Rose Then and Now® Bible Map Atlas
Rose Then and Now®
Bible Map Atlas with Biblical Background and Culture ar With cle s of verlay o c i t s a l p s day citie n r e d o m tries and coun Modern-Day Map (clear plastic overlay)
Paul H. Wright, Ph.D. www.rose-publishing.com © 2013 Rose Publishing, Inc. Bible Reference Made Easy.
Permission granted to the original purchaser to print out. It is illegal to sell, email, replicate, duplicate, or post any part of this on the Internet. More than 70 Bible reference charts and PowerPoints® available. Download catalog and sign up for Rose Bible eCharts at www.rose-publishing.com Title: Rose Then and Now® Bible Map Atlas with Biblical Background and Culture Product Code: 165X ISBN-13: 9781596365346
Rose 速 Then and Now Bible Map Atlas with Biblical Background and Culture
Paul H. Wright, Ph.D.
Rose Then and Now® Bible Map Atlas with Biblical Background and Culture
4733 Torrance Blvd. #259 Torrance, CA 90503 Email: email@example.com www.rose-publishing.com Register your book at www.rose-publishing.com/register Rose Then and Now® Bible Map Atlas with Biblical Background and Culture has an additional chapter, additional maps and clear plastic overlays, plus some author revisions. Otherwise it is similar to the original version published by Carta, Greatness Grace & Glory. Copyright © 2008, 2012 by Carta, Jerusalem Additional Material © 2012 Bristol Works, Inc. (Rose Publishing) Maps and Graphics: CARTA JERUSALEM unless otherwise indicated Photographs: Paul H. Wright, Ph.D. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any other information storage and retrieval system existing now or in future, without permission in writing. Great care has been taken to cite all sources whenever known. If inadvertently such mention has been omitted but is called to our attention, due amends will be made in the following edition. We shall also be grateful for pointing out any errors, omissions or incomplete information. Please address all comments about maps to Carta, Jerusalem, 18 Ha’uman Street, POB 2500, Jerusalem 91024, Israel. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wright, Paul, 1955Bible map atlas with biblical background and culture / Paul H. Wright ; editor, Barbara L. Ball. p. cm. At head of title: Rose Then and Now Bible map atlas with biblical background and culture Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-59636-534-6 -- ISBN 1-59636-534-X 1. Bible--Geography--Maps. 2. Bible--History of Biblical events--Maps. 3. Bible--Biography. I. Ball, Barbara Laurel. II. Title. III. Title: Rose Then and Now Bible map atlas with biblical background and culture. G2230.W64 2012 220.95’050223--dc23 2012037905 Printed by Donnelley Printed in Hong Kong November 2012, first edition
Contents Introduction.........................................................................................5 1 The Landed Context of the Biblical Story................................9 2 The Patriarchs and Matriarchs: Our Fathers and Mothers....18 3 Moses: Showing Us the Way.........................................................27 4 Joshua: Courage to Conquer........................................................33 5 Deborah and Jael: A Sweet Song of Victory...............................38 6 Samson: Greatness Run Amuck....................................................42 7 Naomi and Ruth: The Way It’s Supposed to Be..........................46 8 David and Solomon: Our Legacy................................................50 9 Rizpah: When Not-So-Little-Things Really Matter.....................65 10 Ahab and Jehoshaphat: The Fine Line Between Failure and Success..................................................................................69 11 Elijah and Elisha: Going About Doing Good.............................78 12 Jonah: Not on My Watch.............................................................87 13 Isaiah: Vision for a Broken World.................................................92 14 Josiah: The Last Hope................................................................107 15 Ezra and Nehemiah: Courage to Start Over..............................118 16 Esther: For Such a Time as This................................................126 17 The Herods: Magnificent to a Fault...........................................133 18 John the Baptist: A Voice Crying in the Wilderness.................159 19 Mary and Joseph: Simple Lives Lived Extraordinarily..............169 20 Jesus: The Anointed One............................................................185 21 Pontius Pilate: The Enforcer....................................................211 22 Peter: Out in Front.....................................................................221 23 Paul: Living Under Grace...........................................................234 24 John: Someone Who Deserved the Last Word...........................254 Afterword..........................................................................................263 Bibliography.......................................................................................264 Index....................................................................................................265
