Listen to the Land (Historical Geography) - Lesson 4
Rocks and Soil
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.
Rocks and Soil
I. Layers of rock
D. Volcanic Soil
II. The "Good" Land of Milk and Honey
C. Deuteronomy 11:9-15
III. What Do We Call This Land?
A. Dan to Beersheba
B. Holy Land
F. Land Between
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)
Rocks and Soil
All right. So in this next section, we're talking about rocks and soil, which I know, again, just like talking about the roads, people think it is just not going to be very interesting at all. But it it really I'm going to show you why it influences the different regions, how people live and how they're interacting with each other. So you'll have to forgive my super basic. I don't draw, especially when it comes to on the computer. So these are going to be very basic pictures, but it's going to get the job done. And if anyone wants to recreate these for me and send them to me, I will gladly accept that. When we're looking at the land of the Bible, we can say in like big picture terminology, there are three primary layers of rocks, different layers of sediment that have been laid down over time. So at the very, very bottom in this land of the Bible, we have granite. And over the top of granite we have sandstone. Usually people say Nubian sandstone, and on top of that we have limestone now as we have all these different layers there. They're obviously well, they're not not like this graphic where everything looks to be the same. They're of different thicknesses as they've been laid down in different places. Even so, we'll have a lot of sandstone down in the south, and we may not get any sandstone that is really visible up in the north. We are going to be focusing on the limestone because there's not very much sandstone that is visible and very little granite that is visible in the way that the ground itself has bent and folded and split apart along the fault lines.
[00:01:57] So as we study things in detail, I'll point out where we get the granite and where we can see the sandstone. But it's this layer right here that we're going to pay a lot of attention to. So this limestone layer is what is controlling the lifestyle of people who are living in this land of the Bible. So we're going to zoom in and I'll say, on top of all of this, sometimes we get volcanic activity. And so in the north, to the east in particular, we have volcanic cones. And so the outpouring of lava and ash also influences the land, what's available to us. But it's not the same. It's not a layer of deposits that is solidified into layers that is marking time for us. So let's zoom in on the limestone. We have three specific limestones. Now, this is something my students don't always love it when I force them to know the name, but I'll say it's a good party trick because you never know when you're going to run into a geologist and when you can pull out the names of limestone. They're like, Why do you know this information? So it's actually come in handy for me a couple of times. Okay, so if we take that limestone layer, let's look at it in a little bit more detail. What we find is the oldest or the one at the bottom, the oldest layer of limestone is what we call center Armenian limestone. So we're going to go into the details and characteristics of each of these layers in just a moment. So Cinnaminson is at the bottom, which means it's the oldest layer comes from the Cinnaminson age, the next above. It is a thin layer that is soon known in limestone.
[00:03:46] And then on top of that, we get the Eocene age or the Eocene version of the limestone. Now what happens is that we we get all of these different deposits of rock, right? Also, as tectonic plates are moving. And so it'll push everything up and so it now is going to bend. So all of these rocks kind of come up and then erosion is going to hit it. So we get all of this western wind coming in from the Mediterranean. The rain is hitting the rock, it's eroding rock away, turning it down into soil. Wind is beating against the face of the rocks. It's it's all the way that earth formations are formed all over this globe. So in this portion of the world, though, we get this nice rainbow effect. Except it doesn't stay, of course. So with all the rain that hits the layers of rock, it's going to erode away in a way, not in any kind of it doesn't erode away at the same rate everywhere. So it kind of depends. Now, this is where it's going to be very helpful for us to go back to the Western facing rock versus the Eastern facing rock. So wind and rain is coming in from the Mediterranean. If we had the rainbow effect up, then we would say. The original watershed or the crest line of the mountain is probably right at about here. This is where the rain is going to fall off and go back down into the Mediterranean Sea. So with the effects of the wind and the rain, we're eroding away all of the rock. So all of the Eocene, all of the snow, neon. And so the only thing left that is visible is the center, meaning the oldest layer of this limestone rock.
