Listen to the Land (Historical Geography) - Lesson 2
Rivers and Roads
Major rivers in the Ancient Near East provided the resources necessary for empires like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia to grow and flourish. Israel is on a couple of the major trade routes that connects these cultures. The location of mountains, hills and valleys in Israel affects the lifestyle and travel patterns of the people who live there and the people travelling through.
Rivers and Roads
I. Prominent Rivers in the Ancient Near East
A. Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
B. Nile River
II. Benefits of Rivers
A. Agriculture flourishes
B. Facilitates trade
C. Resources for nation building
D. Major Empires in the Ancient Near East
B. No major river
C. Trade routes
IV. God's Call of Abraham
V. Geographical Big Picture
A. Longitudinal zones
1. Coastal Plain
2. Central Mountain
3. Rift Valley
B. East-West connections
1. Jezreel and Harod Valley
2. Biblical Negev
1. International roads
2. Israelite roads
The Historical Geography of the Land of the Bible is a course that aims to explore the secrets of the land of the Bible by learning how to pay attention to details like rocks, water, and roads, and how they have a dramatic impact on the people living in that context and will change our theology.
The land influences the people that are living on it by affecting their stories. Learning to listen to the land helps you understand the details that are hiding in the background so that when you read the Bible, it’s like you see the narrative in living color and 3 dimensions.
Major rivers in the Ancient Near East provided the resources necessary for empires like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia to grow and flourish. Israel is on a couple of the major trade routes that connects these cultures. The location of mountains, hills and valleys in Israel affects the lifestyle and travel patterns of the people who live there and the people travelling through.
Wind patterns and the shape of the land determine where more rain falls. Finding and managing sources of water is a critical aspect of survival. The feasts coincide with the agricultural calendar. Biblical passages containing references to water and the feasts had profound meaning to the original audience.
Of the granite, sandstone and limestone layers of rock, the limestone layer is what controls much of the lifestyle of the people. The layers of limestone that are common throughout Israel and the surrounding areas are Cenomanian, Senonian and Eocene. It is a good land because there are enough resources to survive and thrive, but it is not an easy land. It has been referred to by different names throughout the years and the political boundaries have been fluid.
Bashan is in the north and has enough rainfall and arable soil to support crops and large animals like cattle. The Dome of Gilead provides connection points for international and local travel. Ammon and Moab are neighbors and descendants of Lot’s daughters. Edom is south and are descendants of Esau.
The people that migrated to live in the coastal plain were known as the Philistines. Because of the location and terrain, the roads were sources of international travel and trade. Cities were built for commerce and control. The Negev was an important area to control for travel.
The Rift Valley is valuable because of its location and resources. Bitumen and Balsam were sought after. It was a popular trade route but it was important to know where to get water. Jericho was at crossroads and was near some major springs. Connecting events in biblical history to the event and location of the baptism of Jesus adds weight and significance to it.
The hill country of Judah has enough rain to grow grapes and other crops. Hebron was first given to Caleb and then was the city that David ruled from when he first became king. It was a connecting point for local roads. Bethlehem and Tekoa are also cities in this area.
Jerusalem is framed by the hills and valleys that are near it. The Sorek Wadi System is to the west and the Mount of Olives is to the east. David built a palace and Solomon later built a temple. Jerusalem was important in Jewish history and also has a place in eschatology.
By the beginning of the first century, Jerusalem was the site of a magnificent Jewish temple built by Herod the great. He also built an impressive palace and a Roman fort which overlooked the temple. The events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus take on added layers of meaning when you understand how the geography of the events reminded people of Messianic prophecies.
Benjamin has the smallest tribal allotment but it is one of the most significant areas in the nation of Israel. The geographical features, the cities located there and the roads that run through it make it a region of national and international importance.
The Shephelah is between the hill country and the coastal plain and has unique geographical features. When you know the location of the roads, valleys and cities in this area, you can see their significance in the stories. When you understand where Micah and Isaiah came from and their historical context, you can understand why there is a difference in their message and tone.
The rocks and roads will give you valuable information about the Sharon Plain and Mt. Carmel. The international road took different paths around Mt. Carmel depending on your final destination. The harbor and palace that Herod built in Caesarea were impressive.
The hill country of Joseph has abundant resources and nearby roads for commerce. Shiloh was a religious center and the place where Joshua met with representatives from each tribe to determine their tribal allotment. The women of Shiloh also were instrumental in saving the tribe of Benjamin. Shechem was important as far back as Abraham. Every time people would see Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, it was a reminder of the blessings and curses of their covenant with God.