For Jessica, a great people person
Introduction Everyone loves a good Bible story. Some stories, like David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, and the Birth of Jesus have entered the mainstream of popular culture. Others, such as Sisera’s Encounter with Jael, Ahab’s Battle at Ramoth-gilead, or Nehemiah’s Nighttime Ride, though not as well known, are still a good read. Conflict, intrigue, resolution, local color, character, points of relevance—these and other aspects of storytelling energize the biblical narrative in ways that for centuries have prompted the hearts and minds of Bible readers to hear and respond to the touch of God in their lives. Great stories are told of great people, and in one sense all of the people of the Bible were great people (some were great in their courage and faith; others in their rascality). The selection of people whose stories are traced here are typical of the whole, and touch on conditions common to all humanity. In this sense their stories transcend time and place. But they’re are also grounded in time and place, and it is this aspect that gives them a tangible sense of reality. Abraham left his homes in Ur of the Chaldees and Haran, sophisticated places of opportunity and wealth, to go to Canaan, a rocky land with comparatively few natural resources and a marginal economy; understanding the where helps us to ponder the why. Ahab fought battles and forged alliances on all sides of his expanding kingdom; by mapping his policies on the historical landscape of the mid-ninth century b.c. we are better able to understand not only the realities that he faced but also the response of his contemporaries, people like Jehoshaphat, Elijah and Elisha. Let’s listen to what Jesus said, but also to what he did:
to appreciate details of time and place, we can better see the contours of the characters that grace the pages of the Bible. Such factors of real life, as they can be known through literary, geographical and archaeological data, when reasonably combined with a common-sense approach based on observable patterns of behavior of people, groups and nation states in and around the Middle East today, yields a certain familiarity—even a kind of intimacy—with the people of the Bible that is too often lacking otherwise. By so gazing into their eyes, we can not only begin to grasp the greatness of their stories and the messages that these stories contain, but begin to see ourselves lingering on the corners of the page or even ducking between the lines of the text. Herein lies the immediacy of the eternal truths that the Bible contains. The proof is in the telling—and in the living.
Again Jesus began to teach by the sea, and a very large crowd gathered around him. So he got into a boat on the sea and sat down, while the whole crowd was on the shore facing the sea. He taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow.… (Luke 4:1–3) The writers of the Bible knew the land in which God chose to reveal Himself well, for it was their home. They were intimately familiar with the rugged terrain of Judah, with cold winter rain and scorching desert heat, and they had experienced the relief offered by a small spring of water or the shelter of a crevasse in a mighty rock. They knew what it meant for the hills surrounding their city or village to be filled with enemy troops, or to lie down securely at night after a full harvest. Time and again the Bible’s historians, prophets and poets infused the divine message they had to tell with geographical information. In fact, such information fills the biblical text—and the biblical authors assumed that their readers knew even more. This work focuses on aspects of history, geography, culture and personality, exploring ways that tangible realia such as these impacted the thoughts, decisions and actions of some of the great people of the Bible. The working assumption is that if we can learn
The Book of Genesis ends with Jacob and his family in Egypt, but casts just enough trajectories forward to pull the reader through the rest of the Bible. With an eye toward a future that was very different from both Egypt (the present) and the marginal steppe land that Abraham and his family had called home (the past), Jacob blessed his favorite son with the best that his yet unrealized homeland had to offer: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; its branches run over a wall.…”
Old Testament Time Line 2100 BC
Books of the Bible
The period for each book of the Bible shows its historical setting, not the date the book was written. Many dates listed are approximate and may vary according to different scholars.
Abraham to the Sojourn in Egypt Some scholars place Abraham’s birth at 1952 BC. In this case, biblical events through Joseph would slide to the right 214 years.
