ead sea

JERICHO A CITY OF INTRIGUE

 

What if Rahab was not a hooker as your Bible claims?  ( see Joshua 6:25)  Read on.

Holy land Guru  holyh land tours see this monastery on the mountain where tradition says Jesus was tempted by Satan

Monastery above Jericho on Mount of Temptation

 

Known as the City of Palms, Jericho is a welcome oasis in the Jordan valley with an historic water spring of Biblical note   ( See 2 Kings 2 where it is called the spring of Elisha the prophet who poured in salt and made this formerly brackish water sweet. You can still drink from that spring today some 2900 years later). That spring has provided water all the way back as far as recorded history and beyond.

Jericho

Jericho

 

Jericho is said to be the oldest continually inhabited city on earth and is located near where the Jordan River dumps into the Dead Sea at the lowest elevation on earth some estimated 1300’ below sea level and its history is told in both the Old and New Testament parts of the Bible.

Jericho appears first in the Biblical story at the time of the conquest of the promised land by the invading Israelite army under Joshua. This occurred about 40 years after the exodus from Egypt. This is the well known story of when its city walls fell down, as memorialized in the old spiritual “Joshua Fit the battle of Jericho and the Walls Came aTumblin Down”.

1000 years after that event  Jericho became the private estate of Alexander the Great .Some time later Mark Anthony of Rome then gained control of Jericho and  gave it to Cleopatra from whom Herod the Great then  leased it and built his great palace and a hippodrome there.

alexander the great

alexander the great

According to the Roman/Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Herod also died a terrible agonizing death in Jericho while plotting the death of the important men in every leading family in his realm.

Some thirty years after that, Jesus passing through Jericho, had an encounter with a remarkably short man called Zacchaeus under a sycamore tree.   If you happen to be  among the more gullible, the locals will show you that very tree as it stands alongside the main street of modern Jericho. We passed that tree  by when we were there last February without stopping. I always try to differentiate between the fanciful and the factual when my friends travel with me on a Holy Land Tour.

It was the famous British woman archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, who first extensively explored the ruins of this  site in the 1950s and she identified 20 layers of civilization dating back to well before the invasion of the army of Joshua.

I first went to Jericho in 1967 and was disappointed with what I found there.

Not sure what I expected to find, but I have since learned that there was certainly more there than what my untrained eyes saw.

I was surprised to see that Jericho was not all that large either.

And I had hoped to be able to detect evidence of the fallen walls from the time of Joshua.

Disappointed.

This taught me that the educated eye of the professional archaeologist is far superior to the untrained eye of the layman.

An archaeologist like Kenyon could look at the accumulated rubble and discern the different layers and what those now fallen stones had originally been.  She like all of us was intrigued by the story of Joshua and the fallen walls and she made an effort to find them.

KATHLEEN KENYON

KATHLEEN KENYON

 

The Biblical story found in Joshua 1-6 is fascinating especially when reread in a modern translation of the Bible such as the New Living Translation which I rather favor.

The account tells how, following the crossing of the Jordan River, (a sight we enjoy from afar, as did Moses,  when viewed from atop Mount Nebo in Jordan  across the river to the East when on our holy land tours).

Like any wise military commander, Joshua sent 2 spies in to Jericho to scope out the defenses of the city in advance of attacking it.

Those spies were unexpectedly protected by a woman called Rahab who resided there and who was either a prostitute or an inn keeper or both.

The Hebrew word “zonah” apparently could go either way.

I have often wondered what motivated Rahab to side with this invading force and thus enlist in the plot that would result in the certain destruction of  her neighborhood and all of her neighbors. Was it self preservation that motivated her or something bigger?

More on that to follow.

In the Biblical account (Joshua 1-6) we read that for 7 days the army, tribe by tribe, with the ark of the covenant surrounded by the priests, encircled the walls daily in total silence. With apprehension building, on the 7th day they encircled the city 7 times and then, as with  one voice, yelled at the top of their lungs and the priests simultaneously blew the trumpets and the walls came down and all but the family of Rahab were put to the sword.

What caused the collapse of the walls? I am always amused how skeptics, if they are forced by the evidence to accept the historicity of a weird or unusual event or seemingly supernatural occurrence, often try to provide a rational explanation for that event. The plagues of Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land during the exodus come to mind.

In the case of Jericho, some have suggested that sympathetic vibrations from the marching army of Joshua may have caused the collapse of the walls noting how armies, when they cross bridges, are always ordered to not march in lock step but to break stride for real fear that the simultaneous  steps of an army of thousands could cause structural failure of the bridge.