Who was Omri, and why was he significant in making Samaria an important city? When the people of Judah returned from Persia, there was a conflict with the people of Samaria. The animosity that was still present during the ministry of Jesus set the stage for an encounter he had with a woman that was at a well near the city.
Upper and Lower Galilee have the climate soil that is conducive to widespread agriculture. Lower Galilee also has some valleys that became major roads. Major empires of the fertile crescent exerted their influence here as they expanded. When the Greeks took control with their military, they also spread their cultural influence.
The Jezreel Valley is the center of activity for many of the biblical narratives. Not only was it an important economic and strategic location for Israel, but also for the Canaanites, Egyptians, Arameans and Assyrians. It is also a place where significant events took place in the lives of the prophets and Jesus.
This body of water is often referred to as a, “sea” even though it is fresh water, not salt water. There are not many stories in the Hebrew Bible that take place in this area, but it is a center of activity for Jesus during his ministry. Many of the parables are illustrations taken from local culture and geography.
The Huleh basin has an abundance of water from several sources. The soil is also good, but the conditions for growing crops in some areas presents some challenges. Dan is a strategic city in the north as a gateway to the region and a religious center under Jeroboam. Caesarea Phillippi was built by Herod and was a place that Jesus used to teach his disciples about his role as Messiah and their future as leaders of the church.
The Gospel of Luke traces the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, and the book of Acts traces the journey of the gospel going out from Jerusalem. The events in Pentecost have a connection to the events at Mt. Sinai. The gospel is for the world but the events that made it possible are anchored in Israel. (Don't forget the Epilogue, Lesson 21!)
There are two different stories in the Gospels of Jesus feeding large groups of people. One account is in John 6 and another account is in Mark 8. The message is similar but the geography gives you some clues to help you understand why the details are different.
Have you ever read about a place and when you went there in person, it came alive? As you walk through the hills and valleys of Israel with Dr. Parker, you will see the stories of the Bible in living color.
Your location affects your lifestyle, relationships, worldview, occupation, diet and travel. In ancient Israel, you depended on the resources around you to survive. People often lived near springs or rivers, but it was possible in some places to collect rain water and ration it through the year. The terrain and the type of soil would determine what crops you could grow, or what animals you could raise. Living near a road would give you opportunities to sell what you produced or buy what you needed. Your location would determine the amount of risk you would face from people in neighboring countries. By living in the hill country, you would develop a different mindset than if you lived on an open plain.
Once you begin to have an understanding of the, "rocks and roads" of Israel, reading your Bible with a good map next to you will help you get a 3 dimensional perspective. When the characters and the scenery become life-like in your mind, you will find yourself being inspired and motivated in your understanding of your relationship with God and how you can apply it in your interactions with others. Take this opportunity to learn from Dr. Parker to "Listen to the Land!"
Don't forget the Epilogue, Lesson 21!
Listen to the Land: Historical Geography - Bible Study
Have you ever read about a place and when you went there in person, it came alive? As you walk through the hills and valleys of Israel with Dr. Parker, you will see the...
Satellite Bible Atlas
A comprehensive guide to biblical geography, The Satellite Bible Atlas by William Schlegel provides historical context and insightful maps to help readers better understand the world of the Bible.
Dr. Cyndi Parker
Listen to the Land (Historical Geography)
Rivers and Roads
So I am a big picture person. I know there are some people who like to have all the little details added one on top of the other to create the big picture. I'm the opposite, so forgive me, but we're just going to do it my way because it's the way that I think. So if we were in a museum and we were looking at a huge, massive, beautiful painting, this is my equivalent of looking and examining the frame of the painting, and then we'll get into the brushstrokes much later. But I like understanding the larger context of where it is that we are. So I am going to start with a pretty generic map of what we would call the Middle East or the ancient Near East. However, we want to title this land mass. I imagine it's a map that a lot of people are familiar with understanding. So and I would like to say just on the outset that the satellite Bible Atlas gave me permission to use all their maps in this material. So I'm really grateful to them that I get to use this material. And if you're wanting copies of these particular maps, then it's the satellite Bible Atlas you want to go get. And I would encourage you to do that. This my maps that I'm using, this version is going to be really helpful. But for everyone who's at home, I would say get out your own map, whatever version of that map is and learn to see what I'm pointing out on your version of the map. Because then more likely than not, you'll continue to use those maps as you continue to do Bible study.
