(Continued from page 477)Siege warfare
The standard method of warfare in the fifteenth century B.C., and even into the Middle Ages 2500 years later, was known as siege warfare. An invading army had the ominous task of penetrating a substantial fortification which may have consisted of an external wall about 50-60 feet high and 50-60 feet wide, or battering down the gates of the city under siege. The inhabitants of the city had the task of surviving within the city without starving to death, dying of thirst, or allowing their walls to be breached. It was usually a lengthy process with sieges often lasting two or three years, or longer. To survive outside the city walls the invading forces were like locusts stripping the land around of all crops and food. As with many aliens in foreign lands, intent only on imposing their will through strength, the invaders would pollute the area because of their numbers. If the inhabitants trapped inside the city had enough essential provisions for 1-2 years, particularly stores of grain and water, they were able to provide for the citizens locked up within and they might survive. If the besieged city was able to hold out long enough, the invading army would be forced to retire to its own land. But when the people inside ran out of supplies, they were sometimes forced to resort to cannibalism in their desperate attempts to survive. This very thing will happen later in the Old Testament to the Israelites. God had promised that if they forsook Him there would come a time when they would eat their children. Tragically, this is exactly what happened. When things reached such a desperately low point it was almost inevitable that the inhabitants of the city would eventually accede and allow the invading forces in. However, the invaders were also often limited by the availability of provisions and so they developed methods of speeding up the collapse of the resistance and hastened the surrender by breaching the wall, using various devices.
The inhabitants of the city also had devices to try and prevent their walls from being breached. They would pile earth to form a slope (called a glacis) at a 45 degree angle halfway up the wall and covered it with lime. This prevented the invading forces from attacking the wall directly with their battering rams or siege towers. The inhabitants also lined the tops of the walls with huge stones which could be rolled down upon the enemy as they attempted to climb the glacis to raise siege ladders. The resisting force would also stand on the wall and fire arrows and pour hot oil down on the attackers.
The invading forces had unique engines of war including battering rams which could be carried by a man and jammed against a wall or gate. In many cases they had larger battering rams suspended by ropes so they could swing it like a pendulum to get more momentum on the striking end which was often made up of a huge brass ram's head to slam into the gate or wall to try and knock it down, or punch a large hole in it. They also had a device called the turtle in which twenty or thirty men would carry a huge shield, which looked like a turtle, over them. With this protection, they would attempt to tunnel under the wall to come up on the inside and take the city from within. Where there was no glacis they also built siege towers, fifty to sixty feet high, on rollers so they could roll them up against the wall.
Was Joshua perplexed as he viewed the secure walls of Jericho? The spies reported at Kadesh Barnea that the cities of Canaan were "large, with walls up to the sky" (Deuteronomy 1:28). Despite Joshua's long military experience he had never led an attack on a fortified city that was prepared for a long siege. In fact, of all the walled cities in Palestine, Jericho was probably the most invincible. This is where the consideration of the armaments is most crucial. Israel had no siege engines, no battering rams, no catapults, and no moving towers. Their only weapons were slings, swords, arrows, and spears - which would be painfully inadequate against the walls of Jericho. Joshua may have been pondering all of these things when he looked up and saw the Captain of the Lord's host - the answer to all his prayers (Joshua 5v13-151)!
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