Grace Theological Journal 4.2 (1983) 245-262
Copyright © 1983 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND THE
NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD PROBLEM
GERALD L. MATTINGLY
One of the major arguments used to support a 13th-century date
for the exodus-conquest is the alleged Late Bronze Age occupational
gap in central and southern
investigations indicate that this gap hypothesis, which was originally
advocated by Nelson Glueck, needs to be modified. Although the
historical/archaeological picture is still coming into focus, it now
appears that Ammon,
Bronze Age. The density of this occupation remains an open question.
Nevertheless, it appears that the archaeological data from Late Bronze
* * *
In the opening pages of Redating the Exodus and Conquest,1
John J. Bimson identifies two major assumptions of his study.
First, he maintains that "the biblical traditions of the bondage in
Bimson insists that these historical events must be and can be con-
nected to an absolute chronology.2 This emphasis demonstrates that
Redating is important reading for anyone who takes the biblical
narratives and their historical/archaeological context seriously. Al-
though many readers will have some reservations, Bimson's study is
now the most comprehensive and up-to-date examination of the
historical and archaeological data pertaining to the OT accounts of
Since its publication in 1978, Redating has received mixed
reviews.3 For example, Miller suggests that Bimson's theory of a mid-
15th century exodus-conquest, which calls for the lowering of the end
1 John J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest (Sheffield: Almond, 1978).
2 Bimson, Redating, 10-13.
3 See, e.g., A. G. Auld, ExpTim 90 (1979) 152; A. H. W. Curtis, EvQ 52 (1980)
54-55; H. Engel, Bib 61 (1980) 437-40; J. D. Martin, SJT 33 (1980) 183-85; E. H.
Merrill, BSac 136 (1980) 184; J. M. Miller, JBL 99 (1980) 133-35; P. R. S. Moorey,
246 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
of MB IIC, is plausible, but the number of secondary explanations
needed to support this daring theory neutralize its advantage over the
Albrightian hypothesis for a 13th-century date. Miller says that the
most significant contribution of Bimson's book is its demonstration
"that those who hold to a thirteenth century exodus-conquest have no
monopoly on the archaeological evidence.”4 In other words, Redating
re-examines an old problem from a fresh perspective and shows that
the questions concerning the date of the exodus-conquest have not
been resolved. Not only are there new ways of looking at old data, as
Bimson proves, but there is also new evidence that must be considered.
The main purpose of this article is to review the ways in which the
archaeological evidence from
conquest and to present some new data that bear upon this issue.
ARGUMENTS FOR THE LATE DATE EXODUS-CONQUEST
There are four major arguments used to support the late date for
the exodus-conquest: (1) the identification of Pithom and Raamses,
(2) the 13th-century destruction of Palestinian towns mentioned in
the conquest narratives, (3) the archaeological evidence from Middle
Bronze and Late Bronze Age Transjordan, and (4) the military cam-
paigns of Seti I and Ramses II.5 While Bimson refers to the first two
arguments as the "main pillars" of the late date, he also regards the
third and fourth points as key elements. However, all four of these
arguments are still open to further deliberation. The Egyptian evi-
dence, which forms the basis of arguments (1) and (4), is still being
reworked and interpreted in different ways.6 And, although it is a
favorite of many OT scholars, Miller recently delivered a critical blow
to the second argument by showing that the "destruction layers" at
certain Palestinian tells represent, at best, an ambiguous form of
evidence.7 I focus here on the third argument, the lack of Middle
JTS 31 (1980) 111-13; W. H. Shea, CBQ 42 (1980) 88-90; P. Wernberg-Meller, JJS 31
(1980) 135; A. F. Rainey, IEJ 30 (1980) 249-51; J. A. Soggin, VT 31 (1981) 98-99; and
D. M. Beegle, TSF Bulletin 5.5 (1982) 16-17.
4 Miller, 133, 135.
5 Bimson, Redating, 330-73; cf. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament
Tyndale, 1966) 57-69; C. F. Aling,
Times to 1000 B.C. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 77-96.
6 See, for example, Aling, Egypt and Bible History, 77-110; idem, "The Biblical
related to Goedicke's theory; B. MacDonald, "Excavations at Tell el-Maskhuta," BA
43 (1980) 49-58.
7 J. M. Miller, "Archaeology and the
Israelite Conquest of
logical Observations," PEQ 109 (1977) 87-93.
