Is the Bible wrong about the city of Ai in Joshua 7-8?

The location of Joshua's Ai has been a matter of mystery and controversy since the beginnings of archaeological research in Israel. Most archaeologists locate Joshua's Ai at et-Tell, .6 miles east of our site, Khirbet el-Maqatir. At et-Tell, there is no indication of occupation at the time of Joshua. This has led scholars to reject the historicity of the account of the capture of Ai, the Conquest in general, the Exodus by implication, and ultimately, the Gospel of God's Son.

Here is what some of the skeptics and liberals have said about the Biblical account in Joshua 7-8:

"This evidence shows that the narrative in Joshua is not to be taken literally."
"Archaeology has wiped out the historical credibility of the conquest of Ai as reported in Joshua 7–8."
"There is no evidence of a... Canaanite city at this spot or at any other site in the region. This constitutes unequivocal archaeological evidence for the lack of correlation between the story in Joshua 8, with all its topographic details, and a historical reality corresponding to the period of the conquest."
"The narratives of the capture of Jericho and Ai... are devoid of historical reality."
"Ai is simply an embarrassment to every view of the conquest that takes the biblical and archaeological evidence seriously."
"This lack of any Late Bronze Canaanite the vicinity contradicts the narrative in Joshua 8 and shows that it was not based on historical reality."
"In short, the evidence shows that there was no city at Ai for the Israelites to conquer."

To answer and refute these criticisms and find the true site where these Biblical events took place would be very significant, having far-reaching implications for a correct understanding of the early history of Israel. It would also provide an excellent tool for the Christian apologist to defend the Biblical account against these erroneous and prejudicial attacks. This project is also certain to edify our Christian brethren who are struggling with doubts about the veracity and inerrancy of Scripture.

Excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir began in 1995. Thus far, the city gate and wall system have been revealed, large amounts of pottery from the time of Joshua, evidence of fire, ancient coins, a first century house, and a Byzantine monastery. This research and excavation is being conducted under the direction of ABR Director of Research, Bryant G. Wood, Ph.D. University of Toronto.

Topography, fortifications, and pottery finds all strongly suggest that Khirbet el-Maqatir is the Ai of Joshua 7-8.

This is an enormously important apologetic project that is critical in defending the historical reliability of the Bible in this age of rampant skepticism. The staff, board and volunteers of ABR would be very excited to have you join us in this extremely important and historically significant archaeological project.

Topographical map showing the traditional location of Ai at et-Tell, and our proposed site of Khirbet el-Maqatir, just east of et-Tell. This area is located about 9 miles due north of Jerusalem, near the modern villages of Beitin and Deir Dibwan. ABR's research over 40 years has conclusively shown that scholars have been incorrect about their conclusions concerning Joshua 7-8, and the Biblical account is indeed vindicated by sound archaeological, historical and geographical research. Join us during the next excavation season as we uncover more evidence that the Bible can be trusted and becomepart of Biblical history! (Click on Map to expand its size).

ABR Security Statement

ABR closely monitors the security situation in Israel and the Palestinian controlled territories. If there is reason for concern, we will take appropriate steps, including cancelling the winter dig. This is unlikely to occur. If it did, the ABR group would work on dig related projects at our headquarters and tour at strategic sites of interest.

Associates for Biblical Research
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  • Phone: +1 717-859-3443
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