We will be covering places, peoples, and environments as presented and developed within Scripture. We will familiarize ourselves with particular regions, cities, and landscape features stretching from the Garden of Eden to present day.
The main objective of this study is to increase your understanding and knowledge of the Bible as it pertains to its important geography. Knowing places and peoples from a geographic perspective helps the Bible student to reach a better understanding of both content and purposes behind all the books of the Bible and their authors. By the end of this study, each student ought to be equipped to describe and locate all important geographic centers of the entire known world during Biblical times, as well as to tie significance into modern day locations.
Old Testament Geography
GARDEN OF EDEN
It is hard to place EDEN exactly, because either the names have changed or the entire layout of the land has changed after the flood (Post-Diluvian). Scripture speaks of the Pison and Gihon being rivers in the vicinity of HAVILAH (a descendant of Cush) and ETHIOPIA (Cush), which most geographers place west of the Red Sea. Just verses later, however, Moses records the Hiddekel (or great river TIGRIS, Dan. 10:4) and the EUPHRATES in the vicinity of ASSYRIA. For me, since the Pison and Gihon are relatively unknown compared to the Tigris and Euphrates, it seems more logical using our Post-Diluvian geography knowledge to place it farther east than the RED SEA. Having said that, its exact location is still under great debate.
ARK COMES TO REST
After one-hundred and fifty days the waters of the flood had decreased enough to where Noah had found his ark resting on MT. ARARAT. And so, all current civilization began at Mt. Ararat.
TOWER OF BABEL
Noah and his descendants were traveling “from the east” (v. 2) and therefore must have journeyed east from MT. ARARAT before returning west again. They came to the plain in the land of SHINAR. The city located here where they tried to build a tower to the sky was named BABEL.
The Hebrew name Babel means “confusion.” Babel would later come to be called Babylon. More will be discussed later concerning Babylon. But, now, it is interesting to see where and how ancient Babylon began, because it will grow to a far greater size and location later.
CALL OF ABRAM
Acts 7:1-4; Gen. 11:26-28; 12:1-5
Abram received his call in MESOPOTAMIA before entering HARAN. Once Abram had already departed toward CANAAN, he arrived at and then departed from Haran at the age of 75 with his brother Lot and their families.
Terah, the father of Abram, was originally from UR of the Chaldees, which is a city in Mesopotamia. Much of what is known about the great city of Ur comes from recent archaeological discoveries and not from an excess amount of Biblical information (Gen. 15:7, 1 Chr. 11:35, Neh. 9:7).
Gen. 13:1-12; 14:18
Abram left Egypt and came to BETHEL. The name Bethel means “house” (beth) “of God” (el), and it lies just miles to the west of AI. God would eventually bring Jacob back to Bethel to renew the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 35:1-15). Bethel was originally given to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 18:11-13), but would later be overtaken by the tribe of Ephraim (Judg. 1:22-26). Even more notable, the ark of the covenant dwelt in Bethel during the period of the judges (Judg. 20).
After defeating the kings with Chedorlaomer, the king of SALEM, Melchizedek, came out to meet Abram. This is our first introduction to the city that would later be called Jersualem. Salem means “peace”, while Jerusalem “possession of peace.”
ABRAHAM AND LOT
Gen. 18:1; 19:24; 20:1; 22:1-2
During Abram’s journeys, the Lord appeared to him in the PLAINS OF MAMRE, which is in HEBRON (Gen. 13:18). This is where God would reveal His plans for SODOM AND GOMORRAH. These two cities are located at the southern tip of the DEAD SEA, and many scholars hold that these cities were actually located under the very water of the Dead Sea following their destruction. Sodom means “place of lime; burnt.” Though destroyed for its sinfulness, the land was very fertile and “well watered” (Gen. 13:10). Gomorrah means “submersion” and was also one of the five cities destroyed by God.
After Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction, Abraham journeyed to KADESH, SHUR, and then GERAR. God then tested Abraham and led him to MT. MORIAH. Mount Moriah was one of the two mountains that would make up Jerusalem, and where Solomon would later build his temple (2 Chr. 3:1).
