area. We point out that for many years some supposed the Bible's chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah was hopelessly confused and self-contradictory, but this portion of Biblical history eventually (about 50 years ago) yielded to rational investigation.

At times I am asked where my chronological scheme may find its greatest strength or weakness. Let me say without hesitation that the areas of greatest strength and certainty are precisely those areas where in the past the greatest difficulties and uncertainties were found. These are in the period of the divided monarchy for which there are four separate chronological yardsticks, all seemingly at constant odds with each other and with the years of contemporary history. It was long felt that these seemingly contradictory lines of measurement must be in error—one giving the years of the kings of Judah, another the years of the rulers of Israel, a third the synchronistic years of Israel with Judah, and the fourth the synchronisms of Judah with Israel. …

When the nature of the biblical chronological yardsticks is once understood, the four instruments of measurement for the period of the divided monarchy are of the highest value in providing a sound chronology for the rulers involved. Like a jigsaw puzzle, these numbers fit together only at certain precise points and only in line with certain basic principles of chronological procedure. It was four years after I had begun a serious study of the chronological involvements of the Hebrew kings before I was able to work my way through the data for the first two or three kings of Israel and Judah. But then, having once discovered the various principles involved, in only a few weeks I made my way through to the end.[13]

We then point out that for many years some supposed the Bible's chronology and even history of the pre-monarchical period—including the Exodus and Conquest—was hopelessly in error and largely fanciful, but this portion of Biblical history also eventually (about 5 years ago) yielded to rational investigation. The problem was found to be due to a simple copy error in a single Biblical number resulting in an accidentally dropped millennium from traditional Biblical chronology. (The fact that such a simple thing could confound so many for so long surely has something to say about human finiteness, does it not?)

Finally, we point out that while no satisfactory answer has yet been found to the age of the cosmos problem, we believe that the track record of Biblical chronology in the past century is sufficiently good to warrant the conclusion that attempts to ground one's unbelief in supposed chronological/historical errors in the Bible must be regarded as highly precarious at the present time.

I will be returning to the age of the cosmos problem from time to time. I have introduced it here, under the topic of the scope of Biblical chronology, to emphasize the fact that this problem belongs to Biblical chronology. The question, "When did Creation take place?" is not a biological question—it is a Biblical chronology question. While this question is often entangled with discussions or debates about evolution and creation, this question does not belong to the field of creation/evolution—it belongs to the field of Biblical chronology. Similarly, it must be insisted that this question does not belong to theology, nor to geology, nor to Biblical hermeneutics, nor to astronomy. While each of these fields (and many others besides) may have valuable contributions to make toward the ultimate resolution of this question, the question itself lies properly only within the scope of Biblical chronology, and nowhere else.

I emphasize this because many individuals who are expert in fields other than Biblical chronology seem all too willing to pronounce their "expert" judgment or promote their "expert solution" to this problem which, they seem unaware, lies outside their field of expertise. In the process they invariably fail to give the problem the informed, intelligent treatment it deserves, and they generally succeed only in misinforming and hopelessly confusing the general public regarding it. Please be aware—the problem of the age of the cosmos belongs to Biblical chronology, and by all sound principles of the discipline of Biblical chronology it must be regarded as an unsolved problem. Indeed, it remains an area of active research.

As you enter into the study of this and other Biblical chronology questions you need to be constantly on the alert. Many would like to claim chronology questions as their property, for, as I have discussed with you previously, historical facts can be used to tell all sorts of fictions if one is allowed to tamper with their chronology. You would (I hope) view your auto mechanic's recommended procedure for curing appendicitis with considerable skepticism; treat the pronouncements about Biblical chronology matters by experts in other fields in a similar way. ◇

Research in Progress

I have little by way of new research to report this month—most of my available research time has been spent in gathering source material on several different fronts.

