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Jericho

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(Heb. Yericho', יְרַיחוֹ, place of fragrance, prob. from balsamous herbs growing there; Joshua 2:1-3; Joshua 3:16; Joshua 4:13; Joshua 4:19; Joshua 5:10; Joshua 5:13; Joshua 6:1-2; Joshua 6:25-26; Joshua 7:2; Joshua 8:2; Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:1; Joshua 10:28; Joshua 10:30; Joshua 12:9; Joshua 13:32; Joshua 16:1; Joshua 16:7; Joshua 18:12; Joshua 18:21; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 24:11; 2 Kings 2:4; 2 Kings 2:15; 2 Kings 2:18; also written יְרֵחוֹ, Yerecho', Numbers 22:1; Numbers 26:3; Numbers 26:63; Numbers 31:12; Numbers 33:48; Numbers 33:50; Numbers 34:15; Numbers 35:1; Numbers 36:13; Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1; Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Samuel 10:5; 2 Kings 25:5; 1 Chronicles 6:78; 1 Chronicles 19:5; 2 Chronicles 28:15; Ezra 2:34; Nehemiah 3:2; Nehemiah 7:36; Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52, 8; once יְרַיחה, Yerichoh', 1 Kings 16:34; Sept. and N.T. Ι᾿εριχώ, Josephus Ι᾿εριχοῦς [Genesis οῦντος ]; Strabo, 16, 2, 41, ῾Ιερικοῦς; Ptolem. 5, 16, 7; ῾Ιερεικοῦς; Vulg. Jericho; Justin. Hierichus), a city situated in a plain traversed by the Jordan and exactly over against where that river was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua (Joshua 3:16). It is first mentioned in connection with their approach to Palestine; they "pitched in the plains of Moab, on this side Jordan by Jericho" (Numbers 22:1). It was then a large and strong city and must have existed for a long period. The probability is that on the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven Jericho was founded, and perhaps by some who had resided nearer the scene of the catastrophe, but who abandoned their houses in fear. Had the city existed in the time of Abraham and Lot, it would scarcely have escaped notice when the latter looked down on the plain of Jordan from the heights of Bethel (Genesis 13). From the manner in which it is referred to, and the frequency with which it is mentioned, it was evidently the most important city in the Jordan valley at the time of the Exodus (Numbers 34:15; Numbers 31:12; Numbers 35:1, etc.).

Such was either its vicinity or the extent of its territory that Gilgal, which formed their primary encampment, stood in its east border (Joshua 4:19). That it had a king is a very secondary consideration, for almost every small town had one (Joshua 12:9-24); in fact, monarchy was the only form of government known to those primitive times the government of the people of God presenting a marked exception to prevailing usage. But Jericho was further enclosed by walls a fenced city its walls were so considerable that at least one person (Rahab) had a house upon them (Joshua 2:15), and its gates were shut, as throughout the East still, "when it was dark" (Joshua 5:5). Again, the spoil that was found in it betokened its affluence Ai, Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, and even Hazor, evidently contained nothing worth mentioning in comparison besides sheep, oxen, and asses, we hear of vessels of brass and iron. These possibly may have been the first fruits of those brass foundries "in the plain of Jordan" of which Solomon afterwards so largely availed himself (2 Chronicles 4:17).

Silver and gold were found in such abundance that one man (Achan) could appropriate stealthily 200 shekels (100 oz. avoird.; see Lewis, Heb. Rep. 6, 57) of the former, and "a wedge of gold of 50 shekels (25 oz.) weight;" "a goodly Babylonish garment," purloined in the same dishonesty, may be adduced as evidence of a then- existing commerce between Jericho and the far East (Joshua 6:24; Joshua 7:21). In fact, its situation alone in so noble a plain and contiguous to so prolific a river would bespeak its importance in a country where these natural advantages have always been so highly prized and in an age when people depended so much more upon the indigenous resources of nature than they are compelled to do now. Jericho was the city to which the two spies were sent by Joshua from Shittim they were lodged in the house of Rahab the harlot upon the wall, and departed, having first promised to save her and all that were found in her house from destruction (Joshua 2:1-21). The account which the spies received from their hostess tended much to encourage the subsequent operations of the Israelites, as it showed that the inhabitants of the country were greatly alarmed at their advance, and the signal miracles which had marked their course from the Nile to the Jordan.

