Archaeology, Exodus, and the Canaanite Conquest

There are several good resources showing Moses did not exist, LINK. Here's my take on it all from my 2012 book, Why I Became an Atheist, pp. 302-307: 
Archaeology, Exodus, and the Canaanite Conquest
If we assume the story of Exodus is correct, there should be some archaeological evidence for the exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea, the camping of the Israelites at Mount Sinai, their wilderness wanderings, and their Canaanite conquest. And this archaeological evidence should correspond to the biblical account. But what we find instead is a complete lack of it, and the story itself doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
The plagues would have devastated the Egyptian country (cf. Exod. 8:20; 9:6, 25; 10:7, 15; 12:29–30). This is actually what we are led to believe from the text. The crops had all been destroyed, their cattle were all killed (on three separate occasions for good measure: Exod. 9:6; 9:25; 11:5), and the infrastructure was severely damaged, culminating in the death of every firstborn male in the country. Finally, we’re told that the entire army had perished in the Red Sea. We should expect to find some indication of this in archaeological digs and in the Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, no matter how embarrassing it may have been to their pride. 
But as William G. Dever, professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona, Tucson, informs us, “There is no direct archaeological evidence that any constituents of later Israel were ever in Egypt.”17 Dever argues that there is “absolutely no trace of Moses, or indeed of an Israelite presence in Egypt.”18 Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman argue that there is no archaeological evidence for an Israelite presence in Egypt prior to the thirteenth century BCE, when most Christian scholars think the Exodus took place. Before that time “not a single campsite or sign of occupation . . . has been identified in Sinai,” even though they show how archaeology has detected the smallest of such sites elsewhere around the world. Their “irrefutable” conclusion is that “the Exodus did not happen at the time and in the manner described in the Bible.”19
The unheard of numbers of Israelites who supposedly were let go from Egypt presents all sorts of problems. The Israelites emerged from Egypt numbering three to four million. If these people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and if the Egyptian soldiers with their armor and chariots all died there, where is this evidence? Surely there should be chariots and shields and spears to find. Scholars are debating the place of the crossing, but there is not a shred of evidence for any of their conclusions.20 Using only the biblical text, which was all that was available to him, Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768 CE) made a number of interesting calculations, Dr. Lester L. Grabbe of the University of Hull tells us. The livestock used to support the Israelites would have been simply too numerous for the Israelites to manage and feed. They lived in Goshen because they raised livestock (Gen. 46:31–34). Their cattle were said not to suffer from the plague that killed the Egyptian cattle (Exod. 9:1–7). When they supposedly left Egypt, Moses had wanted Pharaoh to allow them to take all of their livestock (Exod. 10:24–26; 12:32, 38; cf. Num. 11:21–22). Grabbe wrote a detailed essay about this in which he tells us that Reimarus asked some tough questions about the text. He asked “about the amount of time required for such a large group to exit the country. Taking the figures of three million people, 900,000 animals (300,000 beef cattle and 600,000 sheep and goats, based on Exodus 9:1–7; 10:24–26; 12:32, 38; cf. Numbers 11:21–22) and 10,000 wagons (Numbers 7:3, 6–8), he calculated how long the traveling column would be. Naturally, that would depend on how wide the column was. He estimated fifty people marching abreast (which he thought was too many), with the space of three steps taken up by each row of people. . . . It would surely have taken at least a week to cross the ‘Red Sea.’”21 The crucial issue, Grabbe tells us, even granting that there was a kingdom of Edom (which there wasn’t), is “the refusal of cooperation by the Edomites and the Transjordanian tribes, and the resistance by the Canaanites,” which “are practically inexplicable. They make little sense, for two reasons: first, the size of the Israelite forces, and, second, the reputation that must have accompanied this group which had lived in the wilderness for 40 years. Suppose you are king of a small nation, such as Edom or Midian, which can be defeated by an army of 12,000 (d. Numbers 31:6–8). So when a nation with a potential army of 600,000 men in their prime, who have been living on miraculous provisions falling from heaven, asks to move peacefully through your land, you say no?”22