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
Bronze and late Bronze settlements in central and southern Trans-
Assumptions Behind the Third Argument
The archaeological evidence from
this debate because Numbers 20ff. and Judges 11 indicate that the
while en route to the
their territories at the time of the conquest should be found, regardless
of the date assigned to this event. Because Glueck's surface survey
indicated that there was a gap in the sedentary
dates fluctuated), the archaeological material from
seemed to support the late date. Recognizing that the reconstruction
of occupational history in this region is crucial to this whole discus-
sion, Bimson observes:
This argument for the 13th century date only holds if the following
three assumptions are correct: (a) that the accounts in Num 20ff are
historical, (b) that those accounts, if historical, require the existence of
a sedentary population settled in permanent towns at the time of the
Israelite migration, and (c) that Glueck's interpretation of the archaeo-
logical material is correct.8
Before proceeding to a more detailed treatment of the third assump-
tion, including a report on some archaeological data recently recovered
With regard to the first point, Bimson says that he does not
doubt the "basic historicity" of Numbers 20ff. He does, however, in
these accounts could be late accretions to the earlier traditions. Many
conservative scholars will not approve of such concessions, but there
is nothing to fear in admitting that such a possibility exists. Indeed,
when compared with the negative conclusions reached by Van Seters
in his ongoing debate with
Following a thorough discussion of the second assumption listed
above, Bimson concludes that the OT does not demand that the
8 Bimson, Redating, 61, 62.
9 J. R. Bartlett, "Sihon and Og, Kings of the Amorites," VT 20 (1970) 257-77;
J. Van Seters, "The Conquest of Sihon's Kingdom: A Literary Examination," JBL 91
(1972) 182-.97; J. R. Bartlett, "The Conquest of Sihon's Kingdom: A Literary Re-
examination," JBL 97 (1978) 347-51; J. Van Seters, "Once Again-The Conquest of
Sihon's Kingdom," JBL 99 (1980) 117-19.
248 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Transjordanian opponents encountered by the Hebrews were part of
an urbanized sedentary population. In agreement with the earlier
studies of de Vaux and Rea, Bimson suggests that "it is therefore
possible that the kings we read of in Num 20ff were chieftains of
semi-nomadic groups who refused to let another nomadic group, the
Israelites, pass through their areas of pasturage.”10 This conclusion is
plausible, especially if we follow Wenham's theory which calls for a
significant reduction in the Hebrew population and its fighting force.11
Otherwise, it would have taken sizeable armies, perhaps from orga-
nized kingdoms, to restrict the movement of such a large number of
In the Glueck festschrift, Wright provides a valuable assessment
of Glueck's exploration
Glueck was not the first man by any means who had searched
these lands, but he was the first to do as complete a survey as possible
with a small budget and few helpers, and he was the first to use the
pottery-dating tool as a basic scientific aid. Between 1932 and 1947,
he spent nearly all his
exploration time in
Glueck's work in
Refusing elaborate equipment, the explorer lived for days at a time as a
Bedu, drinking what water was available from any source, living as a
guest of the bedouin, and so well known and trusted that he was
always protected, needed no foreign guards, and was never harmed.12
Having worked for two summers on an archaeological survey in the
region of ancient
wise (indeed, necessary!) to preface a critique of Glueck with an
acknowledgment of his remarkable accomplishments.
As several scholars have already suggested and as the recent
Moab Survey clearly demonstrates, Glueck's surface exploration of
10 Bimson, Redating, 63; cf. R. de Vaux, "La Palestine et la Transjordanie au IIe
millenaire et les origines israelites," ZAW 56 (1938) 225-38; J. Rea, "New Light on the
Wilderness Journey and Conquest," GJ 2 (1961) 5-13.
11 J. W. Wenham, "Large Numbers in the Old Testament," TynBul 18 (1967)
12 G. E. Wright, "Thc
Phenomenon of American Archaeology in the
Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, ed. J. A. Sanders (Garden City:
Doubleday, 1970) 29, 30.
13 For further discussion of the weaknesses in Glueck's archaeological survey, see
G. L. Mattingly, "A Reconstruction of Early Bronze Age Cultural Patterns in Central
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
however, that Glueck's work should be jettisoned in toto. Glueck's
four-volume Explorations in Eastern Palestine (1934, 1935, 1939,
1951) and The Other Side of the Jordan (1940; 2nd ed., 1970) serve
as benchmarks in the history of research on
Glueck's publications also provide valuable information on the con-
illuminate the nature and rate of the present-day resettlement of the
plateau. These factors alone justify the continued use of Glueck's
works as the starting point for all future archaeological investigations
as conclusive, any attempt to disparage Glueck's intentions or abilities
must be accompanied by words of praise for his herculean achieve-
Glueck's "Gap Hypothesis"
In his first major report on the survey of
focused primarily on
first three read, in part, as follows:
1. There was a strong Bronze Age civilization in
the twenty-third and the eighteenth centuries B.C., when it completely
2. Between the eighteenth and the thirteenth centuries B.C. there is an
almost complete gap in the history of settled communities in the
3. There was a highly developed Moabite civilization, which seems to
have flourished especially between the middle of the thirteenth and
end of the ninth centuries B.C.15
Similar conclusions were reiterated in Glueck's subsequent reports on
this region, although several modifications are apparent in the later
publications. Glueck's second statement has probably attracted more
attention than all the others. Although the second conclusion is
directly related to the first and third statements, the Middle and Late
Bronze occupational gap is at the heart of the argument over the date
of the exodus-conquest. Since this is the focal point of this article,
Glueck's 1934 statement, which constitutes his original gap hypothesis,
is quoted in entirety:
14 For discussion of Glueck's contribution to archaeology, see Mattingly, "Recon-
struction," 242, 243.
