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jericho Summary and Overview

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jericho in Easton's Bible Dictionary

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 (Josh. 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 (Num. 22:1; 34:15), and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was the key to Western Israel. This city was taken in a very remarkable manner by the Israelites (Josh. 6). God gave it into their hands. The city was "accursed" (Heb. herem, "devoted" to Jehovah), and accordingly (Josh. 6:17; compare Lev. 27:28, 29; Deut. 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" (Josh. 6:24; compare Num. 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 (Josh. 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 It would seem that the Egyptian troops had before this been withdrawn from Israel. This city was given to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 18:21), and it was inhabited in the time of the Judges (Judg. 3:13; 2 Sam. 10:5). It is not again mentioned till the time of David (2 Sam. 10:5). "Children of Jericho" were among the captives who returned under Zerubbabel Ezra 2:34; Neh. 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 (Matt. 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 fastnesses.

jericho in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(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 Israel;" yet the soil of the plain is of unsurpassed fertility. --ED.)

jericho in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

JER'ICHO , an ancient and celebrated city in O.T. and N.T. history. The name is now generally thought to signify "fragrance," but an older explanation connects it with the moon, which may have been early worshipped there. Situation. -- Jericho was in the valley of the Jordan, about 5 miles west of the river, and 6 or 7 miles north of the Salt or Dead Sea. The portion of the plain on which it stood was noted for its fertility, being watered by a large spring known as the "Fountain of Elisha." See illustration p. 432. The city has occupied at least two different sites:(1) Ancient Jericho, near the fountain es-Sultan, or "Elisha's Fountain," at the foot of the Quarantania Mountain, and about a mile and a half above the opening of the Valley of Achor. (2) The Jericho of the Gospels, south-east of the ancient one, near the opening to the valley. The modern village Er-Riba, its present representative, is about two miles farther east. Biblical History. -- Jericho is first mentioned as the city over against which the Israelites were encamped before entering the Promised Land. Moses looked down upon the plain of Jericho from the summit of Nebo. Deut 34:3; Num 22:1; Num 26:3. The town was of considerable size, strongly fortified. Josh 2:15; very rich. Josh 6:24; Heb 7:21, and a royal residence. Spies were sent into the city and received by Rahab. Josh 2; Heb 11:31. The wall fell after being compassed 7 days, and the city and its inhabitants were destroyed, Josh 6:20-21; Josh 24:11. A curse was pronounced upon any one who should thereafter rebuild it. Josh 6:26. This curse was fulfilled upon Hiel, 533 years later. 1 Kgs 16:34. But the curse seems to have been for fortifying the city, rather than for dwelling in its neighborhood, since the site was assigned to Benjamin, Josh 18:21, and was a boundary of Ephraim, Josh 16:7, and afterward belonged to Judah. In spite of many conquests Jericho continued to flourish. Eglon, king of Moab, possessed it 18 years, Jud 3:13. David's messengers tarried there, in accordance with his advice, "until your beards be grown." 2 Sam 10:5. A school of the prophets, often visited by Elijah, flourished at Jericho, 2 Kgs 2, and Elisha miraculously healed its waters, 2 Kgs 2:19-22. King Zedekiah and his men, fleeing from Jerusalem, were captured in the plains of Jericho. 2 Kgs 25:5; Jer 39:5. After the return from the Babylonish captivity, Jericho was re-occupied, Ezr 2:34; Neh 7:36, and its people helped to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Neh 3:2. Jericho is mentioned 63 times in the Scriptures -- 56 times in the 0.T., and 7 in the N.T. The Roman Antony presented the district to Cleopatra, who sold it to Herod,and that monarch embellished the city with palaces and made it his winter residence, as being the most beautiful spot for the purpose in his dominions. He died there. It was at Jericho that the Jewish pilgrims going up to Jerusalem (who had taken the route east of the Jordan) used to assemble on their way to the temple. Hence Christ passed through it in his journeys. There he made the acquaintance of Zacchaeus, who was the chief revenue officer for the wealthy district of Jericho, Luke 19:1-9, and near this city also he healed the blind men, Matt 20:24-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43. It was on the rocky road from Jericho to Jerusalem (even in this generation the haunt of robbers) that Christ laid the scene of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jericho of the N.T. had an interesting history. It appears to have been at an early day the seat of a Christian church, as in the fourth century the councils of the Church were attended by the bishops at Jericho. The emperor Justinian caused a "church of the Mother of God" at Jericho to be restored. A monastery of St. Stephen existed there a.d. 810. In the time of the Crusaders "New Jericho" sprang up near the site of the present village. Present Appearance. -- Modern Jericho (er-Riba) consists of a group of squalid hovels inhabited by about 60 families. The character of the place seems not to have changed for at least 650 years, since Brocardus, in a.d., 1230 styled it "a vile place," and Maundrell, in a.d. 1697, "a poor, nasty village." The inhabitants are looked upon by the Arabs as a debased race, perhaps made degenerate by the enervating influence of the hot and unhealthy climate. A writer in Smith's Dictionary says that "they are probably nothing more nor less than veritable gypsies." The palm trees which once gave the city the name of the "city of palm trees" have all disappeared. One solitary tree was standing in 1838; but there are numerous petrified palm trunks floating upon the Dead Sea. Tristram notes that a few of the sycamore fig trees, Luke 19:4, are still found among the ruins by the wayside of ancient Jericho. The vegetation is of a semi-tropical character, as the plain is 900 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and while snow is falling at Jerusalem linen clothing is comfortable at Jericho. There is an inn kept by a Greek, where Dr. Schaff spent a night in 1877, disturbed by vermin. The surrounding garden shows what a little industry can do in that fertile soil and climate. The "Fountain of Elisha," by which Jericho was once supplied with water, is an object of special interest. It wells forth copiously from the earth, and runs into an old basin of hewn stone, 13 yards long and 8 yards wide. Numerous small fish swim about in the water, the temperature of which is 84 F. The earliest pilgrims found a tradition already existing here that this was the water which Elisha healed with salt, 2 Kgs 2:19-20, whence it is called "Elisha's Spring" by the Christians. Above the spring the site of the house of Rahab was formerly shown. In the village itself there is a half-ruined tower, now occupied by a Turkish garrison, which is pointed out as Zacchasus's house, but it probably 'Ain Sultan, or Fountain of Elisha. (After Photographs) dates from the Frank period, when it was erected for the protection of the crops against the incursions of the Bedouin.

jericho in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Numbers 22:1; Joshua 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 (Joshua 6:19), cast in the same plain of Jordan where Solomon had his foundry (1 Chronicles 4:17). The "Babylonian garment" (Joshua 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 (Joshua 6:17-19,21-25). Other towns had their inhabitants only slain, as under the divine ban (Deuteronomy 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 first-fruits, 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"(Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 1:16; 3:13; 2 Chronicles 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 Joshua 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 (Joshua 18:21). It is mentioned in David's time as a town (2 Samuel 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 (1 Kings 16:34). Elisha "healed the waters" of the fountain, called also Ain es Sultan (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 25:5; Jeremiah 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 (Luke 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 (Deuteronomy 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) (Hebrews 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 Revelation 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. (2 Kings 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 (Ezra 2:34). They helped to rebuild the wall (Nehemiah 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 (atthew 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 (Luke 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 (Luke 10:25,38; John 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 unChristlike spirit (Luke 9:51-56).