views updated May 08 2018


JERICHO (Heb. יְרִיחוֹ), said to be one of the oldest fortified cities in the ancient Near East. It is identified with Tell al-Sulṭā, near the ʿ Ayn al-Sulṭān spring (Spring of Elisha), about 1 mi. (1½ km.) N.W. of modern Jericho (Ar. Arīḥā) and 4½ mi. (7 km.) W. of the Jordan on the road leading to Jerusalem. The tel, covering an area of about 8½ acres (34 dunams) is 65 ft. (20 m.) high and 820 ft. (250 m.) below sea level. Its warm climate and abundant waters made Jericho an oasis attracting settlers from prehistoric times. In 1868 Charles Warren excavated at the site but had a negative opinion of its archaeological potential. The first systematic examination of Jericho was conducted by E. Sellin and C. Watzinger in 1901–09. Extensive excavations were subsequently carried out by J. Garstang in 1930–36 and K. Kenyon in 1952–61. Jericho was first settled sometime during the eighth millennium b.c.e. and the material remains are of the Natufian culture. One structure has been identified as a possible cult place. The dwellings were probably huts or tents of semi-nomads. Two Neolithic sub-periods are distinguished at Jericho; their main difference is the absence of pottery in the first and its appearance in the second. The pre-pottery Neolithic period (seventh millennium) is characterized by irrigation farming and the development of major communal activities represented by the building of features said to be fortifications – though whether these actually served as fortifications has recently been contested by Bar-Yosef – and curvilinear houses built of plano-convex bricks (flat with curved tops). The "fortifications" of the town consist of a stone wall, 6½ ft. (2 m.) thick, to which a stone tower was attached, 30 ft. (9 m.) high and 28 ft. (8½ m.) in diameter with an inner staircase leading to the top of the wall. For this phase radiocarbon (14C) tests of organic material established a date of 6850±210 b.c.e., i.e., between 7060 and 6640 b.c.e. Following the destruction of this town, a new one was built on its ruins and also enclosed by a stone wall erected on new foundations. Rectangular-shaped houses, of elongated mud-bricks, contained plastered floors colored red or yellow and burnished to a high polish. On several were found impressions of rush mats once spread on them. Several structures from this level may have served as public buildings or perhaps temples. Eleven building phases and 22 superimposed plastered floors were distinguished in this city. Throughout its long history, the settlers had no knowledge of the art of manufacturing pottery, but they possessed a highly developed standard of sculpture making. An outstanding example of their artistic skill is a flat head modeled from clay with shells inset for eyes in a unique style. Beneath the floor of one of the houses were discovered plastered human skulls with features molded into realistic human portraits. These skulls were probably connected with some cultic practice, perhaps ancestor worship. Finds such as flint sickle blades, querns, mortars and pestles, and various types of grain indicate that the occupants of this city were agriculturists. Radiocarcarbon (14C) tests from various levels gave dates of 6520±200 (6720–6320) and 5820±160 (5980 – 5660 b.c.e.). In the fifth millennium, newcomers seem to have arrived at Jericho. No building remains date to this time but they brought with them a new culture – the art of manufacturing pottery. The vessels of this Neolithic period pottery are handmade and coarse, but some are finer and decorated with a red, well-burnished zigzag design. The latest pottery from this period, decorated with incised herringbone patterns, parallels the Yarmukian culture of northern Ereẓ Israel. Judging from the many changes in the fortifications and the appearance of the remains, the Early Bronze Age (third millennium) was one of great upheaval for Jericho, and it was the scene of frequent wars and earthquakes. The walls were destroyed, repaired and rebuilt 17 times during this time. The thick walls, of unbaked bricks, built almost exactly over the Neolithic ones, had a semicircular tower. Round structures, whose purpose is unknown, were found, as well as a large rectangular tower, rectangular-shaped houses and tombs. Jericho flourished in this period and was destroyed by nomadic tribes which penetrated into Canaan in the Middle Bronze Age i (2100–1900 b.c.e.). The city was not rebuilt and the remains from this time are mainly a great number of tombs with weapons and pottery. In the Middle Bronze Age ii (19th–17th centuries b.c.e.) the city again became prosperous, and it was defended by an imposing system of fortifications consisting of a huge glacis of beaten earth on the slopes of the tell and supported at its foot by a massive stone retaining wall 20 ft. (6 