One of these fronts is a new item related to the Exodus. It is too early to say much about it yet other than that it looks quite exciting and well worth the expenditure of some considerable research time and effort. It is impossible to tell how quickly it will come together, of course, but I will certainly keep you informed as appropriate.

Another of these fronts is the geographical extent of the Flood. As I mentioned in the previous issue, this matter has been debated by conservative Bible scholars for a very long time. The evidence which has been brought forward in these debates has always been severely limited by the scholars' inability to give the Flood any definite setting in secular history and archaeology. The proposals of the previous several issues of this newsletter remove this limitation and open this debate to a potential influx of new archaeological and geophysical data. I am pursuing such data along several different lines. Is the debate over the geographical extent of the Flood about to be settled? Stay tuned!

Before signing off for this issue I would like to try to set the record straight on one small matter. About four months ago a subscriber sent me a newspaper clipping reporting the recent discovery of a massive Egyptian tomb "believed to have contained the remains of 50 of the sons of Ramses II."[14] This is an important find for secular historical reasons. However, it does not have the potential Biblical significance suggested by the article.

The newspaper report claimed:

Among those positively identified as having been buried in this complex was Ramses II's firstborn son, who, according to the account in the biblical book of Exodus, was felled in the last of the great plagues that struck Egypt.

Not so fast, please.

This claim would make Ramses II out to be the pharaoh of the Exodus. (The Bible does not mention the name of the pharaoh of the Exodus, of course.) Let me set aside all of the Biblical/historical problems this identification presents and deal with it only from a Biblical chronology perspective.

Ramses II reigned, according to modern Egyptian chronology, from 1279 to 1213 B.C. If Ramses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus, then the Exodus would have had to take place somewhere in that period of time. This is a serious problem because the Bible provides us with a chronology of the Exodus, and the date of the Exodus which the Biblical data yields is most certainly not in the range of 1279 to 1213 B.C.

The Biblical date is totally dependent on 1 Kings 6:1, the verse you have heard so much about from me in the past. In its present form 1 Kings 6:1 states that there were 480 years from Solomon's fourth year back to the Exodus. Solomon's fourth year is universally dated near 970 B.C. (I have gone over the basic procedure for calculating the date of the Exodus from the Bible previously[15] so am only quickly reviewing here) giving the traditional Biblical date of the Exodus of about 1450 B.C.—some 200 years earlier than Ramses II.

Now I hope you know by now that this traditional date is out by 1000 years because the present form of 1 Kings 6:1 contains a minor copy error. If you don't know this please read my book, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, and then follow up with the back issues of this newsletter. But my point for the moment is simply that there is no legitimate way Biblical chronology, either traditional or new, can be made to date the Exodus to the reign of Ramses II. The scholars who promote such a date for the Exodus do so either by trampling all over Biblical chronology, or simply by ignoring it. When Biblical chronology receives the care and respect it deserves one can only conclude that it most certainly was not Ramses II's son who died in the last of the great plagues of the Exodus. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00 per year (six issues) to US address; $19.00 per year to Canada or Mexico; $26.00 per year all other countries. US funds only.
Back issues: $4.00 per copy to US address; $4.17 per copy to Canada or Mexico; $5.33 per copy to all other countries. US funds only.

Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.


  1. ^  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).

  2. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Leviah Enclosure," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 916.

  3. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Leviah Enclosure," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 916.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Chronology of Palestine in Relation to the Bible: 3000 - 1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 1.4 (July/August 1995): 1–6.

  5. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 531.

  6. ^  Deuteronomy 3:5.

  7. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 531.

  8. ^  Deuteronomy 3:13

  9. ^  See, for example, Numbers 32.

  10. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 532.

  11. ^  Deuteronomy 3:3–4a.

  12. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 533.

  13. ^  Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 20–21.

  14. ^  David L. Chandler, "Tomb unearthed may have held remains of 50 sons of Ramses II," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 May 1995, A-1&A-9.

  15. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 3000 – 1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist, 1.3 (May/June 1995): 2.