I don’t know what happened or what caused it. Guess it is enough to just conclude that God did it and He is not saying how.

And so what of this woman Rahab?

A recent issue of the Biblical Archeology Review has an article that caught my attention entitled “Was Rahab Really a  Harlot?” and I wondered what they would report.

Just who was this woman who was memorialized in such a marvelous way in both the Old and New Testament parts of the Bible.

Question: Prostitute? OR  Innkeeper? OR both?

And is it really all that important?

Answer: the Biblical Archeology article claims that the Hebrew word “zonah” that is translated as “harlot” is the same word that is translated as “inn keeper”.

So it seems that a bad translation of the Hebrew word “Zonah” may have needlessly besmirched Rahab’s good name for 3300 years.   Who’d a thunk it??!! Maybe time to think outside the box as they say?

Remember that those of us who believe in the inspiration of the Bible only attribute that quality to the original documents (called autographs, none of which exist) and not to the translations of the same.  So I am not troubled by possible errors in translation.

It all now makes sense to me that Rahab may have run a small hotel in Jericho. Doing so it would seem natural for her to take in 2 strangers and house them overnight as she is said to have done. And the local Jericho authorities would not be surprised that she would have guests as this must have been a common phenomenon. But they were concerned about these particular guests as they posed a risk to the city.

 Either “prostitute” or “inn keeper” fits this scene

And what about where she lived?

 Did she live IN the wall or ON the wall?

Makes an interesting difference to the archaeologists. The building of walled cities apparently went through an evolutionary process.

The oldest most primitive walls built around  cities then were of sold stone and a single thickness in nature.

The later more sophisticated walls like those to be viewed atop Masada, are called case mate walls and consist of double walls (inner and outer with a substantial space between) with a roof and with partitions every so often thus creating rooms within the parallel walls and so making the back wall of those rooms the actual outer wall of the city.

The earlier solid stone walls would not have had windows while the case mate walls would have had them and Rahab is said to have let the concealed spies down from a window by means of a rope in order to escape discovery and so this would seem to indicate that she lived in a house with such a case mate wall with a window and so could let them down to the ground undetected by anyone else. But some archaeologists have seized on this and date the use of case mate  type walls to a time later than Joshua and so conclude that this Biblical story is not accurate.

A moral dilemma for Rahab.

Rahab  lied. And she was praised in Scripture for doing so.

Dr Robert Grant the so called Holy Land Guru has been to the Middle East 125 + times over  rthe past 46 years and writes frequently about the Holy Land and takes friends there annually

Dr Robert Grant, aka The Holy Land Guru

When I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in the 1960s my favorite professor there was Dr. E J Carnell.

I remember well a class he taught on ethics and a  discussion of the issue of lying. An illustration was brought up that demonstrated the dilemma that we often encounter when we are faced by competing choices and we find that neither choice is free of deception.

But one could say, doesn’t the Bible charge us not to lie? After all it says “let your yea be yea and your nay be nay”.

An example was proposed of a World War 2 German family who were sheltering a Jewish refugee when the Gestapo arrived and demanded to know if there were any Jews there.

If they said “No” they would be lying but the Jew would be saved.

If they said “Yes” they would be truthful but the Jew would die.

Carnell described this as a “tragic moral choice” an idea that I still find helpful many years later.

Rahab faced just such a “tragic moral choice” and is lauded now for lying.

In fact she is mentioned  in the New Testament book of Hebrews (chapter 12) as an example of one of great faith and is also listed as an ancestor of Jesus.(Matthew 1:5) So if having a prostitute in the family line of Jesus has perplexed you perhaps this explanation resolves that issue. Was Rahab a franchisee for the local Motel 6 of her day??!!

In conclusion: I mentioned in an earlier posting how the archaeology game is often played.

It is often, of necessity, largely about the money.

Observe: If you are going to undergo the costly work of archeology you will need money and lots of it.

Question is: How do you get it?

Here is the game plan: If you are in this field and you want to gain fame and attract investors to fund your work then you get attention by either successfully challenging some accepted claim or by   conclusively confirming the validity of an already accepted claim.

The resulting attention brings the cash.

And so, in the often imprecise science of archeology, it is common to draw controversial conclusions while not having conclusive evidence to support those claims.

So it is not surprising to find some archeologists who now question the accuracy of the Bible account of the destruction of Jericho by Joshua and company, and some who even question the validity of the book of Joshua claiming that it is the product of an editor who lived some 400 years after the events recorded there.

Such claims used to bother me but no more.

Permission  to reprint granted with appropriate source credit.