A Critique of the Gerald Aardsma (Ph.D.) Theory that the Exodus Occurred at the End of the Early Bronze Age with the Fall of Ai (modern et-Tell)
Please click here for this website's most important article: Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God.
20 September 2001
A common problem encountered with proposals for an archaeological
time period to set the Exodus in is that the proposers think that because they
have accounted for "SOME" of the data, that this justifies their theory. In
fact, one has to account for ALL of the archaeological anomalies not just SOME.
The common reponse, or counter-argument is that it is *unrealistic* to expect
ALL the archaeological anomalies to be accounted for -which I don't buy.
The Gerald Aardsma proposal associates the fall of Jericho and Ai to Joshua with the destruction of these cities at the end of the Early Bronze Age.
Aardsma noted that the Bible speaks of Jericho's fallen walls, and in studying the archaeological evidence at Jericho, he noted that fallen walls are attested for the Early Bronze Age. He accepts the conventional chronology arrived at via Egyptian pottery typologies, and suggests that in the course of transmission of the biblical text through the ages, that due to some copiest's error, a thousand years went missing. Thus the statement in 1 Kings 1:6 of 480 years elapsing between Solomon's 4th year and the Exodus becomes for Aardsma 1480 years, placing the event in the Early Bronze Age and "aligning" with the archaeologically attested fallen walls found by Garstang in the 1930's and confirmed by Kenyon in the 1960's. Garstang had dated the fallen walls to ca. 1400 BCE, but Kenyon was able to demonstrate that they were Early Bronze Age.
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
The king of Arad attacked Israel while at Mt. Hor mourning Aaron's death (Nu
21:1; 33:40), Joshua later attacked the King of Arad (modern tell Arud, cf. Jos
12:14) after destroying Jericho (modern Ain es-Sultan) and Ai (modern et-Tell).
Archaeologists understand that Ai fell in Early Bronze III-B, ca. 2400 BCE
during the 5th Dynasty of Egypt -
"Violent destruction overtook the city about 2400 BC, during the Fifth Dynasty.
No definite aggressor is known..." (pp. 39, 49; Vol. 1, J.A. Callaway, "Ai,"
Micael Avi-Yonah, Editor. Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the
Holy Land. London. Oxford University Press.1975. ISBN 0-19-647923-1)
Arad was destroyed at the end of Early Bronze Age II according to Ruth Amiran -
"The following table shows the synchronism resulting from the Arad and Egyptian
material: Stratum I (Squatters) End of EBA II, Some time at the END OF THE
FIRST DYNASTY." (cf. p.81, Vol.1, Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in
the Holy Land. 1975). The city was not reoccupied until Iron Age times, after
The First Dynasty came to an end ca. 2890 BCE according to Clayton (p.16,Peter
A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, the Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames and Hudson. 1994. ISBN
0-500-05074-0). The Fifth Dynasty, when Ai (et-Tell) came to an end, is dated
2498-2345 BCE (p.60, Clayton).
How can Joshua be bringing about an end to Arad at the end of First Dynasty
times, ca. 2890 BCE and an end to Ai in 5th Dynasty times, ca. 2498-2345 BCE ?
We have an interval of roughly 400 years between the destruction levels of
these two cities suppossedly destroyed by Joshua in the Aardsma proposal !
We are informed that the Gibeonites enter a league with Joshua and that because
of this Canaanite city states gather together to destroy Gibeon. Joshua comes
to the city's defense destroying the Canaanite coalition (Joshua 9 & 10).
According to Pritchard who excavated at Gibeon (modern el-Jib) the city did not
exist in Early Bronze II to fall to Aardsma's Joshua ca. 2400 BCE.
"Summary- The site was occupied extensively in the Early Bronze Age I. The
Middle Bronze Age I is represented only by pottery and other artifacts found in
the tombs on the west side of the mound. In the Middle Bronze Age II, however,
there was an occupation on the site and the Middle Brronze Age I tombs were
re-used." (p.449, Vol.2. J.B. Pritchard, "Gibeon," Encyclopedia of
Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. London. Oxford University
Pfeiffer on Gibeon-
"Early Bronze Age (3100-2100 BC) Gibeon was founded at the beginning of this
period...It appears that the Early Bronze city was destroyed by fire, the time
of destruction as yet undetermined...Middle Bronze Age. MB I is known from the
shaft tombs cut into a soft limestone layer on the westside of the city."
(p.263, "Gibeon," Charles F. Peiffer, Editor. The Biblical World, A Dictionary
of Biblical Archaeology. Nashville, Tennessee. Broadman Press. 1966)
Although Pfeiffer says the destruction date of the Early Bronze city is
unknown, he is referring to its demise *within* the Early Bronze I period, for
there are no reports of Early Bronze II or Early Bronze III pottery ( EB I ca.
3100-2860 BCE; EB II ca. 2860-2720 BCE; EB III ca. 2720-2400 BCE, these dates
taken from the EAEHL, dated 1975).
In conclusion, the Aardsma proposal that the Exodus occured toward the end of
the Early Bronze period, and that Joshua was responsible for the end of Ai
(et-Tell) ca. 2400 BCE, JUST DOESN'T HOLD WATER, when the other archaeological
anomalies are brought into the picture. The 400 year difference between the fall of Ai (et-Tell) and Arad (Tell Arud) is a "fatal" blow to the Aardsma proposal.