Chapter 1 - Jericho's Giants (cont.)
Having been built to a considerable height and breadth, these walls "were of a type which made direct assault practically impossible," writes Leon Wood. "An approaching enemy first encountered a stone abutment, eleven feet high, back and up from which sloped a thirty five degree plastered scarp reaching to the main wall some thirty five vertical feet above. The steep smooth slope prohibited battering the wall by any effective device or building fires to break it. An army trying to storm the wall found difficulty in climbing the slope, and ladders to scale it could find no satisfactory footing. The normal tactic used by an enemy to take a city so protected was siege, but Israel did not have time for this, if she was to occupy all the land in any reasonable number of months."
While they still stood, Jerichos high walls enclosed about seven acres and made it the strongest fortress in Canaan. So when the vast Hebrew army crossed over the Jordan, the "thick population round about" hurriedly left their homes to enter the city and join in preparations for its defense. Meanwhile, on the plain of Gilgal just opposite Jericho, the Israelites pitched their camp. The Jordan Valley at this juncture widens to almost fourteen miles, becoming the broadest expanse in its entire length. At the time of Israels invasion, a forest of noble palms nearly three miles broad and eight miles long stood between their camp and the city. But from Gilgals elevated ground the Hebrews could see over this grove to the stout walls of Jericho some two miles in the distance. Beyond the city they viewed the hills of the western highlands rising abruptly from the plains. Just behind the hills, a mountain cliff, called Jebel Kuruntul, rose so high that in the early afternoon its cooling shadow enfolded the town. High up there stood the Amorites first strong holds. These the Israelites also had to demolish before making assaults on the several independent kingdoms located farther inland.
From the time they spied out the land, Joshua knew that the only trails offering access to the Holy Land began in these foothills. But Jericho stood in the way. Serving as an outpost for the three passes, it prevented hostile invasions of Canaan from the east. So the capture and annihilation of the rich, depraved city became imperative. To accomplish this objective, Joshua announced to all the armed men and the priests a most unusual plan of attack.
Waiting behind their stout walls, the inhabitants of Jericho fully expected the Hebrews hundreds of thousands of warriors to begin a head on assault. Much to their surprise, no attempt was made to scale the walls or force the gates. Instead, reports the historian Henry Hart Milman, "they saw what might seem a peaceful procession going regularly round the walls of the city. The army marched first, in total silence. In the rear came the Ark, escorted by seven priests, blowing seven trumpets, made of rams horns. For six successive days this mysterious circuit took place; no voice was heard from the vast and breathless army nothing but the shrill wailing of the trumpet. On the seventh day this extraordinary ceremony was repeated seven times. At the close of the last round, the whole army on a sudden set up a tremendous shout, the walls of the city fell, and the defenseless people found the triumphant enemy rushing along their streets." The men of Jericho, Josephus adds, were so astounded and "affrighted at the surprising overthrow of the walls that their courage became useless, and they were not able to defend themselves."
A German Austrian team led by John Garstang came upon the ruins of the collapsed walls while digging in the Tell es Sultan mound in the 1930s. What his team found was the remains of two high walls, running parallel and spaced about ten feet apart. The outer wall, the citys first line of defense, measured only six feet across. The higher inner wall, however, was twelve feet broad. Its massive thickness ordinarily would have presented any potential enemy with a real problem. But as the three continued digging they saw how the walls were destroyed, and what they saw astounded them. With great excitement, Garstang, Pere Vincent, also an archaeologist, and Clarence Fisher, a pottery and architectural expert, detailed their extraordinary findings in a statement that all three signed. In part, they reported: "... The outer wall suffered most, its remains falling down the slope. The inner wall is preserved only where it abuts upon the citadel, or tower, to a height of eighteen feet; elsewhere it is found largely to have fallen, together, with the remains of buildings upon it, into the space between the walls which was filled with ruins and debris. Traces of intense fire are plain to see, including reddened masses of brick, cracked stones, charred timbers and ashes. Houses alongside the wall are found burned to the ground, their roofs fallen upon the domestic pottery within." Then the three men added this particularly interesting statement: "As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt; the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city."
News of their discovery eventually brought other famous archaeologists to the excavations at Jericho. One of these, Sir Charles Marston, after carefully examining the ruins of the walls, filed this report: "Study of the geological strata, in addition to archaeological work on the walls themselves, now has revealed undoubted evidence that the wall was raised by an earthquake."
Evidence of an earthquake, continues Marston, "does not destroy belief in a miracle. Surely it was a miracle that the earthquake could take place at the particular time when the city was besieged by the Israelites."
Obeying Joshuas instructions to devote Jericho as a holocaust, the Hebrews set fire to the whole city. They also burned the country round about it. What structures escaped the fire, they tore down. Garstang reports that while sifting through the ruins of the royal residence, and many other homes and storerooms, he found a thick layer of ash, sometimes knee deep. He also saw a lot of wheat, bar ley, dates, lentils, and other foods, all of which had been turned into charcoal by intense heat. In the kitchen of one home, the archaeologist uncovered "a family provision of dates, barley, olives, a piece of bread, and a quantity of unbaked dough, all charred but unmistakable. It was sad evidence of a people cut off in full activity."
The scriptures relate that the Hebrews left none they found inside alive, save the harlot Rahab and her family. But by some means at least some of Jerichos giants managed to escape. "Those who survived," says The Jewish Encyclopedia, "were led by a certain Ifrikish ibn Kais to Africa, and, having killed the king of that country, settled there. The Berbers are their descendants."
Other records also reveal that some Canaanites fled for their lives to Africa. According to Procopius, some of these dispossessed peoples settled in Libya and then overspread Africa as far as the Pillars of Hercules. He further declares that in the sixth century A.D., "two marble pillars were to be seen in the Numidian town Tigisis, with a Phoenician inscription, in these terms: We are those who fled from the face of Jesus (Joshua) the robber, the son of Nun. Suidas states this also; giving the words as, We are Canaanites, whom Jesus the robber drove out, and the Talmud reveals that the Girgasites driven out by Joshua wandered to Africa." (See Canaans Anakim; Israels Wars with the Giants; Sihons and Ogs Overthrow; also see Chads Giants; Curigueres; Sudans Giants; Watusi Giants; Zanzibars Giants)
Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel's History (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 174.2.
Because of this large grove, Jericho also became known as the "City of Palms." The dates it harvested from the grove were eagerly sought by peoples in the surrounding nations.3.
Midrash, Tan., Beha'aloteka, ed. Vienna, p. 206b.4.
See Joshua 6:2-5.5.
Henry Hart Milman, The History of the Jews, Vol. I (New York: A. C. Armstrong, 1886), p. 265.6.
Josephus, Antiquities, 5.1.6,7.7.
Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History (Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1950), p. 130.8.
L. Sale-Harrison, Palestine: God's Monument of Prophecy (Chicago: Van Kampen Press, 1933), pp. 76-77.9.
The Biblical World, Charles F. Pfeiffer, editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 308.11.
Vol. 5, p. 659.12.
William Garden Blaikie, The Expositor's Bible (London: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1905), p. 246.13.
Cunningham Geikie, Hours with the Bible, Vol. 2 (New York: James Pott & Co., 1903), p. 463.