The strange manner in which Jericho itself was taken (see Hacks, De ruina murorum Hierichuntiorun, Jena, 1690) must have strengthened this impression in the country, and appears, indeed, to have been designed for that effect. The town was utterly destroyed by the Israelites, who pronounced an awful curse upon whoever should rebuild it; and all the inhabitants were put to the sword, except Rahab and her family (Joshua 6). Her house was recognized by the scarlet line bound in the window from which the spies were let down, and she and her relatives were taken out of it, and "lodged without the camp;" but it is nowhere said or implied that her house escaped the general conflagration. That she "dwelt in Israel" for the future; that she married Salmon son of Naas-aon. "prince of the children of Judah," and had by him Boaz, the husband of Ruth and progenitor of David and of our Lord; and, lastly, that hers is the first and only Gentile name that appears in the list of the faithful of the O.T. given by Paul (Joshua 6:25; 1 Chronicles 2:10; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31) all these facts surely indicate that she did not continue to inhabit the accursed site; and, if so, and in the absence of all direct evidence from Scripture, how could it ever have been inferred that her house was left standing? (See Hoffmann, Rahabs Erettung, Berl. 1861.) (See RAHAB).

Such as it had been left by Joshua, such it was bestowed by him upon the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21; it lay also on the border of Ephraim [Joshua 16:7]), and from this time a long interval elapses before Jericho appears again upon the scene. It is only incidentally mentioned in the life of David in connection with his embassy to the Ammonitish king (2 Samuel 10:5). The solemn manner in which its second foundation under Hiel the Bethelite is recorded upon whom the curse of Joshua is said to have descended in full force (1 Kings 16:34) would certainly seem to imply that up to that time its site had been uninhabited. It is true, mention is made of "a city of palm trees" (Judges 1:16; Judges 3:13) in existence apparently at the time when spoken of, and Jericho is twice once before its first overthrow and once after its second foundation designated by that name (see Deuteronomy 34:3, and 2 Chronicles 28:15); but these designations must be understood to apply only to the site, in whatever condition at the time. (On the presence of these trees, see below.) However, once actually rebuilt, Jericho rose again slowly in importance.

In its immediate vicinity the sons of the prophets sought retirement from the world and Elisha "healed the spring of the waters;" and over and against it, beyond Jordan, Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:1-22). In its plains Zedekiah fell into the hands of the Chaldaeans (2 Kings 25:5; Jeremiah 39:5). By what may be called a retrospective account of it, we may infer that Hiel's restoration had not utterly failed, for in the return under Zerubbabel the "children of Jericho," 345 in number are comprised (Ezra 3:34; Nehemiah 7:36); and it is even implied that they removed thither again, for the men of Jericho assisted Nehemiah in rebuilding that part of the wall of Jerusalem which was next to the sheep gate (Nehemiah 3:2). It was eventually fortified by the Syrian general Bacchides (1 Maccabees 9:50; Josephus, Ant. 13, 1, 3).

The Jericho of the days of Josephus was distant 150 stadia from Jerusalem and sixty from the Jordan. It lay in a plain overhung by a barren mountain, whose roots ran northward towards Scythopolis and southward in the direction of Sodom and the Dead Sea. These formed the western boundaries of the plain. Eastward, its barriers were the mountains of Moab, which ran parallel to the former. In the midst of the plain the great plain, as it was called flowed the Jordan, and at the top and bottom of it were two lakes: Tiberias, proverbial for its sweetness, and Asphaltites for its bitterness. Away from the Jordan, it was parched and unhealthy during summer; but during winter, even when it snowed at Jerusalem, the inhabitants here wore linen garments. Hard by Jericho, bursting forth close to the site of the old city which Joshua took on his entrance into Canaan, was a most exuberant fountain, whose waters, before noted for their contrary properties, had received (proceeds Josephus) through Elisha's prayers their then wonderfully salutary and prolific efficacy. Within its range seventy stadia (Strabo says 100) by twenty the fertility of the soil was unexampled. Palms of various names and properties some that produced honey scarcely inferior to that of the neighborhood; opobalsamum, the choicest of indigenous fruits; cyprus (Arabic "el- henna"), and myrobalanum ("zukkum") throve there beautifully and thickly dotted about the pleasure grounds (War, 4, 8, 3). These and other aromatic shrubs were here of peculiar fragrance (Justin. 36:3; Josephus, Ant. 4, 6, 1; 14, 4, 1; 15, 4, 2; War, 1, 6, 6; 1, 18, 5). Wisdom herself did not disdain comparison with "the rose plants of Jericho" (Sirach 24:14). Well might Strabo (Geog. 16, 2, § 41, ed. Muller) conclude that its revenues were considerable. The peculiar productions mentioned, in addition to those noticed above, were honey (Cedren. p. 104) and, in later times, the sugar cane (see Robinson's Researches, 2, 290 sq.). (See ROSE OF JERICHO).