Joseph c. 1914-1805
Abraham c. 2166-1991 • Abrahamic Covenant
KEY TIME SPAN MARKER •
• Jacob and his family move to Egypt c. 1876
Isaac c. 2066-1886 Jacob (Israel) c. 2005-1859
Books of the Bible 1 Samuel
• Job (date unknown)
Ishmael c. 2080-1943
10 YEARS C.
• Joseph becomes and official in Egypt c. 1884
Era of Judges
Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes (dates uncertain)
United Kingdom Era
Divided Kingdom Era • Kingdom divides into Northern Kingdom (Israel) and Southern Kingdom (Judah) 931
Eli, Priest in Shiloh c. 1100-1060 Judge & Prophet Samuel c. 1060-1020 King Saul c. 1051-1011 King David c. 1011-971
Prophet Elijah c. 870-845 Prophet Elisha c. 845-800
King Solomon c. 971-931 • Solomon’s temple (first temple) completed 960
(Kings listed by dates of reign)
Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy Joshua
Moses, Exodus & Wilderness
Era of Judges u
• Joshua leads the Israelites into Canaan
Slavery in Egypt (dates uncertain)
• Era of the Judges begins c. 1350
Aaron c. 1529-1407 Moses c. 1526-1406
Ruth marries Boaz (date unknown) • • “High” date for the Exodus c. 1446
The “high” date for the exodus (1446 bc) is based on a strict reading of dates in the Bible. Some scholars prefer a “low” date (around 1290 bc), which would slide time of the Judges to the right and compress the dates of the Judges.
“Low” date for the Exodus c. 1290 •
• Ten Commandments and other laws given • Tabernacle built Wilderness Wanderings
Ezra & Nehemiah Isaiah
Jeremiah Ezekiel Daniel Exile
Restoration of Jerusalem
King Jeroboam II of Israel 793–746 Nahum c. 663–612 • Cyrus’s edict allows Jews to return 538 King Hoshea of Israel 732–722 Rebuilding of temple 536–516 • Israel (Northern Kingdom) King Josiah of Judah 641–609 Zerubbabel and Joshua lead the Jews to falls to Assyria 722 Zephaniah c. 641–628 finish rebuilding the temple 520–516 King Hezekiah of Judah 716–687 • Fall of Nineveh, Assyria 612 Haggai c. 520 King Manasseh of Judah Zechariah c. 520–518 • Ezra sent to Judah 457 Habakkuk c. 609–598 697–643 Jonah c. 783–753 Nehemiah governs • First exile of Jews to Babylon 605 Judah 444–432 Amos c. 760–753 • Second exile of Jews to Babylon 597 Hosea c. 752–722 Malachi (date unknown) • Judah (Southern Kingdom) falls to Babylonia; temple destroyed 586 Micah c. 738–698 = Minor Prophet (listed by dates of ministry)
Obadiah c. 586
Joel (date unknown)
The Landed Context of the Biblical Story From their spring-fed oasis base at Kadesh-barnea in the northeastern corner of the Sinai Peninsula, Moses gave marching orders to his twelve chosen spies: Now see what the land is like, whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, if they are few or many. And what is the condition of the land in which they are living? Is it good or bad? How are the cities in which they live? Are they like open camps or fortified? How is the land itself? Is it fertile or barren? Are there trees in it, or not? (Num 13:18–20)
To find out, Moses instructed Joshua, Caleb and company to go up into Canaan by way of the Negev and hill country. His orders came at a significant time in Israelite history, the year following the Exodus from Egypt. And there was a specific goal in mind: to assess the feasibility of entering Canaan with the intent of settling down. While the context of the spies’ task is filled with particulars, Moses’ instructions also provide a kind of template for anyone who wants to explore the lands of the Bible today, or to simply understand the biblical narrative better. Indeed, the two endeavors go hand in hand. Each speaks to the other. Like the modern Middle East, a place chock full of activity and passion, the lands of the ancient Near East (the stage of the Old Testament story) and the eastern Mediterranean basin (the theatre of the New Testament) are all about location. The eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean is the zone where these two arenas overlap, and functions as the point of balance (in the phrase of Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible, New York: Harper & Row 1974, 5) of three continents. This observation so dominates discussions of biblical geography that mention of it has almost become cliché. Yet the importance of the reality remains, and though it may seem rather straightforward on the surface it belies a set of relationships, priorities and entanglements between people groups living in the lands of the Bible that provide for a very interesting read. To start, it is perhaps appropriate to define a few aspects of location that have impacted living conditions in the lands of the Bible over time. The building blocks of biblical geography include the following: • Topography—the shape of the surface of the land, with particular reference to changes in elevation.
