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 city...in 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 become part of Biblical history! (Click on Map to expand its size).

ABR Security Statement

ABR is closely monitoring the violence in Israel and the Palestinian controlled territories. While the violence is often contained in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip and the coastal region of Israel, it has now spilled over into East Jerusalem and the West Bank where the Khirbet el-Maqatir excavation is located. Americans and other westerners are almost never the focus of violence, but we have growing concerns over the security for our guards and other Israeli staff members. Based on these developments, the Winter Dig has been canceled for 2015. There is a possibility that the Maqatir excavations may be postponed in May-June 2016. Presently, we are moving forward with our plans in prayer, as the situation could subside in the coming months. We are working on alternative plans to excavate elsewhere in Israel in 2016, such as Shiloh, Gezer, or the Temple Mount Sifting Project. These projects are all in very safe areas of Israel. If we decide to move our project to Shiloh, this would be a new ABR dig and would hopefully span several years. In any of these cases, we plan to take a group to Israel this coming summer.

While we are being careful to exercise due diligence with wisdom, we have a strong sense of God's providential hand guiding us as we plan for the future. We are confident that ABR will be excavating in Israel this summer, and we are excited about the possibility of you joining us. Please join us in prayer for peace in Israel and for wisdom in making these important decisions concerning our excavations.

Associates for Biblical Research
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