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Rebuilding Jericho

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The fall of Jericho is one of the best known narratives of the Books of the Prophets. One of the first cities conquered by the Israelites upon entering the Promised Land, its walls seemed impenetrable. Following God’s instructions, Joshua led the Israelite army in a parade around the walls of the city, circling it once each day for six days, and on the seventh day, they circled seven times before sounding the shofar. The walls of Jericho then miraculously collapsed, and the city was conquered.  (For more on the fall of Jericho, click here.)

Due to the fact that the story of the collapsing walls is such a compelling narrative, the fascinating conclusion is often forgotten. “And Joshua charged the people with an oath at that time, saying: ‘Cursed be the man before the Lord, who raises up and (re)builds this city, Jericho; with the loss of his first-born he shall lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up its gates’” (Joshua 6:26). 

This is quite a powerful curse, and yet anyone who follows Middle East politics or who took a tour of Israel before 1994, knows that the small city of Jericho still exists today. So what happened to Joshua’s curse?

The Bible in I Kings 16:34 relates, that in the era of the two Hebrew kingdoms (Israel in the north, Judah in the south), several centuries after Joshua led the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land, Jericho was rebuilt. The territory of Jericho was part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. During the reign of the wicked king Ahab, we are told that “Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; with Abiram his first-born he laid the foundation thereof, and with his youngest son Segub he set up the gates thereof.” 

Hiel suffered the curse uttered by Joshua and lost his sons while rebuilding the city. After Hiel’s rebuilding of the city, there are no further recordings of the effects of the curse.

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