[00:05:39] Now, as we move closer to the Mediterranean Sea, we're going to see one little bit, a thin bit where the sinfonia is still kind of visible. Before we get to the newest, the youngest of the rocks, the Eocene rock, which is still visible over by the Mediterranean. So it just hasn't been pounded away into soil and it hasn't run off the hills yet because of all of the erosion that happens in irregular patterns. Now, when we look at where is the actual watershed, it has moved from its original place slightly over to the east. So this wouldn't be where it originally was. But because of the way that the land is now shaped, this becomes the new watershed, which means as soon as you go east of that watershed, the top crest line of the mountains. Remember, you don't get nearly as much rain, which means on the eastern side, the Eocene has been eroded away. So we no longer have you seen visible over here. But we have seen known in visible on the entire eastern side, which means not only now are we looking at the complications of water and rain where rain is falling, but now we're looking at what quality Iraq is on the surface is different in all the different places that you are. In the hill country where the Israelites are. So let's look in more detail at each of these rocks. We're going to start with the oldest with Green. And I will consistently, with all of our maps, keep the green to be simonian. So we're reestablishing a pattern and then we're going to follow the pattern for the whole rest of the way through the course. Okay, so Rumanian limestone has a few different characteristics. It is full of mineral content, which is wonderful.
[00:07:38] We need that for agriculture so that as the rock breaks down, that mineral content is in the soil and will help feed the agriculture, it is stratified almost in a brittle way. We can follow these lines throughout the rock. Now, this is actually kind of interesting because as Center Armenian was laid down and we get these stratified lines when the rock gets pushed together in areas, it the rock itself will pop along those stratified lines. And that's what creates all these different caves. There are shallow caves where all the different caves are almost always in this Salomone and limestone. And it's it's breaking between these layers, which becomes really helpful for us. I'm going to say this durable adjective down here is because the rock itself is so durable, it's often used for building. And as people harvested this rock out of the ground, they would harvest it, they would break it along the stratified layers. So you create like rectangles of this rock, and it's easier to harvest because it just naturally breaks on those stratified layers of the soil when it holds moisture. And again, that goes back to the stratified layers the rain can soak in and it just kind of finds its way into the moisture within this rock. That becomes a really significant characteristic of this rock and the soil once it finally erodes into soil. It is what we call Terra Rossa soil, and we call it that because it has this reddish, brownish, reddish hue. And that is our clue that we have lots of minerals in the ground. It is ideal soil, it's just wonderful soil to use. It can produce all of our summer fruits that we love so much. So let's look at a couple of pictures of what this can be like.
[00:09:40] You can see in this picture that we have bedrock all along the bottom. You can see some bedrock in the back. This is one of those cases where as the hill was formed, it popped between stratified layers and created a cave. And then someone the cave is back here where my students are kind of crouched into the cave. Someone came along and it becomes really easy to build a house. Your first version of the house, all you have to do is create an outer layer. To your house. Maybe a little door, maybe a little opening for a window, but not glass, right? Just a little place for a smoke to escape and to create a little air current in your house. And that can be a simple home and a family can live there. They can, you know, as they become more sophisticated and maybe have more money, you can do like harvesting the rock, shaping it into rectangles, building huge walls, and the big structures are going to be built in this way. Now, this is a refined not everyone is going to build with such a nicely shaped rock. Sometimes they just pile rocks on top of each other like the previous picture. This is a very typical Israelite building technique where you get these stretchers and headers. So when the the rectangular rock has the narrow face on the outside, that's the header. And then you turn the rock the other way and this becomes the stretcher. So it's if you alternate the way that the rocks are layered, it adds durability and stability to the wall. So when we see this building technique all over the place, we can go, Oh, that is very typical Israelite building technique. So this rock great for building.
