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Archaeology Confirms The Bible Record
The Conquest Of Canaan. (Part II)
Was there an invasion of Canaan 40 years after the Exodus in 1456 B.C.? If there was a conquest, there would have to be some evidence, either in Canaan or elsewhere. Two areas of evidence are covered in this section: Egypt and Canaan. Any invasion of Canaan might show up by its effects on Egypt. And of course, the destruction of Canaanite cities at this time would be direct evidence of an invasion.
More Evidence From Egypt
The Amarna Letters
The Amarna Letters were written by Canaanite rulers and sent to Amenhotep III (1387-1350 B.C.) and Akhenaten (1350-1334 B.C.). These letters mention trouble between Canaanite rulers, and also trouble with the “Habiru”.1
The interesting thing about these letters is that they do not mention a large scale invasion. This should not be surprising since Israel’s invasion stopped not long after Joshua died (well before the end of the 15th century). The Israelite invasion petered out into individual tribes attacking at different times.
What the Amarna Letters do mention is the request for troops from Egypt (usually for only a few archers), and the slow general deterioration of the region into competing factions. All this fits the period of the Judges in the Bible.
There were no letters from Jericho, Bethel, Gibeon and Hebron. Letters were found from Jerusalem, Megiddo, Ashkelon, Gaza and Acco. Some historians have proposed that there were no letters from Jericho, Bethel, Gibeon and Hebron because they were conquered. Letters exist for Jerusalem, Megiddo, Ashkelon, Gaza and Acco because Israel did not take these cities.
Stiebing argues that the Amarna Letters should not be used for a 15th century conquest.2 He points out that the term “Habiru”, is a class name, not an ethnic name for a specific people. Habiru meant propertyless refugees, sometimes mercenaries, even bandits. Joshua only invaded Canaan, but the Habiru appear in Syria and Phoenicia. According to Stiebing, Israel cannot be the Habiru because the Bible never says they went that far north.
But this definition of Habiru would include Israel. (All Israelites would be Habiru, but not all Habiru would be Israelite.) The Amarna Letters are dated after Joshua’s invasion. They fit the period of the Judges. The Bible clearly states that the nature of the conquest changed after Joshua. The tribes began attacking individually (See Judges chapter 1). They were also accompanied by non-Israelites (Judges 1:16).
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