What is Jericho?
, 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.