What is…

also known as: Yericho, Yerecho, Yerichoh

Hebrew: יְרֵחוֹ or יְרִיחוֹ

Ancient historical city

Jericho is a very ancient and important city located north of the Dead Sea in ancient Canaan (now Israel) not far from the Jordan River. It is mentioned by name at least 57 times in the Bible.

The first mention is in Numbers 22:1 when the Israelites “camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho” (NASB).

Modern Jericho with the Jordan River to the right—satellite view

There were primarily three different ancient Jerichos in near proximity, on three different sites in the area of modern Jericho:

  1. the Jericho at the time of Joshua at Tell es-Sultan
  2. the Jericho of Herod at Tulul Abu el-'Alayiq
  3. the Jericho of the Crusades

The modern Jericho dates from the time of the Crusades.

Jericho of Joshua’s day

The Jericho of Joshua’s day was a fenced city which Deuteronomy describes as “the city of palm trees” (Deuteronomy 34:3), located in the Jordan River plain of Jordan, near where the river was crossed by the Israelites (Joshua 3:16). The inhabitants of Jericho at Joshua’s time were generic Canaanites, according to our archaeological Team Member Associates for Biblical Research.

Satellite view of the archaeological mound excavation known as Tell es-Sultan containing evidence of many layers of habitation

Its site is near the 'Ein as-Sultan ('Ain es-Sultan), also called Elisha’s spring or fountain (2 Kings 2:19-22), about 5 miles west of the Jordan River.

Modern day map showing the location of the above mentioned spring in the Ein es-Sultan section of modern Jericho

Jericho was the most important city in the Jordan valley (Numbers 22:1; 34:15), and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was the key to Western Canaan.

In Joshua’s time, the city was given to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21).

This city was taken in a very remarkable manner by the Israelites (Joshua 6). God gave it into their hands. The city was “accursed” (Hebrew: herem, “devoted” to Jehovah), and accordingly (Joshua 6:17; compare Leviticus 27:28-29; Deuteronomy 13:16) all the inhabitants and all the spoil of the city were to be destroyed, “only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron” were reserved and “put into the treasury of the house of Jehovah” (Joshua 6:24; compare Numbers 31:22-23; 31:50-54).

Only Rahab “and her father’s household, and all that she had,” were preserved from destruction, according to the promise of the spies (Joshua 2:14).

Archaeological evidence of Jericho’s conquest by Israel

In one of the Amarna letters (cuneiform clay tablets discovered in Tell el-Amarna in middle Egypt), Adoni-zedec writes to the king of Egypt informing him that the 'Abiri (Hebrews) had prevailed, and had taken the fortress of Jericho, and were plundering “all the king’s lands.” It would seem that the Egyptian troops had before this been withdrawn from Canaan.

American Bible archaeologist Dr. Frederick Jones Bliss (1857–1939) found near the foot of the biggest mound above the Sultan’s Spring specimens of Amorite or pre-Israelitish pottery precisely identical with what he had discovered on the site of ancient Lachish. He also traced in this place for a short distance a mud brick wall in situ, which he supposed to be the very wall that fell before the trumpets of Joshua. The wall is not far from the foot of the great precipice of Quarantania and its numerous caverns, and the spies of Joshua could easily have fled from the city and been speedily hidden in these.

Christian Answers Team Member Associates for Bible Research (ABR) has worked on the archaeological evidence regarding the destruction of Jericho. ABR’s Dr. Bryant G. Wood (Ph.D.) had a major impact.

“Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated the site in the 1950s, said Jericho didn’t exist at the time of the Israelite conquest because it had been destroyed 150 years earlier. This conclusion was based on her interpretation of the pottery evidence. Bryant conclusively has demonstrated that Kenyon was wrong. Jericho actually was destroyed in about 1400 BC, the very time the Israelites burned the city according to biblical chronology! Bryant's results have shaken the scholarly community and received worldwide media attention. Before Bryant's work, scholars had written off the biblical account of the conquest of Canaan. His research has forced scholars to rethink their position on the historicity of the book of Joshua.” —Scott Lanser, Associates for Biblical Research

During the era of the Hebrew judges and kings

Jericho was inhabited in the time of the Judges (Judges 3:13; 2 Samuel 10:5). It is not mentioned again in Scripture until the time of David (2 Samuel 10:5).

Men of Jericho were among the captives who returned under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:34; Neh. 7:36).

Hiel the Bethelite attempted to make it once more a fortified city (1 Kings 16:34). Between the beginning and the end of his undertaking all his children were cut off.

New Testament Jericho

In New Testament times, Jericho stood some distance to the southeast of the ancient one, and near the opening of the valley of Achor. It was a rich and flourishing town, having considerable trade and was celebrated for the palm trees which adorned the plain around.

It was visited by our Lord Jesus Christ on his last journey to Jerusalem. Here he gave sight to two blind men (Matthew 20:29-34 LSB; Mark 10:46-52), and brought salvation to the house of Zacchaeus the publican ( Luke 19:2-10).

A Christian archaeological video describes this ancient city: “On the Promised Land: Crossroads of the World” (part of the Faith Lessons video series). “As Jericho was God’s first gift to the Jews in the land of Israel, we are to devote to Him our ‘first fruits’—the possessions and talents He has given each of us.”

More information

Article Version: August 13, 2021