When the Bible speaks of the conquest of Canaan, the archaeology again presents a different picture. William Dever argues that “the external material evidence supports almost nothing of the biblical account of a large-scale, concerted Israelite military invasion of Canaan.”23 There are, for instance, no indications of a massive increase in population in Canaan. When explaining what might actually have happened, Dever concludes:
It must be stressed that there is no evidence whatsoever in the material culture that would indicate that these Iron I villagers originated outside Palestine, not even in Transjordan, much less in Egypt or the Sinai. There is nothing in the material remains to suggest that these are “pastoral nomads settling down”—on the contrary, they appear to be skilled and well-adapted peasant farmers, long familiar with local conditions in Canaan.24
Dever adds: “Clearly, from our discussion the conquest model is ruled out. The founders of the Iron I villagers do not appear to have been newcomers to Palestine, much less settlers displacing Canaanites in the urban centers by military force.”25 Dever is known as a biblical maximalist. He holds that the accounts of the United Monarchy under Kings David and Saul are to be taken as largely historical. When it comes to the conquest though, he argues, “The peasants’ revolt (or ‘internal conquest’) model seems more compatible with current archaeological data and theory than any other. This model presumes that the early Israelite movement was made up of various dissident elements of late bronze age Canaanite society, mostly dispossessed peasant farmers, who colonized new areas in the hinterland and there adopted a less stratified social order better suited to an agrarian economy.”26
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman are known as minimalists; that is, they don’t think the accounts of Kings David and Saul are historical. They agree with Dever that “a lightning invasion” by the Israelites “would have been impractical and unlikely in the extreme.” But they go on to rightly argue that a peasant revolt doesn’t accord with the evidence. According to them, “the archaeological evidence indicates that the destruction of Canaanite society was a relatively long and gradual process.” The destruction of Hazor, Aphek, Lachish, and Megiddo, four cities mentioned as being destroyed in Joshua’s military campaign, “took place over a span of more than a century. The possible causes include invasion, social breakdown, and civil strife. No single military force did it, and certainly not in one military campaign.”27 In either case, the archaeological evidence for the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan simply is not to be found. Thom Stark, having given me permission to quote him extensively, informed me of these things:
The archaeological record also contradicts many of the battle accounts in Joshua, and several key battles in the Transjordan found in Numbers and Deuteronomy. The city of Jericho had long been uninhabited by the time of the alleged conquest. Moreover, there is no destruction level at Jericho in either of the proposed dates for the conquest. That is to say, Jericho was destroyed in 1550 BCE (confirmed again recently by radiocarbon-dating), well over a hundred years before the conservative dating of the conquest, and three hundred years before the consensus dating. There is no evidence that it was occupied again until Iron II. [Coogan, “Archaeology and Biblical Studies: The Book of Joshua,” p. 22; see note 28.] In short, there were no walls to come a-tumblin’ down in either of the proposed conquest periods.
Now, conservatives like Richard Hess want to argue that, though there is no evidence for an occupation of Jericho in the appropriate period, it’s possible that the lack of evidence can be explained by erosion. [Hess, “The Jericho and Ai of the Book of Joshua,” p. 37; see note 28.] But this is not an acceptable argument. After all, very strong evidence of occupation from the sixteenth century remains, having survived over 200 years of erosion between the sixteenth and fourteenth centuries. . . It is entirely implausible that there would be absolutely no evidence of an occupation left due to erosion. This is essentially a positive argument from silence. Biblical scholar Michael Coogan rightly rejects this appeal to erosion as a feeble attempt to salvage the historicity of the biblical account:
Here the interpretation of the archaeological record has been misleading. No evidence for it has been found, but it is often asserted, from what I can only characterize as parti pris [bias], that the city that was there has been eroded. There is not a shred, or a sherd, of evidence for subsequent Late Bronze Age settlement. H. J. Franken, a member of the excavation team, speaks of “a complete lack of stray pottery from this particular period on all the surface and immediate surroundings of the tell.” The argument from silence, then, is untenable, but despite its weakness it still has adherents, who desperately try to construct in the void the walls of Joshua 6, much as Victor Hugo created the reaction of Jericho’s inhabitants to the march of the Hebrews around their town in his “Sonnez, sonnez toujours.” [Coogan, “Archaeology and Biblical Studies: The Book of Joshua,” p. 21; see note 28.]
