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Reference: Jericho


A city of Benjamin, Jos 16:7; 18:21, about eighteen miles east north east of Jerusalem, and seven miles from the Jordan. It was the first city in Canaan taken by Joshua, who being miraculously aided by the downfall of its walls, totally destroyed it, sparing only Rahab and her household, and pronounced a curse upon the person who should ever rebuild it, which was more than five hundred years afterwards fulfilled on Hiel, Jos 6:26; 1Ki 16:34. Meanwhile a new Jericho had been built on some neighboring site, Jg 3:3; 2Sa 10:5. Jericho was also called the "city of palm-trees," De 34:3; Jg 1:16, and became afterwards flourishing and second in importance only to Jerusalem. It contained a school of the prophets, and as the residence of Elisha, 2Ki 2:4,18. Here also Christ healed two blind men, Mt 20:29-34, and forgave Zaccheus, Lu 19:10-11.

The site of Jericho has usually been fixed at Rihah, a mean and foul Arab hamlet of some two hundred inhabitants. Recent travellers, however, show that the probably location of Jericho was two mile west of Rihah, at the mouth of Wady Kelt, and where the road from Jerusalem comes into the plain. The city destroyed by Joshua may have been nearer to the fountain of Elisha, supposed to be the present Ain es-Sultan, two miles northwest of Rihah. On the west and north of Jericho rise high limestone hills, one of which, the dreary Quarantana, 1,200 or 1,500 feet high, derives its name from the modern tradition that it was the scene of our Lord's forty days' fast and temptation. Between the hills and the Jordan lies "the plain of Jericho," Jos 4:13, over against "the plains of Moab" east of the river. It was anciently well watered and amazingly fruitful. It might easily be made so again, but now lies neglected, and the palm-trees, balsam, and honey, for which it was once famous, have disappeared.

The road from Jericho to Jerusalem ascends through narrow and rocky passes amid ravines and precipices. It is an exceedingly difficult and dangerous route, and is still infested by robbers, as in the time of the good Samaritan, Lu 10:30-34.

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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 (Jos 3:16). Its site was near the 'Ain es-Sultan, Elisha's Fountain (2Ki 2:19-22), about 5 miles west of Jordan. It was the most important city in the Jordan valley (Nu 22:1; 34:15), and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was the key to Western Palestine.

This city was taken in a very remarkable manner by the Israelites (Jos 6). God gave it into their hands. The city was "accursed" (Heb herem, "devoted" to Jehovah), and accordingly (Jos 6:17; comp. Le 27:28-29; De 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" (Jos 6:24; comp. Nu 31:22-23,50-54). Only Rahab "and her father's household, and all that she had," were preserved from destruction, according to the promise of the spies (Jos 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 (Jos 18:21), and it was inhabited in the time of the Judges (Jg 3:13; 2Sa 10:5). It is not again mentioned till the time of David (2Sa 10:5). "Children of Jericho" were among the captives who returned under Zerubbabel Ezr 2:34; Ne 7:36). Hiel (q.v.) the Bethelite attempted to make it once more a fortified city (1Ki 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 (Mt 20:29-34; Mr 10:46-52), and brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus the publican (Lu 19:2-10).

The poor hamlet of er-Riha, the representative of modern Jericho (Illustration: Er-Riha), 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 fastnesses.

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Nu 22:1; Jos 2:1-3,5,15; 3:16. From a root "fragrance," or "the moon" (yareach), being the seat of Canaanite moon worship, or "broad" from its being in a plain bounded by the Jordan. Jericho is to the W., opposite where Israel crossed the Jordan under Joshua, at six miles' distance. It had its king. Walls enclosed it, and its gate was regularly shut, according to eastern custom, when it was dark. Its spoil included silver, gold, vessels of iron and brass (Jos 6:19), cast in the same plain of Jordan where Solomon had his foundry (1Ch 4:17). The "Babylonian garment" (Jos 7:21) betokens its commerce with the East. Joshua's two spies lodged in Rahab's house upon the wall; and she in reward for their safety received her own preservation, and that of all in her house, when Joshua burned the city with fire, and slew man and beast, as all had been put under the ban. The metals were taken to the treasury of the sanctuary (Jos 6:17-19,21-25).

