Despite extensive archaeological excavations in Jericho, there is no current hardcore evidence to support the biblical (“Joshua 6”) account of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Jericho was in ruins many hundreds of years before Joshua (if ever there was a Joshua) existed and stumbled across the place. So if the walls came down and tumbled down, they tumbled far ahead of the biblical account. Joshua and the Israelites had not yet been dreamed up in anyone’s mythology, and the ruined walls were probably made due to numerous earthquakes naturally occurring in the region.
However, let’s play the ‘what if’ game. Can Joshua’s prestigious seven-horned jazz band bring down massive stone walls? Can pigs fly?
Here is the basic story, as outlined in the biblical “Book of Joshua: Chapter Six” (King James Version).
Now God wanted Joshua to occupy the ‘city’ of Jericho, but in a rather strange way at least for a typical military strategist. The strange bit is why God’s war strategy (which must surely be perfect from a knowing deity) is not taught in the war schools of the world’s armed forces – I certainly don’t remember it being used in any other military campaign, old or recent . In any case, God’s strategy, the key to success in the siege of, or the Battle of Jericho as led by Joshua, seemed to be circling the city for six days with his warriors and seven priests wearing ram horns. Perhaps the inhabitants were meant to laugh at such sensations.
Regardless of the seventh day, these clergy, famous musicians all had to play the trumpets shaped like ram horns, play them fortissimo and then some. Oh, and everyone was going to shout long and loudly, but not before the actual required time – dawn or shortly thereafter on the fateful seventh day (which you would think would have been a day of rest from all the previous six days of marching around Jericho). Timing was everything! So you have a lot of noise – seven ram horns that make really loud trumpet sounds, and lots of yelling. Then and only then would Jericho’s walls collapse and Joshua and his army could besiege the city and grab all the city’s gold, silver, brass and iron, among other things, to add to the Lord’s collection of treasures for his treasury. Why God needs silver and gold and brass and iron is completely beyond me, as he presumably could create as much of the things as he wanted! In any case, the sheet of the pag was also present, but what actual role it played, if any, is not made very clear. Probably none, since it was just a storage unit – a portable library containing all these biblical “don’t go.”
Okay, so at dawn or then on the seventh day, the priests played (blasted) their number one song on the biblical hit parade; everyone yelled (exactly what they yelled is not made clear) and Jerico’s walls fell down. Then Joshua’s henchmen stormed the city, with the exception of one family, took no prisoners, and put everyone and miscellaneous (even ox and sheep) to the sword – no doubt this is where General Santa Anna got her ‘show them no mercy’ inspiration from the siege of the Alamo. At least they then burned what was left of Jericho’s rubble (other than gold and silver and brass and iron going into God’s boxes). Because of Joshua’s actions, God made sure that he achieved eternal fame (though I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing I’d like to be remembered for in the history books). That is the battle of Jericho in summary. So what do we make of sound like a military weapon?
In terms of application to warfare, it is known that very low frequency sounds can create the feeling that your gut and contents have turned into jelly. Translated, it is very difficult to be a 100% effective soldier if you are in desperate need of going to the bathroom!
Very high frequency sound on the other hand can disorient one. A disoriented soldier is not an effective soldier.
However, we see nothing along these lines from the front lines of any current military conflict that I am aware of. As far as I know, sound has not been used to any great extent, if ever, on the battlefield, perhaps due to limited range; perhaps because sound does not distinguish between the opposite sides.
So the sound of a military weapon against a biological enemy may not be as viable.
Yet, the biological viability aside, that kind of military use has no bearing on the non-living, which I suppose the walls of Jericho were – non-living, that is.
Sound (vibrating air) is a force. It is a pressure wave in the atmosphere. Just as a water wave can push things around and destroy solid objects (as we all have seen in recent movies with tsunamis), so too can sound waves, but of course because or since air is far less dense a medium than water, the effects are just reduced . Of course, sound can also move through solids and is also a pressure wave that compresses the ‘solid’ (which is essentially largely empty space) as it passes through, just as sound travels through liquids – think of whale songs or sonar.