15 N. Glueck,
250 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Between the eighteenth and the thirteenth centuries B.C. there is an
almost complete gap in the history of settled communities in the region
visited. With the exception of Jalul and of el-Misnac and el-Medeiyineh
above Lejjun, at both of which last two mentioned places a few scraps
of Middle Bronze II pottery were found, not a single site was found
with pottery remains between the end of Middle Bronze I and the
beginning of Early Iron I. The Egyptian lists of towns and the Tell el-
Amarna tablets are silent with
regard to this period in
In spite of the exceptional sites that yielded "a few scraps of Middle
Bronze II pottery," Glueck restated his hypothesis in the first edition
of The Other
Side of the
There was at about ± 1900 B.C. such a thoroughgoing destruction
visited upon all the great fortresses and settlements of the land, within
the limits we have examined, that the particular civilization they
represented never again recovered. The blow it received was so crushing
as to be utterly destructive. Its cities were never rebuilt, and much of
containers perishable skins and not enduring pottery. Permanent vil-
lages and fortresses were no longer to rise upon the face of the earth in
this region till the beginning of the Iron Age.17
In this same volume Glueck used the term "Bedouins" to explain his
gap: "The Semites who took possession of
end of the 14th or the beginning of the 13th century B.C., probably
partly absorbed and partly drove out the Bedouins who since about
1900 B.C. had been the masters of the land.”18
Glueck held firmly to his original gap hypothesis right up to a
well-known 1967 essay on
accumulating that seemed to challenge his position. There were two
reasons for Glueck's tenacity. First, he viewed the few sites that had
Middle Bronze or Late Bronze sherds as "exceptions" to the rule.
Glueck even allowed for the possibility that additional sites might be
his survey. On the other hand, Glueck's discussion of such omissions
concludes with this comment: "On the whole, however, the writer is
confident that not very many ancient sites in
16 Glueck, "Explorations, 1," 82. The literary evidence that relates to this issue will
be examined in a separate article.
17 N. Glueck, The Other Side of the
Oriental Research, 1940) 114.
18 Glueck, Other Side, 127.
19 N. Glueck,
Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967) 443-45.
THE EXODUS- CONQUEST AND
ruins have not been completely obliterated, remain undiscovered.”20
In light of the hundreds of new sites that have been discovered in
Second, Glueck was convinced that the literary tradition of
14 (the invasion of
be reflected in "archaeological facts.”21 Thus, Glueck's certainty about
an occupational gap in
convictions about the historical trustworthiness of the Bible.22
Along with his other famous hypotheses (i.e., the "King's High-
way" and Solomon's "smelting and refining plant" at Ezion-geber),
Glueck's theory of a Middle and Late Bronze Age occupational gap
in central and southern
archaeologists until recently. Without attempting to provide an ex-
haustive list of the countless scholars who were influenced by Glueck
on this point, perhaps McGovern's observation is sufficient: "In one
form or another, Glueck's theory found its way into most of the
standard biblical and archaeological handbooks.”23
General Criticisms of Glueck's Survey Methodology
Although the general reliability of much of Glueck's work has
stood the test of time, various kinds of errors are now known to have
entered into his analyses of the ceramic
As a result, his interpretation of the history of this region, which was
based largely on the pottery data, has also become suspect. Specifi-
cally, the gap hypothesis has been challenged at four levels.
First, it is now known that surface survey, by its very nature,
does not recover all the data at any site. Although the value of
archaeological reconnaissance has been adequately demonstrated,24
any historical reconstruction that is heavily dependent on survey data
must be viewed as partial and tentative. The pottery collected from
the surface of a site may be representative of the site's accumulated
debris, but the surface of an archaeological site is not always a
20 N. Glueck, Explorations in Eastern Palestine III (
of Oriental Research, 1939) xxiii.
21 Glueck, Other Side, 114.
22 See G. E. Wright, "Is Glueck's Aim to Prove that the Bible Is True?" BA 22
23 P. E. McGovern, "Exploring the
Archaeology 35 (1982) 47.
24 See, for example, R. J. Ruppe, "The Archaeological Survey: A Defense,"
American Antiquity, 31 (1966) 313-33; R. McC. Adams, "The Study of Ancient
Settlement Patterns and the Problem of Urban Origins,"
(1969) 1111-24; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (Phila-
252 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
microcosm of its subsurface contents. The distribution of sherds over
the surface of a site is dependent upon too many natural and cultural
variables to provide anything but a rough estimate of the site's actual
Second, it is now recognized that Glueck's survey was superficial.