m.) high. Many tombs were found outside the city with rich offerings in alabaster and bronze, scarabs and jewelry, as well as wooden objects and reed mats and baskets which are rarely preserved in Israel. The city was probably destroyed by the Egyptians; from the period of the latter's rule of Canaan (15th–13th centuries) little remained at Jericho, but it is clear that the city was inhabited to a certain degree in the 13th century. This was the city that was said to have been encountered by the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land and whose conquest was essential for their advance into the interior of the country. Joshua sent two spies to investigate the city which the Bible describes as walled (Josh. 2:1). It was not captured in battle but by divine command: the Israelites were to encircle the city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day and then to the blare of trumpets, and at the sound of a great shout the wall of the city fell and it was burnt. The city and all that was in it were consecrated to the Lord and only Rahab, the harlot, who had hidden the messengers, and her household were saved (Josh. 6). However, in the excavations at Jericho, no fortification was found which could be attributed to the Canaanite city captured by Joshua (see the debate between Bienkowski and Wood for different opinions). To resolve this discrepancy, some scholars suggest that the mud-brick wall was washed away by rain and erosion during the long period that it stood in ruins. Others maintain that the Canaanite city did not possess its own wall but reused the wall of the earlier city, and still others consider the biblical tradition to be an etiological story invented to explain the destruction of the earlier city. At all events, the archaeological evidence does not help establish an exact date for the Israelite conquest of Jericho. The Bible contains many references to Jericho in the Israelite period (12th–6th centuries). The city was included in the territory of Benjamin (Josh. 18:21) and, after Joshua's conquest of the city and his curse against anyone rebuilding it (Josh. 6:26), it apparently remained uninhabited as no remains from the 12th century were found. The Bible records the capture of "the city of palm-trees" by Eglon, king of Moab (Judg. 3:13). Evidence was found of a small settlement dating to the end of the period of the Judges and the beginning of the monarchy. A large public building of four rooms which was probably a royal storehouse is attributed to the tenth century b.c.e., i.e., the time of David. On their return from the Ammonite king, David's messengers remained at Jericho until their beards grew again (ii Sam. 10:5). The city was rebuilt by Hiel, the Bethelite, in the days of Ahab, and for this act he was revenged by the fulfillment of Joshua's curse (i Kings 16:34). Some building remains from this time were found. The prophets Elijah and Elisha lived there (ii Kings 2:4, 18–22) and the Judahite prisoners captured by the Israelites in the time of Pekah were returned to the "city of palm-trees" (ii Chron. 28:15). The city expanded considerably at the end of the Israelite period (seventh, sixth centuries) but it remained unfortified and unimportant up to its destruction by the Babylonians in 587 b.c.e. The city was resettled by 345 Babylonian exiles (Neh. 7:36) and they participated in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (3:2). A small settlement existed there in the post-Exilic period. Jar handles inscribed "Yehud," the Aramaic name of the province of Judea under Persian rule, indicate that Jericho was included in the Judean state. On one handle, after the name "Yehud" appears "Urio"; he was apparently the official in charge of the fiscal affairs of the state. Gabinius made it the seat of one of his councils (synhedria) when he reorganized Judea into five districts. Archaeological remains of the Hellenistic and Roman town of Jericho have not yet been identified, but Hasmonean and Herodian palaces have been uncovered further west at Tulū'l Abu al- ʿ Alāyiq where Wadi al-Qilt enters the Jordan Valley. Remains of imposing structures constructed by Herod were found during excavations conducted at the site by E. Netzer between 1973 and 1983. Jericho possessed vast groves of dates and persimmons. Jericho itself was destroyed during the Jewish War (66–70 c.e.) and military installations were again built there at the time of Hadrian. Jericho continued to be occupied at the time of the Bordeaux pilgrim (333 c.e.). In the Byzantine period Jericho moved about 1 m. (1½ km.) east to its present location. Near the city were remains of a seventh-century basilical-shaped synagogue. It was oriented toward Jerusalem and had a mosaic pavement decorated with a menorah, the inscription "peace on Israel," and a memorial inscription in Aramaic.

