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When The Walls Came Tumblin’ Down

by Robert Engelbach on March 6, 2014

imagesj When The Walls Came Tumblin’ Down“Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho.  Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumblin’ down.”  Don’t remember this children’s song?  Listen to the full version at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3QUS4B0iaM.  It is very inspirational – if you cannot find your way “over” the humongous wall in your life right now, try the spiritual path to “pass through it.”  Or even dance through it if you like.  But did the walls come tumbling down as the bible says they did?  Or is it fable?  And if it is pure fable, does the theme lose its inspiration?

Archeologists are continually re-exploring ancient sites in the Middle East trying to verify whether the biblical accounts are historically accurate.  We can usually agree that they are “historically relevant” – they provide one explanation, accurate or not, of how different lands became populated by the peoples who are now there.  But are they accurate?

Or should we even care?  After all, if the most significant value of the bible is obtained by interpreting it as allegorical, and then looking for the hidden meanings within the allegories, then is there any need for any part of it to be historically accurate?

The answer to this is not simple.  On the one hand, historical inaccuracy should not invalidate the allegorical and hidden meaning.  According to the bible, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down because Joshua and his army circled it 7 times and shouted in the name of the Lord. Whether or not this account is historically accurate does not detract from the allegorical and hidden meanings, one being that surmounting huge obstacles can be aided by spiritual preparation and faithfulness, another that spiritual salvation is available to anyone who responds to it, even a harlot who has the wrong lineage and lives in an ignorant culture. Nor does it detract from one of the hidden meanings involving meditation and the 7 chakras which was presented by Joshua Tilghman in the August 12, 2012 post “The Battle of Jericho, and Your Body/Mind Connection!

On the other hand, suppose there was no Jericho, historically, to begin with.  Or suppose it was never defeated.  Or maybe it had no walls.  Or they did not come tumbling down. Then the entire biblical account would be entirely a fable made up out of thin air. Why should we expect it to have any credibility?  We may as well just read any old fable. Find hidden meanings in our favorite comic books. Some people actually believe they can do that, but I think the bible has more credibility than any fable, old or new. If not, then why try so hard to find hidden meanings in it? Why not find hidden meanings in the fable of your choice?

There may be parts of the bible that are not historically accurate, but for it to be credible beyond any old fable, it cannot be all pure fiction.  There are five New Testament verses that warn against fables (1Ti 1:4, 1 Ti 4:7, 2 Ti 4.4, Tts 1:14, 2 Pet 1:16). Any evidence that establishes historical accuracy of any part of the bible helps to establish the bible as a sacred, credible document, maybe imperfect, but one from which allegories and encoded meanings may be reliably drawn, and not just some storyteller’s pipe dream.

There is a lot of historical evidence that Hebrew tribes lived in Canaan, that they were aggressive and fought with surrounding ethnic groups for control of land and water rights. However, there is little evidence that they actually came from Egypt, or that they came through a roundabout desert detour, across the Jordon River, and then came to (and conquered) an ancient and might city of Jericho. Some historians and archeologists believe the Hebrews always lived in Canaan and made the whole thing up.  However, the latest evidence is that Jericho was a walled ancient city on eight acres of land that was defeated suddenly with its walls being knocked down in either 1400 BC or 1550 BC, close to the date deduced from the biblical account.

Jericho is also believed by some archeologists to be the oldest city on earth, so its demise by the Hebrews may be even more symbolic, in overturning the original corrupted order of civilization.

After examining arguments for and against the biblical account, I think the following article is the most recent and inclusive I have come across, and so I have provided a link. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/09/top-ten-biblical-discoveries-in-archaeology-3-jericho/

To be honest, it is written by someone with a graduate degree in Historical Theology and Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, so it is might have some degree of bias. It is usually a good practice to look at an author’s background to obtain foreknowledge of their world view. Despite the conservative Christian background in this case, I think the article is the most informative and most objective I could find, and I have summarized it below.

