OT Jericho

The emerald green of Jericho stands out in stark contrast with the barren white valley surrounding it. Palm trees, citrus trees, and banana trees grow together in groves in this natural hothouse, 812 feet below sea level—the lowest city on earth. Perhaps one could anticipate its richness, but not its size: after years of hearing how the Israelites walked around the city and gave the shout that felled the walls, perhaps you have imagined a large city with piles of huge stones lining its perimeter. You may be disappointed when you see a lumpy, light brown mound with holes in it and realize that this is Jericho.

What is visible of the ancient city is primarily a large mound made of eroded mud brick. In one of the large trenches made by one of the excavators, Kathleen Kenyon, you will see a round stone tower which has been dated to about 7000 B.C., making Jericho the oldest city in the world.

The earliest archaeological remains in Jericho have been dated to about 9000 B.C. Remains of floors of huts date to a few hundred years later when the village expanded around the area of the spring. Around 7000 B.C. the villagers worked together to construct a large fortification wall, with a large tower next to it. The tower, over 27 feet in diameter at its base, is preserved to a height of 25 feet. A staircase in the center provides access to the top of the tower.

NT Jericho

By the time Jesus and his disciples strolled into New Testament Jericho, the city sat at a distance from the Jericho of the Old Testament. And between these two sights set some blind beggars who panhandled the pilgrims bound for Jerusalem. The two cities, sitting side-by-side with the same name, explain why different Gospel accounts refer to Jesus meeting the blind man as he left Jericho and others expressed the event occurring as he entered Jericho.

After healing blind Bartimaeus, Jesus dined and spent the evening with Zacchaeus. Leaving Jericho, Jesus began his ascent into the hill country of Judea by starting up the Wadi Kelt, along the gorge that drains the hills around Jerusalem eastward into the Jordan Valley. Here Jesus would have passed between Herod the Great’s palace buildings, which the late monarch built for himself in Jericho so that he had a place to escape Jerusalem’s winters. The huge complex boasted large bath houses, assessable through a vast reception hall, complete with mosaics, frescoes, and gold and marble columns. The opulent palace straddled the ancient road Jesus travelled and connected to itself across a bridge that spanned the road. The buildings must have seemed striking to all who passed below - especially to disciples impressed with Herod’s handiwork.

When Jesus passed beneath the bridge between the buildings of Herod the Great, he must have considered this paranoid king who tried to kill him as a boy - but who instead succeeded in slaughtering all baby boys in Bethlehem. Ironically, King Herod died in this palace while the true King of Israel lived to pass between its walls on his way to lay down his life.