This post will deal with lecture 3 of Dr. Dever’s series How archaeology Illuminates The Bible but first i want to draw your attention to one of the problems that plague modern archaeologists when they use the field to make identifications between Canaanite civilizations and the Israelites. This problem is highlighted in the Bible and by God himself–
13 And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat. (Joshua 24 KJV)
Take note of the bold words. This tells us that we cannot use ruins of buildings, or olive oil implement remnants etc., to separate the Israelites from their Canaanite predecessors. They both used the same items and we would not know when the Israelites applied their own variations in design and practice. Dating is then thrown off and dating is all some archaeologists have to support their pet theories. This also means that the Israelites probably originally used Canaanite pottery as well which means that modern archaeologists dating ideas would not be accurate when they use those remains.
Assessments concerning the Israelite entry into the Promised Land are now suspect because of this fact. It is no stretch to say that those archaeologists who believe, like Dr. Dever does, that the Israelites were displaced Canaanites are now confused because they made bad assumptions based upon wrong information.
#1. Joshua and Judges do not agree
of course not because in Joshua we read how the Israelites failed to remove all the Canaanite people from the Promised Land thus God used them to be ‘a thorn in the Israelite’s side
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. (Judges 2 KJV)
What modern scholars and archaeologists do not factor in is the change in God’s attitude towards the actions of the Israelites. The conquest is still not complete because the descendants of these ancient people still exist in the Holy Land today. The most famous one was Yassar Arafat.
#2. Why should all the first-born of Egyptians be killed? What did they do?
It is pretty easy to ask these questions if one doesn’t really want an answer to them. It is making the assumption that these people were innocent little babies or children but in fact, most of them would have been grown up and probably participated in the oppression of the Israelites. We do not know what exactly they did but God does and he felt that they were worthy of this punishment.
#3. The cities listed in the Bible which were destroyed by the advancing Israelites, did not exist at that time.
This is a dating issue and dating is very easy to manipulate or get wrong due to personal beliefs, missing information and so on. Dr. Bryant Wood addressed the issue of Kathleen Kenyon’s statement that Jericho was unoccupied at the time the Israelites came into the land but that proclamation was made based upon missing pottery, not real evidence.
Dr. Bryant did find that pottery, by the way, it was in some of Dr. Garstang’s discoveries made decades earlier and stored in the basement of a museum (Read Bryant At ABR on Jericho). Because archaeologists do not dig every square inch of a site, it is easy for them to miss vital data and artifacts and make such preposterous statements.
The Bible is not wrong and if there is a disagreement between ‘experts’ and the Bible then the error is on the part of the ‘experts.’
#4. Of the 30 sites taken by the Israelites only 1 has evidence for destruction.
It is not a too difficult mistake to mis-identify stratigraphy and remains. It is also very easy to place them in the wrong era. Then, with natural forces at work, we may never find destruction remains. A lot of factors play a large role in how a site or evidence is dated and all these factors do not come with iron clad markers or dates so manipulation is barred from participating in the dating process. In other words, the conclusions about the remains and when they took place are very subjective.
#5. The archaeological record does not reflect wandering in the wilderness
You need to read James Hoffmeier’s book Israel in Sinai to see the ridiculous nature of that statement. Dr. Hoffmeier quoted Israel Finkelstein showing that the nomadic people would remain archaeologically invisible in the wilderness. That is because they have no material culture to leave behind and in Israel’s case, their possessions were Egyptian not Israeli, as far as we know, thus if they left any thing behind for future archaeologists to find, the remains would not depict an Israeli culture but an Egyptian one.
#6. or military campaigns
The Israelites only had about one military encounter in their wanderings and it is doubtful we would recognize any evidence from that fight. Then, since the Israelites were not an army, their weapons and such would not reflect any military style invasion. This complaint begs the question, what kind of evidence is Dr. Dever looking for? If he is looking for an Israeli design he would be out of luck as it would be awhile before they started producing their own military materials.
Remember the Israelites probably had Egyptian style weapons with them for the conquest. Then we do have Hazor, Jericho, Ai and other destruction layers which point to military campaigns thus there is archaeological evidence for the conquest.
#7. No reference to Israel in Egypt
That is a convenient stand to make because if you believe the people showing the new film on the Exodus, lots of Egyptian references survive, it all depends on how one looks at those references. But Dr. Dever also conveniently forgets the fact that the Egyptians practiced revisionist history thus it was not a problem for them to remove those references and reminders of their greatest defeat.
#8. The Israelites resided in Kadesh Barnea for 38 years.
I do not know where Dr. Dever got this idea and I do not know if he has ever been corrected by for some reason he thinks that the Israelites stayed in one spot for 38 years thus the argument against the wanderings because no evidence of a large group of people lived at that site. There will be no evidence because the Israelites did not reside at Kadesh Barnea for 38 years. Maybe the following verse is the one that confuses him
And the space in which we came from Kadeshbarnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them. (Deut. 2:14 KJV)
But it does not state that the Israelites lived there continuously. The Israelites wandered for 40 years thus they could not have left any evidence at Kadesh Barnea, then again, we need to take into account the fact that the Israelites had no personal material culture to leave behind, their clothes never wore out, they were fed by God via manna and so on thus there is going to be no evidence for modern archaeologists to find.
#9. No weapons have been found thus there was no military invasion
This is an assumption based upon silence and the unrealistic expectation that weapons will survive for 3000+ years. Also, I am sure that the Israelites picked up the weapons of their fallen comrades to use in the future. Not sure but it is a better theory than the one quoted.
#10. Villages dating to the 13th have been found but they are built on new ground not ruins of Canaanite ruins. So the people had nothing to do with military campaigns.
This is another ridiculous point because first, there is nothing in those villages that provide evidence that the inhabitants did not participate in a military conquest. Second, that the remains are from the original Israelites, third, there is no law stating that invaders must build upon previously used land and use their remains as foundational structures.
They are free to build wherever they want and if they wanted to build on new land then they are free to do so. It is also a desperation grab by Dr. Dever and others because the founding of the new villages point towards a settling down by the Israelites after their Exodus and wandering. We do have evidence for both but secular scholars mis-identify and mis-apply that evidences o the truth is hidden.
I will end this analysis here but it is clear to see that Dr. Dever and other secular archaeologists and scholars will be selective in their use of the evidence and how they identify it. We have modern Arab villages preserving ancient Israeli names, surface surveys that show an invasion and settlement and much more. Again archaeology can help illuminate the Bible BUT it depends if the one reading the evidence is interested in the truth or not, or wants that truth to be known.
Secularists have no interest in proving the Bible true–
#11. No biblical scholar or archaeologist holds to Joshua conquest
That is an over-generalization and not true. BUT those who do not hold to this historical fact would have to admit that the rest of the Bible is true and their work false. Very few of them wants that to take place for their reputations and credibility would be gone so would their influence.
We can glean archaeological information about the Bible from the secularists but it takes a lot of work and careful listening to the HS to do so. What the church needs are historians who record history God’s way and do not follow the world’s guidelines so that the average church member can get the truth without too much difficulty and have their faith strengthened.