[00:01:49] It's one thing when you look at my map and you learn to see this map with the eyes that I'm telling you about, but use your own version, even a snapshot from Google Earth or something, use your own map, interact. That way, the learning becomes richer and deeper. Of course, you really should just go to the land. That would be my primary. Go get the feel of the land in your bones, smell the smells, hear the sounds. And that that is the best experiential learning way to learn. But this one, this will get us a pretty decent distance into understanding the Bible and the geography of the Bible. So this map that we are accustomed to looking at is really quite interesting when we look at the geography. So what we are going to notice is the Persian Gulf is over here on the far right hand side of our map, coming at an angle down towards the Persian Gulf are two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. And these two rivers are running all the way through what we call Mesopotamia or ancient Mesopotamia. These rivers are taking all of this water that falls in the mountains that are to the north as all of this water drains down onto the plain. These rivers pull all that water down into the Persian Gulf, which means in this riverine community you have lots of fresh water. The rivers are continually flowing. They flood every single year, which would make sense. The more rain you get in the mountains, the more the the river swells. So these rivers then are going to flood every year. And when they flood, they deposit massive amounts of very fertile soil on the banks of the river, which means for people who are living there as humans started going from hunter gatherers to agriculturalists in this part of the world, it happened here in Mesopotamia.
[00:03:59] So this is the northern part of what we call the Fertile Crescent. The southern part of the Fertile Crescent is going to be down here in Egypt. So Egypt has something similar to Mesopotamia. We have the Nile River, the Nile River. The springs are down off the map, off of what is pictured. The Nile then flows to the north, goes into the delta, and then finally out into the Mediterranean Sea. But it has similar characteristics to the Tigris and Euphrates in that it's always flowing, it's always clean water. Well, in ancient times it's a little different when you're there right now. But in ancient times, clean water all the time. It flooded every single year, deposited rich soil on the bank, which means it's easy for agriculture. So Egyptologists and then other and then those who study Mesopotamia argue all the time. Did people settle first historically around the Nile or did they settle and become farmers first around the Tigris and Euphrates? So we're not going to enter that argument because for our sake, we don't really care. Now, for the people who are along those rivers, the benefits of a riverine community are you have all of that water that is easily accessible. The water gives you amazing soil. So agriculture is really easy, which means as you are choosing a plot of land to stay on all the time, you have everything you need to survive. Most likely because everything is so fertile in that area, you're going to end up with the surplus crop. So what are you going to do with that? Well, there's probably people just up the river from you. It's pretty easy to build a raft or to walk along the flatness of these river beds and to establish trade with people who are just up the river from you.
[00:05:57] And then because communication is easy and trade is easy, then before you know it, you're forming a nation. You're electing a king who is pulling together an army and going out and conquering the world. I mean, obviously, those are many steps in between that. But this land, I mean, that is all a geography thing. The land itself makes it possible to have a world dominating empire that is rooted in this location. So if I were to put up just a couple of letters on the map and say, these letters represent the empires that at some point in time conquered everything on this map. As we look through the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament, I would imagine, you know, what these empires are. Right. E Egypt of course, Egypt has always been a dominant player on the landscape. Assyria, Babylon came next. Persia came next. So you see how these areas are resourced to the point where they can be world dominating empires. Now you could ask me. Maybe some people do. Where's Israel? Right. Because in when we're reading this book, you know, we're so focused on this book and this book is so focused on this part of the land. We think kings like Solomon dominated the world, and he never did. So we have to even just understand there's something different geographically from the riverine lands on either side of the Fertile Crescent, and then this middle part of the Fertile Crescent, which is completely different. Even looking at this map, you can see the coloration of that part of the land is already a little different. So I'm going to zoom in and I'm going to use this almost three dimensional type of a map to say, what's different about this land? Well, it's quite textured.
