Despite extensive archaeological excavations at Jericho, there is no actual hardcore evidence that emerges that supports the Biblical (“Joshua 6”) account of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Jericho was in ruins many hundreds of years before Joshua (if there ever was a Joshua) existed and stumbled across the site. So if the walls came a-tumbling down, they tumbled way before the Biblical account. Joshua and the Israelites hadn’t yet been dreamt up in anyone’s mythology, and those ruined walls were probably done in because of numerous earthquakes that naturally occur in the region.
However, let’s play the ‘what if’ game. Can Joshua’s priestly jazz band comprised of seven ram’s horns bring down massive stone walls? Can pigs fly?
Here’s the basic story as outlined in the Biblical “Book of Joshua: Chapter Six” (King James Version).
Now God wanted Joshua to take the ‘city’ of Jericho, but in a rather strange way at least for a typical military strategist. That strange bit is why God’s war strategy (which surely must be perfect coming from an all-knowing deity) isn’t taught in the war colleges of the armed forces of the world – I surely don’t recall it having been used in any other military campaign, ancient or recent. Anyway, God’s strategy, the key to the success of the siege of, or the Battle of Jericho as led by Joshua, was to apparently circle the city for six days with his men of war and seven priests carrying ram’s horns. Maybe the inhabitants were meant to laugh themselves to death at such antics.
Anyway, on the seventh day, those priests, renowned musicians all, were to play those trumpets shaped in the form of ram’s horns, play them fortissimo, and then some. Oh, and everybody was to shout long and loud, but not before the actual time required – dawn or shortly thereafter on that fateful seventh day (which you’d think would have been a day of rest from all that previous six days of marching ’round Jericho). Timing was everything! So you have a lot of noise – seven ram’s horns making really loud trumpet sounds, and lots of shouting. Then, and only then, would the walls of Jericho come a-tumbling down and Joshua and his army could lay siege to the city and among other things grab all the city’s gold, silver, brass and iron to add to the Lord’s collection of treasures for His treasury. Why God needs silver and gold and brass and iron is quite beyond me since presumably He could create as much of the stuff as He wanted! Anyway, The Ark of the Covenant was also present, but what actual role it played, if any, isn’t made very clear. Probably none as it was just a storage device – a portable library containing all those Biblical “thou shall nots”.
Okay, so at dawn or thereabouts on the seventh day the priests played (blasted out) their number one song on the Biblical hit parade; everybody shouted (exactly what they shouted isn’t made clear), and the walls of Jericho came a-tumbling down. Then Joshua’s henchmen stormed the city, and except for one family, took no prisoners, putting all and sundry (even oxen and sheep) to the sword – no doubt this is where General Santa Anna got his ‘show them no mercy’ inspiration from at the siege of the Alamo. Anyway, then for good measure they burned what was left of Jericho’s rubble (except for the gold and silver and brass and iron which went into God’s coffers). Because of Joshua’s actions, God saw to it that he achieved everlasting fame (though I’m not sure it’s the sort of something I’d like to be remembered for in the history books). That’s the Battle of Jericho in summary. So, what do we make of sound as a military weapon?
In terms of application to warfare, it is known that very low frequency sounds can create the sensation that your bowels and contents have turned to jelly. Translated, it’s very difficult to be a 100% efficient soldier if you are in desperate need to go to the bathroom!
Very high frequency sound on the other hand can disorient one. A disoriented soldier is not an effective soldier.
However, we don’t see anything along those lines from the front lines in any current military conflict that I’m aware of. To the best of my knowledge, sound hasn’t been used to any great extent, if ever, on the battlefield, maybe because of limited range; maybe because sound doesn’t discriminate between the opposing sides.
So, sound as a military weapon against a biological enemy must not be all that viable.
Still, the biological viability aside, that sort of military application has no effect on the nonliving, which I assume the Walls of Jericho were – nonliving that is.