In 1868, British Engineer Charles Warren excavated an earthen mound in the area believed to be a possible site of ancient Jericho. He discovered that the mound was not a natural formation but contained remains of what he believed to be ancient castles.  Around 1910, a team of Austrians and Germans dug further and uncovered a retaining wall that circled an entire city. From 1930 -1936, the first excavations using modern archeological methods lead by British archeologist John Garstang discovered collapsed city walls built on top of portions of the retaining wall and evidence that it enclosed a city that met a quick and violent end. In his words:

“In a word, in all material details and in date the fall of Jericho took place as described in the Biblical narrative. Our demonstration is limited, however, to material observations: the walls fell, shaken apparently by earthquake, and the city was destroyed by fire, about 1400 B.C. These are the basic facts resulting from our investigations. The link with Joshua and the Israelites is only circumstantial but it seems to be solid and without a flaw.”

Because Garstang’s findings were met with much controversy, he invited the up-and-coming British Archeologist Kathleen Kenyon to study his findings.  She did and eventually performed her own excavations in 1952-1958 that made her famous. She discovered 20 distinct phases of architectural development, each representing a different time period in the city’s history. She describes the time period closest to the time period in the biblical account as being wrought with calamity:

“The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.”

One of her most significant finding was vast stores of clay jars, some still sealed shut, filled with grain that was burnt to a crisp. This implies that the city was not destroyed by the usual method of siege – cutting off the city’s food supply to the point of starvation, and then attacking. The vast amount of burnt food implies that it was destroyed not long after Harvest season, when the stores were fullest.

Kenyon’s findings below correlate with the biblical narratives in parenthesis:

All of Kathleen Kenyon’s findings agreed with the biblical account except her assignment of the date for this destruction.  She assigned the destruction as occurring in 1550 BC, 150 years before the biblically derived date of 1400 BC, with little or no rebuilding occurring for hundreds of years afterwards. So in effect, if the Hebrews got there in 1400 BC, they would have found a destroyed city.

Her assignment of the date was refuted later by Dr. Bryant G. Wood in 1990 who claimed her assignment was based largely on not finding expensive pottery imported from Cyprus that was available in 1400 BC.  Woods claims that Kenyon dug for pottery only in a section of the city that was a residence for commoners who would not have acquired expensive pottery.

My summary of the article ends here.  To date there have been two instances of radioactive carbon dating of samples from Jericho, one confirming the 1400 BC date and the other affirming the 1550 BC date.  On top of that, there is archeological evidence that the Hebrews existed in Canaan as early as 1550 BC, which suggests that the biblical account might be accurate, but the date of destruction deduced from the bible may be 150 years off.

Although the archeological dating of the destruction of Jericho is inconclusive, and there is no evidence outside the bible that the Hebrews were the ones who actually destroyed it, it is clear that Jericho had walls that fell, and fell suddenly in a disorganized fashion as if in an earthquake.  It is also clear that the rest of the city was totally destroyed by sudden fire, and that it was not rebuilt for more than a century after.  The biblical account is not a bad fit.

By all means, we should encourage one another to keep tuning our 7 chakras and to keep tunneling through walls.  But are we to find hidden meanings in thin air, or in accounts that have some semblance of being historical?  You decide.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joshua Tilghman March 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Robert,

Thanks for the contribution. I would say that the Biblical story of Jericho is barely based on history. I am sure many cities were destroyed in this manner throughout history, but it’s the spiritual wisdom the writers of scripture concealed in such a story that really matters. Getting caught up in whether or not this incident happened close to the way the Bible depicts it gets our spiritual eyes on the wrong motive for the story in my humble opinion.

It’ll be interesting to see other people’s opinion.

Blessings my friend.

Reply

2 Robert March 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Josh,

Yes, it will be very interesting to consider what we all have to contribute.

As for myself, part of me totally agrees with you.

But part of me is wanting to know that if we are now to acknowledge that the bible is probably even more fictional that we previously thought, then why should we revere the bible more than any other piece of fiction?

Why should we trust encoded messages in this fictional bible? Why should we trust the people who wrote them to care about our interests? Who are they and why are they different than any other authors, that we should pay attention to them? Maybe we are just finding things in them that were not intentionally intended by the original authors, because we have a need to affirm our new beliefs. Are we doing nothing more than pulling signals out of white noise? And if so, why should we trust the signals? (I am assuming there are answers to these legitimate questions. I don’t think I am being cynical)

Another part of me is fascinated by ancient artifacts. Maybe it is all in my head, or maybe these physical objects have vibrations. When you move to Wake Forest, we’ll have to visit the North Carolina Museum of Art in nearby Raleigh, if you haven’t yet. There are transported blocks of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and some other artifacts 6000 years old on display. There is a mystical feeling just to be near them. You can almost touch them. You can imagine some dark-skinned Egyptian artisans chiseling out the design, who had bodies and souls practically like ours, but over 1000 generations ago. It’s the same awesome feeling we get from Stonehenge at solstice when the light shafts align, or from the Pyramids with their perfect geometrical dimensions beyond the human technology of the day.