[00:08:10] There's all these like the rocks are all ripped apart. So you can see all of this texture. Everything looks really wrinkled. It's a mountainous area. There is no river, no big Mesopotamia, Tigris, Nile, nothing like that. Now you could go. Now, wait a minute. The Jordan River is there now. It's a good point. And we're going to talk about the Jordan River. But the Jordan River runs here. It is way down in the Rift Valley. And all the people live up on top of the mountains and rivers don't run uphill. So the Jordan River is just not going to be a helpful river for us. It does flood its banks. You know, it has little river qualities to it, but it is not resourcing this land. So this land that is here on the map, the one we're going to spend all of this time really studying in depth and learning to listen to this land is an impossible land to go out and dominate the world. It's impossible. The land does not give you those kind of resources. So. This is interesting because we already should be saying, okay, so why is that the land of the Bible? Why is this the place that God was going to give his people as an inheritance? If it's kind of an inconsequential land, it's a little bit out of the way. It's not all that important, and the land isn't going to give them a whole lot of resources. So what makes sense about any of this? Well, there's a really interesting characteristic to the land. It's not a natural resource, but it's the way the people use the land. So let's go back to our our bigger Fertile Crescent picture. All of the arrows that I've drawn in our trade routes.
[00:10:08] And this is really great because you can read passages all throughout Scripture, but for example, Ezekiel 27, which we're not going to read here, but you can do this, pause the video and sit down and read Ezekiel 27 and map all the different resources where they come from and where they're going. And you'll find all of the resources bend. And because the trade routes go through this portion of the land to the land of the Bible is where the white oval is. All of the trade routes, whether it's by sea or by land, they all pass through this land of the Bible, which means which. This is one of these points that I get so fascinated by. If this is the land of the Bible where God wanted His people to live, that He was giving to them as an inheritance. And it's not a world dominating place like Mesopotamia or Egypt. This is a world influencing place. Why? Because everyone's passing through. Egypt is always going to want to play with and fight and trade with other big nations. It's like China wants to trade with or have relationships with or figure out US policy because these are big dominant markets on the world stage. It's the same thing here. These big guys want to play with the big guys. They don't really care about who's living here, but they have to pass through that land in order to get to each other, which I find really amazing to think of God using a land not as a dominating place, but as an influencing place. I just. Let's just have a whole course on what that means, especially like think about how in the New Testament we talk about the Kingdom of God and what does the Kingdom of God and how did Jesus represent the Kingdom of God in this place? It has to carry with it this idea of we're influencing the world, we're not dominating the world, this kind of trade we see all the time, even in artifacts.
[00:12:24] So, for example, we have a whole bunch of clay tablets. This is a tablet where there's cuneiform writing, so written in the Akkadian language, but the script is cuneiform and this was found down in Egypt. So it's a huge cache of these little texts. They're like these small little tablets, almost a library of communications between the Pharaoh and people in the land of the Bible who lived there prior to the Israelites. So we can see that there's communication going on, that at some point Egypt controlled that whole middle part of the Fertile Crescent. And there are the ancient version of letters going back and forth between Pharaoh and the governors who were ruling over certain cities in the land. We also see it in architecture. So, for example, this is the tomb face that is found in Jerusalem in the Kidron Valley. So this is a much later this was built just prior to when Jesus would have been alive. But we can see in the architecture there's different influences so that we see the pyramid shape on the very top. Well, that is influenced by Egypt. That's a very Egyptian kind of thing. The capitals that you see. So the columns that are on the facade, that have the little scrolls at the top that is coming from Greece, it's a certain type of architecture that the Greeks invented. So even in like where we're looking now at Jerusalem, which is in the middle part of that crescent, but it's taking influences from the bigger kingdoms all around it. And we can see it here in artifacts like this. Okay, so let's think about our early history of the Israelites. Where in the ancient Near East, all people, not just the Israelites, but all people, their worldview, the way they thought of themselves, the way they they established identity, was based primarily on three primary things the gods you serve.
[00:14:37] The land you live on and by land you live on and belong to. I mean, primarily your family land, but the larger land around it as well, but really anchored into where your family has always lived. Long roots into the land and family. So God's land, family, these are hugely important. And if you shake one of those things, you're messing with people's identity and the way they understand the world to work. Which makes me think that in ancient times when people were telling the Abraham's stories and they get to Chapter 12 verses one and to we read it and we're like, Oh, okay, that's nice. God gives instructions to Abraham. Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father's house to the land. I will show you and I will make you a great nation. And I imagine ancient people going. What? Are you kidding me? Leave. What do you. What is God asking? Abraham to leave. The Gods of Mesopotamia, his own land and his family. That's all three things that dictate identity. And God is saying, trust me. It is astonishing. It's just one of those instructions. The fact that Abraham had the gumption to do that and to leave is astounding. But now let's look at the geography version of that. He is so his family is either from down here or from up here. There's two different versions of her. And we're not going to go into that right now. But then he's in Hiran, so he's up in Mesopotamia. And God says, Leave Mesopotamia and go into the land. I'm going to show you. Which we know ends up being here, this middle part of the Fertile Crescent. This is where I want you to be.