Sound (vibrating air) is a force. It’s a pressure wave in the atmosphere. Just like a water wave can push things around, and destroy solid objects (as we’ve all seen in recent films of tsunamis), so too can sound waves, but of course because or since air is way less dense a medium than water, the effects are equally reduced. Sound can of course travel through solids as well and is also a pressure wave that compresses the ‘solid’ (which is actually mostly empty space) as it passes through, just like sound travels through liquids – think of whale songs or sonar.
If you’re looking at just pure air pressure, or the pressure exerted by the air in the form of the winds, I doubt whether even a massive hurricane (or typhoon/cyclone) could have caused even minor destruction to the walls of Jericho, not that that region of the world is normally subjected to such extreme weather events.
A series of F-5 tornadoes might have done the trick, but then the Bible should have given credit where credit was due – to an act of God (no need for a middle man or men or musicians). It would have been a miracle actually since F-5 tornadoes aren’t standard weather issued events in the Jericho region either. When’s the last time you saw tornado footage and destruction from that part of the world?
That leaves the wind or blast of a nuclear weapon, but then Joshua and his priestly jazz band would have become toast too, being within a trumpet-shout of ground zero. There would have been no survivors inside left to slaughter, and those treasures of gold, silver, brass and iron wouldn’t have been worth a damn thing – just radioactive slag. Besides, there’s no archaeological evidence of intense heat (vitrified or fused sand) at that site or of anything blowing up of any nature for that matter.
But that’s not quite the end of the story. If it were, Jericho’s walls would still be standing (assuming no earthquakes of course). There’s a physics phenomenon termed resonance. Most physical objects have some sort of natural property which causes them to not only act in phase with external vibrations of a just-so nature, but those very vibrations keep on building up to ever greater and greater amplitudes. The solid object in question oscillates back and forth to ever greater extremes. If those extreme violent swaying motions become so strong that they become greater than the physical forces holding the object together, the object shatters in a resonance disaster – in other words, it suffers a catastrophic failure.
We’ve all heard of or seen (even if just in the movies), that parlour ‘trick’ where an opera singer shatters a wine glass through just the sound of her voice alone. The vibrations from her voice are in sync with the natural resonance frequency of the glass. But then again, if the opera singer sings softly, softly, the glass is out of harms way. Of course a thin wine glass is one thing; a massive stone walled fortress is quite something else yet again.
I’d suggest that not even a modern metal heavy rock band, with all the high tech available to it, even circling Jericho with boom-boxes galore, wouldn’t have come close to bringing the walls down. The residents might flee in terror from the so-called ‘music’ but the walls would remain intact.
That’s true even for other modern loud noises like a sonic boom or say the launch of a Saturn V rocket or the Space Shuttle. There’s a heck of a lot of loud rumbling, but all those infrastructures in the vicinity still stand after-the-fact. The vibrations of the one either don’t match the natural resonance of the other, and/or just aren’t energetic enough.
It’s going to have to take something more powerful than 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 did bring down massive stone walls, then alien technology must have been employed – terrestrial technology of that era (and ours as well) just wasn’t and isn’t up to the task. However, given a choice of believing extraterrestrials (‘God’ and company) had some sort of grudge against the residents of Jericho and employed some of us humans to resolve that grudge (buck-passing), or that the Battle of Jericho was nonsense from opening notes to final coda, well you would have to bet on the side of pure nonsense. I mean is there anyone reading this who seriously believes they could, as a parallel event, fly a seven or even a seventy piece band to say the Great Wall of China and knock even a tiny section of it down just by playing a bit of Wagner, Gershwin, or even rock & roll? I didn’t think so.
Speaking of Biblical sites and destroyed cities that have no archaeological evidence to establish their historicity whatever, there’s the very tall Biblical bedtime tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those twin cities were destroyed in a rain or fire and brimstone (no earthquake or trumpets here), but there’s been no active volcanic activity in that region of the Dead Sea for multi-thousands and thousands of years. Of course it might 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 attained such advanced high-tech (highly doubtful), or perhaps a meteor strike. Such speculation however is of no use unless an actual site can be identified, explored and evacuated by archaeologists, and that’s proved ever elusive, as elusive as the ancient Lost Continent of Atlantis, the one that’s allegedly beyond those Pillars of Hercules.