The account of the battle of Ai is similarly problematic. Joseph Callaway, a conservative Evangelical archaeologist went to the Ai dig site et-Tell in the 1960s in the hopes of confirming the biblical account, against the earlier findings of Judith Marquet-Krause. What he found, instead, was that the archaeological record unequivocally contradicts the biblical picture. He found an Iron I city, with no fortifications, and directly beneath it an Early Bronze settlement. In other words, the city of Ai was uninhabited from 2400 BCE to between 1200 and 1000 BCE (a period of twelve to fourteen hundred years). And again, there were no fortifications. This should not be surprising, since the word Ai means “ruin.” The site’s modern name, et-Tell, also means “the ruin.” The fact that the city is known by no other name in the Bible than “ruin” suggests that that’s how it was first known to the Israelites before they built their city upon it in Iron I (the period of the Judges). Scholars have concluded that the story of Ai in Joshua is an etiological narrative (a narrative created to explain why something is the way it is). So the “ruin” that was Ai came to be explained in folk tradition by reference to a Joshua-conquest legend.
There are numerous other examples where the stories in Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua of Israel’s migration through the desert into the Transjordan and then into the Promised Land are anachronistic. Numbers 21:1–3 narrates that Israel destroyed all the cities in the region of Arad, including the city of Arad. But Arad wasn’t founded until the tenth century BCE, more than 300 years after the time of the conquest. Israel apparently attacked a city that wasn’t there. The account in Numbers 21 and Deuteronomy 2 of Israel’s destruction of the Amorite city of Heshbon is also anachronistic. Heshbon didn’t exist until the Iron II period, at the earliest 250 years later than the purported events of the conquest.
The account in Num 21:30 of Israel’s siege of the Moabite city of Dibon tells the same story. Dibon was a minor city in the ninth century BCE, 400 years after the alleged conquest. There were no Late Bronze Age residues there. (And this site was excavated by a group of conservative Southern Baptists who were hoping to prove the Bible accurate. They were forced to concede otherwise.) The account of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9 is also anachronistic. Another devout Christian, James Pritchard, excavated there and found nothing but residues from the eighth century BCE (500 years after the conquest). Gibeon did not exist at the time of the conquest. The story of the Gibeonites was another etiological narrative which served to justify the fact that the Gibeonites were slaves in Judah at the time these narratives were written.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. What all this shows is that the conquest narratives were written by someone with a geographical perspective from about the seventh century BCE. The geography described in these accounts didn’t exist until much later than the time the conquest supposedly took place.28
Given the lack of archaeological evidence for the Canaanite conquest, some Christian apologists are now arguing by virtue of conflicting texts in the Bible that this genocide never took place as stated. The texts indicate that Joshua did not accomplish the genocide of the Canaanites. Just compare Joshua 10–12, where we’re
told he did so, with Judges 1:21–36, where many of the Canaanites still lived in the land after Joshua died. Given these discrepancies in the Bible, apologists must resort to attempts to use biblical discrepancies in their favor. They say the discrepancies are just the result of the literary conventions of the day, involving exaggerated rhetoric. Ultimately, they’re forced into undermining the Bible as a divine revelation from God in order to exonerate him. But biblical scholars disagree by showing us that what we see in these texts is a national origin myth used to solidify King Josiah’s claims to power over other nations in the seventh century BCE.29 Since the later conflicting texts were probably written during Josiah’s reign, Joshua becomes a type of Josiah and the narratives function as propaganda for Josiah’s reign. Their fraudulent claim was that the land belonged to the Israelites by divine right, as seen in the destruction of the inhabitants of an earlier time period. Can this lie of theirs really be the word of God? There are other problems with this apologetic strategy. Although the archaeological evidence mentioned above is clear, it is equally clear that Israel did engage in this kind of warfare. What about this? And what can be said about God demanding the execution of women and children in Numbers 31 and the near genocide of the Benjamites in Judges 19–21? The rhetorical defense cannot exonerate God in these cases. Even if the number of noncombatants killed was exaggerated, how many women and children is God justified in having killed before it becomes immoral?
Some of them were killed. Furthermore, even if these texts are rhetorical exaggerations, they have been used to justify genocides during the Crusades and the Nazi regime of the last century. This doesn’t seem like anything an omniscient foreknowing God would want to allow in his sacred writings. Because of the Bible’s influence on later historical developments, more people may have died than the ones described in the text itself. I call this the Problem of Divine Miscommunication.30
[Endnotes to be found in the book itself].