[00:16:41] Well, later on in Chapter 12, Abraham then goes down into Egypt because of a famine. And then Abraham comes back up to the middle part of the land. Well, Isaac, Isaac's wife, comes from Mesopotamia and comes down to marry Isaac. And Jacob, while Jacob flees his father's house and goes up to Mesopotamia, comes back down into this land. And then Jacobs son Joseph goes down into Egypt. And ultimately, all of Jacob's descendants go down into Egypt. And then God keeps saying, this is where I want you to be. It's another part of the story of Genesis that I am not sure we capture. The significance of God's people could have at any moment stopped and stayed in these world, dominating places where life is just a little bit easier and God keeps pulling his people up into this land saying, No, this is the place I want you to be. So if we think about this, like Chapter 12 again and you you think of God telling Abraham, I will make you a great nation, and part of you goes a great nation, really. Here they said, define great nation for me. Like, what is that and what is that actually going to be? And then God says, And I will bless you and I will make your name great. And so you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. And in you, all the families of the Earth will be blessed. And you think, Well, how are all the families of the earth going to be blessed? And then you go, Oh, the trade routes. The trade routes all go through there. So there's something really interesting about God putting his people in a place and saying, Live, according to my covenant exemplify me, build a God shaped kingdom here and everyone from the world as they understood the world.
[00:18:49] Everyone's going to pass through and they're going to go, Well, your social justice looks really different than ours. You treat your people in a way that is different than us. You have different worship practices than we do. And ideally, they then go home and the reputation of God goes with them. The geography matters. It's so important. Okay. We are going to go on to continuing this version of the big picture. But now, instead of doing the big ornate framework of the photo or the painting in the art museum, now we're going to focus on the painting itself. So just try to understand the layout of the painting. What is the focus of the whole rest of the course going to be? So I'm going to pull up this map again and say and again, we're going to go into detail into all of these segments. But we can understand this land of the Bible using these north south longitudinal zones. So the land we can say somewhat like fits into these categories. So the first one is going to be the coastal plain. So the coastal plain goes from Roche Negra, which is at that's the modern day name. It's not a biblical name, but right up there's this little bend right on the Mediterranean coast. So from that little nub, that was like the geographical divide between the Phoenicians who ended up being to the north, and then the Israelites typically who were to the South in broad strokes. So we have this coastal plain. It's really quite narrow in the north, but then it widens quite significantly down in the south. And then in the south I'm going to say the Wadi Bissau, which we're going to be looking at in a future segment, the Wadi Bay sort of creates the southern boundary there.
[00:20:52] And that coastal plain is when we look at the map, we can see it's almost a flat coastline, which also influences the people who live there because there's no natural harbor except one. We can say, well, we have this. The Mount Carmel range pokes out into the Mediterranean, creating the only texture we have on the coastline, which gives us our only natural harbor up here on the plane of Akko. Now, that alone would suggest that this isn't necessarily going to be a sea faring people because their coastline is not helping them do that. So the next zone is going to be our mountainous central mountain range. This is where we're going to find the majority of the biblical stories. And we're going to say, I'm going to call this Upper Galilee, the mountains of Upper Galilee in the far north. And then all the way down here to the biblical Negev, there's it's not really continuous, but there is in general this north south push and uprising of a mountainous range. So we're going to spend the majority of our time looking at that landscape there. The next one would be the Rift Valley. For our purposes, for the biblical land, we're going to say it goes from the hula basin all the way down to the Red Sea down in the south. But the Rift Valley itself goes from modern day Turkey all the way down to Mozambique. So it is a massive gash in the land that is kind of in between all the tectonic plates of the continents. So we get this European, this Asian and African tectonic plates, and there's this pulling apart, splitting and separating of these mountain ranges. So what's really interesting and as we get into this is we're going to be able to match mountains on this side of the Rift Valley with mountains on this side of the Rift Valley.
