Jericho

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jer´i-kō (the word occurs in two forms. In the Pentateuch, in 2 Kings 25:5 and in Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles it is written ירחו, yerēḥō; יריחו, yerīḥō, elsewhere):

Place of fragrance, a fenced city in the midst of a vast grove of palm trees, in the plain of Jordan, over against the place where that river was crossed by the Israelites (Joshua 3:16). Its site was near the 'Ain es-Sultan, Elisha's Fountain (2 Kings 2:19-22), about 5 miles west of Jordan. It was the most important city in the Jordan valley (Numbers 22:1; Numbers 34:15), and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was the key to Western Palestine.

In 1 Kings 16:34 the final Hebrew letter is hē (ה, h), instead of wāw (ו, w). The termination wāw (ו, w) thought to preserve the peculiarities of the old Canaanite. dialect. In the Septuagint we have the indeclinable form, Ἰεριχώ, Ierichō̇ (Swete has the form Iereichō as well), both with and without the feminine article; in the New Testament Ἰερειχώ, Iereichō̇, once with the feminine article The Arabic is er-Riha. According to Deuteronomy 32:49 it stood opposite Nebo, while in Deuteronomy 34:3 it is called a city grove of palm trees. It was surrounded with a wall (Joshua 2:15), and provided with a gate which was closed at night (Joshua 2:5), an d was ruled over by a king. When captured, vessels of brass and iron, large quantities of silver and gold, and “a goodly Babylonish garment” were found in it (Joshua 7:21). It was on the western side of the Jordan, not far from the camp of Israel at Shittim, before crossing the river (Joshua 2:1). The city was on the “plains” (Joshua 4:13), but so close to “the mountain” on the West (probably the cliffs of Quarantania, the traditional scene of Christ's temptation) that it was within easy reach of the spies, protected by Rahab. It was in the lot of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21), the border of which ascended to the “slope (English versions of the Bible “side”) of Jeremiah on the North” (Joshua 18:12). Authorities are generally agreed in locating the ancient city at Tel es-Sultān, a mile and a half Northwest of modern Jericho. Here there is a mound 1,200 ft. long and 50 ft. in height supporting 4 smaller mounds, the highest of which is 90 ft. above the base of the main mound.


This city was taken in a very remarkable manner by the Israelites (Joshua 6). God gave it into their hands. The city was “accursed” (Heb. herem, “devoted” to Jehovah), and accordingly (Joshua 6:17; compare Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:29; Deuteronomy 13:16) all the inhabitants and all the spoil of the city were to be destroyed, “only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron” were reserved and “put into the treasury of the house of Jehovah” (Joshua 6:24; compare Numbers 31:22, Numbers 31:23, Numbers 31:50-54). Only Rahab “and her father's household, and all that she had,” were preserved from destruction, according to the promise of the spies (Joshua 2:14). In one of the Amarna tablets Adoni-Zedec (q.v.) writes to the king of Egypt informing him that the 'Abiri (Hebrews) had prevailed, and had taken the fortress of Jericho, and were plundering “all the king's lands.” It would seem that the Egyptian troops had before this been withdrawn from Palestine.

This city was given to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21), and it was inhabited in the time of the Judges (Judges 3:13; 2 Samuel 10:5). It is not again mentioned till the time of David (2 Samuel 10:5). “Children of Jericho” were among the captives who returned under Zerubbabel Ezra 2:34; Nehemiah 7:36). Hiel (q.v.) the Bethelite attempted to make it once more a fortified city (1 Kings 16:34). Between the beginning and the end of his undertaking all his children were cut off.

In New Testament times Jericho stood some distance to the south-east of the ancient one, and near the opening of the valley of Achor. It was a rich and flourishing town, having a considerable trade, and celebrated for the palm trees which adorned the plain around. It was visited by our Lord on his last journey to Jerusalem. Here he gave sight to two blind men (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52), and brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus the publican (Luke 19:2-10).

The poor hamlet of er-Riha, the representative of modern Jericho, is situated some two miles farther to the east. It is in a ruinous condition, having been destroyed by the Turks in 1840. “The soil of the plain,” about the middle of which the ancient city stood, “is unsurpassed in fertility; there is abundance of water for irrigation, and many of the old aqueducts are almost perfect; yet nearly the whole plain is waste and desolate... The climate of Jericho is exceedingly hot and unhealthy. This is accounted for by the depression of the plain, which is about 1,200 feet below the level of the sea.”