Other towns had their inhabitants only slain, as under the divine ban (De 7:2; 20:16-17; 2:34-35), while the cattle and booty fell to the conquerors. Jericho's men, cattle, and booty were all put under the ban, as being the first town of Canaan which the Lord had given them. They were to offer it as the firstfruits, a sign that they received the whole land as a fief from His hand. The plain was famed for palms and balsams, whence Jericho is called "the city of palms" (De 34:3; Jg 1:16; 3:13; 2Ch 28:15). The town stood, according to some, N. of the poor village Riha, by the wady Kelt. However, modern research places it a quarter of a mile from the mountain Quarantana (the traditional scene of Christ's temptation), at the fountain of Elisha. This accords with Jos 16:1, "the water of Jericho," and Josephus mentions the fount and the mountain near (B. J., 4:8, section 2-3). Traces of buildings occur S. of the fountain. Its site was given to Benjamin (Jos 18:21).

It is mentioned in David's time as a town (2Sa 10:5). Joshua's curse therefore was not aimed against rebuilding the town, which the Benjamites did, but against its miraculously overthrown walls being restored, against its being made again a fortress. See HIEL in Ahab's ungodly reign incurred the curse (1Ki 16:34). Elisha "healed the waters" of the fountain, called also Ain es Sultan (2Ki 2:18-22), half an hour N.W. of Riha, in the rainy season forming a brook, which flows through the wady Kelt into the Jordan. Here myrobalanum, acacias, figtrees, etc., stand where once grew Jericho's famous palms. In its plains Zedekiah was overtaken by the Chalaeans (2Ki 25:5; Jer 39:5). Robbers still infest the road from Jerusalem down (a steep descent) to Jericho, as when Jesus spoke the parable of the good Samaritan (Lu 10:30); Pompey undertook to destroy their strongholds not long before. Moreover, some of the courses of priests lived at Jericho, which harmonizes with the mention of the priest and Levite returning that way from Jerusalem.

From mount Pisgah, the peak near the town Nebo, on its western slope (De 34:1), Moses looked "over against Jericho." Jericho strategically was the key of the land, being situated at the entrance of two passes through the hills, one leading to Jerusalem the other to Ai and Bethel. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days" (whereas sieges often last for years) (Heb 11:30). Trumpets, though one were to sound for ten thousand years, cannot throw down walls; but faith can do all things (Chrysostom). Six successive days the armed host marched round the city, the priests bearing the ark, as symbol of His presence, in the middle between the armed men in front and the rereward or rearguard, and seven priests sounding seven ramshorn (rather Jubilee) trumpets, the sign of judgment by "the breath of His mouth"; compare the seven trumpets that usher in judgments in Revelation, especially Re 11:13,15.

On the seventh day they compassed Jericho seven times, and at the seventh time the priests blew one long blast, the people shouted, and the wall fell flat. Even though volcanic agency, of which traces are visible in the Jordan valley, may have been employed, the fall was no less miraculous; it would prove that the God of revelation employs His own natural means in the spiritual world, by supernatural will ordering the exact time and direction of those natural agencies to subserve His purposes of grace to His people, and foreannouncing to them the fact, and connecting it with their obedience to His directions: so in the Egyptian plagues. The miracle wrought independently of all conflict on their part at the outset marked that the occupation of the whole Holy Land was to be by His gift, and that it was a, fief held under God at His pleasure. Under Elisha a school of prophets resided at Jericho.

(2Ki 2:5; 4:1; 6:1-2; 5:24, for "tower" translated "the hill" before the city: Keil). Of "children of Jericho" 345 returned from Babylon (Ezr 2:34). They helped to rebuild the wall (Ne 3:2; 7:36). Archelaus in our Lord's days had irrigated the plain and planted it with palms. Herod the Great had previously founded a new town (Phasaelis) higher up the plain. The distinction between the new and the old towns may solve the seeming discrepancy between Matthew (Mt 20:30), who makes the miracle on the blind to be when Jesus was leaving Jericho, and Luke, who says it was when Jesus was come nigh unto Jericho (Lu 18:35).