If you look at just pure air pressure, or the pressure exerted by the air in the form of the wind, I doubt if even a massive hurricane (or typhoon / cyclone) could have caused even minor damage to Jericho’s walls, not that region in the world usually exposed to such extreme weather events.
A number of F-5 tornadoes might have done the trick, but then the Bible should have given the credit where the credit was due – to an act of God (no need for a middleman or men or musicians). That would have been a miracle, since F-5 tornadoes are not standard issued events in the Jericho region either. When’s the last time you saw tornadoes and devastation from that part of the world?
That leaves the wind or the blast of a nuclear weapon, but then Joshua and his prestigious jazz band had also become toast, finding themselves in a trumpet cry from the ground zero. There would have been no survivors inside for slaughter, and these treasures of gold, silver, brass and iron would not have been worth a damn thing – just radioactive slag. In addition, there is no archaeological evidence of intense heat (vitrified or molten sand) at this site or of anything blasting of any kind for that matter.
But that’s not quite the end of the story. If it was, Jericho’s walls would still stand (assuming there were never earthquakes). There is a physics phenomenon called resonance. Most physical objects have a form of natural properties that not only makes them act in phase with external vibrations of the same kind, but these very vibrations continue to build up to ever-increasing amplitudes. The fixed object in question swings back and forth to ever greater extremes. If these extreme violent swinging movements become so strong that they become greater than the physical forces holding the object together, the object is crushed in a resonance disaster – in other words, it suffers a catastrophic failure.
We’ve all heard of or seen (even if it’s just in movies), it stole ‘trick’ where an opera singer blasts a wine glass through the sound of her voice alone. The vibrations from her voice are synchronized with the natural resonant frequency of the glass. But then again, if the opera singer sings softly, softly, the glass is out of harm’s way. Of course, a thin wine glass is one thing; a massive stone walled fortress is once again something else.
I would suggest that not even a modern metal rock band with all the high tech available, even around Jericho with galley boxes galore, would not have come close to bringing down the walls. The residents may be fleeing in terror from the so-called ‘music’, but the walls would remain intact.
That is true even for other modern loud sounds like a sonic boom or say the launch of a Saturn V rocket or space shuttle. There’s a heck of a lot of loud roaring, but all these nearby infrastructure are still post-the-fact. The vibrations of the one do not match the other’s natural resonance and / or are just not energetic enough.
It will have to take something more powerful than it existed back then (like shouting and ram’s horn trumpets) or even something we have today like heavy metal bands and rockets. If the Battle of Jericho is true, if sound really broke down massive stone walls, then one must have used foreign technology – terrestrial technology in that era (and ours too) just wasn’t and is not up to the task. However, given the choice to believe foreigners (‘God’ and company) had some kind of grudge against the people of Jericho and employed some of us humans to resolve this grudge (passage) or that the Battle of Jericho was some nonsense from the opening of notes for the final coda, yes, you will have to bet on the side of sheer nonsense. I mean, is there anyone reading this who seriously thinks that as a parallel event they could fly a seven or even fifty piece band to say the Great Wall and hit a small piece of it just by playing a bit of Wagner , Gershwin or even rock & roll? I didn’t think so.
When we talk about biblical sites and ruined cities that have no archaeological evidence to prove their history regardless, there is the very high biblical bedtime of Sodom and Gomorrah. These twin cities were destroyed in a rain or fire and sulfur (no earthquake or trumpets here), but there has been no active volcanic activity in this region of the Dead Sea for thousands and thousands of years. Of course, it could have been a nuclear weapon, as some speculate that there was an advanced human civilization that existed tens of thousands of years ago that had achieved such an advanced high-tech (highly questionable) or perhaps a meteor strike. However, such speculation is not useful unless an actual site can be identified, explored and evacuated by archaeologists, and it has been found that it is always elusive, as elusive as the ancient Lost Continent of Atlantis, what is allegedly beyond these columns in Hercules.