Trumpets or Earth Tremors?

One of the most dramatic battles in the Bible is the story of Joshua's trumpets bringing down the walls of Jericho--but until recently many scholars denied that it ever occurred. New evidence, however, disputes the skeptics and confirms the biblical account. Charles Pellegrino discusses the fall of Jericho in his new book entitled Return to Sodom and Gomorrah. Pellegrino is an agnostic who set out to examine the archaeological remains of the ancient Near East. During his investigations he was surprised to discover evidence supporting the events recorded in the Old Testament. Pellegrino describes what was for him one of the greatest surprises--the biblical city of Jericho lying underneath layers of dirt and rubble. You see, for decades scholars wrongly assumed that Jericho did not exist in Joshua's time. In fact, the alleged absence of the biblical Jericho was cited in archaeological textbooks as proof that the Bible was not historically accurate. But a recent reevaluation of the evidence by archaeologist Bryant Woods indicates that Jericho indeed existed during the time of Joshua. It also showed that Jericho's defensive walls fell down in a very unusual way--out from the city and down flat, forming a ramp for an invading army. This is exactly what a student of the Bible would expect to find. According to the Book of Joshua, the walls of Jericho collapsed before the Israelites entered and burned the city. Furthermore, the Bible states that Joshua and his men didn't steal the grain, because God told them to destroy the city without looting it. The archaeological evidence confirms this. An examination of the fossilized food supplies indicates that the city fell after a very short siege. Curiously, the invaders didn't steal the food supplies. Instead, they scattered the grain and then burned it along with the city, an action that Wood calls "unique in the annals of Palestinian archaeology." The Bible states that Joshua cursed the city of Jericho--which is another detail confirmed by archaeology. The city sat empty for hundreds of years--as shown by several feet of silt lying above the ancient ruins. The agnostic Pellegrino suggests that the walls of Jericho were felled by an earthquake. As for the centuries that Jericho lay empty, Pellegrino is admittedly stumped: "Cities located near major watercourses are never abandoned for all time," he says, ". . . but something unusual happened [at Jericho] nonetheless." Something indeed unusual happened at Jericho--and it takes a leap of faith to believe that an earthquake occurred just when Joshua and the Israelites were planning to attack the city. It takes at least as much faith to accept that naturalistic explanation as it does to accept the biblical account. It's one more reminder that Christians don't need to take a back seat to the biblical skeptics. Use the archaeological evidence from Jericho to answer those who deny that the Old Testament is rooted in historical fact. After all, the story of Joshua's men blowing their trumpets to bring down the walls of Jericho is not just a lot of hot air.


Chuck Colson


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