The Lord Himself, in whose genealogy Rahab the harlot is found, here was guest of Zacchaeus the publican, a lucrative office in so rich a city as the Roman Jericho was. The tree that Zacchaeus climbed was the fig mulberry or tree fig. The Lord's visit to Bethany appropriately follows His parable of the good Samaritan who relieved the man robbed between Jerusalem and Jericho, for Jesus was then traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem, and Bethany was only a little way short of Jerusalem (Lu 10:25,38; Joh 11:1). James and John's proposal to call fire down upon the Samaritans who would not receive Him in an earlier stage of the journey suggested probably His choosing a Samaritan to represent the benefactor in the parable, a tacit rebuke to their un-Christlike spirit (Lu 9:51-56).

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A city situated in the Jordan valley about 5 miles from the north end of the Dead Sea, now represented by the miserable village of er-R

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The strongly fortified city that was the first to be taken by Israel when entering the land. The spies had been sheltered there by Rahab the harlot, from whom they heard that the terror of Israel had fallen upon the inhabitants. The city and all therein was accursed, and was to be utterly destroyed, except the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, which were consecrated to the Lord: typical of the power of Satan in the world that stops the progress of the Christian: he must count it all as accursed, though God may use such things by consecrating them to Himself.

The capture of the city was altogether of God, after it had been compassed six days by the people, accompanied by the ark and the priests blowing the trumpets: in that way they proclaimed the rights of the Lord of all the earth to the land, while Jericho was the fortress of the enemy. On the seventh day, after being compassed seven times (double type of perfection) the priests blowing their trumpets, the people shouted, and the walls of the city fell down. The city was destroyed and all that had life was put to the sword, except Rahab and those she had with her sheltered under the scarlet line. Jos 2:1-22; Joshua. 6; Heb 11:30. A curse was pronounced upon the man who should re-build the city. This was verified when Hiel built it. 1Ki 16:34.

Jericho was allotted to Benjamin, Jos 18:21; but later was taken possession of by Eglon the king of Moab. It is designated 'the city of palm trees.' De 34:3; Jg 1:16; 3:13; 2Ch 28:15. Afterwards 'sons of the prophets' dwelt there: they said that the situation of the city was 'pleasant,' but the water was bad. It was Elisha's first miracle, he cast in salt and the water was healed. It was the ministration of the heavenly blessing in the place of the curse. 2Ki 2:18-22. Some who returned from exile are described as 'children of Jericho.' Ezr 2:34; Ne 7:36.

But little more is known of Jericho until Antony gave its palm groves and balsam gardens to Cleopatra; from her the place was rented by Herod the Great, who had a palace there, and it was there he died. It was burned down soon after, but was rebuilt by Archelaus. This was the city visited by the Lord, when He lodged with Zacchaeus and cured the blind men. Mt 20:29; Mr 10:46; Lu 18:35; 19:1.

The Ain es Sultan, 31 52' N, 35 27' E, is held to be the fountain healed by Elisha, and the ruins around mark the site of the ancient city, five miles from the Jordan; but this is not the site of the Jericho of N.T. times, which may or may not agree with the situation of the miserable village of Eriha, which is sometimes called Jericho: it is a mile and a half S.E. of the ancient site.

Jericho, Jer'icho Plains of.

The part of the Jordan valley between the river and the mountains near Jericho. 2Ki 25:5; Jer 39:5; 52:8.

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(place of fragrance), a city of high antiquity, situated in a plain traversed by the Jordan, and exactly over against where that river was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua.

Jos 3:16

It was five miles west of the Jordan and seven miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It had a king. Its walls were so considerable that houses were built upon them. ch.

Jos 2:15

The spoil that was found in it betokened its affluence. Jericho is first mentioned as the city to which the two spies were sent by Joshua from Shittim.

