Here we will borrow Josephus' pencil, "Jericho is seated in a plain, yet a certain barren mountain hangs over it, narrow, indeed, but long; for it runs out northward to the country of Scythopolis,--and southward, to the country of Sodom, and the utmost coast of the Asphaltites."
Of this mountain mention is made, Joshua 2:22, where the two spies, sent by Joshua, and received by Rahab, are said to "conceal themselves."
"Opposite against this, lies a mountain on the other side Jordan, beginning from Julias on the north, and stretched southward as far as Somorrha, which bounds the rock of Arabia. In this is a mountain, which is called the Iron mountain, reaching out as far as the land of Moab. But the country which lies between these two mountainous places, is called the Great Plain, extended from the village Ginnaber to the lake Asphaltites, in length a thousand two hundred furlongs" (a hundred and fifty miles), "in breadth, a hundred and twenty furlongs" (fifteen miles); "and Jordan cuts it in the middle."
Hence you may understand more plainly those things that are related of "the plains of Jericho," 2 Kings 25:5; and what "the region about Jordan," means, Matthew 3:5.
"Jericho is distant from Jerusalem a hundred and fifty furlongs" (eighteen miles and three quarters), "and from Jordan sixty furlongs" (seven miles and a half). "The space from thence to Jerusalem is desert and rocky; but to Jordan and the Asphaltites, more plain, indeed, but alike desert, and barren."
This our author asserts the same distance between Jericho and Jordan elsewhere, in these words: "But the Israelites, travelling forward fifty furlongs from Jordan, encamped the distance of ten furlongs from Jericho": that is, in Gilgal, in the east coast of Jericho, Joshua 4:19.
But concerning the distance between Jericho and Jerusalem, he does not seem to agree with his countrymen. For, however they, according to their hyperbolical style, feign very many things to be heard from Jerusalem as far as Jericho,--to wit, the sound of the gate of the Temple, when it was opened,--the sound of Migrephah, or the little bell, &c. yet there are some of them, who make it to be the distance of 'ten parsae.' "Rabbath Bar Bar Channah saith, Rabbi Jochanan saith, from Jerusalem to Jericho were ten parsae: and yet, from thence thither the voice of the high priest, in the day of expiation, pronouncing the name Jehovah, was heard, &c. The hinges of the gates of the Temple are heard as far as the eighth bound of the sabbath"; that is, as far as a sabbath-day's journey eight times numbered. The Gloss hath these words; "The hinges, indeed, not farther, but the gates themselves are heard to Jericho." There is an hyperbole in their measuring of the space, as well as in the rest.
"And that plain burns in the summer, and, by too much heat, renders the air unhealthful: for it is all without water, except Jordan; the palms that grow in whose banks are more flourishing and more fruitful than those that grow more remote."
"Near Jericho is a very plentiful spring, and very rich for watering and moistening the ground; it riseth near the old city, and Jesus the son of Nave took it. Of which spring there is a report, that, in former times, it did not only make the fruits of the earth and of the trees to decay, but also the offspring of women; and was universally unwholesome and harmful to all: but it was changed into a better condition by Elizeus, &c. (see 2 Kings 2:21). So that those waters, which before were the cause of barrenness and famine, did thenceforth produce fruitfulness and abundance: and they have so great a virtue in their watering, that whatsoever place they touch, they bring on to a very speedy ripeness."
"And they overflow the plain seventy furlongs in length, and twenty in breadth: and there they nourish very fair and thick gardens of palm-trees of divers kinds, &c. That place also feeds bees, and produceth opobalsamum, and cyprinum, and myrobalanum: so that one might not call it amiss, 'a divine country,'" &c.
Strabo speaks like things, "Jericho is a plain surrounded with mountains, which in some places bend to it after the manner of a theatre. A grove of palm-trees is there, with which are mixed also other garden plants, a fruitful place, abounding with palm-trees for the space of a hundred furlongs, all well watered, and full of habitations. The royal court and paradise of balsam is there," &c.
And Pliny; "Jericho, planted with groves of palms, and well watered with springs," &c.
Hence the city is called, the "city of palm-trees," Deuteronomy 34:3, and Judges 1:16: where for that, which, in the Hebrew, is From the city of palm-trees, the Targum hath From the city Jericho: which nevertheless Kimchi approves not of, reckoning the city of palm-trees to be near Hebron: whom see. See also the Targum upon Judges 3:13, and Kimchi there; and the Targum upon Judges 4:5.
When you take a view of that famous fountain, as it is described by Josephus, thence you understand what waters of Jericho the Holy Ghost points out in Joshua 16:1.--And when you think of that most pleasant country watered from thence, let that Rabbinical story come into your mind, of The gift of Jericho, of five hundred cubits square, granted to the sons of Hobab, Moses' father-in-law: of which see Baal Turim, upon Numbers 10:29, and the Rabbins upon Judges 1.