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
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
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
"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
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
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.
Michael S. Sanders