Deep in the Syro-African rift valley, at almost 900 feet below sea level, lies this Palestinian Arab city, the Biblical "city of palm trees" (Deuteronomy 34:1-3). It owes its long existence in part to an excellent spring (4.4 cubic meters per minute). At one time purified by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2:19-22), the spring lies just east of the tell. About nine thousand years ago a flooding wadi passed nearby, depositing silt each winter, thus replenishing the soil. 

The combination of water, fertile ground and high heat makes it possible to grow tropical plants here. Today one sees papaya, mango, bananas and citrus, including pomelo. In the Roman period, the Jewish inhabitants grew spices and perfumes, including the balsam shrub, from which they manufactured a perfume of great aphrodisiac power whose secret, for better or worse, has been lost. The Hasmonean, followed by Herod, were eager to grow these plants, so they harnessed additional springs in the river beds to the west, leading the waters onto the plain. They thus turned the city into a garden which, Josephus tells us, was eight miles long and more than one wide. Jericho must have been an aromatic place: its Arabic name, ariha, means "scent." 

In addition to its natural graces, the city also had a good commercial position on the southernmost of the three major link roads between the international trunks. Of all the links, this Gezer-Jericho road permitted the quickest access to the King's Highway at Heshbon 20 miles east. The city also sat on a north-south route stretching down the Jordan Valley. And once Jerusalem was established as a capital, anyone coming from the east would likely approach it through Jericho -- as Jesus did (Luke 19:1).

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(r), (c) Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. (

© 2003 Near East Tourist Agency (NET)
Text © 2003 Stephen Langfur