DIGGING DEEP – 6 by Abidan Paul Shah
The region in which the biblical events took place is between the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea on the West and the Zagros Mountains and the Persian Gulf in the East and between the Amanus and Ararat Mountains in the North and the Nafud Desert and the southern tip of Sinai in the South. The New Testament expanded the region into what today are Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain.
- Much of the Middle East is desert, as much as 487,000 square miles (not including the Negev, Sinai and Egyptian deserts).
- The bodies of water, especially the Mediterranean Sea have played a big role in the biblical events.
- The conflict was over the fertile land by the seacoast. Different peoples came from the Sea (Philistines, Greeks, and Romans) or towards the Sea (Amalekites, Moabites, Edomites, Israelites, and Ammonites). Others came from farther away (Babylonians and Assyrians). Most of the interaction was violent.
- Some came for timber, building stones, copper, iron, tin, gold, silver, etc. This also led to the development of roads and highways (for e.g. Via Maris and the King’s Highway).
- Along with rainwater, people have survived through the Nile River in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in in modern day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Also, natural springs, wells, and cisterns have been extremely important.
- The area is often referred to as the Fertile Crescent or sometimes as the Sacred Bridge.
- Modern Israel is 8,522 sq.mil. = New Jersey. 3-4 hours from the northern tip to the Southern and about 1-2 from east to the west and in parts just 9 miles apart (east-west).
The Land and the Bible:
- The Land of Beginnings
- Mesopotamia “Land between the rivers”
- Possible location of the Garden of Eden
- This is where Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans.
- Later under the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar took the Southern Kingdom of Judah into exile.
- Further to the east is Persia, which overtook the Babylonian empire to become Medo-Persian Empire. This is where Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther were located.
- The Promised Land
- Referred to as Canaan, incorporating the modern states of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan.
- It is divided into 5 major longitudinal zones: the coastal plain, the central mountain range, the Rift Valley, the Transjordanian mountains, and the eastern desert.
- Much of the Old Testament (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, the Prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah) and New Testament (Gospels, Acts, James) history took place here.
- The Land of Slavery
- Greek historian Herodotus (5 BC) called it Egypt – “the gift of the Nile.” It is 4,145 miles in length, the longest river in the world. The river was good for farming and transportation. Only 5% of the land is agricultural and the rest is stone, sand, and desert.
- It’s biblical name is “Mizraim. The land is divided into Upper Egypt (from the head of the Delta up the valley to the South and Lower Egypt (the delta).
- The final chapters of Genesis and the opening chapters of Exodus took place here. There was other interaction with Egypt throughout Israel’s history.
- The Land of the “first called Christians”
- Phoenicia (remnants of the Canaanites) and Syria (ruled by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Seleucids)
- Damascus is an oasis due to the melting snow from the mountains was important since ancient times (Abraham’s servant Eliezer) and New Testament times (Paul’s conversion).
- Antioch in Syria became a Christian center (Acts 11:25-26)
- The Land of the Seven Churches and beyond
- The region of modern day Turkey known variously as Anatolia, Asia Minor, and Cappadocia.
- It is surrounded by Black Sea to the North, Aegean Sea to the West, and the Mediterranean Sea to the South.
- Paul traveled throughout the region – Galatia, Lystra, Antioch in Pisidia and Derbe. John in his book of Revelation wrote to the 7 churches in western region.
- In his second missionary journey Paul went into Greece (Macedonia)
- Paul’s ultimate journey took him to Rome.
- Genesis 12:1-6
- Jeremiah 29:11
- Mark 7:24-29 and Matthew 15:21-28
- Acts 27:13-20, 42-44; 28:1-2, 16