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3 Joshua Tilghman March 8, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Robert,

I would love to take a look at the artifacts in that museum! I have been meaning to do that for a little while now.

Personally, I believe we can entrust the coded messages in the Bible because they come from the higher mind, something we all yearn to connect to both individually and collectively. The symbols and codes we find through myth in the scriptures are a lot more powerful than we can imagine. They speak to the human psyche with a universal message, although it is often hard to understand that message through the lower mind. But we can still feel their pull. That’s what brings us to them in the first place.

Like you, I still love to read debates about the dating of cities and ancient artifacts, and how much they prove or disprove the literal interpretation of the scriptures. However, I have come to accept that this is simply because I love history, and it is okay to delve even into the debates. But I don’t let debates detract from what I know the true purpose of the scriptures to be, and how it was delivered. This is because I know and understand the power of myth. It used to kill me to think the scriptures were not literal, until I realized that if they were God wouldn’t be as big and full of love as he ought to be. I then began to understand that we are a part of God and he us, no matter what state or condition WE are in. Yes, maybe we haven’t reached enlightenment yet, but God is still a part of us even in our unenlightened states. This is an encouraging thought.

The stories and myths in the Bible are more personal than the literal stories, simply because they tell the story of humanity in general, and they are as much about me as they are anyone else. This is also an encouraging thought.

Blessings.

Reply

4 Robert March 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Josh,

Yes, it will be very interesting to consider what we all have to contribute.

As for myself, part of me totally agrees with you.

But part of me is wanting to know that if we are now to acknowledge that the bible is probably even more fictional that we previously thought, then why should we revere the bible more than any other piece of fiction?

Why should we trust encoded messages in this fictional bible? Why should we trust the people who wrote them to care about our interests?

Who are they and why are they different than any other authors, that we should pay attention to them?

Maybe we are just finding things in them that were not intentionally intended by the original authors, because we have a need to affirm our new beliefs. Are we doing nothing more than pulling signals out of white noise? And if so, why should we trust the signals? (I am assuming there are answers to these legitimate questions. I don’t think I am being cynical)

Another part of me is fascinated by ancient artifacts. Maybe it is all in my head, or maybe these physical objects have vibrations.

When you move to Wake Forest, we’ll have to visit the North Carolina Museum of Art in nearby Raleigh, if you haven’t yet. There are transported blocks of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and some other artifacts 6000 years old on display. There is a mystical feeling just to be near them. You can almost touch them. You can imagine some dark-skinned Egyptian artisans chiseling out the design, who had bodies and souls practically like ours, but over 1000 generations ago. It’s the same awesome feeling we get from Stonehenge at solstice when the light shafts align, or from the Pyramids with their perfect geometrical dimensions beyond the human technology of the day.

There are mysteries beneath the earth and in the stars waiting to be uncovered, and they relate to the spirit as well as to the material plane.

Reply

5 Robert March 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

When the dead sea scrolls were discovered, it sent a ripple around the world. When the Gnostic Gospels were recovered from a clay jar, it sent another ripple that is moving still, even right through this blog. Long before then, when Galileo discovered the earth circles the sun, it sent another ripple. We have telescopes today that can collect light from stars that took billions of years to reach us. We have DNA detection that links us to ancestral migrations and suggests our evolutionary origins. Technology develops exponentially, so it won’t be long before a lot more mysteries will be revealed. We cannot discount archeological and scientific discoveries.

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6 Joshua Tilghman March 8, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Very true, Robert. Agreed!

Reply

7 Tommy March 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Hi Robert,
I enjoy Biblical archeology and this story has always captured my imagination — yes, I remember the song! I was a weird kid and thought God was a monster for killing people just because they weren’t his “chosen” people. I must have channeled the gnostic Marcion, because I rejected the “Old Testament” God and only accepted Jesus’ God.