[00:11:37] And when it erodes, you get this thick, rich soil and it just clamps onto the bottom of your shoes. So if you're ever traipsing through it during the rainy season, you grow about three inches by the end of your hike as you've picked up all this soil with you. But this is that reddish soil that is so wonderful for planting. Okay. So if we work our way up from this is cinnamon in that thin layer, that next layer that is cinnamon in, cinnamon in it has a much more powdery structure to it. So it doesn't have those nice stratified layers. It's really powdery, it's kind of chalky. It doesn't hold water very well. And so it would be a little bit I don't know if you've ever made pasta or noodles of sorts. If you dump a whole bunch of flour on the counter and if it's still in a pyramid and if you drop water on it or if you drop crack and egg, drop it on the flour, what does that water do? It beads up into tiny little balls and it falls off and it isn't absorbed, which is why you always have to create a well in the middle. Right. So it's the same thing with this kind of rock synonym and rock. It's very powdery and it does not absorb water, which means that even if rain hits this land and this, again, is the same picture I showed you when it was really quite green. Right. And this said, we see the greenery down here. So it's a soil that or a rock that can produce agriculture. You just have to do a lot to convince it to absorb that water. So we we tend to say, instead of having a particular shape this rock, it just drapes like a blanket on top of whatever is down below it, the soil.
[00:13:41] So as it erodes into this chalky white soil, you can see it doesn't have anywhere close to that same coloration. It's void of a lot of mineral content, the soil we call Ren Xena soil. So it's just void of that organic material that we like so much. So if I were to show you this is a picture it's taken in the Judean wilderness, actually, you can actually see in this picture the lower older layer of cinnamon in rock. You can see the stratification of this rock in different portions of the picture, but you can see how up on top of it. Look how powdery and it kind of smoothes out this landscape. We're looking at the snow neon layer on top that create, you know, so only if you get that Snowdonia to erode away are you going to get down into the cinnaminson. So we do find all throughout the Judean wilderness where the synonym and sits on top. If there's a large enough crevice that has been created in the hillside, we will see the effects of the snow mainly and down below, which means people who live on a snowy in landscape, they tend to be people who are going to live more in tents there. This is our shepherding territory. This is the drier territory. This snow knee and rock is not useful for building anything. And so you use something else at your disposal. You use the hair of goats, typically is what is used to build the tents. If you're going to be nomadic, this is good nomad territory. Okay, so our lowest layer. So we have the cinnamon in at the bottom and then the cinnamon in and the are our youngest of the limestones is Eocene. Eocene is quite different than the other two you've seen has an interesting characteristic in that a portion of it looks like simonian, it looks like that cheekiness.
[00:15:44] You can see this kind of soft white area down here, and if you were to put your hand on it, when you take your hand away, you get that it's that like it actually is coming off. It's really quite chalky except marbled throughout Eocene is what we call the nasty crust, which can be about a meter thick, sometimes a little thicker, sometimes a little thinner. But it's this dark brown. Covering on top of that chalky bit. So we get the chuck part dinner crust if you can get down below the nasty crust. Ancient people used to scoop out that chalky characteristic and they would turn that into plaster. So it's interesting to watch the correlation of the development of humanity in ancient times when they figured out how to harvest. This Eocene layer is when we start to see plaster being used to like cover the insides or plaster the insides of cisterns, that type of thing. We see the development of both now the NARI crest, this is a lot harder and this has a lot more mineral content in it. So this kind of rocky crusty bit, you can cut through that and shape it like stone so it can be a building material and then you can use the plateau or this chalk underneath as the plaster type material. When this erodes, you're eroding and blending both what is eroding from the NARI crest and this chalky bit down below, and we call that brown forest soil. So I'll show a picture because this is fun. There's always there's this place down kind of on the on the eastern or on the western side of the Judean hills, where the entire community made a life out in this Eocene rock, where part of the main industries of this community was to harvest that chalky bit down below.
[00:17:52] And so we're standing in the areas, the harvested chalky parts. So the top of the hill is up above us. This is where the actual shape of the hill is. And the original inhabitants just dug like kind of harvested out of the narrow crust, a circle. And then as they scooped in, they scooped down and out, and they create these big bulbous caves which become really fun to go visit in modern day. So again, these are the Eocene hills you've seen tends to take on a very gentle, rounded hill shape. And so you can see where it's eroded away. You can follow this gnarly crust all along the edge. And then again, that brown forest soil is going to erode off of the hill and then create a really thick, really wonderful soil in kind of in the valleys of these hills. And so we're going to find a whole bunch of grain down in the valleys where you can see on these hills off to the side because of the effect of that nasty crust. This tended to be left with like brushy type bushes. Maybe maybe you could get a vine to grow because vines don't mind a little bit of a hard work when it comes to what they're planted in. But you get the majority of your agriculture then down in the in the valley basin. Now, I mentioned that we're also going to see the effects of volcanic activity that has happened. So when we get when we explore any of the land that is to the north end of our land of the Bible will start to pick up this black. We call it basalt. It's the the lava and the ash as it solidifies in some areas, the basalt.