ISAAC, JACOB, AND JOSEPH
Gen. 24:10; 27:43; 31:13; 32:3; 33:17; 47:27
NAHOR was the place where Abraham’s servant would find Isaac’s wife Rebekah. It is a city in Mesopotamia north of HARAN. Haran is where Isaac sent Jacob to find a wife. Rebekah’s brother, Laban, would keep Jacob there for work and give him his two daughters to marry. Jacob would eventually flee Laban and come to BETHEL. Bethel was where Jacob would return at the command of God. When Jacob finally had to meet Esau, he went messengers ahead unto the land of EDOM. The descendants of Esau and the Edomites would come to be used interchangeably. After their meeting, Jacob traveled on to SUCCOTH. The name Succoth means “booths.” This is where Jacob made booths for his livestock, and is located east of the Jordan about half way between the Salt Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Jacob, his name having been changed to Israel, would eventually move his family to GOSHEN because of Joseph.
THE LIFE OF MOSES
Ex. 2:15; 4:19; 13:18
Moses was born in Egypt, but fled to MIDIAN to escape the anger of Pharaoh. Midian was east of Egypt across the gulfs of the RED SEA. Though Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah (Gen. 25:2), they came to be called Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:28). Jethro was a priest of Midian (Ex. 3:1), and Joseph was sold by his brothers to Midianites.
After returning to Egypt from Midian, Moses confronted Pharaoh leading to the ten plagues. The Israelites, having been freed, journeyed from RAMESES or Goshen to the “widerness of the Red Sea.”
THE FLIGHT OF THE ISRAELITES
Ex. 15:22-23; 16:1; Num. 33:9,15,36-37,48
After leaving RAMESES, one of the two treasure cities (along with PITHOM) built by the Israelites during their slavery in Egypt, Israelites crossed the RED SEA to escape the pursuing Egyptians. The Red Sea measures about 310 kilometers in width at its widest part, about 2100 km in length, and around 2900 meters at its greatest depth. It branches at its northern end into two gulfs- the Gulf of Aqaba on the eastern tip and the Gulf of Suez on its western tip. The Gulf of Suez is shallow with a broader shoreline and the much deeper Gulf of Aqaba. The Red Sea gets its name from the period of time each year when algae dies and leaves the normally bluish-green water a reddish-brown color.
Immediately following their crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites entered the WILDERNESS OF SHUR. Though Hagar and Ishmael finally fled to the WILDERNESS OF PARAN (Gen. 21:21), the angel of the Lord found them the first time in the Wilderness of Shur (Gen. 16:7). Located within this wilderness was a body of water called MARAH. Its name means “bitter”, because of the bitter undrinkable waters found there.
The next wilderness in their journeys was the WILDERNESS OF SIN. This was where the people murmured against Moses and God sent quail and manna. Soon in their wanderings they came to the WILDERNESS OF SINAI. This wilderness does not seem to encompass the wildernesses of Shur, Paran, and Zin as some say, since they entered it for the first time in the third month of their wanderings (Ex. 19:1). Instead, it probably makes up a much smaller area that includes Mt. Sinai. Finally, the Israelites arrived at their last wilderness for a long period, the WILDERNESS OF ZIN. This wilderness was the southern border for the Land of Promise (Num. 13:21). KADESH-BARNEA is located here in this wilderness. It lies on the edge of Edom (Num. 20:16), and also is said to be a part of the Wilderness of Paran (Num. 13:26). Because of the ten spies with bad reports and the people’s rebellion against God at this place, the Israelites hence wandered in the Wilderness of Paran for thirty-eight years. Kadesh-Barnea is also where Moses disobeyed God (Num. 20:8-11).
The Israelites finally arrived at MT. HOR where Aaron died and was buried. It was situated at the border of Edom (Num. 20:23). They then finished their wanderings in the PLAINS OF MOAB at the JORDAN RIVER. It was across the river form JERICHO, and where the second census as well as all the book of Deuteronomy took place. MT. NEBO, where Moses got to look over into the Promised land, was located here.
IMPORTANT HIGHWAYS IN CANAAN
Num. 20:17, 21:22, Is. 9:1
The King’s Highway was the major caravan route that ran north to south through Canaan just east of the Jordan River. The northern half of this highway was called “the way to Bashan” (Num. 21:33) or “the road to Bashan” (Deut. 3:1). It was along this highway that the Israelites were refused passage on their march from Kadesh to the plains of Moab (Num. 20:19). Another highway, perhaps the most important to early Palestine history was the “way of the sea” or the “way of the land of the Philistines” (Ex. 13:17), which would later be called the Via Maris in Latin. This important road ran all the way from Egypt up to Hazor and Damascus.