I am convinced the Bible contains both myth and real history, perhaps embellished over time, but historical nonetheless. The Bible has real power as you point out. For me, that power comes from the amazing things God has done, is doing and will do through the people populating our planet, and there is a book about it. I took a graduate course in New Testament studies at a conservative university, and the professor’s opening statement shocked me. He said the Bible was not dictation. God didn’t write it. That opened my mind and ironically broke down that Jericho wall so I could begin seeking the truth. I’d get kicked out of that school now. Ha!

My own conviction is that over spiritualizing scripture robs some of its power. I have also learned that a person interprets things based upon their level of gnosis, and that the same scripture has many layers of meaning. For some the story of Jericho shows God’s faithfulness to the faithful. For others Jericho shows the miracle as a magic ritual given to the Israelites by someone or something they believe is God. As you point out, others may find a spiritual meaning. I have learned that a person gets from a story what they are supposed to get or are capable of getting.

I’ve settled on this. Whatever gives me peace, that’s what I go with. Nice job and blessings,
Tommy

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8 Robert March 10, 2014 at 12:48 am

All these comments are very helpful. Sometimes I want to hold on to the old understanding, retest and challenge new paradigms before I let go. Then I get a unexpected hint that something better is coming, and then I am ready to surrender to it, and abandon everything that came before.

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9 Chris May 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Some other interesting facts about Jericho:

Just as the waters of the Jordan empty into the Dead Sea (the lowest point of elevation on earth where no life lives), which is beautifully symbolic of washing sin from the soul with baptism, the city of Jericho was and is built on the lowest point of land elevation on the planet. Jericho is known as the “lowest” city in the world according to land elevation. Wikipedia also says it is possibly the “oldest and most continually occupied city in the world.”

So what does this mean to us. Well, it’s a low point of existence for the soul. The stones are all the things that hem us in, such as insecurities, superstitions, false beliefs, anything really. All of these are the “stones” that hem us within the walls.

Many of the gnostic scriptures speak of prostitution of the mind, and I believe Rahab is the prostituted mind here. However, freedom from these “stone walls” have to come through her willingness and cooperation, and so her immediately family remains and she continues on with us. With the self believing in and associating with the prostituted mind, the self is a false self and an adulterer. We know that adulterers and prostitutes do not enter the kingdom, and cannot proceed towards a spiritual awakening.

Building this city back results in the loss of the firstborn for any of us; that is, if any of us truly are able to break down the walls completely to begin with. And we know the “firstborn” is the budding Christ within us.

All of this, though, is in my humble opinion of course, but I hope it helps shed some light on the significance of the story as it relates to our soul.

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10 Robert May 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Chris,

Thank you for this brilliant analogy between the story of Rahab and the journey of the soul, and the exhortation not to let those walls get built back up again once the Christ within is first born.

So then, as you explain, we come out of the lowest point of the earth to find the Christ within.

From what I have gathered, some Hebrew literature suggests that Rahab was very beautiful and became familiar with greater things beyond the walls, and the impending crisis, from talking to her clients (in one version she is a prostitute and in another she is an innkeeper). Many of these clients were princes who would have such knowledge. The Hebrew word Rehab (actually Rachab) means “expand, widen, broaden”.

This suggests that the experience at the lower level of existence is a means of becoming informed and motivated during an impending crisis to provide an opening for expanded consciousness, new skills that will be needed to survive the crisis.

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11 Chris May 20, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Hey Robert,

I appreciate the kind words. I’m sure there is so much more than can be learned from the story of Jericho. What I said, I guess to me is just an overview of what it means to me at this point in my life. It’s amazing to me how much has been lost in translation over the years, as you point out about the actual meaning of the name “Rehab.” The knowledge the ancients had just astounds me.

I was actually at my ex mother-in-laws house about three weeks ago, trying not to let myself get angry at the preacher on TV, when I heard him talk about the physical location below sea level that the city of Jericho resides. I had to humble myself and realize that what I know is actually nothing, and there is always something to learn, even from the ones I sometimes accuse of taking advantage of their position as teachers.

Then I remembered that I had this article bookmarked as one of the ones that I wanted to read in my spare time and figured I’d share. I’ve learned a great deal from the articles that all of you guys write on here. Thanks again!

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12 Robert May 21, 2014 at 1:05 am

Chris,

I appreciate your comments and I know the feeling of the windows of heaven opening in unexpected places, though I have never been to an ex mother-in-laws house.

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