The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well known stories in The Bible. From a young age, we’re taught the story in Sunday School, and its themes are repeated over and over as we grow up.
However, what do we know about the place where the story is set? — the path between Jerusalem and Jericho.
During one of my first visits to the Holy Land, I was reminded that the parable of the Good Samaritan takes place along the “road” between Jerusalem and Jericho. And, it wasn’t long after this, that I discovered there is still a path that runs through the wilderness between the two cities.
Of course, knowing this, I decided that we must walk this trail!
However, the details of organizing a walk between Jerusalem and Jericho were a lot more complicated than I initially envisioned. I thought, we frequently go to Jerusalem, so on one of our next trips, we’ll just take a day and hike between the two towns. Simple enough, right?
The more research I did about the path of the Good Samaritan, the more unsure I was about whether it was feasible or not. I scoured websites, blogs, and message boards trying to find clear, helpful information about the path — where should I start, how long would it take, how strenuous was it, etc. I quickly found that even trying to find this basic information wouldn’t be easy. However, I was not deterred!
After more semi-successful research, we decided that during our next visit to Jerusalem, we would just try to do the hike and see what happened. (And, in the past, this has usually, more or less, worked out okay…and, often, has given us the opportunity to see unexpected places and get to know locals we hadn’t planned to meet.) So, this past Easter when we were in Jerusalem, the stars aligned for us to attempt the hike on Holy Saturday.
I hope that this post will give you a good idea of what the lands in which the parable of the Good Samaritan take place are like.
The path from Jerusalem to Jericho is not an easy one — it’s long (18 miles!), it begins in a lush oasis outside of Jerusalem and continues through a barren desert to Jericho, it involves wading through deep water and around waterfalls, it requires climbing up and down (and up and down again!) over boulders and steep hillsides and then scaling precarious ladders. In many locations, you’re totally alone on the trail with no provisions to be found — your water bottle must be full and you must be ready to handle whatever comes your way.
And, it is in this place that we find the “man going down between Jerusalem to Jericho” from the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,
and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
This is the Word of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
[For those interested in doing the hike between Jerusalem and Jericho themselves, I’m working on a longer piece with (as complete as possible from my perspective!) instructions. I’ll link it here as soon as it’s complete!]