Oasis of Jericho looking east from the excavation site of the pre-Israelite city.


Large oasis near the west bank of the Jordan river six miles north of the Dead Sea. Watered by several large springs, the "city of palms" is one of the oldest cultivated spots on earth, with settlements dating back to 9,000 BCE. At 825' below sea level it is also the lowest city in the world. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem winds through the badlands of the Judean wilderness climbing more than 3,000 feet in less than 20 miles. 

Although excavations have unearthed extensive evidence of settlements at Jericho before 1400 BCE, wind, water & centuries of farmers removed any remains of the city conquered by Joshua ca. 1200 BCE as well as later Israelite settlements. During the Persian period [6th-4th c. BCE] Jericho was cultivated as a plantation for aromatic balsam wood. The Hellenistic rulers of Syria again fortified the city ca. 200 BCE. Later Hasmonean rulers of Judea built a large Greek style palace there, which was leveled by Herod & replaced by a huge 25 acre palatial winter resort that mimicked the estates of Augustus in Rome. Herod also constructed a stadium [hippodrome] & other Roman monuments in the city. Thus, in the early 1st c. CE Jericho was at the height of its splendor. During the Jewish-Roman war [66-70 CE], Vespasian made Jericho a Roman military base. Though not destroyed like Jerusalem or other centers of Jewish revolt, historic Jericho declined after the war & was eventually abandoned. The modern city was founded a mile to the east in the 5th c. CE.

blind beggar

References: Josephus, Antiquities 5.27-32, 77, 82;
                                                       14.408-411, 448, 454-458;
                                                       15.53, 96; 17.304, 340.
                  _____, War 1.120, 170, 299-302, 335, 407, 417-418, 437, 659-666;
                                      4.45-475, 486; 5.42, 69.
                  Josh 6.1-27; 2 Kings 2.1-22.
                  Mark 10:46-52 // Matt 20.29-34 // Luke 18:35-43.
                  Luke 19:1-10.

For further information about archaeological & historical evidence, see:

  • Rousseau, John J. & Rami Arav. Jesus & His World. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) pp. 132-136.

Other resources on line:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

Copyright 1999-2023 by Mahlon H. Smith
All rights reserved.

an American Theological Library Association Selected Religion Website
OCLC catalog no.: 62046512