Jericho is mentioned in the Onomasticon of Eusebius (fourth century) and was depicted as a flourishing city on the Madaba Map (sixth century) where the well, which supplied the ancient city with water, is shown as a church and called the "Spring of Elisha" (τὸ τ[οῦ] άγι[οῦ] ʾ Ελισαίου). This according to tradition was the site of the story of Elisha in the Bible (ii Kings 2:19–22) who was called upon to deal with the purification of the contaminated spring by casting a vessel with salt into the waters. According to Josephus, Elisha "went out to this spring and cast into the stream an earthen ware full of salt, and then, raising his righteous right hand to heaven and pouring propitious libations upon the ground, he besought the earth to mollify the stream and to open sweeter channels…" (Wars, 4:460–65). The spring is known today as Ayn al-Sulṭān. It seems that by the seventh century Jericho was again in ruins but Jewish refugees from the tribe of Banu *Nadir fled there from before Muhammad. A new synagogue arose on the site of the Byzantine one and the Masoretes mention a "Jericho Codex" existing there. With the Islamic conquest, a palace was built in 724 c.e. at Khirbat Mafjar nearby ("Hisham's Palace"). Excavations in 1935 by R.W. Hamilton brought to light beautiful mosaics and carvings there. By 891 Jericho was the district capital of the Ghauer (cleft of the lower Jordan; Ya ʿ kūbī, 113) and by the early Middle Ages was important for the production of indigo and sugar cane (Yākūt, 3:823, 913). It was captured by the Crusaders in 1099 and used by Raymond iv, count of Toulouse, as an encampment when his rival Godfrey de Bouillon gained Jerusalem. Queen Melisande endowed the whole of Jericho and its surrounding lands to her newly established convent of St. Lazarus (at Bethany) in 1147 and fortified Jericho with a tower. It was recaptured by Saladin without a struggle in 1187. The present Jericho is on the site of the Crusader town. Close by is the site of ancient *Dok, on the summit of which is the Byzantine Monastery of the Temptation (Qarantal) where Jesus was said to have fasted for forty days and nights (cf. Math. 4:1–5; hence its medieval name, Mons Quarantana). The Knights Templar built a fortress on the summit, called Castellum Dok, and the monastery was granted the tithes of Jericho city and the rights of the sugar mills in 1136. At the foot of the hill are the remains of three Crusader sugar mills (one nearly intact) which were referred to as early as 1116. They were driven by water systems originally built by Herod and repaired by the Crusaders. Nearby a Crusader building for boiling the sugar is in a good state of preservation. The town itself was practically uninhabited from then until the 19th century.

[Nachman Avigad /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]