• Climate—the condition of the weather, with attention focused on widely varying patterns of rainfall. • Available resources—the quality and amount of water sources, arable soil and usable rocks and minerals in any given area. The particular mix of elements such as these plays a significant role in determining whether any given plot of ground can support permanent settlements and how large and well-established these might have become, or if the land is better suited for herding or desert lifestyles. Specific geographical realities have also helped to shape cultural values and norms that defined individual societies. For instance, protocols of cooperation, hospitality and defense that functioned well in arid, shepherding societies in biblical times developed differently than did those that attained to urban centers located in fertile areas, or to sailors who frequented foreign ports-of-call. And aspects of geography gave rise to specific images that biblical writers used to describe God and the people of ancient Israel. These include terms such as “rock,” “water,” “shepherd” and “vine” (Ps 18:2; 42:6–7; 78:52; 80:8–11), as well as an overall awareness that God’s blessings and judgments affected people and land alike (Isa 33:8–12; 35:1–2). A helpful way of sizing up the importance of the role that geography played in shaping human priorities and events in the world of the Bible is to identify and describe strategic places, “facts on the ground” in and around the land of ancient Israel that were sought after as points to control. Strategic
A shepherd entertains his flock of goats in a scene typical to the eastern edges of the land of ancient Israel. This landscape, in southern Edom, is a bit too harsh for sheep, though goats manage quite well. “Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, to hear the piping for the flocks?” asks the Song of Deborah, in a verse hoping to rally the disparate tribes of Israel for common defense (Judg 5:16). The great variety of landscapes found along the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean prompts an equally diverse mix of ways to adapt to living conditions in the region. The biblical record embraces them all.
The Landed Context of the Biblical Story (right) Mean Annual Precipitation of the Middle East (amounts in millimeters); (below) Mean Annual Temperatures (temperatures in degrees Celsius). These maps show a significant correlation between average precipitation amounts and average temperatures across the ancient Near East. The wide swath across the middle of the maps indicates the arid to hyper-arid desert climate that dominates the region. Here rainfall never exceeds eight inches per year, and often barely reaches one or two inches on average. The moderating influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountainous lands of Europe and Anatolia to the north allow the middle part of the Fertile Crescent to have a temperate Mediterranean climate, with 20 to 40 inches of rain per year and warm, inviting temperatures.
points tend to be “action” points, critical junctures where people groups compete for influence and reward. These are often areas that are rich in natural resources such as fresh water or good soil. They could be as small as an individual spring (Judg 1:15) or as large as the Nile Delta (Gen 42:1–2). A different kind of strategic position is a transportation bottleneck such as a mountain pass (the Cilician Gates) or a tight spot in swampy or sandy terrain (Aphek Pass; 1 Sam 29:1). We should also consider the strategic value of important economic corridors, be they land-based (the Arabian Spice Route) or seabased (shipping lanes connecting the Aegean with
Phoenicia). Significant crossroads such as Megiddo (2 Kgs 23:29), or natural ports like Acco-Ptolemais (Acts 21:7), were also of vital importance for the biblical story. It is helpful to note that the location of a strategic position is frequently determined by its relationship to nearby areas of difficulty such as high mountain ranges, the open desert or the sea. Folks who came to possess special technologies and skills could manage to cross areas of difficulty, and through such risk reaped great economic or political reward. We can see here the great seafarers of the ancient world (Ezekiel 27), or those who drove camel caravans across the open desert (Isa 60:3–7).
