Sunday, October 26, 2014

The City of Jericho


Why did Joshua declare that no one should rebuild the Canaanite city of Jericho (Joshua, Chapter 6)? Here are two rather different ideas:

Rambam, Moreh haNevuchim 3:50 -
"Yehoshua declared cherem upon one who would rebuild Jericho, ever, so that the miracle would endure. One who would see the wall sunken into the ground would perceive that this is not the way of a ruined building, but rather that the wall had sunk miraculously."

Commentary of Don Isaac Abarbanel to Joshua, Chapter 6 -
"I would suggest that Gd instructed him... and it is included in the statement [in Chapter 5, regarding Jericho], 'The place where you stand is holy,' so that the place be should be cherem, with everything in it."

Have a great day,


  1. The Arabic cognate "haram" refers to both prohibited, as in non-halal food is haram, and to sanctuaries -- "Haram al-Sharif", the Noble Sanctuary, is the Moslem way of referring to our Temple Mount. Although J-m, which is now called al-Quds [the holy, c.f. "qadosh" in Hebrew] was originally the longer "Beit al-Quds", sometimes Beis al-Maqdish, more direct references to our name for the place. (I don't think I noted this to you in public before.) Anyway...

    The Rambam's position is somewhat backed up by 6:19, which calls it all "qodesh hu Lashem".

    But the comparison of Yericho to an Ir Miqlat better fits v. 18, where "pen tacharimu" uses the same /chrm/ root for the sin of violating the chairem. And if you take in the idea that it was common to say "my god beat your god" by reusing the loser's sacred vessels for one's own worship, v. 19 could work for either.

  2. I forget.. When you were discussing the cherem, do you mention Yehoshua 7:1, "וַיִּמְעֲלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מַעַל בַּחֵרֶם"? In that pasuq it would seem the focus is on the sanctification of the remains of the city, not an avoidance of something repugnant.

    1. R' Micha-
      I believe I did, noting that it seems clear - no matter how you render חרם - that the word is used in multiple ways within this passage.