THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EAST-JORDAN CONQUESTS.
Desert dwellers take little account of the lapse of time. It is not strange that the data regarding the duration of the sojourn in the wilderness are late and exceedingly vague. The number forty in the Bible is the concrete Hebrew equivalent of many. Ordinarily the forty years represent a generation. A period of about forty years accords well with the facts of contemporary Egyptian chronology. If the Hebrews fled from Egypt about 1200, during the period of anarchy following the breakdown of the nineteenth Egyptian dynasty, they could not have entered Palestine much before the middle of the twelfth century, for Ramses III of the Twentieth Dynasty succeeded in re-establishing and maintaining his authority in Southern Palestine until his death about 1167 B.C.
The account of the spies, preserved according to some writers in variant versions by each of the great groups of Hebrew narratives, indicates that the Hebrews attempted but failed to enter Canaan from the south. For tribesmen like the Israelites, chafing under their harsh environment and recalling the prosperity of the land of Egypt, Palestine with its green hills and fertile fields was an irresistible lodestone luring them on to the conquest. The reasons why they failed to enter Canaan from the south are suggested in the narrative of the spies and confirmed by a study of the historical geographical situation. The Canaanite cities of Southern Palestine were built largely with the view to protecting their inhabitants from the ever-lurking nomad invaders. On the other hand the Hebrews had none of the equipment needed to conquer walled cities. More than that the barren hills of the South Country did not furnish the base of supplies necessary to maintain a protracted siege. The early Hebrew narratives imply that certain nomadic tribes, as, for example, the Calebites, the Kenizzites and the Jerahmeelites, independently gained a foothold on the southern borders of Canaan and ultimately assimilated with the Hebrew tribe of Judah when the latter entered Palestine. The earliest Hebrew accounts, however, as well as the logic of the situation indicate that the great body of the Israelites, whose ancestors had been in the