By the Romans, Jericho was first visited under Pompey. He encamped there for a single night and subsequently destroyed two forts Threx and Taurus that commanded its approaches (Strabo, Geogr. § 40). Dagon (Josephus, War, 1, 2, 3) or Docus (1 Maccabees 16:15; comp. 9:50), where Ptolemy assassinated his father-in-law, Simon the Maccabee, may have been one of these strongholds, which were afterwards infested by bandits. Gabinius, in his resettlement of Judaea, made Jericho one of the five seats of assembly (Josephus, War, 1, 8, 5). With Herod the Great it rose to still greater prominence: it had been found full of treasure of all kinds; as in. the time of Joshua, so by his Roman allies who sacked it (ibid. 1, 15, 6); and its revenues were eagerly sought and rented by the wily tyrant from Cleopatra, to whom Antony had assigned them (Ant. 15, 4, 2). Not long afterwards he built a fort there, which he called "Cyprus," in honor of his mother (ibid. 16, 5); a tower, which he called, in honor of his brother, "Phasaelis;" and a number of new palaces, superior in their construction to those which had existed there previously, which he named after his friends. He even founded a new town higher up the plain, which he called, like the tower, Phasaelis ( War, 1, 21, 9).

If he did not make Jericho his habitual residence, he at least retired thither to die and to be mourned, if he could have got his plan carried out; and it was in the amphitheater of Jericho that the news of his death was announced to the assembled soldiers and people by Salome (War, 1, 38, 8). Soon afterwards the place was burned and the town plundered by one Simon, a revolutionary that had been slave to Herod (Ant. 17, 10, 6); but Archelaus rebuilt the former sumptuously, founded a new town in 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 (Ant. 17, 13, 1). Thus Jericho was once more "a city of palms" when our Lord visited it. As the city that had so exceptionally contributed to his own ancestry as the city which had been the first to fall, amidst so much ceremony, before "the captain of the Lord's host and his servant Joshua" we may well suppose that his eyes surveyed it with unwonted interest. It is supposed to have been on the rocky heights overhanging it (hence called by tradition the Quarentana) that he was assailed by the tempter; and over against it, according to tradition likewise, he had been previously baptized in the Jordan. Here he restored sight to the blind (two certainly, perhaps three [Matthew 20:30; Mark 10:46]: this was in leaving Jericho; Luke says "as he was come nigh unto Jericho," etc. [Luke 18:35]).

Here the descendant of Rahab did not disdain the hospitality of Zacchaeus the publican an office which was likely to be lucrative enough in so rich a city. Finally, between Jerusalem and Jericho was laid the scene of his story of the good Samaritan, which, if it is not to be regarded as a real occurrence throughout, at least derives interest from the fact that robbers have ever been the terror of that precipitous road (comp. Phocas, ch. 20; see Schubert, 3, 72); and so formidable had they proved only just before the Christian era that Pompey had been induced to undertake the destruction of their strongholds (Strabo, as before, 16, 2, § 40; comp. Joseph. Ant. 20:6, 1 sq.). The way from Jerusalem to Jericho is still described by travellers as the most dangerous about Palestine. (See Hackett's Illustra. of Script. p. 206.) As lately as 1820, an English traveller, Sir Frederick Henniker, was attacked on this road by the Arabs with firearms, who stripped him naked and left him severely wounded.

