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Herodian Jericho

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Here is where Jesus Healed Blind Bartimaeus

Location - Jericho

Map Coordinates - 31.851904, 35.436666

Merged Gospels story - 213

This is not the Old Testament Jericho that Joshua conquered, and it’s not modern Jericho. This is the Jericho that Jesus knew. The location is about one mile west of the modern city of Jericho, and it consists of a large but little-known tract of land that was once a bustling Jewish city in the first century. Herod the Great had built a winter palace here. It is also where Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus.


Blind Bartimaeus and his friend get the attention of Jesus.

These ruins are called Tulul Abu al-Alayiq, and it’s about 17 miles from Jerusalem. It was originally intended to be a royal center for the Hasmonean kings of Judah, who ruled Israel during a brief period of independence (from 142 to 37 BC). Immediately before the Roman conquest they erected several palaces here. As Flavius Josephus noted, "The ambient air here is also of such a good temperature, that the people of the country are clothed in linen-only, even when snow covers the rest of Judea." (Wars of the Jews, book 4, chapter 8:3).


This site later became the eastern capital and winter residence of Herod the Great. Altogether, the city flourished from 105 BC until it was conquered by the Romans in 70 AD.


Below is a photograph of Herod’s Jericho palace, and an artist’s rendering of what it probably looked like in the first century.


The palace that Herod built eventually straddled both sides of the Wadi Qelt (which is often a dry river bed). It had a commanding view of New Testament Jericho and the arid, but fertile, Jordan valley.


Of Herod's northern palace on the north side of the Wadi Qelt he had a main reception hall (95 feet by x 62 feet), two courtyards, and a Roman bath. South of the wadi (riverbed) there was a sunken garden, two huge pools and a sauna.


Here I am standing in the reception hall of Herod’s Jericho Palace.

This was also the Jericho of the New Testament that Jesus passed through whenever the Gospels tell us he went "up to Jerusalem."


Herod’s Death.


It was in this palace that Herod died in 4 BC at the age of about 70 years. He probably succumbed to chronic kidney disease, and, as Josephus recounts, his condition was complicated by a severe infection that led to many convulsions, and the gangrenous rotting of his genitals, which produced worms. Once the gangrene set in, he probably died within days or weeks.


As Herod was approaching death, he knew that the nation would be rejoicing when he died. He was distressed that no one would be mourning his death, so in order to induce a national period of mourning, he ordered that all the innocent and noble men of Israel be jailed in the hippodrome at Jerusalem, to be slaughtered upon his death. In this manner, it was Herod’s scheme to create a national mourning immediately after his death, albeit not for his own death. However, Herod’s sister and her husband, who were commissioned to commit this heinous act, contravened Herod’s request, and upon his death, they released all the prisoners.


The Holy Family Returns from Egypt.


According to Matthew 2:19-23, Herod’s death immediately signaled the moment that the Holy Family could return from Egypt. An angel appeared to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, in a dream, announcing that “those seeking the Child’s life are dead”.


Mary and Joseph had intended to return to Bethlehem, probably believing that Jesus was destined to be raised in Bethlehem, like his ancestor, David, perhaps starting out like David as a shepherd. However, Herod was succeeded by his son Archelaus, who was crueler than his father, so the Holy Family decided not to return to Bethlehem, but to go back to Nazareth, where Joseph was previously employed as a builder.  


One thing I learned about visiting Herodian Jericho. If you catch the attention of little children who live in the same vicinity, they will swarm around you, begging for handouts, and you’ll never get any work done. If you give them any money, within ten minutes there will be five times more children at your feet.

During the Maccabean period (before Herod) they had built two Olympic-sized reservoirs for catching and storing water.

Around the palace Herod had built plaster-lined mikvehs for ceremonial washing.

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