Story Of Jericho In The Bible

The story of Jericho in the Bible is one of the more famous stories in the Bible, even if we don’t fully understand all the details. So what is the story of Jericho in the Bible? What do we know about it? Once we trace where this was located, see some of the archaeological discoveries, and compare them to what we read in Joshua chapter 6, then we can understand this better.

Jericho, one of the oldest cities in human history and the first to be established by Adam’s son, was located in Northwest Jordan. The town was strategically vital because it had a spring that was critical for Jericho’s existence. However, what made Jericho special was not only the existence of this spring, but its fertility. The soil of Jericho has always been considered the most fertile land in Palestine – even more so than that of Gaza or Ashkelon. Now during the time when Joshua had been called to enter Canaan there was only one group living in Jericho. This group was small and basically unarmed – except for some minor tools used for farming. Jericho had one major obstacle blocking Israel from entering the city: A huge stone wall that encircled the city with a large two-branched gate at its center.

The book of Joshua has much to say about the city of Jericho, what we can find in the Bible about this place, and how its name is drawn from the river that can be found nearby. The book of Joshua, for those who don’t know, is the first part of the Hebrew Bible’s Deuteronomistic history (a history which ends with the books of Kings) and tells the story of Israel from her wilderness wanderings until shortly after a period known as the Conquest. This period is when Israel came into possession of all 12 tribes, their land inheritance was divided amongst them, God entered into a covenant with them and they were led by Joshua to the borders of Canaan.

Jericho was built by the Canaanites on the edge of their capital, Jericho. It was a city surrounded by thick walls because they were at war almost all the time. A great warrior named Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land and God gave them Jericho as their first conquest. The Israelites waited patiently for God to tell them when to attack. They camped just outside the city until God told them to march around it every day for six days. On the seventh day, they marched around seven times, blew their trumpets and shouted and then for some reason that is not clear in the Bible, they just rushed in and started fighting.

Story Of Jericho In The Bible

The battle for Jericho centers around the strange command for the people to begin marching around the city. For six days, the people silently march around the city. How this must have looked to the sentries atop the Jericho wall! On the seventh day, Israel marches around Jericho seven times, shouting out at the completion of the seventh trip. Miraculously, the walls of Jericho crumble, and Israel captures the city.

This event is significant for Israel. With the defeat of Jericho, their exodus is officially over. The Battle of Jericho means that God had brought Israel to the place of life and promise. Indeed, the battle also declares that, even within the boundaries of the Promised Land, God would continue to fight for them. The divine promise that “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Exodus 6:7) remained true.

Story Of Jericho In The Bible

Jericho is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world. In the Bible, Jericho is best known as the location of an astonishing miracle God performed. Jericho was the first city conquered by Israel after crossing the Jordan River and occupying the Promised Land (Joshua 5:13—6:23).

Jericho’s location was key to its significance. The city was situated in the lower Jordan Valley, just west of the Jordan River and about ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It sat in the broadest part of the Jordan plain more than 800 feet below sea level and nearly 3,500 feet below Jerusalem, which was only 17 miles away. This geographical detail explains why Jesus said in His parable that the good Samaritan “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho” (Luke 10:30).

In dramatic contrast to its desert surroundings, Jericho thrived as a fertile, spring-fed oasis. In the Old Testament, it was often called the “City of Palms” for its abundance of palm trees (Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 1:16; 3:13; 2 Chronicles 28:15). Strategically located as a border city, ancient Jericho controlled important migration routes between the north and south, and the east and west. Eventually, the town became part of the allotment of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:12, 21).

After the death of Moses, God selected Joshua, son of Nun, to lead the people of Israel. Under the Lord’s direction, they entered Canaan and began to take possession of the land. The first city standing in Israel’s way was Jericho, a secure fortress with high, formidable walls. Joshua sent spies to investigate the city. Rahab the harlot, knowing that Israel’s God was going to overthrow Jericho, hid the spies and later helped them escape (Joshua 2).

Before the battle of Jericho, God gave Joshua specific instructions for the men of war to march in silence around the city once each day for six days. The priests were to walk with them, blowing ram’s horns and carrying the ark of the covenant as a sign of God’s presence among them. On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times. At the appropriate signal, the priests were to blow their trumpets, and the people were to give a mighty shout. They did exactly as Joshua commanded, and on the seventh day the walls of Jericho crumbled. The soldiers went in and took the city, destroying it completely. Only Rahab and her family were spared.

As the first city to fall in the conquest of Canaan, the whole of it was devoted to the Lord (Joshua 6:17). The people of Israel were to take no spoils of war; Joshua gave a clear command that “all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury” (verse 19). In this way, Jericho was a “tithe” to the Lord who gave them the victory. God’s people were to honor Him with the firstfruits of the conquest. Achan violated this order and brought ruin on himself and his family.

After the destruction of Jericho, Joshua placed a curse on anyone who might rebuild the city (Joshua 6:26). Jericho remained unoccupied until the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, about 500 years later. Then Joshua’s word was fulfilled when Hiel of Bethel rebuilt the city, at the cost of the lives of two of his sons (1 Kings 16:34).

Jericho is mentioned briefly in the book of Judges, which says that Jericho served as a provincial outpost for Eglon the King of Moab who held Israel under tribute for 18 years (Judges 3:13). In 1 Chronicles 19:5, King David sent word for his mistreated delegates to remain in Jericho until their beards regrew. In 2 Kings 2:4–18, Jericho appears to have been the home of a “school of the prophets.”

Also reported at Jericho was Elisha’s miraculous purifying of a spring (2 Kings 2:19–22). During the reign of Ahaz, a group of prisoners was spared, clothed, fed, and cared for at Jericho (2 Chronicles 28:15). The final Old Testament mention of events in Jericho was the capture of King Zedekiah after fleeing the Chaldean army (2 Kings 25:2–7; Jeremiah 39:5; 52:8).

Ezra 2:34 and Nehemiah 7:36 report that the number of Jericho’s inhabitants after the return from exile under Zerubbabel was 345. These “son of Jericho” participated in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Jericho played a minor role in the ministry of Jesus. The Lord healed two blind men near the city of Jericho (Matthew 20:29–34). He also encountered Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, while passing through Jericho (Luke 19:1–10). When Jesus dined in the home of Zacchaeus, He was probably visiting one of the finest houses in Jericho. The gospels seem to indicate that Jericho, an affluent city in Christ’s day, had many beggars (Matthew 20:29–34; Mark 10:46–52; Luke 18:35–43).

The Jericho of New Testament times was built by Herod more than a mile to the south of the Old Testament location, at the mouth of the Wadi Qilt. Today, the modern city of Jericho includes both sites.

Leave a Reply