The Landed Context of the Biblical Story On the other hand, heartlands of people groups, that is, places where folks in the biblical world hoped to settle down and live quiet and productive lives, were often places that were naturally protected. Examples are the hill country of Judah, Ephraim or Upper Galilee, or the highlands of Moab and Edom (Judg 19:1; 1 Kgs 4:25; Obad 3–4). Some heartlands, such as the Philistine coastal plain, lie open to greater opportunities but also to greater threat (2 Chron 2:16; Isa 20:1; Acts 9:43). Tucked between are border or frontier lands which functioned as zones of expansion and, invariably, conflict. Examples are the area of foothills between the Judean hill country and the Philistine coastal plain (the Shephelah), or Bashan, a wide open zone of contention between Galilee and Damascus. Indeed, all nation states located in the lands of the Bible included areas that were relatively protected as well as those of activity and conflict within their territories, and the biblical storyline is wrapped around both. With these general principles in mind, it is time to overview the geographical shape of the world of the Bible. We will start broadly, with the lands of the ancient Near East and the eastern Mediterranean basin. Once establishing this context, we will turn to the place where these two regions merge, namely, the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean Sea, with particular reference to the “Dan to Beersheba” homeland of ancient Israel. The lands of the ancient Near East were dominated by the Fertile Crescent, a great arc of agriculture defined by the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates on the east, and the Nile to the west. At least as early as the first century a.d. the river valley located between the Tigris and the Euphrates has been called Mesopotamia (“between the rivers”; Strabo, Geography, 2.1.26; 2.5.22). This was the heartland of ancient Babylonia and Assyria. It seems, though, that the term Mesopotamia originally referred to the land lying between the uppermost channel of the Euphrates and the Khabur River, one of the Euphrates’ main tributaries in north Syria (Anabasis Alexandri 3.8). This original Mesopotamia was the homeland of the Arameans. This is also certainly the sense of the place name Aram-naharaim (“Aram of the two rivers”), the land of Haran to which Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac (Gen 24:10; cp. Judg 3:8). The broad river valleys of the Tigris-Euphrates and the Nile share similar natural characteristics. First, each valley is surrounded by harsh landscapes in which, historically, permanent settlement was tenuous or rugged at best. For the Nile these are the Sahara Desert to the west, with a meager scattering of oases, and the Eastern Desert and Sinai Peninsula to the east. In Mesopotamia, the wasteland of the north Arabian Desert pushes to the south bank of the Euphrates, while the soaring Zagros, Ararat
and Taurus mountains, home to a rich village tradition that always seemed at odds with the more urban landscape down below, frame the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates. Second, these are all world-class rivers, each with a strong perennial flow bolstered by seasonal rains up in their mountainous headwaters. For the Tigris and Euphrates these rains fall in eastern Anatolia, while for the Nile (the Blue Nile in particular) they inundate central Ethiopia. Throughout history seasonal rains have caused these downstream river valleys to flood at predictable times of the year, bringing new layers of silt to continually renew the already-rich fields along their banks. Third, the river valleys themselves are broad and quite flat. With a constant flow of water (rainfall is minimal in both Mesopotamia and Egypt), fields are relatively easy to irrigate by means of intricate networks of canals (Deut 11:10; Isa 19:5–8). The fertility of the Tigris-Euphrates and Nile river valleys fostered the growth of the world’s first urban centers, with the origins of writing happening relatively simultaneously in both Egypt and southern Mesopotamia about the year 3200 b.c. This prompted the development of complex economic and administrative structures and, eventually, the rise of empires. The river valleys on either end of the Fertile Crescent were, in short, centers of highly productive civilizations where opportunities for advancement were attractive and life, for the day, could be good. Indeed, the writer of Genesis compared Egypt to “the garden of the LORD” (Gen 13:10).
The Fertile Crescent. The arc of the Fertile Crescent is defined not only by temperature and rainfall, but elevation. The crescent follows a portion of the southern edge of a large band of mountains that stretches from the Alps in southern Europe to Persia (Iran). The headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers flow southward out of the towering Taurus, Ararat and Zagros mountains. They combine to form two broad river channels that drain into the Persian Gulf (known in Akkadian texts as the Lower Sea). Smaller rivers flow out of the heights of the Lebanese and Anti-Lebanese ranges. These include the Orontes and an inland river, the Jordan.
