If you would like to support this web site and the amount of research it involves, I will be grateful and will give you access to a library of resources
QUICK LINKS IN THIS PAGE
Start of the Conquest of Canaan
(2495 AM - 1265 CE)
The fall of Ai
Joshua's altar on Mount Ebal
Coalition of the Canaanites
Allotment of the land
(2496 AM - 1264 CE)
The First Jubilee
(2500 AM - 1260 CE)
The 12 Tribes
(2501 AM - 1259 CE)
Caleb's plea to Joshua
(2501 AM - 1259 CE)
Joshua, son of Nun, led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, and God was with them. He dried the waters of the Jordan River for their passage:
And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, that were by the sea, heard how that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel, until they were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel. --- Joshua 5:1
God forgave the Israelites for their sins in Egypt, and they celebrated their first Pesach in the land of Canaan in that year:
And the Lord said unto Joshua: 'This day have I rolled away (גַּלּוֹתִי) the reproach of Egypt from off you.' Wherefore the name of that place was called Gilgal (גִּלְגָּל) unto this day. And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal; and they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. --- Joshua 5:9-10
The first city they met with was Jericho. God ordered the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant seven times around the city walls, and blow the horns. For the first six days, they did that once around the city. Then on the 7th day:
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early at the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times; only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the horns, that Joshua said unto the people: 'Shout; for the Lord has given you the city.' [...] So the people shouted, and [the priests] blew with the horns. And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the horn, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. --- Joshua 6:15-20
The fall of Jericho (source: Jones, J. R.,The Devotional and Practical Pictorial Family Bible, 1879)
But one of the Israelites sinned, and it caused a curse on the entire nation:
But the children of Israel committed a violation of the anathema; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took from the anathema; and the anger of God was against the children of Israel. --- Joshua 7:1
The ancestry mentioned for Achan is indicative of the 5 generations since Jacob and his 70 souls went down to Egypt:
- 1st generation: the ones who came down from Canaan to Egypt and were supposed to only sojourn for a time => Judah
- 2nd generation: the ones born in Egypt who assimilated there, and also adopted Egyptian gods while remaining a distinct foreign people => Zerah
- 3rd generation: the ones born in Egypt and enslaved there => Zabdi
- 4th generation: the ones born in Egypt who went out at the Exodus, sinned in the desert and died there => Carmi
- 5th generation: the ones born in the desert, who conquered Canaan => Achan
In Genesis 15:16, God told Abraham that the 4th generation will return to Canaan, and it happened to be the case except that the 4th generation was supposed to be the one returning but they sinned with the mission of the explorers: they were cursed to wander 40 years in the desert and die there, until their offsprings will be ready to enter Canaan in their stead.
The next city to fall was Ai. Joshua and 30,000 armed Israelites camped over night in the hill where Abraham had pitched his tent, between Ai and Beth-El. Joshua then left 5,000 men in that camp before setting a second one north from the city. When the men of Ai went out for the battle, Joshua retreated and the men of Ai pursued them in the valleys. In the meantime, the 5000 Israelites entered the city empty from its defenders and burned it.
And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way; and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. --- Joshua 8:20
The Israelites burn the city of Ai (Gustave Doré, 1866)
After Ai, Joshua built an altar on top of Mount Ebal, the northern hill facing Sichem (present-day Nablus), and facing the hill of Mount Gezirim that is sacred to the Samaritans. This was a very important ceremony that Joshua was ordered by Moses to perform, after crossing the Jordan River, because it sets the wandering Israelites as a "people", the people for God as stated in the Torah:
And it shall be when you are passed over the Jordan, that you shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there shall you build an altar unto the Lord your God, an altar of stones; you shall lift up no iron tool upon them. You shall build the altar of the Lord your God of unhewn stones; and you shall offer burnt-offerings thereon unto the Lord your God. And you shall sacrifice peace-offerings, and shall eat there; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. And you shall write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.'And Moses and the priests the Levites spoke unto all Israel, saying: 'Keep silence, and hear, O Israel; this day [of the future ceremony on Mount Ebal] you are [to] become a people unto the Lord your God.--- Deuteronomy 27:4-9
In 1982, the Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal believed that he found the remains of this historical altar, on a northeast slope of Mount Ebal.
An artist's impression of the altar complex built by Joshua
(source: Leen Ritmeyer, Destination Yisra'el)
His main proof points are as follows:
Another proof point has been found later at the site: two Egyptian scarabs with the seal of Ramses II. This pharaoh reigned from 1279 BCE until 1213 BCE, thus after the Exodus that occurred 40 years before the setting of the altar. These two seals may have been collected by Israelites in Canaan, in one of the Canaanite cities they destroyed which was in alliance or communication with Ramses II (thus using his seals). Let's remember that Ramses II campaigned in Canaan and liberated the region from the Hittite yoke before the Israelites entered in the land (see previous page). Thus seals from Ramses II would indeed be found in that period in Canaan.
