ronning at xsinet.co.za
Mon Jul 10 14:15:10 EDT 2000
Walter wrote concerning locating Ai at Kh. el Maqatir:
> The biblical account suggests the total number of inhabitants at Ai,
> counting both men and women was 12,000 (Joshua 8:25):
> "The number of those who fell that day, men and women together, was twelve
> thousand, all people of Ai"
> According to Pfeiffer, the population at ancient Gibeon was about 4,000 to
> 6,000 people:
Do you want to say that Ai must have been larger than Gibeon
based on population numbers even though the Bible says it
was smaller? I wouldn't hang too much on numbers due to the
difficulty evident in the MT for the correct transmission of
large numbers (Peter's point is also valid re. the
population of a fortress being swelled [by people who
normally lived outside the walls] during an attack).
> As regards John Ronning's attempt to identify Bethel with El Bireh, my
> research endeavors suggest that mainstream scholarship is correct in Beitin
> being Bethel.
None of the evidence you cite gives any preference for
Beitin as opposed to El-Bireh being the site of Bethel. The
location of Bethel was described by the church fathers when
it was still known as Bethel, i.e. it was still a living
city, and Roman mile markers are available to check up on
it. Albright didn't even check Robinson's 19th century
estimate of twelve miles made on horseback, and Albright did
not discover any actual evidence that Beitin was at Bethel.
El-Bireh fits much better as a strategic location chosen by
Jeroboam to keep the Israelites from going further south to
Jerusalem, as it is a chokepoint where the north-south roads
converge. It seems that some who demand epigraphic evidence
before they accept something in the Bible are quite willing
to accept the 19th century AD tradition of Bethel = Beitin
with zero epigraphic evidence and no archaeological
confirmation (e.g. where is Jeroboam's shrine, etc.?).
ALL GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS IN THE BIBLICAL TEXT POINT TO
> THE AREA OF KHIRBET ET-TELL AS THE LOCATION OF AI." (p.61)
Assuming, that is, that ancient Bethel was at modern Beitin
(if Bethel = Beitin then Kh. el Maqatir could not be Ai
since it is due south of Bethel, whereas Kh. el Maqatir and
et-Tell are both due east of el-Bireh - one of the
requirements for biblical Ai). I could take Zevit's
analysis as a clear demonstration that this presupposition
Bethel = Beitin is false, which would be just as
methodologically valid as your approach.
By the way, where is the HAR that must be between Bethel and
Ai according to Genesis 12:8?
again from Zevit:
> the story
> was told about the site as it existed in the Iron Age, a relatively small
> village built on the acropolis among the ruins and deserted buildings and
> plazas of an Early Bronze Age city that had ben destroyed a thousand years
I think you need to read Joshua 7-8 more carefully - the
narrative makes little sense if Ai is not a fortified city
(as opposed to a small and strategically insignificant
unwalled settlement using the old ruins at et-Tell). E.g.
what is the point of a gate if there is no wall around the
You are suggesting that the biblical writer knew about a
small iron age settlement at Ai and perhaps a battle that
took place there and transformed it into a story of Joshua's
conquest to explain why et-Tell is a heap of ruins "to this
day" - but if they knew about the small settlement using the
large ruins they must have known that it was already a heap
of ruins - whatever battle took place there (where is the
archaeological evidence of it?) did not result in it being
made a "tell" for it was already a tell when the battle took
place. Does that make sense?
Recalling that the typical scholarly explanation for the
recording of the battle at Ai is an aetiological tale told
to explain the existence of the massive ruins which they
wanted to ascribe to Joshua. Zevit at least realizes this
makes no sense (making the destruction of a small Ai the
reason for massive ruins), but one must ask if his
explanation makes any more sense.
If one posits Bethel at el-Bireh, then Ai at Kh. el-Maqatir
fits all the topographical requirements as well as the
archaeological details and biblical chronology.
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