Carts of Sea People drawn by oxen, from relief of Rameses III at Medinet Habu in upper Egypt. This is a battle scene showing the struggle by Egypt to keep groups of Sea Peoples such as the Philistines from settling in Canaan.
The Landed Context of the Biblical Story This small harbor at Alexandria Troas, in northwestern Anatolia, is typical of hundreds of similar anchorages scattered across the Aegean. It was from near here that the Apostle Paul received his Macedonian Call to cross the archipelago and enter the wellspring of Hellenism on the other side (Acts 16:7–11). Ruins of the city of Troy lie a scant fifteen miles north, foothold of Alexander’s invasion Ancient Israel’s interactions with Mesopotamia which four centuries prior and Egypt were usually based on expediency: they had come the other way. Both were sometimes hostile, sometimes comfortable, crossings forever changed the and nearly always under the shadow of stronger face of the world.
The Aegean Trade Routes. Natural sea routes in the eastern Mediterranean hugged a line of ports along the shore, or hopped between Cyprus and the islands of the Aegean. Westward voyages followed the sea currents from Gaza to Rhodes, along the coast. Prevailing westerly winds pushed ships on the return voyage, which could have been across open water if the weather didn’t threaten. Opensea travel was risky, and to be avoided when possible; the floor of the Mediterranean is littered with the wrecks of good sailing intentions. Seaworthy ships represented a large upfront investment, but could haul large quantities of goods relatively inexpensively. Land traffic had a greater human investment and could transport only smaller quantities of goods (the limits were set by the carrying capacity of individual beasts of burden). Land routes in Anatolia and Greece tended to be circuitous, owing to rugged terrain and the availability of suitable mountain passes, and were constantly threatened by bad weather conditions or hostile locals (cf. 2 Cor 11:25–27).
economic and military structures bent on the ways of Empire. The route between empires passed right through the heartland of the biblical story. The travels of Abraham quickly set the stage for this connection: the Patriarch haled from both Ur of the Chaldees (in southern Mesopotamia) and Haran (in Aram-naharaim), then went immediately to Egypt—as did his descendants—when famine struck the land of Canaan (Gen 11:31–32; 12:10; 42:2; 43:1–2; 47:1). But though each end of the Fertile Crescent was the center of civilization in its own right, Egypt and Mesopotamia were for ancient Israel a necessary frontier—attractive, even a place of origins, but certainly not somewhere to call home. In contrast to the bounded, elongated river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean basin can be pictured as a vast amphitheatre of ports and plains facing the sea. A ring of desert on the south (the Sahara) and rugged mountains to the north and east (the Alps, Balkan, Taurus and Lebanese ranges) encloses the basin, separating it and providing protection, at least in theory, from
populations beyond which both Greece and Rome considered uncivilized. The main mountain ranges circling the sea are generally concordant to—that is, running the same direction as—the coast. When these ranges run right along the coast, their ragged edges provide inlets suitable for natural harbors and brisk maritime trade. Examples can be found along the Lebanese (Phoenician) and Taurus (Anatolian) coasts. Sometimes the concordant ranges are a bit inland, with broad, level plains separating them from them sea. In these cases the coastline is often straight-lined and generally lacking easy natural harbors, though the plains themselves are typically fertile and densely settled. Examples are the Philistine coastal plain, the plains of Cilicia (Tarsus) in Anatolia and Thessaly (Thessalonica) in Macedonia, and the eastern coast of the Italian Peninsula. Because not more than twenty percent of the land on the mountain slopes surrounding the Mediterranean is arable, the plains edging the coast have always tended to be the larger population centers around the sea. When the mountain ranges are discordant—that is, running perpendicular to the coast—the opportunities are the greatest for deep inlets and large areas of protected water that are favorable for shipping. This is the case for the southern Italian boot, western Anatolia and the Peloponnesus. Indeed, nearly the entire Aegean Sea is bounded by favorable points of anchorage, and when we take into account the thousands of islands and islets scattered between Greece and