Quite simply, Glueck overlooked hundreds of archaeological sites in
his survey of
Glueck's accomplishment, but it is clear that his superficial treatment
of the regions involved skewed some of his conclusions. If failure to
recover sherds from a particular period at any one site is detrimental
to the interpretive process, the omission of a number of important
sites in a region can be disastrous.
Third, Glueck's results have been challenged because some
scholars believe that his knowledge of ceramics was wholly inadequate.
for the task to which he applied himself. After a word of praise for
Glueck's Explorations in Eastern Palestine, Franken and Power make
It is now, however, becoming increasingly clear that the other part
of Glueck's work, that is to say the pottery study, and the conclusions
drawn from that study are in many ways both defective and misleading.
There are two reasons for making these judgments. In the first instance
his work is defective because Glueck assumed that the culture of Iron
Age Transjordan was so
similar to that of
known Palestinian repertoire. And in the second instance the work is
misleading because Glueck published only those shapes that were
familiar to him even in cases where he picked up unknown shapes in
the areas immediately
and in Ammon. Those shapes that he did not recognize he omitted
from publication, which is a curious procedure, for a survey of a
largely unknown area ought to reveal and indeed to stress the new and
the unknown rather than to emphasize the known. But apparently
Glueck did not anticipate a differing Transjordanian cultural develop-
In order to show that these criticisms are related to Glueck's gap
hypothesis, Franken and Power continue by saying that
it is clear that Glueck assumed that he would have recognized Trans-
jordanian Middle Bronze IIB, IIC, and Late Bronze shapes had he
found them. From what has already been said it is no longer clear that
this assumption can be accepted without question.... Theoretically it
25 H. J. Franken and W. J. A. Power, "Glueck's Explorations
in the light of recent evidence," VT 21 (1971) 119.
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
is now quite possible that what Glueck called early Iron Age is in part
fourteenth century B.C. Transjordanian pottery.26
Furthermore, the pottery typology of Albright, upon whose work
Glueck's pottery analyses were based, has been refined in recent
years, and the future will bring a better understanding of the develop-
ment of ancient
changes that Glueck made in the second edition of The Other Side of
Fourth, Glueck's work has been criticized because some scholars
believe that his survey of
convictions. In other words, Glueck is accused of attempting to "fit"
his survey results into his preconceived assumptions about a histori-
cally trustworthy Bible. For example, Franken wonders whether "a
biblical date for Chedorlaomer or an archaeological date for the end
of M.B. I civilization" came first.27 Franken makes many other
caustic remarks in his attempt to discredit Glueck's reconstruction of
these criticisms of Glueck's methodology and motives deserve further
consideration, I move on to a summary of the archaeological evidence
that relates to the gap theory.
A SUMMARY OF THE MIDDLE BRONZE AND LATE BRONZE EVIDENCE
Ever since Glueck's gap hypothesis became popular, archaeol-
ogists and historians have eagerly reported any discovery that held
promise of disproving Glueck's theory. Occasionally, this enthusiasm
caused scholars to force the evidence to say more than is warranted.
In an attempt to provide a sober evaluation of Glueck's position, I list
the places where Middle and Late Bronze data have been recovered in
central and southern
material. I do not claim that the list of sites or the accompanying
bibliographical references are exhaustive, but the major reported
finds from the period and region in question are mentioned.
General discussions of the archaeological data that are thought
to fill in Glueck's hypothetical gap can be found in Harding,29
26 Franken and Power, "Glueck's Explorations," 122, 123.
27 H. J. Franken, "The Other Side of
28 Franken, "Other Side," 7.
29 G. L. Harding, "Recent Discoveries
254 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Dornemann,30 Ward,31 Sapin,32 and Bimson.33 Today, most of the
objections to Glueck's historical reconstruction are based upon the
and Late Bronze finds from ‘
Nacur,37 Madeba,38 Khirbet el-Mekhayyat,39 and Qlac et-Twal.40 More
recently recovered artifacts from the Hesban region41 and the Baq’ah
30 R. H. Dornemann,
"The Cultural and Archaeological History of the
in the Bronze and Iron Age" (unpublished
1970); see especially pp. 39-63. A revised edition of Dornemann's study will be
published in the near future.
31 W. A. Ward, "The Shasu ‘Bedouin’: Notes on a Recent Publication," JESHO 15
(1972) 54, 55.
32 J. Sapin, "25 ans d'Archeologie en Syrie-Palestine (1946-1971): Recherches et
Perspectives (seconde partie)," ETR 49 (1974) 558-65.
33 Bimson, Redating, 61-68.
34 On the
and B. S. J. Isserlin, "A Middle Bronze Age Tomb
14-22; R. W. Dajani, "Jabal
Nuzha Tomb at
A. Ward, "Scarabs, Seals and Cylinders from Two Tombs in
5-18. On the so-called
Scarabs from a Late
"Supplementary Note," ZAW 78 (1966) 357-59; V. Hankey, "A Late Bronze Age
Excavations," ADAJ 21 (1976) 109-12; see Herr's "The Amman Airport Excavations,
1976," forthcoming in AASOR.
