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How Many Shofars Does It Take …

… to make the walls come tumbling down?

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Jean Fouquet’s The Taking of Jericho.(Wikipedia)

Could the walls of Jericho have been destroyed by the force of seven shofars blowing (along with thousands of people shouting), as the Book of Joshua has it? This absurdly entertaining podcast takes that question as literally as possible, discussing Bronze Age walls; how many decibels toppling them would require (at least 177); what 10 talented shofar-blowers playing together sound like (this is the advantage of the podcast form!); how many shofar-blowers could create 177 decibels (407,380, at a minimum); at what decibel-level air essentially turns to plasma (160) … look, it can’t be done.

And then the expert explaining all of this, David Lubman, manages to come up with an insanely plausible explanation for how the story came about (which I refuse to spoil), thereby reminding us that engineers are the cleverest folks around. And the most realistic: “But of course,” Lubman adds, “if it was a miracle, all bets were off.”

The Walls of Jericho [Radiolab]

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David Lubman says:

Thank you so much Marc Tracy for “getting it”.

This reinterpretation attempts a rationalist explanation of the Joshua – Jericho story.

It tampers with Joshua 6 mainly by reversing the time sequence of two events:

(1) The shouting and shofar blowing, and
(2) The falling of a portion of Jericho’s wall.

These two events, if they actually happened, may have taken place only about a minute apart. I suggest they happened in reverse order. First the wall fell. Then the soldiers shouted.

Since the rank & file Israelite soldiers lacked a “need to know”, they couldn’t have expected the wall to fall at that moment. What else would they do when, unexpectedly, the wall fell, if not shout? First in surprise, and then in victory!

What do thousands of stadium spectators do at the moment a batter unexpectedly hits the winning home run?

I can understand how, after centuries of retelling the two events were remembered in reverse order.

This is not unlike the Chanukah story that was sanctioned by religious authorities only after it was recast to show divine intervention on behalf of the Jews.

One might even imagine Joshua’s staff deciding it prudent to let the Israelites continue to believe the victory was divine intervention. Because it better served the purpose of their leadership. Soldiers fight harder if they believe God is on their side. Also, Joshua and his top brass may have wanted to preserve secrecy so they could use that neat trick again.

The bishop in George Bernard Shaw’s St Joan defines a miracle as “That which inspires faith”.

Get a life and leave our’s alone


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How Many Shofars Does It Take …

… to make the walls come tumbling down?

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