An on-going archaeological excavation at a location known as Khirbet el-Maqatir has many experts considering the possibility that they have found the ancient biblical city of Ai. For many years it was assumed that the site known as et-Tell contained the ruins of Ai, but in 2008, after working at et-Tell for over 14 years, archaeologist Bryant G. Wood noted that neither the topography of et-Tell nor of Bethel conformed to the Biblical description of Ai. This led Wood to begin digging at Khirbet el-Maqatir to investigate the possibility that it might be the elusive site of Ai. Wood was encouraged by the writings of Edward Robinson, an American biblical scholar who explored Israel numerous times in the mid-19th century. According to Robinson’s accounts, when he visited Khirbet el-Maqatir in 1838, the local Arabs told him the site was the location of Ai. Dr. Scott Stripling, provost at The Bible Seminary in Katy (Houston) Texas, has directed excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir from 2013-2017 and is confident that the archaeological findings at Khirbet el-Maqatir fit the biblical description of Ai.
Evidence May Fit Biblical Description
Stripling also serves as the archaeological director for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), a Christian organization that brings together Biblical research and archaeology to mutually advance both disciplines. In the first year of their excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir the remains of a gate on the north side of the city as well as pottery from the late bronze era. Additionally, the Bible describes an ambush carried out by Israelite troops hiding to the west of the city, hiding nearby but out of sight (Cf. Joshua 8:4). Stripling believes the Israelite troops hid in Wadi Sheban, a dry wash to the west of the site. To verify the plausibility of this theory, three members of the ABR excavation team equipped with backpacks ran from the dry wash to the location, arriving in exactly five minutes. It should be noted that et-Tell does not have any such location to the west capable of concealing troops. Stripling is currently preparing an account of the entirety of the evidence discovered to prove his belief that Khirbet el-Maqatir is the site of the ancient city of Ai. The report is expected to be published later this year.
Relevant Scriptural Passages
According to the Book of Joshua, after an initial attempt to take the city of Ai failed due to a sin committed by an Israelite name Achan resulted in a demoralizing defeat (Joshua 7:1-26), God directed the Israelites to execute an ambush that led to the Israelites conquering the city (Joshua 8:1-26). The city of Ai was burned completely (Joshua 8:28), the king was captured and hanged on a tree until the evening. His body is then placed at the city gates and stones were placed on top of his body (Joshua 8:29). Every time I read of these exciting archaeological discoveries I am reminded of Jesus’ words rebuking the Pharisees attempts to silence His disciples. Jesus told the Pharisees that if His disciples were to remain silent, the stones would cry out (Luke 19:37-40). I cannot help but think of this passage every time a new and exciting archaeological discovery is made that further validates another detail of Scripture. The archaeology of the ancient world is indeed crying out to us concerning the real people, real places, and real history of the Bible!