Joshua and Jericho - Jewish History answers questions


stone tower
Part of the walls of Jericho

April 2016 - But when the Jews finally arrived back in Israel and Canaan, around 1200 BC, they found that there were people living all over it! These people were the Canaanites (KAY-nan-eye-ts), and the Canaanites said, "Hey, there was nobody living here when we got here, what do you mean this is your land? God told you to live here? He's not MY God, so what do I care?" (This is how the Bible tells the story; click here for another version.)

metal carving of men blowng trumpets outside city walls
Florence Baptistry doors, 1400s AD

Well, the Jews believed God did want them to live in Israel, so they began fighting the Canaanites for the land. By this time Moses was dead, and, according to the Bible, the main leader of the Jews was Joshua. Joshua was a good general, and the Jews won many battles against the Canaanites, including a famous battle at the city of Jericho. According to the battle, God told Joshua to carry the Ark around the great stone walls of Jericho and blow trumpets, and that would knock down the walls to let the Jews in (there's a song about it that goes "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came a-tumbling down.").

Mahalia Jackson sings the song about Jericho

When Joshua finally took the city of Jericho, he had every single person in the city killed with swords, even children and old people, and even the cows and donkeys and sheep (Joshua 6:20-21). Soon the Jews had gotten enough of the Canaanites and other people out of Israel (or killed them) and they settled down there to live in peace.

Over the next hundred years or so, after the death of Joshua, there continued to be fighting between the Canaanites and the Jews, off and on. The Bible tells the stories of these fights in the stories of the women Deborah and Jael, and Gideon.

Learn by doing: compare Jericho to the Trojan Horse
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Happy New Year! Welcome back! Get ready for Martin Luther King day with these articles about medieval Africa, slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, the civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. himself. More about King here...