Attached to the doorpost of every religious Jewish home is a small container called a mezuzah. Inside the mezuzah is a rolled parchment inscribed with verses from the Bible. A Jewish person entering the house touches the mezuzah and then kisses his or her fingers as an expression of devotion to the verses it contains. It is customary to recite, "May God protect my going out and coming in, now and forever."


The word mezuzah means "doorpost." Over time, the container and the parchment in it were so closely identified with the doorpost that they became known by the same name.


The custom of the mezuzah is an ancient one. Jesus probably had one on the door of his house. Jewish scholars base the practice on Deuteronomy 6:6,9: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.... Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Inscribed on the parchment are the words of Deuteronomy 4:4-9 and 11:13-21, which include words quoted by Jesus, "... love the LORD your God and...serve him with all your heart and with all your soul," as well as words familiar to most parents, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds...Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

Obviously, God's intent is for his Word to be central to all that goes on within the house. Jewish scholars believe that the physical presence of a copy of the commandments from Deuteronomy 4:4-9 and 11:13-21, while not crucial in itself, provided an excellent reminder of God's desires for his people. For that reason, Jews, and even some Christians, follow the custom today.


The ruins of Jericho acted as a mezuzah on the doorway to the Promised Land. The main eastern gate (or door) to the land is the mountain pass guarded by the city of Jericho. Jericho was located here partly because of the water supply and partly because it protected the entrance to Israel. Appropriately, God commanded ruins to be left as a testimony that the land belonged to him and that those in it sought to serve him. Thus, the ruins of Jericho, like a mezuzah, reminded all who entered Israel that it was God's land inhabited by God's people.

Given this view, the curse Joshua placed on the ruins of the city (Josh. 6:26-27) makes sense. God wanted his mark of ownership to remain on the land as a reminder that its inhabitants must live by his law. Ahab rebelled against God when he allowed one of his subjects to remove God's mark (mezuzah) by rebuilding Jericho (1 Kings 16:34). Ahab's story illustrates his unwillingness to recognize God's lordship and his refusal to live by his law.