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Home Forums Shiloh and the Tabernacle of the Lord The Lost Fortress: Finding the City of Ai


  • The Lost Fortress: Finding the City of Ai

  • Historical Faith Society

    October 26, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Khirbet el-Maqatir seems to be a very strong match for the Biblical city of Ai, destroyed by Joshua and the Israelites during the conquest of the Promised Land. What are your thoughts on the evidence the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) has uncovered at this site?

  • Deborah Hurn

    November 1, 2021 at 10:46 am

    The obvious site for Ai is et-Tell, assumed to be Ai until the tel was found to have no Late Bronze Age remains, the LBA being the era when the conquest was supposed to have occurred. Like Tel Arad, et-Tell was destroyed at the end of the Early Bronze Age and never rebuilt. This is very awkward for the standard chronology… the ideal site for Ai was apparently long destroyed and abandoned before Joshua arrived. Same problem with Jericho, as most of us are probably aware. An alternative site has been sought for Ai, the most publicised (by ABR) being Khirbet el-Maqatir. I think this is a sad waste of time and effort… the LBA conquest is a bankrupt connection. The pattern of LBA remains does not resemble the biblical descriptions of Canaanite civilisation, with many towns abandoned or with poor activity in an era when they are supposed to have been at their zenith. The Standard Chronology needs a drastic overhaul (or a U-haul to the dump). How much resource has it squandered?

    • Deborah Hurn

      November 1, 2021 at 11:04 am

      Miller, J. Maxwell. “Site Identification: A Problem Area in Contemporary Biblical Scholarship.” Zeitschrift Des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins (1953-) 99 (1983): 119–29.

      [122] 2. Locating the “Conquest Cities”

      The presupposition of an Israelite conquest of Canaan something on the order of that
      described in the book of Joshua and occurring at the end of the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth
      century B.C.) has also played a major role in discussions pertaining to biblical site identification during the past half century. It follows from the presupposition that the archaeological
      remains of cities mentioned in connection with the conquest should reflect Late Bronze Age
      occupation and that the cities which are said to have been destroyed by the Israelites should
      show evidence of thirteenth century destructions. As anticipated above, this was the
      reasoning behind Albright’s disqualification of the sites in the hill country south of
      Hebron as acceptable candidates for Debir. Debir is one of the cities which the Israelites are
      said to have conquered; yet there seemed to be no good candidate with LB remains in that
      part of the hill country.

      Debir represented but the beginning of what has turned out to be a pattern for the
      “conquest cities”.
      Specifically, the following identifications seem obvious on the basis of
      topographical clues derived from the Bible and comparisons of the ancient and modern
      names: Tell ‘Arad/Arad, Tell Hesban/Heshbon, Tell es-Sultan (near er-Riha)/Jericho, et
      Tell/ Ai, Tell el-Yarmuk/Yarmuth. However none of these sites, when excavated, produced
      any significant evidence of Late Bronze Age occupation
      , much less of thirteenth century
      destructions. In each case it has been suggested, specifically or in effect, that the identification be abandoned.

  • Thomas Donlon

    November 2, 2021 at 8:12 am

    The late Dr. David Livingston, (also associated with ABR) has argued for HERE that Khirbet Nisya should also be considered a candidate for AI. He excavated there. I had just read or saw this article a few days ago and remembered seeing and reading some of it and I just searched through my web history to bring it up after Deborah Hurn made a post on this AI topic which awakened my interest or caught my recollection of the article before it faded from my memory.

    I’m not going to wade into all the details, but my impression of the article is that David Livingston makes a strong case based on the overall geography of the area and that he does tie in well the other mentions in scripture … about general placement of the city in correct location relative to other locations. He also gets into finely tuned arguments on other locations like Bethel and Beth Aven that sound reasonable.

    It is probably worth a read for those who want to get to the bottom of this particular question about the location of AI and compare the various locations put forth.

    David’s Livingston’s suggestion is a bit boring only because of a lack of finds of the architecture and required buildings on top of his proposed AI location. He argues (convincingly) that mudbrick decays over time and that future scavengers for building materials have typically carted away older building stones (for foundations for example) to be reused later by people who would rather reuse an already made stone than quarry or chisel out a new stone for a new project. (I’m elaborating … he didn’t get too into that explanation or he worded it different.) But yet he says that substantial pottery finds in the immediate area make a conclusive case the area was inhabited and the right time for the conquest.

    He also suggests that AI had to have been reoccupied (of which their is some evidence for this site, while he argues that other proposed site wasn’t reoccupied. His belief the Bible requires the site to have been reoccupied comes from the Biblical text of either Nehemiah or Ezra or both (I forget) but it says that men of Bethel and Ai were included in a census of those going back to Jerusalem and Israel after Cyrus gave the order or permission for the Jews to do so.

    I need to get back to studying something different… something that might help me better understand a potential location of Sodom within the walking distance for the angels that left Abraham after a mid-day meal to arrive in Sodom at around sunset. Long story about that though… it ought to wait until I learn more details. Some modern satellites regularly image the ground looking at different electromagnetic frequencies other than RGB colors. Again long story… and I’ve yet to begin down that path of investigation.

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