JERICHO (, and once, I Kings xvi. 34, ).

—Biblical Data:

A city in the Jordan valley, opposite Nebo (Deut. xxxii. 49), to the west of Gilgal (Josh. iv. 19). Owing to its importance, the part of the Jordan near Jericho was called "the Jordan of Jericho" (Num. xxii. 1, Hebr.). It was a well-fortified city, surrounded by a wall, the gate of which was closed at dusk (Josh. ii. 5, 15), and was ruled by a king (ib. ii. 2, xii. 9). It was also rich in cattle and particularly in gold and silver (see the account of the spoil taken there, ib. vii. 21).

Taking of Jericho.

Jericho commanded the entrance to Palestine; hence while Joshua was still encamped at Shittim, east of the Jordan, he sent two spies to investigate the state of the country in general and of Jericho in particular (ib. ii. 1). They lodged at Rahab's house in the wall of the city, and, upon their presence being suspected, Rahab let them out through the window by means of a rope (ib. ii. 2-15). Crossing the Jordan, and having first encamped at Gilgal (ib. v. 10), Joshua besieged Jericho and took it in a miraculous manner (ib. vi. 1). The whole army marched around it once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. When the last circuit had been made and while the [seven] priests blew trumpets, the Israelites were ordered to shout, and when they did so, the walls fell down before them (ib. vi. 2-20). According to this narrative, the Israelites had no conflict with the people of Jericho; but Josh. xxiv. 11 speaks of their fight with the "men of Jericho." The conquerors, by special command of the Lord, spared the life of none except Rahab and her family, who were saved according to the promise given to her by the spies; even the cattle were destroyed. The city and everything in it were burned; only the vessels of gold, silver, copper, and iron were declared sacred and were reserved for the treasury of the Lord (ib. vi. 21-25). Joshua pronounced a solemn curse on the man who should rebuild Jericho (ib. vi. 26), and this curse was fulfilled on Hiel (I Kings xvi. 34). Still it can not be affirmed that Jericho remained uninhabited till Hiel's time.

Traditional Site of Ancient Jericho.(From a photograph by Bonfils.)

Jericho was given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. xviii. 21), and later, when David's ambassadors had been ill-treated by Hanun, the King of Ammon—he had shaved off one-half of their beards—they were told by David to stay at Jericho till their beards should be grown (II Sam. x. 4-5).

The "city of palm-trees," conquered by Eglon, King of Moab (Judges iii. 13), was probably Jericho (comp. Deut. xxxiv. 3; II Chron. xxviii. 15). After it had been rebuilt by Hiel, the city gained more importance. The sons of the prophets settled there; Elisha "healed" its waters by casting salt into them (II Kings ii. 5, 19-22). Elijah's ascension took place not far from Jericho (ib. ii. 4 et seq.).

Post-Biblical History.

The captives who had been carried away by Pekah to Samaria, and were released by order of the prophet Oded, were brought to Jericho, "the city of palm-trees" (II Chron. xxviii. 8-15). Zedekiah was captured by the Chaldeans in the plains of Jericho (II Kings xxv. 5; Jer. xxxix. 5). At the return from captivity, under Zerubbabel, the children of Jericho are stated to have been 345 in number (Ezra ii. 34; Neh. vii. 36). It seems that they settled again in their native town; for men of Jericho assisted Nehemiah in reconstructing the wall of Jerusalem (Ezra iii. 2). Later, Jericho was fortified by the Syrian general Bacchides (I Macc. ix. 50). The fertility of the plain of Jericho, alluded to in the Bible by the appellation "city of palm-trees" (see above), is described at length by Josephus ("B. J." iv. 8, § 3). Strabo (xvi. 2) likens the plain surrounded by mountains to a theater.

