Jericho in the Old Testament
The geological situation sheds great light upon the capture of the city of Jericho by Joshua (Josh 6). If the city was built as we suppose it to have been, upon the unconsolidated sedimentary deposits which accumulated to a great depth in the Jordan valley during the enlargement of the Dead Sea, which took place in Pleistocene (or glacial) times, the sudden falling of the walls becomes easily credible to anyone who believes in the personality of God and in His power either to foreknow the future or to direct at His will the secondary causes with which man has to deal in Nature.
The narrative does not state that the blowing of the rams' horns of themselves effected the falling of the walls. It was simply said that at a specified juncture on the 7th day the walls would fall, and that they actually fell at that juncture. The miracle may, therefore, be regarded as either that of prophecy, in which the Creator by foretelling the course of things to Joshua, secured the junction of Divine and human activities which constitutes a true miracle, or we may regard the movements which brought down the walls to be the result of direct Divine action, such as is exerted by man when be produces an explosion of dynamite at a particular time and place.
The phenomena are just such as occurred in the earthquake of San Francisco in 1906, where, according to the report of the scientific commission appointed by the state, "the most violent destruction of buildings was on the made ground. This ground seems to have behaved during the earthquake very much in the same way as jelly in a bowl, or as a semi-liquid in a tank."
Santa Rosa, situated on the valley floor, "underlain to a considerable depth by loose or slightly coherent geological formations, .... 20 miles from the rift, was the most severely shaken town in the state and suffered the greatest disaster relatively to its population and extent" (Report, 13 and 15). Thus an earthquake, such as is easily provided for along the margin of this great Jordan crevasse, would produce exactly the phenomena here described, and its occurrence at the time and place foretold to Joshua constitutes it a miracle of the first magnitude.
Notwithstanding the curse pronounced in Josh 6:26 the King James Version, prophesying that whosoever should rebuild the city "he shall lay the foundations thereof in his firstborn," it was rebuilt (1 Ki 16:34) by Hiel the Bethelite in the days of Ahab. The curse was literally fulfilled. Still David's messengers are said to have "tarried at Jericho" in his day (2 Sam 10:5; 1 Ch 19:5). In Elisha's time (2 Ki 2:5) there was a school of prophets there, while several other references to the city occur in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha (2 Ch 28:15, where it is called "the city of palmtrees"; 2 Ki 25:5; Jer 39:5; Ezr 2:34; Neh 3:2; 7:36; 1 Macc 9:50).
Josephus describes it and the fertile plain surrounding it, in glowing terms. In the time of Christ, it was an important place yielding a large revenue to the royal family. But the city which Herod rebuilt was on a higher elevation, at the base of the western mountain, probably at Beit Jubr, where there are the ruins of a small fort.
Jericho was the place of rendezvous for Galilean pilgrims desiring to avoid Samaria, both in going to and in departing from Jerusalem, and it has been visited at all times by thousands of pilgrims, who go down from Jerusalem to bathe in the Jordan. The road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho is still infested by robbers who hide in the rocky caverns adjoining it, and appear without warning from the tributary gorges of the wadies which dissect the mountain wall.
At the present time Jericho and the region about is occupied only by a few hundred miserable inhabitants, deteriorated by the torrid climate which prevails at the low level about the head of the Dead Sea. But the present barrenness of the region is largely due to the destruction of the aqueducts which formerly distributed over the plain the waters brought down through the wadies which descend from the mountains of Judea.
The ruins of many of these are silent witnesses of the cause of its decay. Twelve aqueducts at various levels formerly branched from the Wady Kelt, irrigating the plain both North and South. Remains of Roman masonry are found in these. In the Middle Ages they were so repaired that an abundance and variety of crops were raised, including wheat, barley, millet, figs, grapes and sugar cane.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain.