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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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JERICHO was situated in the valley of the Jordan, about 5 miles west of the river and about 6 north of the Dead Sea. The distance between Jerusalem and Jericho was about 17 miles. The immediate vicinity enjoyed the advantage of abundant springs (2 Kings 2:19-22), and showed great fertility. It was the ‘city of palms’ (Deuteronomy 34:3, 2 Chronicles 28:15), and Josephus gives an enthusiastic account of the abundance and variety of its products (BJ iv. viii. 2, 3).

The Jericho which was destroyed by Joshua was a considerable town, characterized by the wealth of its inhabitants and the strength of its fortifications (Joshua 6, 7). The rebuilding of the city is described in 1 Kings 16:34, but the place is referred to at earlier dates (Joshua 18:21, 2 Samuel 10:5, 1 Chronicles 19:5). A school of prophets was established at Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), and it was from Jericho that Elijah and Elisha went down to Jordan. Other references are found in 2 Chronicles 28:15, 2 Kings 25:5, Jeremiah 39:5, Ezra 2:34, Nehemiah 3:2; Nehemiah 7:36.

In the time of our Lord, Jericho was a large and important town. Antony granted the revenues of Jericho and the surrounding district to Cleopatra, and these were farmed from her by Herod the Great. Afterwards Herod received Jericho by gift from Augustus, and erected a citadel, which he called Cypros, above the town. He also built within the city a palace, in which he died. This palace was rebuilt by Herod Archelaus after it had been burned down by Simon during the troubles which followed upon the death of Herod the Great (Josephus Ant. xvii. x. 6 and xiii. 1). After the deposition of Herod Archelaus as tetrarch of Judaea, Jericho was held directly by the Roman procurator, who farmed out its revenues.

Modern Jericho (er-Riha) is a miserable village of 300 inhabitants; the forest of palms has entirely disappeared, and only here and there can traces of the former fertility of the district be seen. The exact site of the Canaanite Jericho does not correspond with that of the modern village, and probably there were two towns, a little apart from one another, which, during the prosperity of the Roman occupation, may have been united by continuous building.

By tradition, Jericho has been closely associated with the Baptism of Jesus and the Temptation. The site of Bethany or Bethabara (wh. see), however, cannot be fixed with certainty, and some (e.g. Conder) maintain that the ford east from Jericho cannot be the place, but rather a ford farther north, lying east from Cana of Galilee. The traditional scene of the Temptation is a mountain called from this association Quarantania, lying to the west of Jericho. But the uncertainty of the scene of the Baptism and the vagueness of the phrase ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 4:1 ||) make this a matter of tradition only.

From Jericho to Jerusalem there are three roads. The central one of these is the most direct, and was that used by pilgrims going from Galilee to Jerusalem, who took the circuitous route in order to avoid entering Samaria. It is an extremely arduous path, and wayfarers were much exposed to the attacks of robbers, who easily found secure concealment among the bare and rugged hills which it traversed: a fact which gives vividness to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30). This road was that which Jesus took on His last journey to Jerusalem. After the raising of Lazarus, Jesus and His disciples withdrew ‘into a city called Ephraim’ (John 11:54). (On its site see art. Ephraim). From this place Jesus could see the pilgrim bands from Galilee going down to Jericho on their way to Jerusalem. And in all probability, when ‘the Passover was nigh at hand,’ He joined one of these bands, and so paid that visit to Jericho with which the names of Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus are associated. See artt. Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus.* [Note: The statement is frequently met with, in connexion with our Lord’s treatment of Zacchaeus and also in connexion with the parable of the Good Samaritan, that Jericho was a sacerdotal city. In regard to this, it is certain that the priests and throughout the towns and villages, but were scattered throughout the towns and villages of Judaea. Jericho, as within easy reach of Jerusalem and an important place, may have been a favourite residence for the priests (see Schurer, HJP ii. i. 229).]

Literature.—Stanley, SP [Note: P Sinai and Palestine.] ch. vii. pp. 305, 316; G. A. Smith, HGHL [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] 264, 268, 493, 496; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, artt. ‘Jericho, ‘Ephraim,’ ‘Bethabara’; Farrar, Life of Christ, ii. 178–186.

Andrew N. Bogle.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Jericho'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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