[00:19:51] This lava cooled at such a great rate that it forms these these like crystallized structures, which is really fantastic. The salt becomes it's not necessarily a rock because it's not marking an age of time. But this basalt volcanic activity, this basalt rock or basalt substance is one of the most durable surfaces that you can use to build. So it's it's amazing. It's really hard to work with. It's just so tough as a substance. And yet ancient communities could get these really fantastic designs, which blows my mind every time I see them. I just think that the ability to be able to do that out of basalt is fantastic. But if you can build your community out of basalt, you have the sturdiest material, which also means ancient people knew this is the best kind of substance to work for. And since it is the sturdiest, they would build sturdy things out of it. So for instance, a hand mill. So if you're a grinding grain, if you can do it on a basalt structure like this, this is one of the best ones that you can have. Now, what's interesting is we can follow where all the different rocks are visible and basalt. As I said, we only have up in the north, but every once in a while we find a basalt structure like this down in the South somewhere. And it just, again, is showing us that there's a trade and an industry that is coming up with people who have access to basalt going. People down in the South don't have a handle like this. So the wealthy people can maybe afford to get a handle like this and import it. It would be a luxury good of sorts. So we can see that type of evidence in the land.
[00:21:50] So these ideas to the granite, the sandstone and the limestone, and then more specifically with the limestone, the Santorini and Simonian, Eocene, this is what we're going to play with with each of the times. We move into a new area, a new arena in the biblical landscape, as we have to say which one of these rocks is visible, because it will determine if you can use the land for agriculture or not, if you're going to end up living in tents or in a like a solid house, if you have to be migratory or if you can be sedentary. So it's going to determine all of those things for us. And so that's always what we're going to start each of our foundations looking at. So before we move on and we really talk about with the big picture established, with the big general introduction to the land, we're going to look at this good land, the concept of it being milk and honey. But I'll pause and just see if anyone has any questions about rocks and soil before we continue. It's interesting that the different kinds of soil are what determines whether the people are migratory or sedentary. The practical side of that is, you know, right away, if it's going to if you're going to be able to grow crops on it. That's right or not. But then also how the rain patterns affect that. Yep. And which side of the mountains that you're on? Yep. And so we're just going to keep building in layers, keep building like these are the things that are affecting people because at the end of the day, we want to get to like we want to identify with who these ancient people were as real people making real hard decisions.
[00:23:42] So given everything that we've talked about with all the rocks, the different soils, the different amounts of rain, all of these things, the fact that it's not in a world dominating area, but that they're into maybe a world influencing place, but they they don't the Israelites didn't have access to the international road, given all of this stuff. Why is it that the Bible also considers this a good land to die? Again, it's a it's a really interesting question when we build from the ground up and Deuteronomy I mean, Deuteronomy is not alone, but because I love Deuteronomy and everything goes back to Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy loves the phrase the land flowing with milk and honey. Actually, the Hebrew is gushing, gushing milk and honey. So you say based on everything we've talked about, it doesn't seem to be a land gushing milk and honey. But that all depends on what you think a good land means and what you think a land gushing with honey and milk and honey is. Sometimes when I ask people like, What do you think that term means? Or even when I, I hear this even in modern vernacular, because we talk about like moving into a new career or moving into a different town or a different city. And it's like, Oh, I have arrived at my land of milk and honey and like, well, what people mean by that. And usually they have concepts of paradise of sorts, or what I like to say, like the South Island of New Zealand where nothing is going to kill you. The nature is extraordinarily beautiful now. It's just it's amazing. Like that sounds like milk and honey because we think milk and honey is just God gave them what they needed, like this amazing inheritance.
