On the Jericho Road -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 12:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: On the Jericho Road
Author: Gary A. Byers


On the Jericho Road

Gary A. Byers

Herod’s palace complex on the north bank of the Wadi Qelt. Known today as Tulul Abu el-ʿAlayiq, it was Herod’s winter palace and the heart of New Testament Jericho.

In the same region, but not in the same location as Jericho of the Old Testament. New Testament Jericho was also associated with northern Jordan Valley’s oasis of palm trees. Utilizing both the ancient water source at Old Testament Jericho and new sources, it spread out across the Jordan Valley’s west bank. Centerpiece of the New Testament city was Herod’s royal palace.

About a mile and a half south of Old Testament Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), the oldest and lowest city in the world, is the heart of Jericho of the New Testament. It centered on a palace complex built by Herod the Great on both sides of the Wadi Qelt, the river bed which drains from the mountains around Jerusalem about 15 mi west. Known as Tulul Abu el-ʿAlayiq, it is situated in the Jordan Valley at the edge of the Judean mountains.

Old Testament Jericho was located next to a perennial spring, known today as Elisha’s Fountain (2 Kgs 2:18-22). In a region of minimal rainfall, Jericho was an oasis in a dry and barren wilderness (the “City of Palms”—Dt 34:3).

During the intertestamental period, Jericho moved off the tell and was probably located beneath the modern town. From here they would have continued to utilize Elisha’s Fountain. Cultivated land probably spread as far as the gardens and plantations surrounding the town today.

By the second century BC, the use of aqueducts became widespread in Palestine. During the Hasmonean and Herodian periods, they carried water from mountain wadi springs to the royal palaces at Jericho. It became known as a garden city, specializing in date palm and balsam cultivation. Economic development spurred the city’s growth and Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC) constructed the first royal palace in the area, on the northern bank of the mouth of the Wadi Qelt (Hachlili 1997: 16; Netzer 1993a: 690). The tropical summers and mild winters in the valley provided a striking contrast to the bone-chilling damp winter of Jerusalem, just 15 mi west, but 1,600 ft higher in altitude. The Hasmoneans considered it the perfect location for royal Jerusalem’s winter palace.

Hasmonean Jericho

The initial Hasmonean palace complex of mudbrick structures on the wadi’s north bank included one building 165 x 165 ft. with at least a partial second story, decorated with stucco and colorful frescoes, surrounded by a moat. Swimming pools, ritual ...

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