“In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 6:1, ESV).

Byzantine Mosaic map of the Holy Land.


Dating events recorded in the book of Joshua, and by extension the Exodus account, is another intensely debated question among scholars. On one side of the debate, biblical archaeologists such as James Hoffmeier contend that a 13th century Exodus fits the material evidence due to connections between sites recorded within the biblical account, such as the store city of Ramesses II (Exod. 1:11) as one example; however, other biblical archaeologists like Bryant Wood date the Exodus sometime within the 15th century based on a literal understanding of the 480 year timeline recorded in 1 Kings 6:1: “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord” (ESV).[1] Douglas Petrovich dates the death of Joshua as occurring around 1384 BCE, which places the account sometime within the 13th and 14th centuries aligning more with Hoffmeier than Bryant.[2] In any event, for our purposes here, we have a specific enough timeframe–late Bronze to early Iron age–for a high level consideration of archaeology directly relevant to Joshua. 

Archaeological Considerations

According to archaeologists, in order to understand the social structure and the material conditions of life for the principal part of a community a consideration of the household structure is key: “Households embody and underlie the organization of a society at its most basic level; they can, therefore, serve as sensitive indicators of evolutionary change in social organization”[3] Archaeologists have discovered much about the family structure, during the Middle Bronze to early Iron Age, based largely on the size of excavated dwellings in rural settlements. The typical house is a four-room dwelling thought to serve a father, mother, and two or three unmarried children, though scholars also posit that homes could have been inhabited by as much as three or four generations of an extended family.[4] The number of inhabitants necessitate more options for privacy; this interpretation, according to Avraham Faust, is supported by the fact that despite the uniformity in the typical four-room house plan, the internal divisions vary among the majority of houses uncovered.[5]

Ancient Hazor is a significant archaeological find as it is the final Bronze Age city and among those recorded as having been destroyed by the Israelites (Josh. 11:1-11). According to Yigael Yadin, the archaeologist who first excavated at Hazor, the settlement consists of a large, rectangular lower city (170 acres) and a bottle-shaped upper city (30 acres), which Petrovich describes as an elongated mound called a “tel”[6] rising about 40 meters above the surrounding plain.[7]According to Sharon Zuckerman, excavation of the lower city confirms that the fiercest attacks are focused primarily on public structures like the Orthostats and Stelae temples, corroborated by excavations of the upper city where the most fierce attacks are limited to public buildings as well.[8] Though it would be amiss not to mention that Zuckerman challenges the biblical claim that the Israelites are the culprits behind the destruction of Hazor and proposes that the its destruction was the result of internal revolt.[9] Debate surrounding by whom, and to a lesser degree precisely when, not withstanding, archaeology reveals that the peak of Hazor’s power is achieved from the middle of the 14th through the second third of the 13th centuries. What is more, this dating is strongly inferred by epigraphical evidence from the Amarna Letters in which the king of Hazor is the only Canaanite ruler at the time identified as a king in letters to the Egyptian pharaoh.[10] Therefore, if we believe the account of Hazor as presented in Joshua 11, the picture that emerges from the archaeology offers much insight into things like the opposition the Israelites faced, the most severe targets of their military campaigns, and the intentionality and faithfulness of Yahweh.    

As with Hazor, ancient Jericho is significant archaeologically to the book of Joshua, and perhaps, the most prominent considering the story of Rahab and the spies, not to mention that the account of the Israelites marching for seven days is a Sunday school staple. According to McConville, Jericho is the most celebrated example of the relationship between narrative and archaeology presented in the book oof Joshua; however, archaeological research finds no evidence of a walled city in the Late Bronze Age.[11] Therefore, despite the fanfare associated with the account, our learning about ancient Jericho must be primarily satisfied by the examination of pottery and other similar material remains, because over most of the area which has been excavated, there is a thick layer of burning above the Middle Bronze Age buildings.[12]The lack of available evidence, together with Jericho’s history, have made the archaeological record somewhat confusing, for example, scholars believe it is probable that the city walls from the Early and Middle Bronze periods continue to be used by occupants in the Late Bronze period, as well as long periods of abandonment has left the site having been subjected to extensive erosion.[13] In any case, McConville, among other scholars, assert that the Jericho site illustrates some basic challenges in correlating archaeology with texts. “If the site is indeed cultic, how would we decide whether this confirms the Joshua story, or whether, alternatively, the story is an aetiology based on the existence of the site?”[14]

Despite some efforts to place the conquest described in Joshua in the Middle Bronze Age, mainly to accommodate the story of Jericho’s fall, general consensus exists between both biblical scholars and archaeologists that the setting is the Late Bronze Age transition into Iron, in agreement with the position attested to by Hoffmeier and Petrovich. However there is new scholarship emerging in closer support of the biblical timeline as attested to by Wood; the merits of which I am currently investigating.This as well as emerging archaeology on the location of the biblical Mount Sinai is equally as fascinating.


Quite a bit of the discussion within the literature dating the Exodus account in the 15th century puts the Pharaoh in power at the time: Amenhotep II. Since Rameses II reflects tradition, and not an explicit reference found in the Bible, there is no conflict. Consideration of the reigns of his predecessor and successor further contributes to Amenhotep II as a candidate. Of course, all of this information and debate can be easily found via internet search; therefore, I wanted to offer a brief overview from the perspective of the Book of Joshua. 

From Expedition Bible

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the English Standard Version.

[2] Douglas Petrovich, “The Dating of Hazor’s Destruction in Joshua 11 by Way of Biblical, Archaeological, and Epigraphical Evidence,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 3 (Sep 2008): 496. 

[3] Avraham Faust, “The Rural Community in Ancient Israel During Iron Age II,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research317, February 2000): 20. 

[4] Latif Oksuz et al., “The K8 House: A New Domestic Space from the Iron Age II at Tell Halif, Israel,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly151, no. 3 – no. 4 (October 2019): 220.

[5] Ibid., 22.

[6] The term “tell” refers to archaeological mounds containing the remains of ancient cities.

[7] Petrovich, 490.

[8] Sharon Zuckerman, “Anatomy of a Destruction: Crisis Architecture, Termination Rituals and the Fall of Canaanite Hazor,” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 20, no. 1 (2007): 24.

[9] Ibid., 25.

[10] Petrovich, 493.

[11] Gordon McConville, Joshua: An Introduction and Study Guide (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 27; The collapse of the Late Bronze Age beginning of the Iron Age is around 1200 BCE.  

[12] Murray B. Nicol, “Archaeology and the fall of Jericho,” Review & Expositor 58, no. 2 (Apr 1961): 176.  

[13] McConville, 27.

[14] Ibid., 24.

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