[00:22:54] So you can see how at one point it was one thing and they got pulled apart. And then maybe two generically, I'm just going to call this whole area on the other side of the Rift Valley, the Transjordan. So the Transjordan just means on the other side of the Jordan River, which obviously is already a perspective. It means this is our normal part. That's the other side of the of the Jordan River. So sometimes we call this mountain range the sister Jordan or like the western side of the Jordan. And then this is the Transjordan area. And for this I'm going to say Mount Hermon to the far north is going to marker northern boundary and then Edam or a lot is way down off the map. Actually, it didn't stretch far enough, but it's going to be way down here, quite a far quite further south than the Dead Sea here. And all of that is going to be the Transjordan. So you can see, even just as we do this big picture we're looking at, this is going to be the landscape that we're working on. And as we get to know different parts of the landscape, we can see how this is quite a new. North south oriented land, which means people from the Transjordan, if they're trying to get to the coastal plain. There's a lot of geographical boundaries that are making that kind of travel really difficult. I mean, descending all the way into the rift, all the way up to the hills, all the way back down to the coast. It's really quite challenging. And so we are going to pay very close attention to the two areas of the land where we can get East-West connections. Were those east getting across the country? Cross This landscape is a little bit easier.
[00:24:47] So there are two places and keep your eye on these at all times because these are really, really significant. The first one is I'm going to call it the Jezreel and Herod Valley. So if I said the mountains are stretching this way from Upper Galilee all the way down south, this Jezreel Valley area is almost like someone coming with a hand and pressing down on the mountains, like with the heel of their hand close to the Mediterranean Sea, the fingers laying down over the mountains. You end up with these really long, wide open East-West valleys with the mountains sticking up in between and this big open valley. I mean, this the Jezreel Valley is almost tabletop flat, and then you descend very gently into the rift and then you come up over here. This is the hardest part of your travel piece. This is a really enviable land. Plus, there's a lot of water and a lot of food, which is always very helpful. Now down in the south, we have another depression. And I'm going to call this the biblical Negev. So if the Jezreel Valley was a hand pressed on top of the mountains, I would say the biblical Negev is like someone using the side of their hand and pressing down onto the hills. And it creates like this just the little pathway that is a little bit of a depression. But again, it's flat enough to connect to East West without all that many geographical barriers. So this is the easy place to travel. Okay, now why do we care? We should always ask this question. Why do we care about these things? It shows up in an invisible way, invisible not to the ancient audience, but to us in really interesting ways.
[00:26:48] So, for example, in the book of Joshua, we get these stories. Joshua, the Israelites come in and it seems like they just conquered the land, conquered the land, everything's great. And then they ratify the covenant with God at the end. It's beautiful. It's like this rosy picture. It's like really, really fantastic. The Book of Judges kind of says, Hold on a second. Let's just modify our view. Like, let's let's bring this back down into reality. And so in Judges chapter one and two, what we get our lists of places, the Israelites actually didn't take it. So let's look at where those are. Because when we read things like Now the Lord was with Judah and they took possession of the Hill country, and we think, Oh great, you know, they're in the hill country, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valleys because they had iron chariots. And you go where the valleys? And we're like, Oh, down over here, on to the coastal plain. Now then we get in. MANASA Right. I mean, actually all the tribes didn't fully take their possession, but let's look at Manassa. Manassa is supposed to be half of the tribe of Manasa is up here and then the other half is over here. And God says they heard the biblical writers say Manasa took what they were supposed to take and the other Judges is like, Wait, hold on, man. Manasa did not take possession of Beit Shan, which is here. Or its villages or Tanak, which is here, and it's villages or the inhabitants of DOR and its villages or the inhabitants of Ibrahim and its villages. LeaM is in this same area as well. Or the inhabitants of Megiddo and it's villages. And then we should pause and we often just read and we're like, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
[00:28:45] But when you put it on to the map, you go, Why is it that the Israelites couldn't take those areas? This is the Jezreel Hill Road East West Connection. Of course they couldn't take it. The people who are there are accustomed to being on enviable territory and they have built their cities in such a way to be able to defend where they live. And the Israelites who are coming in. Yet they could get into the hills, but they couldn't get into that enviable territory. Not yet. Right. We have to watch that process happen. So along with this, I'm going to go not only like the shape of the land and the East West connections, but because of that, let's look at the roads. Now, I know there's nothing really sexy about looking at roads, but understanding the roads is actually super helpful again for understanding the biblical text. So I'm going to show you a picture of where I live. So I live in an urban landscape, but there is this gorgeous city forested park that is nearby. Right down the middle of the park is a river and then up the banks of the hills. On either side of the river are all these tiny trails, and they just snake their way up and down and all along the side of the riverbanks. Now, the trails up here are quite narrow. And so who do you find on these narrow trails? Well, the people who want a really good workout typically are up on these smaller trails people. And you don't necessarily find I don't often see groups of people walking together up here because the trail is so narrow. You have to go one behind the other, which if you have a lot of people, it makes awkward conversation.
