Jericho, Wilderness of Judea, and Qumran

The famed city of Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world. By the time the Israelites watched its walls fall down under Joshua’s command (Joshua 6), Jericho was already thousands of years old. Located on a plain where the Jordan River enters the Dead Sea, the heavily fortified city stood guard over the entrance to Canaan from the southwest, which meant the Israelites had to conquer it in order to safely enter the Promised Land. With its hot desert climate and abundant springs, Jericho was known as the “city of palm trees” (Deuteronomy 34:3). Centuries later it was likely near Jericho (which had moved further south) where Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:26-34), and he also encountered Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and a blind man named Bartimaeus there (Mark 10:46-52). Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan tells of a man overtaken by robbers on the steep route descending from Jerusalem to Jericho (Luke 10:25-37). About ten miles southwest of Jericho lay the forbidding wilderness of Judea, where Jesus fasted and was tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1-13). The desert community of Qumran, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, was also located nearby.

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