IMPORTANT MOUNTAINS IN CANAAN
Deut 11:29; 27:4-26
When the Hebrew people reached the Promised Land, Moses directed them to climb MOUNT GERIZIM and MOUNT EBAL. Six tribes stood on the slopes of each mountain (Deut 27:11-14). Then Moses pronounced the blessings for keeping the Law from Mount Gerizim and the curses for not keeping it from Mount Ebal (Deut 11:29; 27:4-26). The characteristics of the two mountains make it possible to speak from either mountain and be heard easily in the valley below.
PROMISED LAND BEFORE ENTRY
Gen. 10:16-18; 15:18-21; 19:30-38; 36:9
The AMMONITES were descendants of Abraham (Gen. 19:38), and thus descendants of Shem (Gen. 11:10-26). The land of the Ammonites is bordered by the JABBOK RIVER (Josh. 12:2) on the north and included RABBAH AND HESHBON (Josh. 13:25). Israel did not fully remove them and would later begin to marry them (Ez. 9:1-2). God gave the Israelites a specific command not to associate with them (Deut. 23:3), but they disregarded this command.
The JEBUSITES dwelt in the mountains (Num. 13:29) including SALEM, and were greater in number and size than the Israelites (Deut. 7:1). The Israelites also failed to completely drive them out from Jerusalem (Josh. 15:63), and therefore dwelt there with the tribe of Benjamin (Judg. 1:21). The Jebusites became so proud that they told David he would not take Jerusalem from them (2 Sam. 5:6-7), which he did soon thereafter. The Jebusites were descendants of Canaan and thus Ham. They got their name form the city of JEBUS, their name for ancient Jerusalem (Judg. 19:10-11).
The AMORITES were also descendants of Ham, but seemed to be giants (Amos 2:9). Their land included the city of Hazezon Tamar (Gen. 14:7), or EN-GEDI (2 Chr. 20:2), which would be taken by the Kenites before the Isarelites entered. Its main territory, however, was east of the Jordan where Moses gave their land to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and part of Manasseh (Num. 32;33). They too would later internmarry with the Israelites because they did not completely cast them out (Ez. 9:12). It was the Canaanite derived gods of the Amorites like Baal and Asherah (1 Ki. 18:19), of whom Joshua made his famous proclamation to choose to serve them or the true God (Josh. 24:15).
The HIVITES too were descendants of Ham (Gen. 10:17). A part of them lived below HERMON in the land of MIZPAH (Josh. 11:3), whose location was at the northern boundary of the Promised land. Others lived near TYRE and SIDON (2 Sam. 24:7), and the hills of LEBANON (Judg. 3:3). The main location where they were to be overthrown by the Israelites was in central Palestine near SHECHEM (Gen. 34:2) and north of JERUSALEM (Josh. 9:7).
Obviously, the CANAANITES were descendants of Canaan. The area they occupied ws along the GREAT SEA, even to the costs of the Jordan (Num. 13:29). No other tribe’s gods are so publicly denounced in Scripture as the Canaanite gods like Baal, Asherah, and Ashtoreth (1 Ki. 11:5).
Since the MOABITES, like the Ammonites, were descendants of Terah (Gen. 19:37), they too were descendants of Shem (Gen. 11:10-26). More specifically, Moab was the firstborn of Lot (Gen. 19:37). The Moabites occupied the land east of the Jordan and south of the ARNON RIVER (Num. 21:13). Balak was one of the more famous kings of Moab in his dealings with Balaam. The land of the Moabites was not to be given to Israel (Deut. 2:9).
Esau was the father of the EDOMITES (Gen. 36:9). The country of EDOM was within the land of SEIR (Gen. 32:3). Joshua told Judah their boundary would extend to the land of Edom (Josh. 15:21), but as Balaam prophesied, Israel did possess Edom (Num. 24:18) during the days of David (2 Sam. 8:13-14). Right beside the Moabites, the land of Edom was toward the southern boundary of the Promised land. It included the ZERED RIVER.