[00:25:33] And the reality is God is calling them into a challenging place. So maybe we need to tweak what we think milk and honey actually means and what we think a good land actually means. We're going to use Deuteronomy, which is not a surprise. And Deuteronomy uses both of these phrases all the time. Good. It's always repeating, this is a good land. This is a good place. This is good, good, good, good. Tov in Hebrew. It's good. And what's interesting is, as Deuteronomy is explaining, the land the people will go into, it keeps calling it good and then explains that good in Almost Garden of Eden ways. And so if we think of creation narratives, God was creating places and calling them good, and then He created the things that can flourish in that place and says, Oh, that's good. And then humans to kind of help him manage all of it. And then it's not just Tove, it's Tove me. Oh, it's so good. And Deuteronomy is borrowing some of this language and going, this land you're going into is a place created for you. It's good. And you being in that place is going to be tove mode. It's going to be very good. And what is this place? Oh, it's the land flowing with milk and honey. So we have to look at what this means because it's probably not paradise the way that we think of it. So we go, it's a land of milk and honey. Well, where does milk come from? And this is where a lot of people say cows and say, well, cows were like the rich man's kind of you can only raise cows if you're way far up in the north. The majority of Israelites had sheep and goats.
[00:27:29] And so milk is a shepherd commodity. Rick, is this coming from the sheep and the goats? And if it's a shepherd commodity, we have to think of where's the place of the shepherd? Like, where is the shepherd with their goats? Well, it's in that sinfonia and landscape, that chalky landscape. That's a hard place to be in. It's not very green and it forces you to migrate. Ray said That's our milk territory. Eastern side of the hills. So what about honey? Well, this is interesting because there's an ongoing debate in the scholarly community about if honey is in reference to wild bees, which they did have, and that the system of raising bees. We also have evidence of some ancient communities in this land where they had beehives within their community, but it's just so few and far between that it could be that, but it doesn't. Maybe it's also not. I'll say it that way. It may not be bee honey. So then what would it be? Well, the other guess is that is making reference to dates and date sirup is what we would the term we would use today. Now, why do we think that? Because people in that landscape, throughout all of history have used this commodity that grows naturally there, the date palm trees. And we have a bunch of records of them, not only exporting dates, but pressing dates into a sirup and calling it honey. So this is interesting because then you need to know what a date is. If you've ever eaten a date and they're quite small and you bite into it, like how much water content is in there? It tastes a little bit like brown sugar, like there's no juice that's going to come out of the date and drip down to your elbows like a peach or some other type of fruit that has all this water content.
[00:29:41] A date is dry, basically. So when you bite into it, there's not that much moisture there. But if you can pulverize a date and put it into baskets and press it really hard, what comes out is this thick kind of molasses, sea sirup or honey. So it could be that the honey used here is in reference to a date sirup, which is interesting because no matter which one you use, whether it's bee honey or whether it's a date honey, that is a concept that belongs to the farmer because you need the bees to pollinate the fruit or that the dates that are harvested then are an agricultural. Crop. So milk and honey, just as concepts are shepherd and farmer. And so if it's the land of milk and honey, it's the land of the shepherd and the farmer. And when we think of the land of the farmer, we think the western side of the hills, a place that has water. So it's an interesting concept that the biblical writers are trying to get it to to really wrestle with is when God says, this is a good land, it's the land I'm taking you into. It's the land of milk and honey. It's a land that is both challenging. Because you can't get crops out of it, because you have to be a shepherd, because you have to follow the water, because it's challenging. Or it could. It can also be and is also the land of the farmer. We have seen Romanian rock and terra rosa soil, and you can be a little bit more sedentary and build permanent homes. And the interesting thing is God says these two things together are the good land. This is the right place to you. And I think that concept already goes against any kind of health and wealth gospel that people like to talk about.