Jericho was an important place under the Romans. When Pompey endeavored to clear Palestine of robbers, he destroyed their two strongholds, Threx and Taurus, which commanded the approach to Jericho (ib.). After Jerusalem had been taken by Pompey, Gabinius divided the whole country into five judicial districts (σύνοδοι, συνέδρια), one of which was Jericho (Josephus, "B. J." i. 8, § 5). Later, when Herod in his fight with Antigonus for the throne needed corn for his army, Jericho was plundered by the Roman soldiery, who "found the houses full of all sorts of good things" (ib. i. 15, § 6). A short time after this event Jericho was the scene of the massacre of five Roman cohorts and of the death of Joseph, brother of Herod. Herod himself, coming at the head of two legions to avenge his brother's death, was wounded by an arrow, and had to retire from Jericho ("Ant." xiv. 15, §§ 3, 10-12; "B. J." i. 15, § 6; xvii. 1, §§ 4-6). In the year 34 B.C. Antony gave Jericho with other cities of Judea as a present to Cleopatra ("Ant." xv. 4, §§ 1-2; "B. J." i. 18, § 5), who farmed out to Herod the revenues of the regions about the city ("Ant." xv. 4, § 2). Four years later Herod received from Augustus the whole country (including Jericho) that had been in Cleopatra's possession (ib. xv. 7, § 3; "B. J." i. 20, § 3). He erected many villas at Jericho for the entertainment of his friends, calling them after their respective names ("B. J." i. 21, § 4); he built also a wall about a citadel that lay above Jericho, calling it "Cypros" (ib. i. 21, § 9). At Jericho Herod caused Aristobulus to be drowned by Gallic mercenaries in one of the large water-reservoirs, of the city ("Ant." xv. 2, §§ 3-4; "B. J." i. 22, § 2). Jericho had its amphitheater, and it was there that Salome announced Herod's death to the soldiers (ib. i. 33, § 8).

After Herod's death his ex-slave Simon burned the royal palace at Jericho and plundered what had been left in it ("Ant." xvii. 10, § 6). It was magnificently rebuilt by Archelaus, who also carried on some important irrigation works (ib. xvii. 13, § 1). In the time of Josephus, Judea was divided into eleven toparchies, of which the eleventh was Jericho ("B. J." iii. 3, § 5). When Vespasian approached Jericho the inhabitants fled to the mountains (ib. iv. 8, § 2). Vespasian erected a citadel at Jericho and garrisoned it (ib. iv. 9, § 1). Among the remarkable events that took place at Jericho according to Christian tradition was Jesus, healing the blind (Matt. xx. 29; Mark x. 46; Luke xviii. 35).

Jericho, on account of the fertility of its soil, continued to prosper till about 230, when it was destroyed in the war between Alexander Severus and Ardashir, surnamed "Artaxerxes," the founder of the Sassanid dynasty (Solin, "Collectanea," in Th. Reinach's "Textes Relatifs au Judaïsme," p. 339). It is most probable that Jericho was destroyed by the Romans themselves in order to chastise the Jews for their Persian leanings. Many historians, including Graetz, ascribe the second destruction of Jericho to Artaxerxes III., Ochus; but Solin's text shows the improbability of this interpretation. It is to this destruction that Jerome ("Onomasticon") refers in his statement that after Jericho was destroyed by the Romans it was rebuilt a third time. Munk ("Palestine," p. 41b) maintains that Jericho had been destroyed by Vespasian, and was rebuilt by Hadrian. It was entirely burned during the Crusades. Near the site of ancient Jericho there is now a small village called "Al-Riḥah," inhabited by forty or fifty Mohammedan families (Munk, ib.).

Jabal Ḳaranṭal and Probable Site of Ancient Jericho.(From a photograph by Dr. W. Popper.)

It may be of interest to note that, according to Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." vi. 16), in the last years of Caracalla's reign (217) there were found at Jericho manuscripts, both Hebrew and Greek, of the OldTestament, and Origen is said to have used these for his Hexapla.

During Mohammedan occupation Jericho was the center of an extensive sugar-cane industry ("Kitab al-Masalik," pp. 57, 78, Leyden, 1889; Al-Ya'ḳubi, "Kitab al-Buldan," p. 113, ib. 1861). Jericho or Al-Riḥah was destroyed for the last time in 1840 by Ibrahim Pasha in a punitive expedition against the Bedouins.

