Ehud & the Ancient City of Jericho (Judges 3:12-30)
The ancient city of Jericho appears approximately one hundred years after the conquest, recorded in Judges 3.
The Israelites are said to have "done evil in the sight of the Lord".
Consequently, God gave Eglon, King of Moab, power and authority over the Israelites in that region for 18 years.
The Bible tells us that Eglon sought the assistance of the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him in his conquest. This would have been a natural alliance, as Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites all shared an equal hatred for Israel.
The Moabites and Ammonites are descended from the same line. After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot, the nephew of Abraham, fled with his daughters to the caves around the Dead Sea.
His daughters, afraid of dying without any sons, schemed together and tricked their father into sleeping with them. The incestuous relationship produced two male children.
The oldest daughter bore Moab, the progenator of the Moabites, and the younger bore Benammi, the ancestor of the Ammonites.
The Amalekites were descendants of Esau. Esau was the eldest son of Isaac , and had a younger brother named Jacob.
Twice in the Bible Jacob manipulates Esau, once taking his birthright, the second taking his blessing.
Jacob would later produce eleven sons, out of which the twelve tribes ( 1 tribe split into 2 tribes, thus yielding 12 ) of Israel were founded.
Thus, the Amalekites would have felt a deep seeded resentment of Israel, and in fact had attacked the Israelites in the desert of Sinai during the Exodus from Egypt.
These three countries did not lack motivation to destroy Israel. Judges 3:13 reveals that this alliance, under the leadership of Eglon, King of Moab, attacked Israel, and drove the Israelites back.
They reclaimed land north of the Argon River, and seized control across the Jordan River . They took possession of the ancient city of Jericho, or, "The City of Palms" (3:13), and enslaved Israel for 18 years.
The ancient city of Jericho fell into the hands of Eglon, thus Israel lost a strategic city leading to their heartland.
God, however, once again sent an unlikely deliverer. This man was Ehud, described in Judges 3:15.
"But when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gerar, the Benjamite, a left-handed man."
Ehud was of the tribe of Benjamin. The tribe of Benjamin was to later become a target of aggression, and barely escaped total annihilation by the other tribes of Israel. The ancient city of Jericho lay within the tribal boundaries of Benjamin.
His name translates, "he that praises", thus, he was a seemingly righteous man. However, the fact Scripture indicates he was left handed provides an interesting fact about Ehud.
The more literally interpretation is, "was hindered in his right hand". The implication is one of an inability to used the right hand. Ehud, thus, was disabled in the right hand.
The Bible tells us the "sons of Israel" had sent the tribute to Eglon by the hands of Ehud. As a one handed man, Ehud posed no threat to the King.
However, he had trained himself secretly, under the Lord's instruction, and was ready for his mission.
Not only was Ehud carrying the tribute, but he was carrying a double edged sword as well. Scripture relates Ehud had fashioned "a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length". Ehud strapped this double edged sword on his right thigh, underneath his cloak.
Scripture said the sword was a "cubit" in length. A biblical cubit was a measurement of length based on the distance between the tip of the middle finger and the elbow.
Generally, cubits ranged from 17 to 22 inches in length. The sword, thus, was just over a foot-and-a-half long.
Though Scripture does not go into detail about the route Ehud took, he ventured to the ancient city of Jericho from the north.
He and his men journeyed from the hill country which lay to the west of Jericho. The roads plunged precipitously into Jericho from the hill country above.
He brought the tribute to Eglon, "who was a very fat man (3:17)", then left with his men for home.
However, shortly after departing, Ehud turned back, feigning a secret message for the King.
Judges 3:20-22 describes Ehud's fearless act once he was alone with the King.
"Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, 'I have a message from God for you.' As the King rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the King's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in around it."
Ehud then snuck out of the palace, avoided the guards, and fled. The exact location of Seirah is not known. However, the fact he was able to signal the other tribes with a trumpet suggests it was in one of the nearby valleys or mountains.
This part of the hill country, sometimes called the hill country of Ephraim, rested on the border of the Benjamin and Ephraim tribal allotments. Israel would have put aside petty tribal differences to drive out foreign aggression.
Ehud, in fact, led a band of men from these united tribes through the ancient city of Jericho, to the banks of the Jordan, and seized some nearby fords. This prevented the Moabites from fleeing back to Moab.
Israel's forces then caught up with their enemies, and slaughtered "about ten thousand Moabites" (3:29).
Scripture concludes by stating Moab was subdued that day, "under the hand of Israel". The wording here is interesting, as Ehud executed an underhanded assassination of King Eglon.
It is also significant to point out Scripture does not make note of the walls of Jericho. The walls of Jericho had apparently been significantly reduced from the time of Joshua.
Scripture indicates this period of the ancient city of Jericho was somewhat diminished from its previous years. Ehud and his men seemingly moved with ease through, and around, Jericho.
Ehud's bravery displayed in ancient Jericho brought 80 years of peace and freedom to the region.
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The Levite and the Concubine
Judges 19-21 describes an incident involving a Levite
"who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim".
Though the city of Jericho is not mentioned by name, this passage involves all the towns of the Benjamites , which Jericho was one of those towns.
This becomes immensely important as one looks at the archaeology involving the ancient city of Jericho.
This Levite was said to have taken a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. The story tells that the concubine was unfaithful, and went back to her father's house.
The Levite went in pursuit of her, and upon arriving at her house, persuaded her to return with him.