Modern Jericho

In the last two centuries, Jericho's population figures greatly fluctuated. In 1840 the troops of the Egyptian Governor Ibrahim Pasha razed the town before leaving the country. Jericho was again destroyed in a conflagration (1871). In 1918 Allenby secured the eastern front of the allies by the capture of Jericho from the Turks. From the beginning of the 20th century, the town expanded and in the 1940s had about 3,000 inhabitants. Included in Jordanian territory after the Israel *War of Independence (1948) the town suddenly grew when camps of Arab refugees from Israel were set up there and in the vicinity. The occupation of Jericho and the nearby Jordan banks and bridges on June 7, 1967, by Israel troops practically concluded the *Six-Day War fighting on the West Bank. Along with tropical, irrigated oasis-type farming (with date palms and pomegranates prominent, to which bananas, citrus, fodder crops, and certain tropical species, were later added), winter tourism and recreation developed, particularly from the 1950s, as an additional source of income. While shortly before the Six-Day War the Jordanian authorities estimated the population of Jericho and its surroundings at a total of 80,000, the 1967 Israel census indicated 6,837 persons in the town proper, of whom over 90% were Muslims, and less than 10% (539) Christians; within the municipal confines, 1,619 lived in a refugee camp. The surrounding area contained 2,000 inhabitants. Most refugee camps were abandoned during the fighting of June 1967 and their inhabitants crossed the Jordan River. By the end of 1967, the number of inhabitants had further decreased. In 1994 it became the first West Bank town to be handed over to the *Palestinian Authority by Israel in the framework of the Declaration of Principles (see *Israel, State of, under Historical Survey), and subsequently served as a detention area for the Palestinian prisoners released to the Authority by Israel. In 1997 the population of Jericho included 14,674 residents, among them 43.6% refugees.

Two and a half mi. (4 km.) east of Jericho a 2,000-acre farm school for refugee boys and orphans was established in 1951 and directed by the Palestinian Arab leader Mūsā al- ʿ Alami. Its maintenance was aided by the Ford Foundation and other international bodies. The school utilized a method, developed before 1948 by the kibbutz *Bet ha-Aravah, of reducing the high salt content of the soil by flushing it with sweet water.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]


E. Sellin and C. Watzinger, Jericho (1913); J. Garstang, The Story of Jericho (1948); Kelso and Baramki, in: aasor, 19–30 (1955); Pritchard, ibid., 32–33 (1958); H.H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (1958); K.M. Kenyon et al., Jericho, 2 vols. (1960–65); Aharoni, Land, index; em, 3 (1965), 839–60; Press, Ereẓ (1952), 459–62; eḥa, 1 (1970), 243, 259; G. Le Strange, Palestine Under the Moslems (1940), 1855; M. Benvenisti, The Crusaders in the Holy Land (1970), index; S. Runciman, History of the Crusades, 3 vols. (1951–54). add. bibliography: K.M. Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho (1957); O. Bar-Yosef, "The Walls of Jericho: An Alternative Explanation," in: Current Anthropology, 27 (1986), 157–62; P. Bienkowski, "Jericho in the Late Bronze Age (1986); idem, "Jericho Was Destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age Not in the Late Bronze Age," in: Biblical Archaeology Review, 16:5 (1990), 45–46, 69; B.G. Wood, "Dating Jericho's Destruction: Bienkowski Is Wrong on All Counts," in: Biblical Archaeology Review, 16:5 (1990), 45, 47–49; Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991); H.J. Franken, In Search of the Jericho Potters (1974); P. Dorrell, "The Spring at Jericho from Early Photographs," in: Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 125 (1993), 95–114; E. Netzer, The Palaces of the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great (2001).


views updated Jun 11 2018


In the Bible, Jericho is chiefly famous as the first city captured by the Israelites at the time of the conquest of Palestine during the last quarter of the 13th century (12201200) b.c. Two Old traditions that center around the Benjaminite sanctuary at Gilgal are intertwined in the story of Jericho's fall before Joshua's army (Jos4.136.26). The narrative receives some epic coloring and establishes a parallel with the Exodus from Egypt. It could well be that the Jericho of Joshua's day was little more than a strong fort [see joshua, son of nun]. In Old Testament times Jericho does not appear again as an important town, although it is occasionally mentioned.