Anatolia it is clear that this part of the Mediterranean is the sea’s heartland of maritime relations and trade. As for travel and connectedness, the Mediterranean’s currents push ships northward from Egypt along the Philistine and Phoenician coasts, then westward toward the Aegean along the coast of Anatolia. Prevailing winds, on the other hand, such as the strong Etesian winds off the Aegean, blow ships the other direction, toward the southeast. The seaborne journeys of the Apostle Paul had to take into account the seasonal affect of these shipping lanes, and shipwrecks were common (Acts 27:4–44). Surprisingly, the Mediterranean lacks a large number of wide river valleys that penetrate deeply inland from the sea and hence could serve as major land-sea corridors. The Nile is one, though its delta coastline has always been too marshy to support a major port (Alexandria lay slightly west). Mention should be made of the Po River in northern Italy and the Meander in western Anatolia. The city of Miletus, the greatest port in western Anatolia and a place visited by the Apostle Paul, was situated just south of the mouth of the Meander (Acts 20:15, 17). For the eastern Mediterranean, the best water route inland started in the estuary of the Orontes, a place dominated in the time of the New Testament by Antioch, the thriving cosmopolitan
The Landed Context of the Biblical Story Culture and Commerce in the Ancient Near East. This map defines the Fertile Crescent in terms of its fertility for daily produce. Essential commodities as big timber and usable minerals could be found in the more mountainous regions. Routes tended to follow the Fertile Crescent, then branch off toward desert oases or population centers in Persia or the Aegean. The functional complexity of the economy of the ancient world can be seen in two different biblical texts. 1 Kings 10 details the movement of exotic goods from four corners of the ancient world to Solomon’s Jerusalem in the tenth century b.c. Ezekiel 27 provides import and export data from which we can locate the origins of commodities that flowed through the port of Tyre in the sixth century b.c. Both show that the lands of the eastern Mediterranean played a city “where the disciples were first called Chris- litically by Rome. By the time of the New Testament crucial role in the development tians” (Acts 11:26). Though the course of the Orontes all roads really did lead to Rome, be they conveying of culture and commerce in the river valley is narrow and quickly turns due south, wheat from the Nile Delta and Bashan (Acts 27:6), ancient Near East.
Antioch provides the anchor point for a relatively short (one hundred mile) portage to the Upper Euphrates and the world of the east. Most other routes leading inward from the Mediterranean Sea had to deal immediately with rugged terrain, and once inland simply sought out the best route which connected paths of least resistance as possible (it wasn’t always so simple!). While economic strength in the world of the Old Testament was defined by camel drivers and charioteers who dominated the long land routes of the ancient Near East, the rulers of the Mediterranean were those who, by means of well-situated ports, could control the sea’s shipping lanes. And like the far-flung lands of the ancient Near East, it proved difficult to unite the various corners of the Mediterranean into a single political entity. Throughout history the Mediterranean’s coastal mountains tended to separate population centers one from another. This geographic reality fostered the development of diverse cultural contexts around the rim of the sea or on its many islands, though all shared a common knowledge of the sea. The Minoans (in the Aegean), Hittites (in Anatolia), Phoenicians (in Lebanon) and Etruscans (in Italy) all tried, with varying degrees of success, to unify the markets of the Mediterranean. It was not until the late first millennium b.c. that the Mediterranean was finally united, first under the cultural umbrella of Hellenism, then po-