On their way back to the Levite's house, they stopped in Gibeah, where they were invited to stay the night at a man's house.
As the night progressed, evil men from the town demanded that the Levite come outside, so they could have sex with him.
The man urged them to leave his guest alone, but would give them his virgin daughter and the concubine in exchange.
In the end, the concubine was sent outside, and the evil men of the city;
"raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go" (Jud. 19:25).
When her master awoke the next morning, he stepped outside to find his concubine;
"fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hand on the threshold" (19:27)
The Levite's response in verse 28 gives insight into the heart of this priest.
"And he said to her; 'Get up and let us go,' but there was no answer. Then he placed her on the donkey; and the man arose and went to his home."
The Levite, a priest, put her on his donkey, as she was unable to move, and returned home. He was not concerned with her well-being in the least bit. This does not appear to be in concordance with God's wishes for His priests.
Upon reaching his house, the Levite performs an atrocious act. Scripture relates he;
"took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel"(19:29)
All of Israel was enraged, as nothing like this had happened before.
This graphic story attests to the wickedness and Godlessness of Israel in these days. The Bible then tells how all the Israelites, "from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead" united as one and rose up against the tribe of Benjamin, and the towns of Benjamin.
The Benjamites were said to have mustered over 27,000 fighting men. They were going up against 400,000 men from the rest of Israel.
We have already discussed the controversy surrounding the numbers mentioned concerning the Israelite population, so for arguments sake the numbers mentioned in the Bible will be used at face value.
The fact that the Benjamites were so outnumbered is a testament to the fierceness of the Benjamite warriors.
Though so overwhelmed, the Benjamites defeated their Israelite brothers during the first three battles.
However, the fourth battle saw all but 600 Benjamites killed, and the survivors fled into the desert. Thus the tribe of Benjamin was mortally crippled.
Judges 20:48 describes how Israel then went from town to town setting fire to all the towns they came across belonging to the tribe of Benjamin.
Thus, the ancient city of Jericho was burned to the ground a second time. This account is left out when describing the fires at Jericho because it is not mentioned by name.
Yet, the ancient city of Jericho was a town of Benjamin, and the Bible states explicitly here that; all the towns of Benjamin were burned to the ground.
II Samuel 10:5 mentions Jericho during the time of David. David had sent some of his men to Hanun, King of the Ammonites.
King David wished to express sympathy to Hanun for the recent passing of his father. Hanun, however, listened to his advisers, and seized David's men. He then shaved their heads, and cut off half of their beards, a serious insult to the men of that day.
So serious was the insult, that David instructed his men to stop off in Jericho, and remain there until their beards had grown back.
Though the ancient city of Jericho is not the central point of this passage, it does prove that it was at least meagerly occupied during this time.
Hiel and the rebuilding of Jericho (873-849 B.C.)
Under the United Monarchy, David had subdued many of Israel's enemies. He had subjected the Moabites to Israelite rule, and his son, Solomon, continued to expand Israelite power.
Yet when the Kingdom became split into Judah and Israel, the Israelite enemies gained power, and began to plot revolt upon the weakened Divided Monarchy.
Moab and Edom were located just east of the Jordan River. Jericho was the main city buffering the Moabite/Edomite threat from the heartland of Judea, and as the
Eastern powers continued to threaten Israel; consequently, one would expect the ancient city of Jericho to gain strategic importance.
This threat remained dormant under David and Solomon. However, as King Jehoshaphat of Judah came into power, the Moabites, with the help of their allies the Ammonites, mustered enough power and strength to revolt.
Israel, though, had anticipated this threat, as the Moabites and Ammonites were constantly a thorn in Israel's side.
King Jehoshaphat of Judah entered into a marriage alliance with King Ahab of Israel (Samaria). Consequently, he began to fortify all the cities of Palestine in anticipation of war from neighboring threats.
I Kings 16:34 makes mention of this fortification effort and its effects on the ancient city of Jericho.
It is important to keep in mind that Ahab and Jehoshaphat were contemporaries, the former King of Samaria (Israel), and the latter King of Judah.
"In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua, son of Nun."
The curse upon the ancient city of Jericho had finally been fulfilled. Though Hiel lost his two sons, he did succeed in rebuilding the city.
Hiel had rebuilt the ancient city of Jericho which had been burnt with the other Benjamite towns.
Ancient Jericho, however, had remained at least an outpost during this intermediary time, as seen in David's order to his men to remain there until their beards had regrown.
The fact that Hiel did rebuild the city is also seen in the route of attack taken by Moab and Ammon.
II Chronicles 20:2 provides the information regarding their attack upon Judah. They are said to have come from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea, thus from the South.
At the time that King Jehoshaphat received this message it is said that the invading army was already in Tamar. Thus, the invaders came up through the Negeb.
The more direct route would have led through the ancient city of Jericho itself, which rested less than 20 miles east of Jerusalem, the capital city.
This bit of information leads one to naturally assume that the Moabites and Ammonites felt that Jericho was too strong of a city, and its influence in that region was too great to overcome.
Hence the route of less resistance was taken, and that route was to invade from the South, coming up through the Negeb.
Though Jericho is not the central point of this passage, it does prove that it was at least meagerly occupied during this time.
The ancient city of Jericho had survived, despite the near annihilation of the Benjamites, and the burning to the ground for a second time by all the men of Israel.
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