There were three different Jerichos, on three different sites, the Jericho of Joshua, the Jericho of Herod, and the Jericho of the Crusades. Er-Riha, the modern Jericho, dates from the time of the Crusades. Dr. Bliss has found in a hollow scooped out for some purpose or other near the foot of the biggest mound above the Sultan's Spring specimens of Amorite or pre-Israelitish pottery precisely identical with what he had discovered on the site of ancient Lachish. He also traced in this place for a short distance a mud brick wall in situ, which he supposes to be the very wall that fell before the trumpets of Joshua. The wall is not far from the foot of the great precipice of Quarantania and its numerous caverns, and the spies of Joshua could easily have fled from the city and been speedily hidden in these vastnesses.



The geological situation (see Jordan Valley) sheds great light upon the capture of the city by Joshua (Joshua 6). If the city was built as we suppose it to have been, upon the unconsolidated sedimentary deposits which accumulated to a great depth in the Jordan valley during the enlargement of the Dead Sea, which took place in Pleistocene (or glacial) times, the sudden falling of the walls becomes easily credible to anyone who believes in the personality of God and in His power either to foreknow the future or to direct at His will the secondary causes with which man has to deal in Nature. The narrative does not state that the blowing of the rams' horns of themselves effected the falling of the walls. It was simply said that at a specified juncture on the 7th day the walls would fall, and that they actually fell at that juncture. The miracle may, therefore, be regarded as either that of prophecy, in which the Creator by foretelling the course of things to Joshua, secured the junction of Divine and human activities which constitutes a true miracle, or we may regard the movements which brought down the walls to be the result of direct Divine action, such as is exerted by man when be produces an explosion of dynamite at a particular time and place. The phenomena are just such as occurred in the earthquake of San Francisco in 1906, where, according to the report of the scientific commission appointed by the state, “the most violent destruction of buildings was on the made ground. This ground seems to have behaved during the earthquake very much in the same way as jelly in a bowl, or as a semi-liquid in a tank.” Santa Rosa, situated on the valley floor, “underlain to a considerable depth by loose or slightly coherent geological formations,... 20 miles from the rift, was the most severely shaken town in the state and suffered the greatest disaster relatively to its population and extent” (Report, 13 and 15). Thus an earthquake, such as is easily provided for along the margin of this great Jordan crevasse, would produce exactly the phenomena here described, and its occurrence at the time and place foretold to Joshua constitutes it a miracle of the first magnitude.

Notwithstanding the curse pronounced in Joshua 6:26 the King James Version, prophesying that whosoever should rebuild the city “he shall lay the foundations thereof in his firstborn,” it was rebuilt (1 Kings 16:34) by Hiel the Bethelite in the days of Ahab. The curse was literally fulfilled. Still David's messengers are said to have “tarried at Jericho” in his day (2 Samuel 10:5; 1 Chronicles 19:5). In Elisha's time (2 Kings 2:5) there was a school of prophets there, while several other references to the city occur in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha (2 Chronicles 28:15, where it is called “the city of palmtrees”; 2 Kings 25:5; Jeremiah 39:5; Ezra 2:34; Nehemiah 3:2; Nehemiah 7:36; 1 Maccabees 9:50). Josephus describes it and the fertile plain surrounding it, in glowing terms. In the time of Christ, it was an important place yielding a large revenue to the royal family. But the city which Herod rebuilt was on a higher elevation, at the base of the western mountain, probably at Beit Jubr, where there are the ruins of a small fort. Jericho was the place of rendezvous for Galilean pilgrims desiring to avoid Samaria, both in going to and in departing from Jerusalem, and it has been visited at all times by thousands of pilgrims, who go down from Jerusalem to bathe in the Jordan. The road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho is still infested by robbers who hide in the rocky caverns adjoining it, and appear without warning from the tributary gorges of the wadies which dissect the mountain wall. At the present time Jericho and the region about is occupied only by a few hundred miserable inhabitants, deteriorated by the torrid climate which prevails at the low level about the head of the Dead Sea. But the present barrenness of the region is largely due to the destruction of the aqueducts which formerly distributed over the plain the waters brought down through the wadies which descend from the mountains of Judea. The ruins of many of these are silent witnesses of the cause of its decay. Twelve aqueducts at various levels formerly branched from the Wâdy Kelt, irrigating the plain both North and South. Remains of Roman masonry are found in these. In the Middle Ages they were so repaired that an abundance and variety of crops were raised, including wheat, barley, millet, figs, grapes and sugar cane.

See further Palestine (Recent Exploration).

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