[00:31:47] Because at no point does the Bible say life is going to be easy. It's always like you're going into a land and there's there's a recognition that this land is challenging, right? This land is drinking water from heaven. This land does not have a river running through it. This land is where shepherds are. It's marginal, but it's also were. Farmers are. And there are lessons we have to learn from both of those communities. So what do we learn? Well, in shepherding community, we've seen the barrenness of their landscape. But when God shows up in barren area, you can't deny that God was there. When God provides, it's so obvious because there's nothing else you could have done. Now. So it's a hard landscape, but there's good lessons to be learned. Well, what about the farmer? It's a challenging lifestyle, for sure, but it's almost in an easier lifestyle. The challenge comes in when you live in farming territory, it becomes really easy for you to think you did it and that you're self-sufficient and you don't need God. And the biblical narrative, especially if you follow the prophets. Well, you have to watch how the prophets use this imagery of milk and honey, farmer and shepherd, because people in shepherding communities tend to forget God, and then God ends up moving them into shepherding areas to kind of let's let's just remind ourselves of how you began as a nation. So that you can see me and learn to trust me again. And then I'll give you the goodness of the land. And the land will provide. But don't forget. And so this good land you're going into is the place where both things are evident at all times. And the key aspect is, can you live with God? Well, in both of these terrains, if you end up in shepherding areas in barren areas, it doesn't prove God isn't there.
[00:33:55] Can you find God there? And if you're in an area where things are flourishing, you have the rain that you need and the building materials that you have. It doesn't mean God is absent or that you did it. God is there to. So the concept of the land of milk and honey is so much richer than we often give it credit for. It has nothing to do with paradise. It has everything to do with how to live with God in the place that you've been given. To stay on this theme and to stay in Deuteronomy because I feel like we need to. Deuteronomy goes on to explain What is this good land? This land of milk and honey? What does that mean? And what is really interesting is when we read Deuteronomy 11. So I have up here verse ten, but if we start in verse nine, verse nine is where it mentions a good land, a land gushing milk and honey. And then as Deuteronomy goes on to explain, like, what do I mean by this? By this term, it starts with the negative. This is what it is not. So before we get to what it is, we have to talk about what it's not. And so verse ten, and this is really interesting read with lots of different translations because they, they kind of mess with this verse a little bit or they try to make it understandable, I should say. So in verse ten, for the land into which you are entering to possess, it is not like the land of Egypt from which you came. And we should pause. We've already seen Egypt in the introduction to this class. What do we know about Egypt? It's a riverine community. It has water that is always flowing.
[00:35:36] It has an extremely deep body of agricultural like topsoil, because the Nile is flooding all of the time. It's in a where it's in a place where the land can provide everything needed to be a world dominating place. So as Deuteronomy is explaining, the land you're going into, it starts with it's not Egypt, which is like, oh, like the land in Egypt that you like. We all actually want to live in Egypt. And so to say, hey, guess what? Your inheritance is nothing like that. It's like, oh, so the rest of the verse, like, what I want you to really pay attention to is who has this sense of agency in the actions that are here. So it's not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed like a vegetable. Oh, so your seed. And then we have this really interesting little bit in Hebrew, and this is what gets translated in lots of different ways. So you sow your seed. We're going to skip that bit like a vegetable garden. Now, this is my favorite is if I can get ten different Bible translations like laid out on the table and then just ask people how different translators have talked about this. So this word right here is and to water and this is with your foot in Hebrew. That's what it says. So where you water you in the singular like you, you water with your foot. Okay. So right there should make everyone be like, I'm not sure because this is when I like to ask people like, when have you ever watered your garden with your foot? It's kind of a it's a bizarre phrase, which is why translators are always trying to fix it for us.
[00:37:23] They say different things like different translations say different things. But I'd like to draw your attention to what Egypt actually looks like. So this picture I took when we were in Egypt, we were traveling along the Nile and the bus was going down. And I saw this picture of the fields and I was like, Oh, stop, so, so stop. And that, you know, we like crashed. Like, we don't crash. But the driver thinks something extraordinary is happening and he's like, What's, what's wrong? I'm like, Oh, now I just need this picture for because it's Deuteronomy 11. And he was not nearly as impressed as I was. So the Nile is over, like off the screen over here. So all this fresh water, if we're farmers, look at that soil, it's just so great. Like we're in love with this soil. And so people just, like, create little rectangular segments in their fields with these little water channels like these little you can see that kind of form, the shape of the land. And if I were to get a little bit closer, we'd look something like that so you can pull up water. And so and there is a mechanized version where people use their feet to pedal, to pull the water up, which some people think this is what Deuteronomy means. And I totally don't think they're right. But I think there are people that have never been to Egypt to see this. But you can take all of this water and you put it in these channels and it just flows up the channel. And so if you're the farmer and you want to water this portion of your field, how do you get water in there? Well, you take your foot, the heel of your foot, you drag it through this mud wall and all the water goes rushing in there and then it waters itself.