Several incidents in our Lord's life are associated with Jericho. The jordan ford where He was baptized is not far from the town (Mt 3.56). Jericho also figures in the stories of Bartimaeus (Mk 10.46) and of Zacchaeus (Lk 19.1), and in the parables of the gold pieces (Lk 19.11) and of the good Samaritan (Lk 10.30). Jericho is called the "city of palm trees" in Dt 34.3; Jgs 1.16; 3.13. The root meaning of the word Jericho, however, is perhaps connected with yr, "moon," i.e., sanctuary of the moon-god.

Site. Jericho is situated about six miles north of the north end of the Dead Sea and five miles west of the Jordan River. It is the earth's lowest town, lying some 825 feet below sea level. Jerusalem is about 17 miles northeast and some 3,200 feet above Jericho's mounds.

Jericho has a series of sites, for the location of the city has changed after sieges, earthquakes, and other catastrophes. Modern Jericho, the small Arab town of er-Rīā, was also the Jericho at the time of the Crusaders. It is now a thriving municipality and, with its orange and banana groves, a fruitful cultivation center, but has little to interest the Bible student.

Tell es-Sulān, one mile northwest of er-Rīā, is the site of Old Testament Jericho. The large (six-acre) tell is adjacent toAin es-Sulān, a copious water supply still known as the fountain of Elisha (2 Kgs 2.1922) and fertilizing a rich oasis in the dry 14-mile wide plain of the Jordan Valley.

Square in the path of any invader of the hill country from the southern portion of the Jordan Valley, Jericho was a city of great strategic importance, a key defense position for the western section of the plain. In the background the hills of the western highlands rise sharply, the 1,500-foot ridge called the Mount of Temptation hardly one mile away. These are the hills where Joshua's spies hid (Jos 2.22). Forbidding as they appear, they are actually cut by hidden wadies giving access to the interior plateau of Palestine. Jericho thus controlled the access to the hill country from Transjordan.

Archeology of Old Testament Jericho. During the first part of the 20th century three major archeological expeditions investigated Tell es-Sulān. The latest (195258) and most important was conducted by Miss Kathleen M. Kenyon, director of the British school of archeology in Jerusalem. The work of the excavators has shown that Jericho was founded in the latter part of the New Stone Age (c. 7800 b.c.) before the invention of pottery. Jericho is thus the oldest settlement yet found in the Near East and an important element in the history of civilization.

Miss Kenyon's most remarkable find was a group of seven portrait skulls. These are actual human skulls on which the features of the face have been modeled in plaster. The eyes were inset with shells with slits representing the pupils. The heads have an astonishingly lifelike appearance and are perhaps the portraits of important leaders or venerated ancestors. They must be placed among the earliest examples of human art, being clay modeled portrait busts of individuals who died 7,000 years ago.

The most surprising result of Miss Kenyon's work has been the discovery that virtually nothing remains of the site from the late Bronze period (15001200 b.c.), which includes Joshua's time. The mound has suffered such extensive denudation of its upper strata through erosion and human depradations that almost all remains later than the third millennium have disappeared from its top. The two walls that preceding archeologists believed were ruins dating back to Joshua's time are now known to date back to the third millennium and to represent only two of some 15 different walls of that age. There is, however, evidence at bethel, Lachish, Debir, and Hazor of their destruction during the 13th century b.c., which agrees with the hypothesis that the Israelite conquest was in progress at that time.

Beneath the mud houses and tents of the large Arab refugee camp that is now north of the old Jericho mound lies the ancient cemetery area. A number of Middle-Bronze-Age (20001500) tombs were explored, some of them dating back to the 17th century b.c. Some of the objects placed with the deceased are in an amazing state of preservation and offer good evidence for the culture of these people living at the time of the Biblical patriarchs. Of particular interest are some human skulls 3,500 years old, with the desiccated brain shriveled to the size of a walnut, but with all its convolutions still plainly to be seen.

