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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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was a city of Benjamin, about seven leagues from Jerusalem, and two from the Jordan, Joshua 18:21 . Moses calls it the city of palm trees, Deuteronomy 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, 2 Kings 2:19 . Jericho was the first city in Canaan taken by Joshua, Joshua 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, Joshua 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, Judges 3:13 . David's ambassadors, who had been insulted by the Ammonites, resided at Jericho till their beards were grown, 2 Samuel 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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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Jericho'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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