It has been reasonably argued by the Associates for Biblical Research, for example, that Exodus must have taken place in 1446 B.C., and that the conquest of Canaan must have taken place around 1406 B.C.. Both are these times are in the Bronze Age. Assuming that this is true, why are there so many references to iron in writings from about this time?

Leviticus 26:19 KJV — And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:

Numbers 35:16 KJV — And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 3:11 KJV — For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.

Deuteronomy 8:9 KJV — A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

Joshua 6:19 KJV — But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

Joshua 17:16 KJV — And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.

These are just several examples. The last one is especially telling, as it says that certain groups of Canaanites had used iron in their chariots. I understand that this is why it is often said that the Exodus and Conquest took place about 1200 B.C., but it seems like the evidence more strongly favors the earlier date. Why are there so many references to iron, then?

Thank you.


1 Answer 1

  1. The iron age does not refer to the invention of iron smelting. As Wikipedia says:

    It is defined by archaeological convention, and the mere presence of cast or wrought iron is not sufficient to represent an Iron Age culture; rather, the term "Iron Age" implies that the production of carbon steel has been perfected to the point where mass production of tools and weapons superior to their bronze equivalents become possible.

    Many of the verses you've listed use iron metaphorically, saying nothing about how common it is. The verse about Og is about a king, but we'd expect kings to have more iron when it is uncommon. The Canaanites using iron chariots might suggest the iron age had begun, but remember that the whole point of what they're saying is that chariots are a major threat to the Israelite army because only one side has them.

    Consider a more modern parallel: when would we say that the nuclear age began? When nuclear weapons were used in World War II, or when nuclear power stations and nuclear medicine became common? All of these ages are gross simplifications of a world of uneven technological development.

  2. Secular history and archaeology does not consider the Biblical Exodus to be historical. With the methodology they use, they cannot identify evidence that is consistent with the Bible's story. This isn't to say that there is no evidence, but evidence is always contextualised and interpreted. Cities like Jericho were destroyed many times but the dates that archaeologists give to the remains of its conquerings don't match up with the Biblical chronology. Or if you did decide that one such destruction of Jericho was the one of the conquest of Joshua, then it wouldn't match the dating of other cities' destructions.

    Ultimately Jews and Christians who believe the Exodus and Canaanite conquest were real have to take the Bible's account of it on faith. We can't prove it (not that we need to.) There are Jewish and Christian archaeologists and historians who have developed alternative chronologies which better fit the Biblical chronology, for example by proposing that two dynasties are concurrent rather than sequential, but it is a difficult task to do.

  • 4
    @coriosdanni - excellent answer. To take a more modern example, aluminium was displayed in International fares during the 1860's - 1880s as a new "wonder" - its price in the 1860's exceeded that of Gold. It was not until after 1910 that the price and quality became good enough to use on a mass scale that the modern "aluminium age" began. Such developments took much longer in ancient times.
    – user25930
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 23:02
  • Thank you for this answer. I suppose that the Canaanites with the iron chariots may have had only two or three of them, or an otherwise very small amount. The Associates of Biblical Research does, incidentally, have evidence that the destructions of Jericho and Ai took place when the Bible says that they did. Again, thank you for this helpful answer.
    – CMK
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 20:07
  • Iron was quite rare in the Bronze Age (which is I believe when the Conquest took place), according to Wikipedia, so maybe it really shows how powerful the enemies of Israel were. You would be insecure/lose your faith if you ever struck a conversation with them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented May 6, 2019 at 8:26

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