One of the many battle lines for the truth of the Bible is the date for the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.
In 1 Kings 6:1 the Bible states "In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD." If this construction is to be dated about 966 B.C., the Exodus would thus have taken place about 1446 B.C. The destruction of Jericho would then have occurred forty years later after the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness were completed, when Joshua led them into the Promised Land.
During the 20th century, this literal Biblical date for the Exodus was heavily disputed by Biblical critics, who instead argued that the Exodus happened some two hundreds years later. Wood (2008) explores this late date theory for the Exodus, which has now been largely discredited, but which is still taught at many evangelical seminaries:
The 13th century exodus-conquest theory was formulated by William F. Albright in the 1930s, based largely on Palestinian archaeological evidence, and promoted by him throughout his career. In the years following Albright’s death in 1971, however, evidence for the proposal dissipated and most Palestinian archaeologists abandoned the idea. In spite of the fact that the theory runs counter to Scripture, a number of evangelicals continue to hold to this view, prompting Carl G. Rasmussen to comment, “the Late-Date Exodus/Conquest Model has been abandoned by many scholars…it seems that currently the major adherents to the Late-Date Exodus/Conquest Model are some evangelicals!” A strong advocate of the theory is Kenneth A. Kitchen, who recently gave a detailed exposition of it in his On the Reliability of the Old Testament.Old Testament seminary professors who continue to teach this late dating of the Exodus also go on to question the truthfulness of other Old Testament accounts, such as the accounts of Kings and Chronicles, Isaiah as the single author of the book of Isaiah, the prophecies of Daniel, the truth of the global flood, and the six-day creation. They also object to using the Old Testament as a source book for scientific truth...
Now, additional evidence for the early dating of the Exodus comes directly from scientists! Austin (2010), a geologist and creation scientist, evaluated the findings by Migowski et al. (2004), Agnon et al. (2006), and Ken-Tor et al. (2008). They are mainstream geologists who investigated the chronology of earthquake disturbances in the Dead Sea area. Austin took Migowski's data on the uppermost 19 feet of laminated sediment of the Dead Sea and plotted it to make a 4,000-year sediment chronology. The sediment core was drilled at the shore of the present lake near En Gedi.
Austin notes that:
The biblical account does not specifically mention an earthquake, but the earth would have been shaken by the wall's collapse. Archaeological excavations at Jericho confirm that the massive wall made of mud bricks did collapse at the time of the conquest, about 1400 B.C. The site of the ancient city of Jericho sits directly on top of a very large fault associated with the Jordan Rift valley. Surprisingly, the Dead Sea sediment core has a distinctive mixed sediment layer at a depth of 15.1 feet that is evidence of a big earthquake at about 1400 B.C.Actually, this is no surprise at all to those who are familiar with the early/late date controversy of the Exodus! 1 Kings 6:1 is correct, and so is the rest of the Bible.
M.S. Physics, Drexel University
M.Div. Pastoral Ministry, Westminster Theological Seminary
Agnon, A., C. Migowski and S. Marco. 2006. Intraclast Breccias in Laminated Sequences Reviewed: Recorders of Paleo-earthquakes. In New Frontiers in Dead Sea Paleoenvironmental Research. Enzel, Y., A. Agnon, and M. Stein, eds. Geological Society of America Special Paper 401, 195-214.
Austin, S. 2010. Greatest Earthquakes of the Bible. Acts & Facts 39(10): 12-15.
Ken-Tor, R. et al. 2001. High-resolution Geological Record of Historic Earthquakes in the Dead Sea Basin. Journal of Geophysical Research. 106 (B2): 2221-2234.
Kitchen, K.A. 2008. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans.
Migowski, C. et al. 2004. Recurrence Pattern of Holocene Earthquakes Along the Dead Sea Transform Revealed by Varve-counting and Radiocarbon Dating of Lacustrine Sediments. Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters. 222 (1): 301-314.
Wood, B.G. 2008. The Rise and Fall of the 13th Century Exodus Conquest Theory. Associates for Biblical Research.