Jericho PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
The Oldest City
Archaeological Debate
Mount of Temptation
2nd TestamentCity
Jericho Road
Deep in the Dead Sea Transform, at almost 900 feet below sea level, lies this Palestinian Arab city, the Biblical "city of palm trees" (Deuteronomy 34:1-3). It owes its long existence in part to the fact that nine thousand years ago a wadi passed nearby. The flash floods deposited silt each winter, replenishing the soil. In those early days of agriculture, farmers probably did not yet know about rotating crops or letting the land lie fallow. Ordinarily they would have had to move every decade or so. But the replenishment of the soil by nature allowed them to stay in one place.

View from Jericho to Mount Hermon

The combination of water, fertile ground and high heat makes it possible to grow tropical plants here. Today one sees papaya, mango, bananas and citrus, including pomelo. In the Roman period, the Jewish inhabitants grew spices and perfumes, including the balsam shrub, from which they manufactured a perfume of great aphrodisiac power whose secret, for better or worse, has been lost. The Hasmoneans , followed by Herod , were eager to grow these plants, so they harnessed additional springs in the river beds to the west, leading the waters onto the plain. They thus turned the city into a garden which, Josephus tells us, was eight miles long and more than one wide. Jericho must have been an aromatic place: its Arabic name, ariha, means "scent."

In addition to its natural graces, the city also had a good commercial position on the southernmost of the three major link roads between the international trunks. Of all the links, this Gezer-Jericho road permitted the quickest access to the King's Highway at Heshbon 20 miles east. The city also sat on a north-south route stretching down the Jordan Valley. And once Jerusalem was established as a capital, anyone coming from the east would likely approach it through Jericho - as Jesus did (Luke 19:1 ).