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Correspondence: Heshbon

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.


Best wishes


Hello Mikulas,

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 Jericho.

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 al-`Umayri).

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.

Dr. Aardsma

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