Last point is about the location of Mount Gezirim. Joshua divided the Israelites in two groups to attend the ceremony of the altar: one on Mount Ebal and one on Mount Gezirim, and both groups must have been able to watch the ceremony, especially the writing of the Torah on the sacrificial stones. But the altar facing the east side, it would have been impossible for people being on the known (Samaritan) Mount Gezirim to see anything. The only conclusion is that the current Mount Gerizim is NOT the one mentioned in the Bible. Looking at the topography of the location, Adam Zertal concluded that the Biblical Mount Gerizim could only be the eastern-side hill known today as Mount Kebir, where the Jewish settlement of Elon Morei has been built. This location suits perfectly the passage of the Israelites after their conquest of Jericho, along the wide plain called the way of "the rising Sun" (thus called in the Book of Joshua) leading to Sichem and the mounts around it. The location of Biblical Gilgal is also identified with another sandal-shape altar found in this area.
The theory of Mount Gerizim
(source: Adam Zeltar's conference on YouTube)
The findings of Prof. Adam Zertal cannot be underestimated. It contradicts many previous theories, made by reknown archaeologists who, in lack of "proofs" to be found in the field, quite summarily concluded that the Bible was a mythological narrative. And here, Zertal went to the field and found the proofs.
The Israelite people remained in their camp at Gilgal while Joshua and his armed forces endeavoured to conquer the land. But all the Canaanites made an alliance to fight together against the Israelites in one big battle at the waters of Meron (Joshua 11:1-5) in the northern part of the land because Jabin the king of Hazor was at the head of this coalition. The waters of Meron refer to the ancient lake formed by the Jordan River north from the Sea of Galilee. This lake doesn't exist anymore but has become the 'Hula Valley. The city-state of Hazor, the largest in Canaan, was destroyed and actually burnt as the Bible mentions:
And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was none left that breathed; and he burnt Hazor with fire.--- Joshua 10:10-11
The excavations of Tel Hazor show plenty of proof that the city was destroyed by fire in its history.
The gate of Hazor, with stones blackened by fire
(photograph by Albert Benhamou)
Of course, the location of Hazor was appealling because of its proximity to water spring and streams, and its outstanding location at the crossroads between the North and the South, and its gateway to Mesopotomia. So people settled there again over time. And a descendant of king Jabin raised some years later against the Israelites once more.
The conquest was pursued by Joshua and resulted in the destruction of 31 Canaanite kingdoms:
And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the children of Israel smote beyond the Jordan westward, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the bare mountain, that go up to Seir; and Joshua gave it unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions; in the hill-country, and in the lowland, and in the Arabah, and in the slopes, and in the wilderness, and in the South; the Hittite, the Amorite, and the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: the king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Beth-el, one; 12,10 the king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; 12,11 the king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; the king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; the king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; the king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; the king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; the king of Makkedah, one; the king of Beth-el, one; the king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; the king of Aphek, one; the king of the Sharon, one; the king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one; the king of Shimron-meron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; the king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam in Carmel, one; the king of Dor in the region of Dor, one; the king of Goiim in the Gilgal, one; the king of Tirzah, one. All the kings thirty and one. --- Joshua 12:7-24
The army of the Amorites is destroyed at Gibeon (Gustave Doré, 1868)
The mention of "31 kingdoms" proves that the Land of Canaan, before its conquest by the Israelites, had remained in the antique model of "city states" that started in Mesopotamia. Canaan was not an "unified" dominion, and only became one much later with the first Israelite kingdom. It is worth noting that Philistia which was not conquered by the Israelites remained with the city-states model as the land was divided between rulers of five cities: the "Five Lords of Philistia", namely Ashdod, Ashqelon, Gaza, Gath and Ekron.
After these battles, a large portion of the land was still left to conquer. But God told Joshua that he was old and stricken in years (Joshua 13:1). This expression is only used with one other person in the Bible: it will be King David before his death, when he was 70 years old. So similarly, Joshua was 70 years old when God told him he was old and stricken in years. As we know that Joshua was 28 years old at the time of the Exodus in Hebrew year 2454, we can conclude that God talked to him in Hebrew year 2454-28+70= 2496. So this happened in the second year of the conquest.
Map of the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua
At Mount Sinai, God ordered to Moses that the Israelites will need to count the Sabbatical years (cycles of 7 years) and the Jubilee years (the 50th year after seven Sabbatical cycles of 7 years each).