spices from deep within the Arabian Peninsula, or the message of the Gospel. With this broad geographical context of the lands of the Bible, it is time to narrow our focus to the place where East meets West. As we have seen, the narrow band of land lying between the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean and the northern end of the Arabian Desert doubles as the middle section of the Fertile Crescent. This part of the ancient Near East bears greater resemblance to the landscapes of the Mediterranean than it does the broad river valleys that dominate Egypt and Mesopotamia. Here the landscape is defined by two parallel mountain ranges, concordant to the sea and separated from each other by the steep Rift Valley. In the north, where elevations are the highest, the seaward range is called the Lebanese Range (or, simply, Lebanon; Judg 3:3; 1 Kgs 5:9; Song of Songs 4:15), while its twin opposite the Rift is the Anti-Lebanese Range. The southern end of the Anti-Lebanese Range is best known by the name Mount Hermon, though the coastal Phoenicians called it Sirion and to the inland Amorites it was Senir (Deut 3:8–9). The upper elevations of the Lebanese and Anti-Lebanese ranges exceed nine thousand feet, and their well-watered heights are snow-capped for some months every year. Because the long edge of the Lebanese Range drops directly into the Mediterranean, its coastline contains many natural harbors. This is the historic
This model of a square-rigged Sidonian merchant ship is typical of craft that plied the waters of the eastern Mediterranean in the ancient world. They have made all your planks of fir trees from Senir, they have taken a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you… Your sail was of fine embroidered linen from Egypt so that it became your distinguishing mark… (Ezek 27:5, 7)
The Landed Context of the Biblical Story Geology. The land of ancient Israel is primarily a land of limestone. Most of the visible surface rock is of three types. Turonian-Cenomanian limestone dominates the higher hill country. With tight, V-shaped valleys, rugged, terraced slopes and many small springs, hard limestone of this type provides a surface topography that is suitable for small villages. Summer fruit such as grapes, figs, pomegranates and olives thrive in these areas. Such was the heartland of the tribes of Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as Upper Galilee and the Dome of Gilead east of the Jordan River. Softer Eocene limestone is common in the foothills (Heb. shephelah). There the topographical forms are more relaxed, and the broad valleys are filled with fertile soil. These areas are particularly well suited for grains such as wheat and barley. Areas of soft Senonian chalk can be found in the Judean Wilderness and the Negev, south and east, as well as in troughs that form natural passes between the higher, more durable limestone hills. Areas of Senonian chalk do not hold water well, and unless the rainfall is high they are often best suitable for herding economies.
home of the Phoenicians, ancient seafarers par excellence. Though lacking an arable coastal plain, Phoenician bellies were fed off the fields of inland powers such as ancient Israel (1 Kgs 5:11; Ezra 3:7; Ezek 27:17; Acts 12:20). We can immediately see the need for ongoing trade partnerships between Israel and Phoenicia, and in them an economic motive for Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel (1 Kgs 16:31). The rest of the land within and surrounding the Lebanese and Anti-Lebanese ranges was the homeland of various groups of Arameans. The most important of these was centered at the spring-fed oasis of Damascus (2 Kgs 5:12), facing the open steppe that lines the north Arabian Desert east of the Anti-Lebanese Range. Aram-Damascus used its position astride the great Mesopotamia-to-Egypt trunk route to command inland trade every bit as effectively as the Phoenician ports dominated the seas (e.g. 1 Kgs 22:3; 2 Kgs 8:9; Ezek 27:18). Both ranges decrease in elevation as they run southward. The Lebanese Range becomes the hills 14
of Upper and Lower Galilee, then drops into the hill country of Manasseh, Ephraim, Judah and finally the Negev. Here elevations rarely exceed three thousand feet, with ample rainfall and only infrequent snow. The Anti-Lebanese Range merges into the hills of Bashan, Gilead, Moab and then Edom. On average the Transjordanian hills are higher than those west of the Rift (up to a mile high in Edom), but their eastward, desert face counteracts much of the benefit that would otherwise come from the rainfall of higher elevations. The Rift Valley, too, drops in elevation south of Lebanon, down to 690 feet below sea level at the surface of the Sea of Galilee (nearly three times as low as California’s Death Valley) and to –1,300 feet at the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. We have finally arrived at the heartland of the biblical story, the historic “Dan to Beer-sheba” home of ancient Israel (1 Kgs 4:25). The city of Dan sat up against the southernmost flank of Mount Hermon, adjacent to the most powerful spring feeding the headwaters of the Jordan River. Beer-sheba commanded the middle of the arid Negev basin 110