  • Bliss, in Hastings, Dict. Bible;
  • Guerin, Samarie, Paris, 1874;
  • Robinson, Researches, ii. 273 et seq.;
  • Th. Reinach, in the Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 457 et seq.;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 224 et passim, iii. 6;
  • Conder, Tent Work in Palestine, ii. 1-34, London, 1879.
E. G. H. M. Sel.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Jericho is greatly praised by the Talmudists for its fertility and the abundance of its palm-trees; it is alluded to in the Bible as the "city of palm-trees" (see Biblical Data, above). The Targum of Jonathan without hesitation renders the "'Ir ha-Temarim" of Judges (i. 16, iii. 13) as well as the "Tamar" of Ezekiel (xlvii. 19) by "Jericho." It was also rich in balsam (Ber. 43a; comp. Strabo, xvi. 2), and its plain was covered with wheat (Mek., Beshallaḥ, 'Amaleḳ, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 64a]). When the Israelites divided the land of Canaan among themselves they left a fertile area of the plain of Jericho, 500 ells square, to the tribe on whose territory the Temple was to be built, giving it in temporary charge to Jonadab b. Rechab (Sifre, Num. 81 [ed. Friedmann, p. 21b]). In Jericho fruit ripened earlier than in any other place, while at Beth-el it ripened later (Gen. R. xcix. 3).

Owing to its geographical position, Jericho was considered the key to Palestine; therefore the Israelites said, "If we take Jericho we shall possess the whole of Palestine" (Midr., Tan., Beha'aloteka, ed. Vienna, p. 206b). Jericho was conquered by Joshua on Saturday (Yer. Shab. i. 3), its wall being swallowed up by the earth; and it is counted among the places where miracles were performed and where a benediction must be recited (Ber. 54a, b). When Joshua pronounced the curse against whomever should rebuild it, he meant both the rebuilder of Jericho and the builder of any other city under the same name (Sanh. 113a). The King of Babylon had a viceroy in Jericho who sent dates to his master, receiving in return articles manufactured in Babylonia; hence the Babylonian garment stolen by Achan (see Josh. vii. 21; Gen. R. lxxxv. 15; Yalḳ., Josh. 18).

In the time of the Tannaites Jericho had a large priestly population (Ta'an. 27a). An indication of the size of its population is the fact that for each of the twenty-four groups ("ma'amadot") of men furnished by Jerusalem for the service in the Temple, Jericho furnished another group, but half as numerous. It could have supplied as many men as Jerusalem, which, however, was given the preeminence (Yer. Ta'an. iv. 2; Pes. iv. 1). The bellicose priests ("ba'ale zero'ot") so often spoken of in the Talmud were at Jericho, where the owners of sycamore-trees were obliged to consecrate them to the Lord in order to save them from the rapacity of the priests (Pes. 57a). It is said that the people of Jericho were accustomed to do six questionable things: graft palm-trees during the whole day of the 14th of Nisan; read "Shema'" without stopping between "eḥad" and "we-ahabta"; reap before the 'Omer; use the fruit of the consecrated sycamore-trees; eat on Sabbath the fruit which fell from the trees; leave "pe'ah" of vegetables. The Talmudists blamed them for doing the latter three things (Pes. 55b, 56a; Yer. Pes. iv. 9). These six things are somewhat differently enumerated in Men. 71a. Büchler concluded that by "the people of Jericho" the priests are meant. There was a school in Jericho which was named "Bet Gadya" (Yer. Soṭah ix. 13) or "Bet Guriyya" (Sanh. 11a).

Though ten parasangs distant from Jerusalem the people of Jericho could hear on Yom Kippur the Sacred Name pronounced by the high priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, and the daily closing of the large gate of the Temple (Yoma 39b; Yer. Suk. v. 3). It is said (Ab. R. N., Text B, ed. Schechter, 53b) that in Jericho could be heard the singing of the Levites and the sound of the horn and trumpet. The fragrance of the incense burned at Jerusalem pervaded Jericho and rendered perfume unnecessary for its women's toilet (Yoma l.c.; Yer. Suk. l.c.; Ab. R. N. l.c.).

  • Büchler, Die Priester und der Cultus, pp. 161 et seq., Vienna, 1895;
  • Neubauer, G. T. pp. 161 et seq.
S. S. M. Sel.
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