35 Most attention is given to an alleged Middle Bronze Age glacis at Tell Safut; see
F. S. Ma'ayeh,
"Recent Archaeological Discoveries in
Recent salvage excavations should lead to additional reports on this site and clarifica-
tion of the function and date of this installation.
36 See R. W. Dajani, "A Late Bronze-Iron Age Tomb Excavated at Sahab, 1968,"
ADAJ 15 (1970) 29-34; S. H. Horn, "Three Seals from Sahab Tomb ‘C’," ADAJ 16
(1971) 103-6; M. M. Ibrahim, "Archaeological Excavations at Sahab, 1972," ADAJ 17
(1972) 23-36; idem, "Second Season of Excavation at Sahab, 1973," ADAJ 19 (1974)
37 Reference is made to the Middle Bronze Age tomb objects from Na’ur, but I
have not located the primary source on this material; cf. Harding, Antiquities, 32, 33.
38 See G. L. Harding, "An Early Iron Age Tomb at Madeba," PEFA 6 (1953) 27-
33; M. Avi-Yonah, "Medeba," Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the
Holy Land, III, ed. M. Avi-Yonah and E. Stern (
and Massada Press, 1977) 820.
39 See S. J. Saller and B. Bagatti, The Town of Nebo (Khirbet el-Mekhayyat)
(Jerusalem: Franciscan, 1949) 24-29.
40 See W. A. Ward, "A Possible New
Reign of Amenhotep III," ADAJ 18 (1973) 45, 46.
41 See especially S. D. Waterhouse and R. Ibach, Jr., "The Topographical Survey,"
AUSS 13 (1975) 217-33; R. Ibach, Jr., "Archaeological Survey of the Hesban Region,"
AUSS 14 (1976) 119-26; idem, "Expanded Archaeological Survey of the Hesban
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
Valley42 will undoubtedly enter into future discussions of central
sites mentioned above are primarily surface sherds and tomb deposits
(some of the latter are quite rich), but there is some stratified material
and a small amount of architectural evidence. The outstanding
example of the latter is the so-called "
substantial LB II structure that contained a wealth of imported
Mycenaean, Cypriot, and Egyptian pottery and other objects.43
In addition to the sites already mentioned, significant results
were obtained from two archaeological surveys that were completed
in 1982. The 1979, 1981, and 1982 seasons of the "Wadi el-Hasa
which investigated a small portion of biblical
nessed the recovery of surface remains from over 1,000 sites, only a
handful of which yielded any sherds from the Middle and Late
Bronze Ages.44 Much work still needs to be done in the territory to
the south of Wadi Hesa, the boundary between ancient
The 1978, 1979, and 1982 seasons of
logical Survey of Central and
nation of 585 sites between Wadi Mujib and Wadi Hesa (the biblical
rivers Arnon and Zered). Although the Middle and Late Bronze Ages
Region," AUSS 16 (1978) 201-13; idem, "An Intensive Surface Survey at Jalul," AUSS
16 (1978) 215-22. For a full bibliography on the Hesban excavations, see R. S. Boraas
and L. T. Geraty, Heshbon 1976: The Fifth Campaign at Tell Hesban (Berrien Springs,
Age material at Tell Hesban, see. D. M. Beegle, Review of Nelson Glueck, The Other
Side of the Jordan, CBQ 33 (1971) 579-81 and L. T. Geraty, "The 1976 Season of
Excavations at Tell Hesban," ADAJ 21 (1976) 42.
42 For the unusually thorough reports on the recent work in the Baq`ah Valley (just
Magnetometer Survey," MASCA Journal 1 (1979) 39-41; idem, "Baq’ah Valley
Project 1980," BA 44 (1981) 126-28; idem, "The Baq’ah Valley, Jordan: Test Soundings
of Cesium Magnetometer Anomalies," MASCA Journal 1 (1981) 214-17; idem,
"Baqah Valley Project 1981," BA 45 (1982) 122-24; idem, "Exploring the
of the Baq’ah Valley in
G. Harbottle, and C. Wnuk, "Late Bronze Age Pottery Fabrics from the Baq’ah
Baq’ah Valley is as far north as this article covers. Middle and Late Bronze materials
from such sites as Irbid,
but these sites fall outside of the geographical scope of this article and beyond the
limits of Glueck's gap hypothesis.
43 The debate over this structure concerns its function and its apparent isolation
from any settlement. For more on this discovery, see below and an interesting footnote
in Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography
44 See B. MacDonald, "The Wadi El Hasa Survey 1979: A Preliminary Report,"
ADAJ 24 (1980) 166-83; idem, "The Wadi el-Hasa Survey 1981," BA 45 (1982) 58, 59.