Archeology of New Testament Jericho. The Jericho of New Testament times (Tulūl Abūl-Alāyiq), through which our Lord often passed en route to Jerusalem, is situated about two miles south of Old Testament Jericho and one mile west of the modern town. Much of it was built by Herod the Great who died here in 4 b.c. The mound is located at the entry of Wadi Qelt into the Jordan Valley. The presence of an abundant waterway from the wadi along with the amenities of the winter climate made it a favored spot. It was a magnificent Roman style city with pools, villas, a hippodrome, and a theater. Parts of an elaborate building with a great terrace-façade in Roman style opus reticulatum were excavated and may be Herod's palace. This particular type of construction, made by setting small square pyramidal stones into plaster, gives the appearance of a net (hence its name) and is characteristically Roman of that period. It bears witness to the international culture that was then Palestine's.

Bibliography: l. hennequin, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 3:410414. k. m. kenyon and d. tushingham, "Jericho Gives up Its Secrets," National Geographic 104 (1953) 853870. k. m. kenyon, "Ancient Jericho ," Scientific American 190 (1954) 7683; Digging up Jericho (New York 1958). r. north, "Les Murs de Jericho," Bible et Terre Sainte no. 14 (1958) 1017. j. b. pritchard et al., The Excavation of Herodian Jericho (1951) (Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 3233; 1958).

[e. lussier]


views updated May 21 2018


Modern Palestinian oasis town, resting on the ruins of the ancient city.

Jericho dates archaeologically to about 9000 b.c.e. It is best known from the Bible as the city conquered by Joshua (c. 1400 b.c.e.) leading the Hebrew tribes and as the site where Zacchaeus spoke with Jesus from a tree.

Jericho is about 15 miles (22.5 km) northeast of Jerusalem, and some 825 feet (250 m) below sea level. The 2003 population estimate was 19,140 (not counting the Palestinian refugee camps). After the Ottoman Empire was defeated and dismembered in World War I, Jericho became part of the British mandate over Palestine, which began in 1922. The town became a winter resort. When Israel became a state in 1948, Jericho fell under Jordanian rule after the first ArabIsrael War. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency built three large Palestinian refugee camps near it and, shortly before the ArabIsrael War of 1967, the population of the city and the camps was estimated at 80,000. Almost all the inhabitants of those refugee camps became refugees yet again in 1967, crossing the Jordan River into Jordan. On 13 September 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed an agreement under which Jericho, along with the Gaza Strip, became an area of Palestinian autonomy beginning in 1994.

see also arabisrael war (1948); arabisrael war (1967); palestine; palestine liberation organization (plo).

benjamin joseph


views updated Jun 11 2018

Jericho Ancient city of Palestine, on the West Bank of the River Jordan, n of the Dead Sea. It is one of the earliest known sites of continuous settlement, dating from c.9000 bc. According to the Old Testament, Joshua captured Jericho from the Canaanites (c.300 bc). The city was destroyed and Herod the Great built a new city to the south. In 1993, following the Israel-PLO peace agreement, Jericho was selected as the centre for Palestinian self-rule. It lies in an agricultural area, producing citrus fruit and dates. Pop. (1997) 32,713.


views updated May 23 2018


City in the West Bank, situated at the northern end of the Dead Sea. Considered to be the oldest city in the world, Jericho (Ariha, in Arabic) is 825 feet below sea level. According to Biblical tradition, the city was conquered by the Hebrews under Joshua in the twelfth century b.c.e., through the power of a shofar sounded by priests. After the signature in Washington on 13 September 1993 of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, Jericho became the first "autonomous" Palestinian city.

SEE ALSO West Bank.


views updated May 11 2018

Jericho a town in Palestine, in the West Bank north of the Dead Sea, which has been occupied from at least 9000 bc. According to the Bible, Jericho was a Canaanite city destroyed by the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land; its walls were flattened by the shout of the army and the blast of the trumpets.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Jericho (modern Tell esSultan). Ancient city which (according to the account in Joshua 6) succumbed to the conquest of Joshua and the Israelites with a dramatic fall of the walls at the sound of the trumpets, and with a complete destruction.