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Hiel's Lesson At Jericho
by Wayne Blank
The original Jericho was located about 5 miles / 8 kilometers west of The Jordan River, and 7 miles / 11 kilometers north of The Dead Sea. At approximately 800 feet / 240 meters below sea level, it has a tropical climate with intense heat in the summer. It had many date-palm trees, which contributed to its also being known as the City of Palms (Deuteronomy 34:3). It was located about 1 mile / 1½ kilometers northwest of the modern-day city of Jericho.
In its day, Jericho was the most important Canaanite fortress city in the Jordan valley. It was a stronghold that found itself directly in the path of the advancing Israelites, who had just crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 3:1-17).
Modern archaeology has verified every word of The Bible account, right from the fallen walls, to the ashes of stored grain - everything was destroyed and burned, except for the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron that were permitted to be put into the treasury. (Joshua 6:24)
Jericho was destroyed primarily because, while under Canaanite occupation, it would have (as it does again today) hindered their control of all of the Promised Land that God had deeded to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob long before - Dan to Beersheba, the Jordan to the Mediterranean, every last square inch.
The manner of its destruction, immediately after crossing the Jordan, and with total annihilation, may have been a psychological tactic aimed at the very formidable Canaanite forces that remained throughout the land. Seeing a high-ranking leader go down is very devastating to morale, and Jericho was most definitely a leader that went down very hard. It certainly worked on the minds of the Gibeonites, who soon thereafter surrendered without a fight (Joshua 9:3, 21).
After its destruction, Jericho was put under a curse by Joshua: "Cursed before The Lord be the man that rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his first-born shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates." (Joshua 6:26 RSV).
The city remained a ruin for over 400 years, before being rebuilt by Hiel of Bethel in the time of King Ahab. But, guess what? "In his days 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 Segub, according to the word of The Lord, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun." (1 Kings 16:34 RSV)