Jericho called “fragrant place” is also known as the City of Palms (Deu. 34:3). It is claimed to be the oldest city in the world, settled about 8000 BCE. Actually Babylon in Iraq where the Tower of Babel was built will be the oldest (Gen. 11). Jericho, because of its strategic location, was destroyed and rebuilt 23 times! There are actually three Jerichos. The Jericho, mentioned in the Old Testament is sited at Tel es-Sultan (a 400m long mound arising 15m from the bedrock), the New Testament Jericho which was built by Herod the Great as a winter palace about a mile south of the OT site. Modern Jericho, which we visited includes the other two Jericho and is presently under Palestinian control.
The Old Testament Jericho was the first city to be taken by the invading Israelites led by Joshua (Num. 22:1; 26:3, 63). Joshua sent spies to reconnoiter the land and the city. Rehab the harlot took them in and later engineered their escape. For her cooperation she and her family were spared when Israel destroyed the city and put its inhabitants under the ban (Jos 2, 6). The fall of the city itself occurred after the Israelites had marched around it in silence once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. Then when the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted, the walls collapsed. During my visit there, the guide suggested that the walls are Jericho were made of two layers-one upon another. The lower layer is of rocks and upper is of mud. Hence when the walls collapsed, it was the mud wall which did and hence the Israelites ‘went up’ to enter Jericho.
So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. NASB
Other biblical facts about OT Jericho are:
Joshua laid a curse on anyone who might rebuild Jericho (6:26), which was fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 when Hiel rebuilt it at the cost of two of his sons about 500 years later.
In 2 Samuel 10:5 (see also 1 Chr 19:5) David had his humiliated soldiers wait there until their beards grew back.
Elijah was taken to up to heaven near Jericho (2 Kgs 2:4-18).
It served as a kind of headquarters for Elisha and apparently was where the “company of the prophets” lived (2 Kgs 2:5).
During the time of Ahaz a return of prisoners took place there (2 Chr 28:15).
When Jerusalem fell in 586 b.c. the reigning king, Zedekiah, fled to near Jericho but was caught by the Babylonians, who later put out his eyes at Riblah in Syria (2 Kgs 25:5; Jer 39:5; 52:8).
The last OT references to Jericho are in the census lists of Ezra (2:34) and Nehemiah (7:36).
Men from Jericho also helped rebuild the Jerusalem wall (Neh 3:2).
New Testament Jericho was build by King Herod at the mouth of the Wadi Qilt.
It is possible to sort out the healing of the blind men episodes in the synoptic Gospels by understanding that Jesus was passing from the site of ancient Jericho (Matt 20:29; Mark 10:46) and approaching Herodian Jericho (Luke 18:35).
MT 20:29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” :31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
LK 18:35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Jericho also figures in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37).
Jesus passed through Jericho (Luke 19:1) and ate with Zacchaeus, the tax collector.
Facing our Jerichos
Jericho must be a frightening sight to the nomadic Israelites when they crossed the Jordan to conquer the Promised Land. Its high walls and fortifications would make it seem impregnable. The warriors led by Joshua would have been trained in desert warfare but capturing fortified cities would be something new. Jericho would seem like an impossible obstacle to overcome. All of us have our Jerichos. It may be some obstacles in our past. Some of us may be meeting our Jerichos now.
How do we respond to our Jerichos? Do we set forth to stormed its fortified walls? Or do we stand before its gates and tremble and worry? Do we withdraw, rationalising that wandering in the desert is preferable to dying while trying to destroy our Jerichos. The OT narrative of how the frightened Israelites captured and destroyed Jericho (Jericho is one of the three cities that God decreed should be destroyed by fire) is interesting. There were no calls to build siege machines and ladders to storm the walls. It was just a call to obey the Lord and worship Him. And God will do all the work and He did. The walls fell down!
There will be many Jerichos in our lives that cannot be conquered by human might, influence, power, money or technology. Jesus’ recorded healings in Jericho involved giving sight to the blind. Maybe we are also blind. If God should open our eyes to His awesomeness, maybe then we will not be so fearful and bothered by our Jerichos.If God wills that our Jerichos fall, they will fall. It requires faith, worship and obedience. That and our willingness to ‘let God and let go’.