256 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
were well represented at these sites, the number of sherds from these
periods was not as large as that from other historical eras. Since the
overall results of this project have not yet been officially reported,"
this brief summary of the ceramic data that relate to this period is
Middle Bronze Age Pottery from Central and
9 sites yielded sherds that are either Middle or Late Bronze (MB/ LB),
each site having between 1 and 42 sherds with this designation.
26 sites yielded sherds that are possibly Middle Bronze (MB?), each site
having between 1 and 8 sherds with this designation.
31 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Middle Bronze (MB), each
site having between 1 and 46 sherds with this designation.
1 site yielded 1 sherd that is possibly Middle Bronze I (MB I?).
2 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Middle Bronze I (MB I), one
site having 3 sherds and the other site 4 sherds with this designation.
1 site yielded 6 sherds that are possibly Middle Bronze II (MB II?).
Late Bronze Age Pottery from Central and
6 sites yielded sherds that are either Late Bronze or Iron Age I
(LB/Iron I), each site having between 1 and 63 sherds with this
47 sites yielded sherds that are possibly Late Bronze (LB?), each site
having between 1 and 37 sherds with this designation.
75 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Late Bronze (LB), each site
having between 1 and 30 sherds with this designation.
1 site yielded 2 sherds that are possibly Late Bronze I (LB I?).
1 site yielded 1 sherd that is definitely Late Bronze I (LB I).
1 site yielded 8 sherds that are either Late Bronze II or Iron Age I
(LB II/Iron I).
6 sites yielded sherds that are definitely Late Bronze II (LB II), each
site having between 1 and 46 sherds with this designation.
RECENT ASSESSMENTS OF GLUECK'S HYPOTHESIS
Even before the survey of
archaeological finds from
45 For preliminary reports on the
(1979) 43-52; idem, "Archaeological Survey South of Wadi Mujib," ADAJ 23 (1979)
79-92; idem, "Recent Archaeological Developments Relevant to Ancient Moab,"
Studies in the History
and Archaeology of Jordan I, ed. Adrian Hadidi (
Department of Antiquities. 1982) 169-73; J. M. Pinkerton, "An Examination of
Glueck's Conclusions Concerning
1978 Archaeological Survey of Central Moab" (unpublished M.T.S. thesis, Candler
Kautz, "Tracking the Ancient Moabites," BA 44 (1981) 27-35.
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
Glueck's reconstruction. Three stances have emerged in the post-1934
evaluations of Glueck's gap hypothesis: (1) those who hold that
Glueck's theory is incorrect; (2) those who hold that Glueck's theory
is still correct; and (3) those who hold that Glueck's theory is in need
of slight modification. It may appear that the difference between (1)
and (3) is a matter of the degree of change that is sought, but there is,
in fact, a significant difference in the tone that is used to criticize
Glueck. Representatives of each of these positions are easily found;
with no attempt to be exhaustive, some of their arguments are
presented below. Since the dates of these evaluations are related to
the weight of the argument put forth, publication dates are enclosed
in parentheses following the scholars' names.
As expected, many scholars insist that Glueck's hypothesis is
wrong, including Harding (1953, 1958, 1967),46 Ma’ayeh (1960),47
Dajani (1964, 1966),48 Ward and Martin (1964)49 Kenyon (1966),50
Dornemann (1970),51 Franken (1970),52 Mittmann (1970),53 Franken
and Power (1971),54 Zayadine (1973),55 Thompson (1974a; 1974b),56
Dever and Clark (1977),57 and Bimson (1981).58
46 For Harding's objections to Glueck's theory, see G. L. Harding, "A Middle
Age Tomb at
Jordan," PEQ 90 (1958) II, 12; idem, Antiquities, 32-34, 63.
47 F. S. Ma’ayeh,
"Recent Archaeological Discoveries in
48 R. Dajani, "Iron Age Tombs from Irbed," ADAJ 8-9 (1964) 101; idem, "Jabal
49 W. A. Ward and M. F. Martin, "The Balu’a Stele: A New Transcription with
Palaeographical and Historical Notes," ADAJ 8-9 (1964) 19-20.
50 K. Kenyon, Amorites and Canaanites (London: British Academy, 1966) 64.
51 R. H. Dornemann,
"The Cultural and Archaeological History of the
in the Bronze and Iron Ages" (unpublished
1970) 8, 48, 49.
52 H. J. Franken,
"The Other Side of the
53 S. Mittmann, Beitrage zur Siedlungs- and Territorialgeschichte des nordlichen
Ostjordanlandes (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1970) 221, n. 32.
54 H. J. Franken and W. J. A. Power, "Glueck's Explorations in
in the light of recent evidence," VT 21 (1971) 119-23.
