Jericho’s Population & Fortifications

Ancient JerichoArcheologist of all stripes – Biblical, secular and otherwise – affirm that the ancient city of Jericho has walls that did indeed come a-tumbling down. They even affirm that the walls tumbled outwards instead of inwards – not at all what you’d expect for a city under siege. You can see the 9-acre archaeological site by punching in “31.870037, 35.443788” in Google Earth or Google Maps. Not too shabby for the world’s oldest continually-inhabited city.

But wait – there’s more!

We know Joshua’s army was somewhere between 200,000 and 600,000 men. But what was Jericho’s population?

Item 1: Archaeologists will tell you that the population of an ancient fortified city (like Jericho) is about 100 people per acre. Since the walled city of Jericho encompasses 9 acres, that would put the population around 900 people.

Item 2: Archaeologists will also tell you that when a region is under siege, farmers and residents in outlying villages will hunker down in the fortified city of their region (ie, Jericho). Under these situations, the population effectively doubles to about 200 people per acre. We’re now up to ~1800 for Jericho. In keeping with this assessment, Answers In Genesis’s article on Jericho puts the number somewhere around “several thousand”.

Which makes me say “hmmmmmmmm.” Something’s not adding up.

Consider:

  • puts the war-capable population of the Israelites at 603,550. Pretty decent sized army, I would think. That was before their 40-yr wilderness wandering.
  • The 10 spies convinced these 600,000+ men (and the rest of the Israelites) that they couldn’t conquer the land overflowing with milk and honey (and large fruit) because of their well-fortified cities and the giants in the land (). One wonders why they didn’t think their huge army couldn’t get the job done. Must’ve been some impressive enemies.
  • After refusing to go into the land, God sent them wandering for 40 years. After the 40-yr wandering, the number of 20+yr old men “capable of war” was 601,730. () Still quite a number of people.
  • The Israelites repeatedly whined about how the Canaanites had cities “fortified up to heaven” (I guess that’s ancient-speak for “fortified out the wazoo”). They also complained how the Canaanites were “greater and taller than we” (; ; ). Another testament to the impressive enemies of the land.
  • When Rahab freaks out about Joshua’s on-coming army, she doesn’t cite their impressive size dwarfing her city. Instead, she talks about how the Lord of heaven and earth was on their side, drying up the Red Sea and demolishing their enemies Og and Sihon. () One wonders why she never bothers to mention their impressive size. Unless she wasn’t terribly impressed (which would jive with the complaint of the 10 spies afraid of the Canaanites).
  • When Joshua & Co finish dusting up Jericho and go to attack Ai, they initially send only 3,000 men because it was smaller and less populous than Jericho. ()
  • On their 2nd attempt to subdue the city (thanks to Achan), they send 30,000 men to conquer the 12,000 citizens of Ai (that number doesn’t take the children into consideration). ()

So…

If ittty bitty Ai had 12,000 citizens, how is it that Jericho had only 2,000??

Surely Jericho had upwards of 20,000. Or more!

And how did all 20,000 get cramped into 9 acres?

Methinks some archaeologists might need to rethink this one.


46 all those listed were 603,550. (ESV)


28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. (ESV)


51 This was the list of the people of Israel, 601,730. (ESV)


28 Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”’ (ESV)


But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. (ESV)


9:1 “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ (ESV)


and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. (ESV)


And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about 3,000 men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, (ESV)


So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night.

Joshua 8:25

So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night.

Joshua 8:25

25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. (ESV)

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