Where did the expression “gone to Jericho” come from and What does it mean?

According to the. Bible (II Samuel x), Hanun, to whom David had sent his servants as a mark of respect for Hanun’s father, who had just died, was persuaded that they were actually spies; he had them seized, half their beards shaved off, and then sent them back to their master in derision.

The servants, ashamed of their disgraced condition, were unwilling to return to Jerusalem and sent word of their plight to David. He sent word back, “Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown.”

But it was a much later king who inspired our present expression. Henry VIII, it is said, had a place of retirement on a small stream called “Jordan,” near Chelmsford, which he called “Jericho.” Like the servants of David, he may first have gone there to be in seclusion while his beard grew, but his later visits at least, were supposedly in company with a paramour of the moment.

At any rate, his courtiers and ministers recognized that, officially, no one knew where the king might be whenever his servants announced that he had “gone to Jericho.”

It is for that reason that the expression has come to mean any indefinite or nameless place.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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