Jos 2:1-21

It was bestowed by him upon the tribe of Benjamin, ch.

Jos 18:21

and from this time a long interval elapses before Jericho appears again upon the scene. Its second foundation under Hiel the Bethelite is recorded in

1Ki 16:34

Once rebuilt, Jericho rose again slowly into consequence. In its immediate vicinity the sons of the prophets sought retirement from the world; Elisha "healed the spring of the waters;" and over against it, beyond Jordan, Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven."

2Ki 2:1-22

In its plains Zedekiah fell into the hands of the Chaldeans.

2Ki 25:5; Jer 39:5

In the return under Zerubbabel the "children of Jericho," 345 in number, are comprised.

Ezr 2:34; Ne 7:36

Under Herod the Great it again became an important place. He fortified it and built a number of new palaces, which he named after his friends. If he did not make Jericho his habitual residence, he at last retired thither to die, and it was in the amphitheater of Jericho that the news of his death was announced to the assembled soldiers and people by Salome. Soon afterward the palace was burnt and the town plundered by one Simon, slave to Herod; but Archelaus rebuilt the former sumptuously, and founded a new town on the plain, that bore his own name; and, most important of all, diverted water from a village called Neaera to irrigate the plain which he had planted with palms. Thus Jericho was once more "a city of palms" when our Lord visited it. Here he restored sight to the blind.

Mt 20:30; Mr 10:46; Lu 18:35

Here the descendant of Rahab did not disdain the hospitality of Zaccaeus the publican. Finally, between Jerusalem and Jericho was laid the scene of his story of the good Samaritan. The city was destroyed by Vespasian. The site of ancient (the first) Jericho is placed by Dr. Robinson in the immediate neighborhood of the fountain of Elisha; and that of the second (the city of the New Testament and of Josephus) at the opening of the Wady Kelt (Cherith), half an hour from the fountain. (The village identified with jericho lies a mile and a half from the ancient site, and is called Riha. It contains probably 200 inhabitants, indolent and licentious and about 40 houses. Dr. Olin says it is the "meanest and foulest village of Palestine;" yet the soil of the plain is of unsurpassed fertility. --ED.)

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JERICHO was a city of Benjamin, about seven leagues from Jerusalem, and two from the Jordan, Jos 18:21. Moses calls it the city of palm trees, De 34:3, because of palm trees growing in the plain of Jericho. Josephus says, that in the territory of this city were not only many palm trees, but also the balsam tree. The valley of Jericho was watered by a rivulet which had been formerly salt and bitter, but was sweetened by the Prophet Elisha, 2Ki 2:19. Jericho was the first city in Canaan taken by Jos 2:1-2, &c. He sent thither spies, who were received by Rahab, lodged in her house, and preserved from the king of Jericho. Joshua received orders to besiege Jericho, soon after his passage over Jordan, Jos 6:1-3, &c. God commanded the Hebrews to march round the city once a day for seven days together. The soldiers marched first, probably out of the reach of the enemies' arrows, and after them the priests, the ark, &c. On the seventh day, they marched seven times round the city; and at the seventh, while the trumpets were sounding, and all the people shouting, the walls fell down. The rabbins say, that the first day was our Sunday, and the seventh the Sabbath day. During the first six days, the people continued in profound silence; but on the seventh Joshua commanded them to shout. Accordingly they all exerted their voices, and the wall being overthrown, they entered the city, every man in the place opposite to him. Jericho being devoted by God, they set fire to the city, and consecrated all the gold, silver, and brass. Then Joshua said, "Cursed be the man before the Lord who shall rebuild Jericho." About five hundred and thirty years after this, Hiel, of Bethel, undertook to rebuild it; but he lost his eldest son, Abiram, at laying the foundations, and his youngest son, Segub, when he hung up the gates. However, we are not to imagine that there was no city of Jericho till the time of Hiel. There was a city of palm trees, probably the same as Jericho, under the Judges, Jg 3:13. David's ambassadors, who had been insulted by the Ammonites, resided at Jericho till their beards were grown, 2Sa 10:4. There was, therefore, a city of Jericho which stood in the neighbourhood of the original Jericho. These two places are distinguished by Josephus. After Hiel of Bethel had rebuilt old Jericho, no one scrupled to dwell there. Our Saviour wrought miracles at Jericho.