55 F. Zayadine, "The Middle Bronze Age (c. 1900 to 1500 ax.)" and "The Late
Age (c. 1500 to 1200
and Sites (East Bank),
Moawiyah Ibrahim, et al. (
of Antiquities, 1973) 18-21. Cf. A. Hadidi, "The
and Objectives," Studies in the
History and Archaeology of
A. Hadidi (Amman: Department of Antiquities, 1982) 16, 17.
56 T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narrative (
Gruyter, 1974) 192-94; idem "Observations
on the Bronze Age in
57 W. G. Dever and W. M. Clark, "The Patriarchal Traditions," Israelite and
Judaean History, ed. J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller (OTL;
58 Bimson, Redating, 64-68.
258 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Beginning as early as 1953, Harding questioned the accuracy of
Glueck's hypothesis. While Harding had objections to the method-
ology that Glueck used in his survey, especially where Glueck's
methods influenced his pottery analyses, Harding's real objection to
the gap theory was based on the presence of Middle and Late Bronze
tomb deposits and other archaeological evidence in
vicinity. Harding could not believe that these tombs, along with the
tent-dwellers.59 Furthermore, since Harding assumed a 13th-century
date for the exodus-conquest, he contended that the biblical account
"requires a fully occupied
happen in a generation.”60
On the basis of their study of the Balu’a stele, Ward and Martin
concluded that there had to be a well-established sedentary population.
hypothetical "cultural hiatus" is being filled in with newly discovered
Middle and Late Bronze sites, and thus "our concept of this area
during this period will have to undergo a radical change.”61 In a later
publication, Ward softened his critique of Glueck and suggested that
"the scanty knowledge we now possess may require a reassessment, or
at least a modification, of the current view.”62
Thompson postulated a cultural continuity for
Late Chalcolithic through Late Bronze Age, a continuity perpetuated
by the "typical Bronze Age settlement," the small agricultural village.
Following his treatment of the theories related to Bronze Age popula-
tion shifts, Thomson concluded that "the real curiosity is that Glueck's
hypothesis was ever taken so seriously-as literally true-in the first
After listing a few examples of Middle Bronze finds from the
Glueck about a nomadic life in the Middle Bronze Age in East
reached with regard to the Late Bronze Age. In place of Glueck's gap
hypothesis, Zayadine made the reasonable suggestion that Trans-
exists today with nomadism juxtaposed alongside urbanism.65
59 Harding, "A Middle
Bronze Age Tomb from
60 Harding, Antiquities, 35.
61 Ward and Martin, "Balu’a Stele," 19, 20.
62 Ward, "Shasu ‘Bedouin’," 55.
63 Thompson, "Other Side," 66.
64 Zayadine, "Middle Bronze Age," 19.
65 Zayadine, "Late Bronze Age," 20.
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
Although it is difficult to find scholars who still adhere to
Glueck's original gap hypothesis, it is interesting to observe that the
early discoveries of Middle and Late Bronze evidence in central
Glueck's historical reconstruction. While accepting the dates and
importance of the more recently recovered data, Albright (1937, 1957,
1960),66 Landes (1961),67 and Campbell and Wright (1969)68 continued
to hold the view that this period and region witnessed a decline in
sedentary occupation. They reasoned that the Middle and Late
tombs from the vicinity of
of nomadic or seminomadic tribes who lived in the area. Even the
discovery and excavation of the
shake their confidence in Glueck, since it was proposed that this
sanctuary could have served as the focal point of a regional tribal
league. Following this same line of reasoning, Glueck reaffirmed a
strong belief in his gap hypothesis in 1967.69
Aside from the cautious statement of
suggested that "it is as yet an open question how far these finds
modify Glueck's view,"70 there is still a third stance that can be taken
in evaluating Glueck's hypothesis and in reappraising the archaeo-
logical evidence from
for only a slight modification of Glueck's theory, is best represented
by Glueck himself (1970),71 Kafafi (1977),72 and Aharoni (1979).73 In
66 For examples of Albright's continued
support for Glueck's theory, see
From the Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process (2d ed.;
Garden City: Doubleday, 1957) 61, 62; idem, The Archaeology of Palestine (rev. ed.;
67 G. M. Landes, "The Material Civilization of the Ammonites," BA 24 (1961)
68 E. F. Campbell, Jr. and G. E. Wright,
"Tribal League Shrines in
Shechem," BA 32 (1969) 116.
69 N. Glueck, "
Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967) 443-45.
70 J. R. Bartlett, "The Moabites and Edomites," Peoples of Old Testament Times,
ed. D. J. Wiseman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973) 231, 232.
71 N. Glueck, The Other Side of the
Schools of Oriental Research, 1970) 139-42, 157.
72 Zeidan Abd El-Kafi Kafafi, "Late Bronze Age Pottery in Jordan (East Bank)
1575-1200 B.C." (unpublished
73 Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 102. With regard to his assessment of Glueck's gap
hypothesis, it is difficult to discern Ahaoni's viewpoint. For example, on p. 102
Aharoni praises Glueck's survey and supports his reconstruction. On the other hand,
Aharoni suggested that Late Bronze Age Midian boasted a sophisticated culture, and
he suggested that
"the establishment of well organized kingdoms in these areas [
260 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
addition to these three, Pinkerton (1979),74 Miller (1979, 1982),75 and
all staff members of the
Survey, agree that there was a decline in the sedentary population of
new data from
hypothesis. I hold this same position.
