Fed by abundant springs and close to the Dead Sea, Jericho is probably the oldest city in the ancient world, with archaeological discoveries on the tel going back between eight and ten thousand years. The readily available fruit of the oasis tempted the ancient nomadic hunter to settle. Trading the salt, without which man cannot live, from the Dead Sea, provided a source of wealth.
Jericho cable car over the Jordan Valley. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
The first recorded conquest of Jericho, the tel, was by the Children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua (Josh. 6:1-21) over three thousand years ago. Centuries later the city moved to its present place at the foot of the tel. Close by are the excavated remains of a Hasmonean and Herodian palace, including theatre and hippodrome, as well as a later one of the Arab Omayyad dynasty. Towering over Jericho is Mount Qarantal where Jesus was tempted by Satan (Mat 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13).
Jericho sits on the west bank of the Jordan River in the Palestinian Territories not far from the northern end of the Dead Sea and 10km from Jerusalem. The city is surrounded by a dry, arid environment but is inhabitable thanks to the abundant natural springs in the area. Jericho has had a long and colorful history. Jericho was occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 then fell under Israeli rule until 1994 when it became part of the Palestinian Authority West Bank. Thanks to Jericho’s good relations with Israel it is a popular tourist destination included in several tours.
Jericho is often called the Oldest City in the World and the Lowest City in the World. It is in fact one of the world’s oldest inhabited settlements and is located not far from the Dead Sea – the lowest point on Earth. Jericho has also been branded the City of Palms for the abundance of palms that grow in the area but also because Jericho is referred to as the City of Palms in the Bible (Deuteronomy 34:3).
Jericho in the Bible
In the Book of Joshua, we read of the Battle of Jericho when the Israelites came to conquer Canaan. The Israelite troops marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days. On the seventh day, Joshua’s army marched around Jericho seven times as seven Israelite priests blew on ram’s horns and the army shouted out. Miraculously the walls of Jericho fell.
In Luke 19:1-4 Jesus enters Jericho surrounded by adoring crowds. As he makes his way into the city a local tax collector called Zacchaeus wanted to get a better look at Jesus. Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus. When Jesus passed the tree he called out to Zacchaeus to join him. Jericho is also mentioned in Kings I 16:34 and in Mark 10:46-52 where Jesus cures a blind man.
Mt. Temptation - From Jericho, you can take a cable car to the summit of Mount Temptation. It was here that Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. It was also on this mount that the devil tried to tempt Jesus to forsake God. Once at the top of the mount visitors can see the Monastery of Temptation built into the hillside.
Tel es-Sultan - The ancient mound of Tel as-Sultan lies at the foot of Mount Temptation. It is an outstanding archaeological site where ancient Jericho settlements have been excavated dating back to 9000BC. The site includes a Neolithic tower and the oldest existing city walls. Alongside the archaeological site is Ein as-Sultan (the Spring of Elisha). This natural spring has supplied the city with fresh water for centuries and continues to do so.
Hisham’s Palace - The remains of this palace complex is a major Islamic archaeological site. At the excavation site, you can see the remains of the palace, bath complex, and agricultural estate dating back to the 7th century.
Sycamore Tree - Visitors can see the ancient sycamore tree climbed by Zacchaeus in the Bible. Today the tree stands in the gardens of the Russian Museum.