Posterior to the Gospels, Vespasian found it one of the toparchies of Judaea (War, 3, 3, 5), but deserted by its inhabitants in a great measure when he encamped there (ibid. 4, 8, 2). He left a garrison on his departure (not necessarily the 10th legion, which is only stated to have marched through Jericho) which was still there when Titus advanced upon Jerusalem. Is it asked how Jericho was destroyed? Evidently by Vespasian; for Josephus, rightly understood, is not so silent as Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Res. 1, 566, 2d ed.) thinks. The city pillaged and burnt in Josephus (War 4, 9, 1) was clearly Jericho, with its adjacent villages, and not Gerasa, as may be seen at once by comparing the language there with that of 8, 2, and the agent was Vespasian. Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v.) say that it was destroyed when Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans. They further add that it was afterwards rebuilt they do not say by whom and still existed in their day; nor had the ruins of the two preceding cities been obliterated. Could Hadrian possibly have planted a colony there when he passed through Judaea and founded Æ lia? (Dion Cass. Hist. 669, c. 11, ed. Sturz; more at large Chronicles Paschal. p. 254, ed. Da Fresne.) The discovery which Origen made there of a version of the O.T. (the 5th in his Hexapla), together with sundry MSS. Greek and Hebrew, suggests that it could not have been wholly without inhabitants (Euseb. E. H. 6, 16; Epiphan. Lib. de Pond. et Menesur. circa med.); or again, as is perhaps more probable, did a Christian settlement arise there under Constantine, when baptisms in the Jordan began to be the rage? That Jericho became an episcopal see about that time under Jerusalem appears from more than one ancient Notitia (Geograph. S. a Carolo Paulo, p. 306, and the Parergon appended to it; comp. William of Tyre, Hist. lib. 23, ad f.). Its bishops subscribed to various councils in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries (ibid. and Le Quien's Oriens Christian. 3, 654).

Justinian, we are told, restored a hospice there, and likewise a church dedicated to the Virgin (Procop. De oedif. 5, 9). As early as A.D. 337, when the Bordeaux pilgrim (ed. Wesseling) visited it, a house existed there which was pointed out, after the manner of those days, as the house of Rahab. This was roofless when Arculfts saw it; and not only so, but the third city was likewise in ruins (Adamn. De Locis S. ap. Migane, Patrolog. C. 88, 799). Had Jericho been visited by an earthquake, as Antoninus reports (ap. Ugoilini Thesaur. 7, p. 1213, and note to c. 3), and as Syria certainly was, in the 27th year of Justinian, A.D. 553? If so, we can well understand the restorations already referred to; and when Antoninus adds that the house of Rahab had now become a hospice and oratory, we might almost pronounce that this was the very hospice which had been restored by that emperor. Again, it may be asked, did Christian Jericho receive no injury from the Persian Romizan, the ferocious general of Chosroes II, A.D. 614? (Bar-Hebraei Chron. p. 99, Lat. 5, ed. Kirsch).

It would rather seem that there were more religious edifices in the 7th than in the 6th century round about it. According to Arculfus, one church marked the site of Gilgal; another the spot where our Lord was supposed to have deposited his garments previously to his baptism; a third within the precincts of a vast monastery dedicated to John, situated upon some rising ground overlooking the Jordan. Jericho meanwhile had disappeared as a town to rise no more. Churches and monasteries sprung up around it on all sides, but only to smoulder away in their turn. The anchorite caves in the rocky flanks of the Quarentana are the most striking memorial that remains of early or mediaeval enthusiasm. Arculfus speaks of a diminutive race Canaanites he calls them that inhabited the plain in great numbers in his day. They have retained possession of those fairy meadowlands ever since and have made their headquarters for some centuries round the "square tower or castle" first mentioned by Willebrand (ap. Leon. Allat. Συμμικτ . p. 151) in A.D. 1211, when it was inhabited by the Saracens, whose work it may be supposed to have been, though it has since been dignified by the name of the house of Zacchaeus. Their village is by Brocardus (ap. Canis. Thesaur. 4, 16), in A.D. 1230, styled "a vile place;" by Sir J. Maundeville, in A.D. 1322, "a little village;" and by Henry Maundrell, in A.D. 1697, "a poor, nasty village;" in which verdict all modern travellers that have ever visited it must concur. (See Early Travels in Pal. by Wright, p. 177 and 451.) They are looked upon by the Arabs as a debased race and are probably nothing more or less than veritable Gypsies, who are still to be met with in the neighborhood of the Frank mountain near Jerusalem and on the heights round the village and convent of St. John in the desert and are still called "Scomunicati" by the native Christians one of the names applied to them when they first attracted notice in Europe in the 15th century (i.e. from feigning themselves "penitents" and under censure of the pope. See Hoyland's Historical Survey of the Gipsies, p. 18; also The Gipsy, a poem by A.P. Stanley).