[00:39:06] And then when you're done watering it, you can just push up the wall of mud and it continues flowing. And then you water that section. You are literally watering with your foot like a vegetable garden. So this is again when all of our translation should be done in place so that we understand how it works. Okay. So people of Israel, the good land you're going into is not like this, where the sense of agency belong to you. You could water your fields. It was easy and the ground produces with very little effort on your part. Oh, no, we continue. But the land into which you are about to cross, to possess a land of hills and valleys which we've seen already. It drinks water from the reign of heaven, which we have also seen, a land for which the Lord your God cares. And so now if we're looking at who has a sense of agency here, it has nothing to do with you yet. It is the land. God watches. God looks at. And God cares for. The eyes of the Lord. Your God are always on it from the beginning, even to the end of the year. It shall come about now. So basically you've seen this is now going to be a much more vulnerable land. This is the land God has to care for. Okay, so now when you go into it, it shall come about. If you listen obediently to my commandments, which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord, your God, to serve Him with all of your heart, all of your soul, that He will give the reign for your land and its seasons. And then listen, the early rain and the latter rain that you may gather in and listen again your grain, your new wine and your oil rest you're now going into.
[00:41:09] Oh, and I shouldn't stop there because the writer doesn't stop there, which is amazing. He will also give grass in your fields for your cattle or for your flocks, and you will eat and be satisfied. This is what I think is both extremely challenging and wonderful because the writer of Deuteronomy is inviting us into this. I like the place you're going into is more vulnerable. It's not as easy as Egypt. It's harder. But Egypt is also the house of slavery. It's the fiery furnace of oppression. It's also the societal structure that grows out of life being easy. No, no. This land, this land is vulnerable. And this land completely depends on God. And so as God's people going in with a covenant with God, your sense of agency is obey God. And then God's going to give you what you need from the beginning to the end of the year, from the early rains to the latter rains. And not just you, but all of your cattle, all of your animals that are also surviving on this land as well. So it's a it's a challenge to think of this land because, like, why is God calling his people into such a challenging kind of a landscape of shepherding and farming territories? And part of it is it's a people of faith moving into a land that is vulnerable and has to depend on God. And part of developing the faith of his people was they have to learn from the land, do like the land does be as vulnerable to God as the land, and God is going to take care of you. That concept of the land of milk and honey is one we don't always want to absorb because we want to be in Egypt.
[00:43:01] That is the more comfortable place and God is always saying, No, come in, we're both of these things are true. Neither one displays the fullness of God's character because you need God can displays character in both of those places, and you're just learning to dwell with God in God's land and depend on God the way that the land depends on God. So as we get to towards the conclusion of this introduction of like the big picture landscape, we should just kind of briefly say, hey, what should we call this place? It's had lots of different names throughout time. And so it can get really challenging to figure out what are we going to decide to use. The Hebrew Bible calls it Dan to Be'er Sheva because Dan was in the north and Be'er Sheva is down here in the south. And so saying from our northernmost city to our southernmost city, this is our land. And so, Dan, did Be'er Sheva was more often than not the way that they said Israelite territory. Right. Is this what is on the map? Sometimes in the Transjordan, sometimes not. The Holy Land is interesting. Is the land itself holy? Maybe not so much, but the land is the place where God's narrative with his people unfolded. And so just like it's a vulnerable land that God is watching, it's that interactive, like highly interactive characteristic of God. We could say this land is holy because of the history that has happened here, because God interacted with His people here, because God made Himself known here. And so in that way, I would say that there is a holiness and a sacredness to this kind of landscape. Plus, as we continue on through this course, you'll hear me say, like all the time, land holds on to memory.