[00:30:36] You definitely don't see anyone who has mobility issues up here because the trails are just too rugged. They don't really allow for that. Now, however, if you go closer to the river, down by the ravine, you have this big, massive it's just it's a dirt road, but it is wide enough, like a modern day road. Well, who's down here using that? Crowds of people. People with kids, all kinds of dogs. Bikers are always using it. It is crowded. There's a lot of people down here all the time. When I want to get away from the crowds, I go up onto the small roads. So this would be my modern day example of what in the Bible we have highways and byways. So we have the significant international roads. And then we have the small little local roads that don't need to be so big. So this would be a byway it's connecting Israelite village with Israelite village. This is going to snake its way along the hillside the side of the hill. It only needs to be wide enough for a donkey that has a burden that it is carrying as you're going to the market. It doesn't have to be wide and it doesn't have to be super well taken care of. It's just a pathway getting you where you need to go. So this would be the local roads or the byways in contrast to the larger roads. This I mean, this is a little bit anachronistic because I showed you one picture that was like Israelite villages and this is a Roman road. So totally different time periods, but it's showing us the same kind of thing. The big international roads are going to be where it's flatter there, much wider roads.
[00:32:23] By the time the Romans came and took care of the roads, there were curbs lining the side, sometimes paved, depending on where you were at, who's down on these roads. Armies are on these roads, traders, caravans of people, people from Egypt and Mesopotamia, meaning lots of international influence is down on these roads. Where on those roads you have locals, you're not going to have the big international armies. The armies don't care about people living in that landscape. You know that that is just not an imperial territory that people care about. This is a local territory. So when we look at our map and we're trying to figure out where the big international roads as opposed to like where the the minor byways would go, I'm going to put down in general, we're going to nuance this a little bit later on. But the the blue lines that are on the map are going to be the big international roads. This makes sense, especially when you're looking at the texture of the land. There's so much texture right here. And we already talked about how this is all mountainous and this is mountainous. And so mountains don't lend themselves to big international roadways where what we have is this as the mountains flatten into the Arabian desert and the land gets smooth. We have a large international road going north, south, and then all along the coastal plain until we get to the Jezreel Valley, which again is this beautiful place to cross. This is going to be our other really wonderful international road. That's where the armies are. That's where culture is being exchanged. This is where brand new ideas are, which means people in these along these roads are going to be a little bit more accustomed to entertaining new ideas they hadn't thought about before then people who are blocked off or a little bit more removed from international trade.
[00:34:29] Now, for example, I'm going to put on Israelite roads that were really significant. So I'm putting them in a different color just to help us realize this is not an international road. This is a really significant road. It runs the spine of the hill country. And we're going to be on this road a lot as we travel through this course. So it's a really important road, but it's a local road. It's not an army road. It's not a caravan road. It's still just a local road. And every once around we get a pretty good East-West connection. But this is a pretty challenging route to take, as opposed to the Jezreel Valley to the north. So we get these local roads, we're going to pay attention to where those local roads are. They are important because they get you out to where the international road is so that you can hold on to that blue arrow and just suck in the wealth, you know, because there's so much wealth that's traveling up and down on those international roads. Why do we care? So let me give you a little snippet for why we care about local and international roads and what the difference is between them. So we have, for example, a story in Genesis 37. This is as the book of Genesis is starting to turn its focus onto Joseph and Joseph's role in God's story. And Israel or Joseph's father, Jacob, says to Joseph, Are not your brothers? Pasturing the flock in them, shuck them is the red star that is towards the north. It's the upper star on the map. So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. Hebron is down here. Yeah. Hebron is down here. So he's. Joseph is going to be traveling on this important road, but a local road up to Chicago to try to find his brothers.