Jericho does not seem to have ever been restored as a town by the Crusaders; but its plains had not ceased to be prolific and were extensively cultivated and laid out in vineyards and gardens by the monks (Phocas ap. Leon. Allat. Συμμικτ . [c. 20], p. 31). They seem to have been included in the domains of the patriarchate of Jerusalem, and, as such, were bestowed by Arnulf upon his niece as a dowry (William of Tyre, Hist. 11, 15). Twenty-five years afterwards we find Melisendis, wife of king Fulco, assigning them to the convent of Bethany, which she had founded A.D. 1137.

The site of ancient (the first) Jericho is with reason placed by Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Res. 1, 552-568) in the immediate neighborhood of the fountain of Elisha; and that of the second (the city of the New Test. and of Josephus) at the opening of the wady Kelt (Cherith), half an hour from the fountain. The ancient, and, indeed, the only practicable road from Jerusalem zigzags down the rugged and bare mountain side, close to the south bank of wady el-Kelt, one of the most sublime ravines in Palestine. In the plain, half a mile from the foot of the pass, and a short distance south of the present road, is an immense reservoir, now dry, and round it are extensive ruins, consisting of mounds of rubbish and ancient foundations. Riding northward, similar remains were seen on both sides of wady el-Kelt. Half a mile farther north we enter cultivated ground, interspersed with clumps of thorny nubk ("lote-tree") and other shrubs; another half mile brings us to Ain es-Sultâ n, a large fountain bursting forth from the foot of a mound. The water, though warm, is sweet, and is extensively used in the irrigation of the surrounding plain. The whole plain immediately around the fountain is strewn with ancient ruins and heaps of rubbish.

The village traditionally identified with Jericho now bears the name of Riha (in Arabic er-Riha) and is situated about the middle of the plain, six miles west from the Jordan; in N. lat. 34° 57', and E. long. 35° 33'. Dr. Olin describes the present village as "the meanest and foulest of Palestine." It may perhaps contain forty dwellings, with some two hundred inhabitants. The houses consist of rough walls of old building stones, roofed with straw and brushwood. Each has in front of it an inclosure for cattle, fenced with branches of the thorny nubk; and a stronger fence of the same material surrounds the whole village, forming a rude barrier against the raids of the Bedawin. Not far from the village is a little square castle or tower, evidently of Saracenic origin, but now dignified by the title of "the house of Zacchaeus," This village, though it bears the name of Jericho, is about a mile and a half distant both from the Jericho of the prophets and that of the evangelists. Very probably it may occupy the site of Gilgal (q.v.). The ruinous state of the modern houses is in part owing to a comparatively recent event. Ibrahim Pasha, on his retreat from Damascus, near the close of 1840, having been attacked by the Arabs in crossing the Jordan, sent a detachment of his army and razed Jericho to the ground.

The soil of the plain 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 grove supplied by the fountain is in the distance. The few fields of wheat and Indian corn, and the few orchards of figs, are enough to show what the place might become under proper cultivation. But the people are now few in number, indolent, and licentious. The palms which gave the ancient city a distinctive appellation are gone; even that "single solitary palm" which Dr. Robinson saw exists no more. The climate of Jericho is exceedingly hot and unhealthy. This is accounted for by the depression of the plain, which is about 1200 feet below the level of the sea. The reflection of the sun's rays from the bare white cliffs and mountain ranges which shut in the plain, and the noisome exhalations from the lake and from the numerous salt springs around it, are enough to poison the atmosphere.

For further details respecting Jericho, see Reland's Paloest. p. 383, 829 sq.; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 85 sq.; Otho's Lex. Rabb. p. 298 sq.; Bachiene, 2, 3, § 224 sq.; Hamesveld, 2, 291 sq.; Cellar. Notit. 2, 552 sq.; Robinson's Researches, 2, 267 sq.; Olin's Travels, 2, 195 sq.; Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 439 sq.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jericho'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/jericho.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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