[00:45:03] And so we have layers and layers of history that is just being held by this land. And so it is giving us a bit of a sacredness that is that is there in the land Palestine is used. If you look at a lot of old Dhaka actually all the way up to modern day, there's a lot of scholarly material. And when they refer to this middle part of the Fertile Crescent, they refer to it as Palestine is a term that came about during the time of the Roman Empire who did kind of say it was the place and some everyone disagrees on if Palestine really comes from Philistine, which it might. The Philistines lived down here in the southern part of the coastal plain, and then they just kind of use that Palestine as the generic term. And then and because we see that in so many ancient writings, we've taken that on and we continue that in scholarship until modern day. So once we get the fall of the Turkish empire and we get the division of land and Palestine becomes a place that has a political identity, now using that term becomes a little bit tricky sometimes, although scholars still often just mean like this. What's on your map? They don't mean anything political. I'll say along with that, let's jump on and say Israel, same idea. It is the land of Israel. But the political borders have been very fluid through this land an awful lot of the time. And so we have to be really specific about it. We can call it the land of Israel and it is often called that. But when people use that modern day, they do tend to think first and foremost the political state of Israel now in contrast to the political state of Palestine now.
[00:46:58] And so those are tricky and I'm not going to use them just to help keep things clear. We also have in a lot of ancient writings the term Levant. This is a very European centric term to use because the Levant comes from the French term leather, which is to rise, which means from the European point of view, you're looking to the east to see the sunrise over the Levant. So the Levant is it's a fine enough term. I don't have anything wrong with it, except when I'm trying to get away from the Europe centric view of the Bible. There is a gentleman named John Monson who created a lot of the material that I used when I first learned about the geography of the Bible. And he calls it the land between. And I really love this, so I'll either call it the land between or the land of the Bible. And what does he mean by land between? Well, it's the land between the Mediterranean and the desert. And it's a fact. It's feeling the effects of both. It's squished between these two massive natural forces. It is also the land between Egypt and Mesopotamia. It's the land between the European, the African and the Asian continents. So it for me is a term that is descriptive without being political, and it's descriptive of the way that this land actually really does function. And so you'll hear me saying throughout the rest of the. This is either the land of the Bible or it's the land between and and that's what I mean. Although I would say all of these are valid, you just need to know what is behind some of the terminology. Okay. So before we move on to our next segment, which will be looking at detail of the Transjordan.
[00:48:45] Let's just pause and see if anyone has questions. So when you think about how the land of milk and honey talks about the difficulties involved and also the relationship between the shepherds and the farmers, it seems like God tried to build in things to remind us of that because if we were good learners, it would be enough for him just to say at once, yeah, the feasts are God's reminder, say, okay, this is a land of milk and honey. And now I'm going to have a reminder for you about, you know, about Sabbath, about the Passover, about the different feasts and what they remind you of to be thankful for and also what they remind you of to be dependent on me for. Yeah. I love that you said that because to go back to Deuteronomy, the the middle of Deuteronomy is a law code and the law code is repeated also in Exodus and portions of it are and Leviticus and then Deuteronomy is is also presenting the law code. Deuteronomy loves and adores the word remember. Remember. What is amazing is Deuteronomy never says Remember the law. Remember this rule? Remember this? Never. It's always saying, Remember who God is and who you are as his people. Remember what he's done. And so to like build on your statement, which I'm so glad you mention that, because then if if we're supposed to remember God and these festivals, which are all about what God did, how God interacted with people, are built into the land. That means as the land every year goes through a cycle, every year the people are reminded of their history with God and what God has done. Then on the flip side, it's so how do you act in response? Well, there's a few suggestions.
[00:50:58] This is how you can be holy, and this is what it looks like in reality. But it's always remember. Remember, God acted first. Remember, God did this first. How do you respond to that? And I love, you know, these holidays and the festivals in the land, whether it's learn to be as vulnerable as the land is or learn to celebrate based on what you're getting out of the land. It's so present in the moment and it really is all about what God has done. Yeah, it's beautiful.