Chapter 3 - The Fortifications of Jericho
Now in Joshua 6, we finally come to Jericho itself:
Joshua 6:1: “Now Jericho was securely shut up, because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.”
*Ancient Jericho from above *Corresponding Map
Ancient Jericho is located at Tell es-Sultan, a mound scarred with the trenches of archaeological digs. It is next to a copious spring on the western edge of the Jordan Valley, just north of the Dead Sea (which was originally within the city-walls). The site’s excellent water supply and favourable climate (especially in winter) have made it a desirable place to live from Neolithic times, giving it the distinction of being called the oldest city in the world. At 670 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest city in the world. The site is strategically located. From Jericho one has access to the heartland of Canaan. Any military force attempting to penetrate the central hill country from the east, as the Bible describes Joshua and the Israelites doing, would have to first capture Jericho.
Jericho is described as a strong fortified city with walls and a gate, built on a hill, so that any attackers had to go up to take it (Joshua 2:5,7,15; 6:5,20). As the door to the whole Land of Caanan, it was most strongly fortified city. We also face our Jerichos - strongholds that the enemy has set up that stand in the way of us entering into our Land. They may seem impregnable, but our Commander Jesus, will show us how to bring its walls down and totally destroy it. It is not too hard for Him!
*The walls of Jericho. Archaeology confirms the Bible’s description of Joshua’s Jericho as a strongly fortified city, which was dramatically destroyed by its walls falling down, followed by a consuming fire. Joshua’s Jericho (1600 BC) was the Middle Bronze Age City, also called City IV. The remains of this Jericho (City IV) show an impressive defence (fortification) system.
The first line of defence was at the base of the hill. There was a deep trench with a 15-20 foot Revetment Wall of field-stones towering over it.
*The Stone Revetment Wall (at the base of the hill)
The first major excavation at Jericho was conducted by an Austro-German expedition under the direction of Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger from 1907 to 1911. They traced the Middle Bronze revetment wall around 3-quarters of the base of the tell. It was only when Dame Kathleen Kenyon excavated the site in the 1950s that the nature of the revetment wall was clarified.
*Map of Jericho showing the location of the Walls
When you go to Jericho today, you will not be able to see many of these things I am showing you in these photos. We are very dependant on photos taken soon after the excavations and the archaeologists reports. Then erosion sets in or the dig-site is covered up. Moreover because Jericho is effectively not under Israeli control, it is not cared for as well as it their other archaeological sites. The Palestinians have neither the motivation or the money to preserve the site. Nevertheless there is sufficient evidence unearthed by the digs to prove the Bible is true.
However a recent expedition on the South Side of Jericho unearthed part of the Revetment Wall. Archaeologist Bryant Wood who has done a lot of research on Jericho, was able to inspect it soon after the dig. He is standing next to it in the photo below:
*A portion of the recently unearthed Revetment Wall
On our recent trip to Jericho, we could still see the Revetment Wall on the South-side (see pictures below). This stone Revetment Wall was originally 20-foot high and constructed of field stones.
*The Revetement Wall at the South-side
These South-side Ramparts are located at the left hand side of this aeriel view (below):
*Guided Aerial View
Finally, here is another view of the South-side Ramparts as seen from below:
The Revetement Wall served a number of purposes:
(1). It surrounded the City at the base of the hill and provided a first line of defence for the city which was at the top of the slope. In front of it would have been a deep trench, which would have slowed down any assault on the lower slopes of the hill. Above the revetment wall there was a 35 degree slope going up to the top of the hill, so having climbed over the stone Wall, any attackers would have to climb this slope.
(2). So the second purpose of this stone Wall was to hold in place this artificial sloping rampart which led up to the top of the hill, about 30 feet higher:
*The Southern Ramparts
So once you were over this outer retaining Wall, you then had to ascend a steep slope to the top where there was another wall (the main city walls) of which only the foundations remain, which were 16 feet thick. The total width of the walled fortifications was 68 feet.
*The View from the base of the hill at the South
So first you have to climb over the stone wall in front of a trench and then climb up a 35 degree sloping earthen rampart to the top, while the defenders are shooting at you from a safe position from the walls right at the top of the hill (which of course are not there now, so you have to use your imagination).
The foundations of the Middle Bronze Wall at the top of the hill can still be seen - where you the ‘B’ in this picture (below), at the high point of the top of the mound today, which has been badly eroded by centuries of weathering.
However there is still part of the upper wall standing on the North Side, discovered by John Garstang (see pictures below). Dame Kathleen Kenyon proved that it belonged to an earlier time, the Early Bronze, but it was obviously still standing as part of the Middle-Bronze Wall system, and it remained standing even after the rest of the walls came tumbling down in Joshua’s time.
*Early Bronze Upper Wall
We saw last time how this confirms the Bible story perfectly, for the Bible says that the part of the wall where Rahab lived did not fall down, but rest of the walls fell down. God did this in order to spare her and her family, because of her faith. This is exactly what the archaeology proves. She must have lived on the North-Side!
*Early Bronze Upper Wall
More than that, at the northern end of Jericho, all 3 major archaeological expeditions to Jericho found remnants of a mud brick parapet wall on top of the Revetment Wall. At one point, it was preserved to a height of about 8 feet. So on top of the lower stone wall there was also a mud brick Parapet Wall all the way around the city, and Rahab’s house must have been part of this wall, for she let the spies down on a rope through her window over the wall, and then she hung the scarlet cord from the same window.
*The Walls of Jericho