Many scholars will be surprised to learn that Glueck himself
revised his original gap hypothesis in the second edition of The Other
Side of the
much of the current criticism of Glueck's reconstruction of Trans-
statement in this revision reads as follows:
south of the south side of the Wadi Zerqa (Biblical River Jabboq), the
Middle Bronze I period of the Age of Abraham seems to have been
followed by a considerable decline in sedentary settlement during the
Middle Bronze II and Late Bronze I-II periods, although not as
radically as we had once assumed.77
In presenting his revised hypothesis, Glueck not only listed the
recent Middle and Late Bronze
finds from central
he reminded his readers that he had also found some sites from this
period in his own survey. Glueck insisted, however, that such materials
were not found in sufficient quantities to prove the existence of
widespread urbanism.78 As always, Glueck made provision in his
reconstruction for sedentary occupation, a fact that is often overlooked.79
If we examine Kafafi's comments on this issue, we notice that he
had two distinct advantages over Glueck: (1) Kafafi's study came out
seven years after the revised edition of The Other Side of the Jordan,
thus allowing time for additional archaeological reports to be pub-
lished; and (2) Kafafi did not have a vested interest in this subject, as
did Glueck. Nevertheless, Kafafi holds that attempts to alter Glueck's
hypothesis are unsuccessful, since most of these attempts are based on
tomb deposits, not the excavation of walled towns. Kafafi concludes
(pp. 204-6). D. Baly, (Review of Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical
Geography, BA 44  251) points out that such a statement is incorrect. To make
matters worse, Rainey (as, was pointed out in n.
24 above) points to the
74 Pinkerton, "Examination of Glueck's Conclusions," 70-73.
75 Miller, "Archaeological Survey of Central Moab," 51; idem, "Recent Archaeo-
logical Developments," 172.
76 Kautz, "Ancient Moabites," 31-34.
77 Glueck, Other Side (2d ed.), 140, 141.
78 Glueck, Other Side (2d ed.), 141-42.
79 Glueck (Other Side [2d ed.], 142) speaks about a "decline in sedentary settlement."
THE EXODUS-CONQUEST AND
by saying that much archaeological work must be done before the
issue is settled, but the available data do not compel a major revision
of Glueck's theory.80
Miller's observations provide a summary of how
Survey data, which were presented above, bear upon the modification
of the gap hypothesis:
In short, while our findings agree with Glueck's findings in that we also
notice a sudden decline in the abundance of surface pottery representing
the Middle Bronze Age, ours do not confirm his conclusion that there
was a virtually complete occupational gap which extended throughout
the Late Bronze Age and ended specifically during the thirteenth
century. There is the prior question, of course, as to whether the
relative abundance of surface pottery from a given period is a safe
indicator of its degree of sedentary occupation. To the extent that it is,
our findings seems to indicate at least a scattering of settlements even
during the Middle Bronze Age which gradually increased in number
during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages.81
The presentation of the archaeological data from
and the accompanying survey of scholarly opinions lead to at least
First, it is obvious that there are Middle and Late Bronze Age
artifacts in central and southern
finds from these periods are still not plentiful. For
Middle and Late Bronze sherds are not found at as many sites or in
as great a quantity as pottery from other periods (e.g., Early Bronze
and Iron Ages and the Nabataean, Roman, and Byzantine periods).
In spite of the accelerated pace of archaeological research in central
In other words, it still appears that social, political, or economic
factors led to a genuine population decline in Middle and Late
Second, the recently recovered archaeological remains from Trans-
original gap hypothesis must be abandoned. Glueck's 1934 theory is
still cited as an object of attack, even though Glueck himself revised
his position thirteen years ago. Glueck's new historical reconstruction
in the 1970 edition of The Other Side of the Jordan seems to be in
harmony with the archaeological picture that is now emerging.
80 Kafafi, "Late Bronze Age Pottery," x.
81 Miller, "Recent Archaeological Developments," 172.
262 GRACE; THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Third, while archaeologists have not recovered evidence of exten-
sive kingdoms in Late Bronze
no longer be said that these regions were devoid of a population that
could oppose the migrating Hebrews. This means that one of the four
main arguments used to support the late date of the exodus-conquest
is no longer valid. Those who appeal to an occupational gap in Late
Bronze Age Transjordan prove that they are unaware of the recently
recovered archaeological evidence, since the archaeological data from
this time and region appear to be neutral in the debate on the date of
the exodus-conquest. It should be noted, however, that the Late
Bronze material recovered in the territory to the north of Jalul
displays a continuity with the Canaanite culture on the west side of
the Jordan River.82
82 I am indebted to Dr. James Sauer for this final observation.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted