Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
THE ABC OF DESTRUCTION: JERICHO AND TROY

THE MOST famous of all walls were those of Jericho (now called Eriha), and it is probably not just accidental that this coincides with two other facts: that Jericho, ever since it was excavated in 1956, has been considered the oldest settlement resembling a city, and that death and destruction are the first things we hear about this city in the Bible. Burning, pillaging, and massacre are as much part of the city as the walls.

The migration of the Israelites into the Holy Land about 1200 B.C. was threatened with failure by the walls of Jericho. Jericho was an oasis by the river Jordan, not far from the Dead Sea, 1,150 feet below sea level -- a verdant speck in a desert of chalk, towered over by barren mountains. One of the mightiest bulwarks of Canaan, Jericho at the same time was the roadblock at the entrance to the land where milk and honey flowed -- historically, therefore, a strip of land which the nomadic tribe of the Israelites wanted to take away from its owners, in order to be able to settle down and to farm the land. We have already seen that this situation was typically one that led to the building of cities.

Any attempt to take Jericho by storm must have seemed utterly hopeless. The outer wall is 6 feet 6 inches thick and almost 33 feet high. Ten to 13 feet inside of this is a second wall 11 feet 6 inches thick. The fortification encircles a minute city approximately 590 feet in diameter. Here only the king, the patrician families and the wealthy tradespeople lived, while the rest of the population dwelt in mud huts outside the walls. The Bible reports:

Now Jericho was straitly shut up, because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once: thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.

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