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  JERICHO Part III - The Biblical Account (b)

Last week we described how Jericho was a strongly fortified city at the time of the Conquest. It was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt if not by the Benjaminites then certainly by Eglon, King of Moab.

We hear no more about Jericho until the time of King David. What could possibly have happened to the city in the meantime.

At the end of the Book of Judges are a number of isolated stories which do not follow the context of the rest of the book. One of these concerns a Levite and a concubine from the town of Bethlehem-Judah, one of the Benjaminite towns.

Whilst it is a fascinating account of the morals or rather the immorality of the day, the full story has no place here. Suffice it to say that terrible things were done to the concubine of the Levite in the Benjaminite town of Gibeah.

The other tribes of Israel rose up against the town of Gibeah and the warriors of Benjamin decided to protect the town. The tribe of Benjamin could muster 27,000 fighting men against 400,000 that the rest of the tribes gathered together. Even so, the first three battles went in favor of the Benjaminites, such was their prowess. The forth and final battle however was a different story.

"There came against Gibeah, 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel and the battle was sore……..and the lord smote Benjamin before Israel and the Children of Israel destroyed of the Benjaminites that day 25,100 men, all these drew the sword………….but 600 men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon and abode in the rock Rimmon 4 months……….and the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast and all that came to hand; also they set ON FIRE ALL THE CITIES THEY CAME TO." (my emphasis) Judges 20:34-47

So Jericho was destroyed by fire a second time. That story is crucial because it is left out of every account of every archaeologist when describing the fires at Jericho. How easy it is to look at a concordance and not see the word Jericho in the above story and assume that nothing happened there at that time.

The Benjaminites were not totally destroyed at that time however as the rest of the tribes decided not to annihilate them completely. They allowed the 600 survivors to marry the virgins of Shiloh and any woman of Jabesh-Gilead that had not been killed.

So once more they settled in the towns and cities of Benjamin or which Jericho was one, but now the Benjaminites were completely depleted of power and numbers.

The question of course was at least a token presence kept at Jericho to warn of any Moabite threat. The Bible does not tell us but strategy would dictate that they certainly did.

In fact we have confirmation of at least a meager occupation from II Samuel which describes an Ammonite King, Hanun, humiliating the servants of Kind David by cutting off their beards. David ordered the servants to "tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown." II Samuel 5. He would hardly order his men to tarry at a complete ruin.

We would expect the importance of Jericho to increase in direct proportion to the Moabite/Edomite threat from across the River Jordan and the Bible tends to confirm this.

Thus under the United Monarchy, King David had subjected the Moabites to his rule ( II Samuel 8:2) and King Solomon continued and expanded the Israelite power. It was only under Jehoshaphat of Judah that the Moabites with the aid of the Ammonites could muster enough strength to revolt. (II Chronicles 20:1-23)

This attack had evidently been anticipated for some time because after Jehoshaphat had entered into a marriage alliance with Ahab, King of Israel (Samaria), he began to fortify all the cities of Palestine.

"In his (Ahab, a contemporary) day, Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his first born and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segum." (I Kings 16:34)

Thus the curse laid upon Jericho at the time of Joshua was finally fulfilled. It is this curse that has caused so much misunderstanding of the history of this important city. Because of it, the rebuilding of the city under Eglon King of Moab was entirely overlooked. Even the scribes try to disguise the rebuilding by referring to the city, not by its name but by the term "City of the Palms". But all the sources including Josephus are clear. What Hiel did was rebuild the city destroyed by the tribes of Israel when they attacked the cities of Benjamin after the occupation of Eglon.

That the rebuilding of Jericho by Hiel was successful is made clear by the fact that Moab and Ammon attacked Jehoshaphat from the south i.e. from Edom (II Chronicles 20:2) thus avoiding the direct route which would have gone by Jericho itself. Such was the strategic importance of Jericho.

The time of the Divided Kingdom was a time of fluctuating alliances as the power of Samaria in the North and Judah in the South constantly waxed and waned. Syria, a constant threat to the Northern Kingdom occasionally formed an alliance with the Kingdom of the South and it would be natural for the Northern Kingdom to re-establish alliances with its old ally Egypt first cemented at the time of Jeroboam who, if you will remember married into the Egyptian Royal family.

This would be an effective counterpoint to the alliance Syria made with Judah. As the strength of Judah compared with Samaria reached a climax after Jehoshaphat defeated the Moabites and Ammonites, it would be natural for the Kings of Samaria, Ahab and then Ahaziah to increase their contacts with the Egyptians as an insurance policy and we expect and hope to see evidence of such a link in the archaeology of Jericho soon after the rebuilding by Hiel.

Within 30 years however Shalmanezer III of Assyria was receiving tributes from King Jehu and the Egyptian influence was ended in the Northern Kingdom.

We thus have lots to look for in the archaeology of the site. We should be able to establish two things.

1) Does the archaeology confirm the above account?

2) Does it confirm the accepted chronology or the revised chronology?

We are all in for a tremendous surprise.

Stay tuned.

Any Questions?

Michael S. Sanders

Irvine 1998

 



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