According, to Pococke, the mountains to which the absurd name of Quarantania has been arbitrarily given, are the highest in all Judea; and he is probably correct; they form part of a chain extending from Scythopolis into Idumea. The fountain of Elisha he states to be a soft water, rather warm; he found in it some small shell fish of the turbinated kind. Close by the ruined aqueduct are the remains of a fine paved way, with a fallen column, supposed to be a Roman milestone. The hills nearest to Jerusalem consist, according to Hasselquist, of a very hard limestone; and different sorts of plants are found on them, in particular the myrtle, the carob tree, and the turpentine tree; but farther toward Jericho they are bare and barren, the hard limestone giving way to a looser kind, sometimes white and sometimes grayish, with interjacent layers of a reddish micaceous stone, saxum purum micaceum. The vales, though now bare and uncultivated, and full of pebbles, contain good red mould, which would amply reward the husbandman's toil. Nothing can be more savage than the present aspect of these wild and gloomy solitudes, through which runs the very road where is laid the scene of that exquisite parable, the good Samaritan, and from that time to the present, it has been the haunt of the most desperate bandits, being one of the most dangerous in Palestine. Sometimes the track leads along the edges of cliffs and precipices, which threaten destruction on the slightest false step; at other times it winds through craggy passes, overshadowed by projecting or perpendicular rocks. At one place the road has been cut through the very apex of a hill, the rocks overhanging it on either side. Here, in 1820, an English traveller, Sir Frederick Henniker, was attacked by the Arabs with fire-arms, who stripped him naked, and left him severely wounded: "It was past mid-day, and burning hot," says Sir Frederick; "I bled profusely; and two vultures, whose business it is to consume corpses, were hovering over me. I should scarcely have had strength to resist, had they chosen to attack me." The modern village of Jericho is described by Mr. Buckingham as a settlement of about fifty dwellings, all very mean in their appearance, and fenced in front with thorny bushes, while a barrier of the same kind, the most effectual that could be raised against mounted Arabs, encircles the town. A fine brook flows by it, which empties itself into the Jordan; the nearest point of that river is about three miles distant. The grounds in the immediate vicinity of the village, being fertilized by this stream, bear crops of dourra, Indian corn, rice, and onions. The population is entirely Mohammedan, and is governed by a sheikh: their habits are those of Bedouins, and robbery and plunder form their chief and most gainful occupation. The whole of the road from Jerusalem to the Jordan, is held to be the most dangerous in Palestine; and indeed, in this portion of it, the very aspect of the scenery is sufficient, on the one hand, to tempt to robbery and murder, and, on the other, to occasion a dread of it in those who pass that way. One must be amid these wild and gloomy solitudes, surrounded by an armed band, and feel the impatience of the traveller who rushes on to catch a new view at every pass and turn; one must be alarmed at the very tramp of the horses' hoofs rebounding through the caverned rocks, and at the savage shouts of the footmen, scarcely less loud than the echoing thunder produced by the discharge of their pieces in the valleys; one must witness all this upon the spot, before the full force and beauty of the admirable story of the good Samaritan can be perceived. Here, pillage, wounds, and death would be accompanied with double terror, from the frightful aspect of every thing around. Here, the unfeeling act of passing by a fellow creature in distress, as the priest and Levite are said to have done, strikes one with horror, as an act almost more than inhuman. And here, too, the compassion of the good Samaritan is doubly virtuous, from the purity of the motive which must have led to it, in a spot where no eyes were fixed on him to draw forth the performance of any duty, and from the bravery which was necessary to admit of a man's exposing himself, by such delay, to the risk of a similar fate to that from which he was endeavouring to rescue his fellow creature.

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