[00:36:29] Well, when he gets there, his brothers aren't there. And Joseph finds this guy in the field. He's like, What are you doing? Looking for my brothers. Oh, they went to Dothan. Okay. Dothan is very close by. It actually is just like he kind of around the corner. It's just like you just have to make it around this little bend of the hill so it's not that far away. Now, here's the interesting thing is, even though he finds his brothers at Dothan, how does that change the story? Dotun is on the international road. So now later on in the story, as his brothers are super irritated with Joseph, they sit down to eat a meal and as they raise their eyes and look behold, a caravan of Ishmael lights was coming from Gilead with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh on their way down to Egypt. So it is only because Joseph's brothers make that little league around the mountain that Joseph then goes to find them. And God puts Joseph in the location he needs to be to get him down into Egypt. That caravan would have never traveled through them. So it's again, local roads, international roads. These things matter. Let's also think about the neighbors of Israel. The Israelites. So the Israelites there. I'm going to call it a heartland. So the place where they were first able to settle down and able to kind of relatively significantly control the land is going to be in the hill country where the orange oval is. All of the other people, groups, all of their neighbors, the ones that were familiar with the Philistines, the Phoenicians, Aram, Damascus, kind of up on the corner of the map. Ammon, Moab, Edam down here, kind of off the map.
[00:38:32] All of these guys are surrounding them. And I'm putting those ovals in circles roughly in the places where they, for the most part, were able to keep control of that land. They did sometimes expand, but then they'd contract back into their heartland. Now, like, this is all well and good. But now let's think about those international roads and local roads. If I were to overlay the international roads on the map, I could then ask you, with all of these neighbors surrounding Israel, what big advantage, even though they are also in the middle of the Fertile Crescent, they're also in this textured land. They have a primary advantage over Israel. What is the advantage? The International roads. Every single one of those nations sits on one of those international roads, which means they're vulnerable to international armies coming through, but they're also accessible to inhaling the wealth that is traveling up and down on those international roads. This alone explains the majority of battles in the Hebrew Bible because Israel is up here in the hill country. As Israel grows, as they are changing from a tribal society into a kingdom with a government and a king, and they're becoming more organized and more sophisticated. They then want to reach out of the hills, and so they're fighting their neighbors to get out on to the blue lines, to hold on to that international trade. And so what we find is when Solomon, who ends up being one of the wealthiest of our kings, if we were to map out Solomon's kingdom on this map, what we find is Solomon has control of all the international trade. Why is he so wealthy? He's wise, yes. God gave him this wisdom. Yes, but he's wealthy because he has control over everything on their natural landscape.
[00:40:43] So keeping with the Solomon theme, The Star is where Jerusalem is located up in the hills. And we have shortly after Solomon becomes king, he has inherited this kingdom from his father in First Kings Chapter nine. Again, we get a list of cities which most people go to until we put it onto the map. So King Solomon built Megiddo together with Hotspur and together. Okay. Except the biblical writer's telling you something very significant about the state of Solomon's kingdom. Because Hotspur, Megiddo and Geyser are located on these four or three stars. So it means Solomon. If he's building Hotspur, he has control of this part of the road. He has control of this part of the road. And you're almost on the road when you're at desert. Feels like you're on the road even though you're a little protected. But he has that part of the road. And so this is the type of information the biblical writers assume you're going, Oh, that's amazing. But if we don't know the maps and we don't know the land, we kind of miss it. And we're just like, oh, okay. Like. Who cares? And till you put it on a map. So I have to get everyone addicted to maps. Okay, so before we move on to the next section, why don't we see if there's any questions that anyone has over the things that we've already covered? Yeah. You use the term heartland. You explain that. Yeah. So. Okay. Heartland is really good. Every nation, every, like, organized government is going to have the area that they're always able to hold on to. So even Egypt. Let's take Egypt, for example. Because on the map, I showed you how Egypt sometimes had massive control over the middle part of the Fertile Crescent pushing their way into the into Mesopotamia.
[00:42:45] But Egypt, when things were going awry in Egypt, either the climate is bad, there's a famine or. Or there's a coup in the government, you know. And so there's power struggles and issues. You tend to shrink back down into your natural borders. And so even though people were always trying to expand their borders, either go out and conquer or go out and trade with people when things are wrong, when there's power structures at play, there's always a shrinking down into we know we can control this. And so it's interesting to watch the the expansion and contraction of all of these different places. And as we get into more detail, we're going to watch Ammon expand and then contract MOAB expanding, contract Israel expanding and then contracting. So Heartland is just the when you're pulling back because times are rough, where do you pull back to?