And the Lord spoke unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof. But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto the Lord; you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard. That which grows of itself of your harvest you shall not reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine you shall not gather; it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. And the sabbath-produce of the land shall be for food for you: for you, and for your servant and for your maid, and for your hired servant and for the settler by your side that sojourn with you; and for your cattle, and for the beasts that are in your land, shall all the increase thereof be for food. And you shall number seven sabbaths of years unto you, seven times seven years; and there shall be unto you the days of seven sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years. Then shall you make proclamation with the blast of the horn on the tenth day of the seventh month; in the day of atonement shall you make proclamation with the horn throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you; you shall not sow, neither reap that which grows of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy unto you; you shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In this year of jubilee you shall return every man unto his possession. --- Leviticus 25:1-13
When did these counts start? The Biblical text states: When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. This means that the first cycle to be counted was when they will come into the land and this first count was a Sabbatical year. This first Sabbatical took place when the first tribes took possession of their inheritance, East from the Jordan River, when Moses was still alive. He gave that territory to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 32:33). This took place before the death of Aaron (Numbers 33:38-39) in Hebrew year 2494. Then, after the conquest, the land of Canaan was also divided and given as inheritance to the other tribes. The final inheritance (the land around Hebron, see below) was given to Caleb from the tribe of Judah after he made a plea to Joshua: Caleb was then 85 years old. He must have made his plea just after the end of the first Jubilee, so that a count of 50 years (a new Jubilee cycle) will be fully available to him and his tribe. Therefore the First Jubilee was counted when Caleb was 84 years old. This was in Hebrew year 2500. And the first Sabbatical year was counted 8 years earlier (1 year as the Jubilee year + 7 years for a full Sabbatical cycle), therefore this was in Hebrew year 2500-8= 2492. This indeed was at a time when Aaron was still alive and he performed the first celebrated Sabbatical year. But both he and Moses died before they could celebrate the first Jubilee year in 2500.
It is important to note that the Hebrew year 2500 corresponds to 50 cycles of 50 years since Creation. In other word, the institution of the Jubilee cycle was done on the 50th jubilee cycle from Creation. It was like a "Jubilee of these jubilee cycles" because of its 50th count from Creation.
Equally important, the physicall world (Creation) is supposed to last 6000 years, equivalent to 120 jubilee cycles from Creatin (120 x 50 = 6000). Counting the end of the physical world from the First Jubilee counting in Hebrew year 2500 makes 70 Jubilee cycles (120-50= 70 cycles). This 70 count of Jubilees correspond to the 70 years of captivity to which the Israelites will be submitted in Babylon (see relevant chapter). In other words, the end of the Babylon captivity corresponded to the redemption of the Israelites while the end of the Jubilee cycles will correspond to the final redemption of the entire Creation.
At the end of six years since their entrance to Canaan, the Ark of Covenant was brought up from the camp at Gilgal, with all the congregation of Israelites, into the city of Shiloh (Joshua 18:1) which was given to the priests. It is there that Joshua divided the land between the tribes and assigned to each of them the task to complete the conquest, in their allotted territory. It is surprising that it took a few months to win the vast portion of the land and conquer 31 kingdoms, and yet not finish the conquest after an additional 4 years of wars. The reason for this lenghty time and incomplete conquest was that the Israelites were also starting to sin.
The 12 Tribes in Canaan (source: Jewish Virtual Library)
Archaeologist Adam Zertal has walked the land of Manesseh for 35 years, in search for clues about the settlement of the Israelites in the land of Canaan. He has surveyed that, in Manesseh only, there were less than ten Canaanite settlements (the largest one being Megiddo with about 2500 inhabitants) before the arrival of the Israelites. And then, in a matter of 50 years from their arrival, he surveyed about 300 archaeological sites all dating from the Israelite period. This shows that the population in that part of the land of Canaan alone had increased by a ratio of 1000%. This fact disproves the previous theory that the Israelites were local Canaanites who adopted a new religion. This growth of population can only be explained by a massive flow of new settlers who came from outside Canaan, just as the Biblical text explains.
At the time Caleb from the tribe of Judah was 85 years old when he spoke to Joshua about the territory around Hebron. and it was 45 years since the mission of the explorers to which both had participated (Joshua 14:7-10). This enables us to state that Caleb spoke to Joshua in year 2456+45= 2501, and this is also when the division of the land was made by Joshua who was then 75 years old. Caleb made a plea to Joshua to receive the hilly country south of Jerusalem, where false reports had mentioned that giant people (the Anakim) lived there at the time of the explorers. The main city-state there was Hebron, which was previously called Kyryat-Arba, meaning City of Arba, named after the Anak giant called Arba (Joshua 14:15).
The land of Canaan was ultimately conquered, or under control except for some notable city states such as the city of the Jebusites on one of the hills of Jerusalem, which could not be conquered by the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:63), nor by the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 1:21). It will take another long period until it will be conquered, only by King David. In many occasions, the Israelites compromised with the local pagan peoples who remained in their respective territory, and allowed them to remain in their cities in exchange for a levy. More importantly, at God’s displeasure, the Israelites didn’t destroy the pagan places of worship, which is why the conquest was never allowed by God to be complete.
When Caleb made his plea to Joshua, he was 85 years old and passed the leadership of his tribe to his nephew, Othniel, son of Kenaz who was Caleb’s younger brother. Othniel also married Caleb’s daughter, called Achsah, his cousin (Judges 1:12-15). Caleb must have died in that same year, or some years soon after, as the rest of the conquest in that territory of Judah are no longer counted under Caleb’s direct name but counted as Judah. Othniel was Judah’s heir, and he would be judge for his tribe until his death.
 The ancient city is Ai is thought to be the current Khirbet al-Maqatir where excavations have been ongoing.
 For more information from Zertal himself, click here