|Battle of Jericho (biblical)|
Depiction by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (1794-1872)
|Commanders and leaders|
|Joshua||King of Jericho +|
|Casualties and losses|
|Nil||Massacre of all inhabitants (excluding Rahab and her family).|
The Battle of Jericho is an incident from the Book of Joshua, being the first battle fought by the Israelites in the course of the conquest of Canaan. According to Joshua 6:1-27, the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites marched around the city walls once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day then blew their trumpets. Excavations at Tell es-Sultan, the biblical Jericho, have failed to substantiate this story, which has its origins in the nationalist propaganda of much later kings of Judah and their claims to the territory of the Kingdom of Israel. The lack of archaeological evidence and the composition history and theological purposes of the Book of Joshua have led archaeologists like William G. Dever to characterise the story of the fall of Jericho as "invented out of whole cloth".
The Book of Joshua is the story of how Israel conquered Canaan. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, sent two spies to Jericho, the first city of Canaan that they decided to conquer, and discovered that the land was in fear of them and their God. The Israelites marched around the walls once every day for six days with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day they marched seven times around the walls, then the priests blew their ram's horns, the Israelites raised a great shout, and the walls of the city fell. Following God's law they killed every man and woman of every age, as well as the oxen, sheep, and donkeys. Only Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who had sheltered the spies, her parents, brothers and all "those who belonged to her" were spared. Joshua then cursed anybody who rebuilt the foundations and gates, with the deaths of their firstborn and youngest child respectively. This was eventually fulfilled by Hiel the Bethelite under King Ahab's reign.
In 1868, Charles Warren identified Tell es-Sultan as the site of Jericho. In 1930-1936, John Garstang conducted excavations there and discovered the remains of a network of collapsed walls which he dated to about 1400 BCE. Kathleen Kenyon re-excavated the site over 1952-1958 and demonstrated that the destruction occurred at an earlier time, during a well-attested Egyptian campaign against the Hyksos of that period, and that Jericho had been deserted throughout the mid-late 13th century BCE, the supposed time of Joshua's battle. Sources differ as to what date Kenyon instead proposed; either ca. 1500 BC  or ca. 1580 BC. Kenyon's work was corroborated in 1995 by radiocarbon tests which dated the destruction level to the late 17th or 16th centuries BCE. A small unwalled settlement was rebuilt in the 15th century BCE, but the tell was unoccupied from the late 15th century until the 10th/9th centuries BCE.
Scholars agree almost unanimously that the Book of Joshua holds little historical value. Its origin lies in a time far removed from the times that it depicts, and its intention is primarily theological in detailing how Israel and her leaders are judged by their obedience to the teachings and laws (the covenant) set down in the Book of Deuteronomy. The story of Jericho and the rest of the conquest represents the nationalist propaganda of the Kingdom of Judah and their claims to the territory of the Kingdom of Israel after 722 BCE; those chapters were later incorporated into an early form of Joshua likely written late in the reign of King Josiah (reigned 640-609 BCE), and the book was revised and completed after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586, and possibly after the return from the Babylonian exile in 538.