The PERIZZITES dwelt in the are of BETHEL and AI (Gen. 13:3,7). They were also one of those groups who were not completely run out by the Israelites and began to intermarry one another (Judg. 3:5-6).
The HITTITES were Canaanites who descended from Canaan’s son Heth (Gen. 10:15). Esau took wives from these people (Gen. 26:34), and they dwelt before MAMRE, or HEBRON (Gen. 23:17) in the field of Ephron.
CONQUEST OF CANAAN
Josh. 6:1-5; 8:1,30; 9:3-6; 10:1-5,28,41,43; 11:1,11; 13:1-6
After God dried up the waters of the JORDAN so the Israelites could cross over, the first place God instructed Joshua to overthrow was JERICHO just five miles west of the Jordan. The taking of Jericho is perhaps the most famous conquest of Joshua and the Israelites. The Israelites surrounded the great walled city, marched around it seven days and the walls fell flat. The significance of taking Jericho first was valuable military strategy. Joshua had plans to establish central control of Palestine and then campaign toward the south, followed by campaign toward the north. Jericho had three important trade routes moving through it. One route led north to BETHEL and SHECHEM, another western route toward JERUSALEM, and a southern route toward HEBRON.
The next city to be destroyed was AI, nine miles northwest of Jericho. Joshua built an altar at MT. EBAL, as God had commanded (Deut. 27:4-5), and then returned to GILGAL where they camped. The king of Jerusalem, having hear what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, and that the Gibeonites had made a treaty with Israel, gathered together armies from Hebron, Jarmuth, LACHISH, and EGLON, and made war with the Gibeonites and Israelites at GIBEON only to be destroyed. Gibeon was where the Lord appeared to Solomon and told him to ask for whatever he wished (1 Ki. 3:4).
Joshua continued and took MAKKEDAH, KADESH-BARNEA, even to GAZA, and all of GOSHEN, then returning to camp at Gilgal. After concluding his southern campaign, he headed north. The king of HAZOR gathered armies from Madon, Shimron, Achshaph, CHINNERETH, DOR, the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and the Hivites, and met the Israelite army at the waters of MEROM. The Israelites defeated every last person, and burnt Hazor to the ground. Hazor was the third city Joshua burned to the ground, the other two being Jericho and Ai.
Toward the end of Joshua’s life, God told him he still had many more lands to conquer.
DIVISION OF THE LAND (East of the Jordan)
Josh. 13:15-16, 23-24, 29-30,33
Reuben- RIVER ARNON, JORDAN
Gad- River Arnon (Aroer), SEA OF CHINNERETH, Jordan, YARMUK RIVER
JABBOKRIVER (Mahanaim), BASHAN
DIVISION OF LAND (West of Jordan)
Josh. 14:13-14; 15:1-4; 16:5-7; 17:7-9; 18:11; 19:1,9-10,17,24,32,40
ILDERNESS OF ZIN, SALT SEA, KADESH-BARNEA, NILE
Manasseh- GREAT SEA, ASHER
Benjamin- BETHEL, JERICHO, MIZPEH, JERUSALEM
Levites- SHECHEM (from Ephraim), KEDESH (from Dan)
Dan- (two locations) Southern- JUDAH, EPHRAIM, Northern- SEA OF GALILEE
KINGDOM OF SAUL
1 Sam. 11:1,11; 13:3,5; 14:47-48; 15:7
Saul came to the aid of JABESH-GILEAD and destroyed the Ammonites that had gathered against them. One year later, the PHILISTINES gathered themselves at MICHMASH against Saul and Jonathon, and were defeated by Israel. Saul would go on to conquer more lands of the MOABITES, AMMONITES, EDOMITES, Philistines, and the AMALEKITES from HAVILAH until SHUR.
KINGDOM OF DAVID
2 Sam. 5:5-7, 25; 8:1-6
David added to the kingdom of Saul, and reigned over both Israel and Judah in Jerusalem for 33 years when it came to be called the “city of David.” He drove the PHILISTINES into a much smaller are up to GAZER, he recovered his border at the EUPHRATES RIVER, and he defeated the Syrians at DAMASCUS.
KINGDOM OF SOLOMON
1 Ki. 6:2; 7:2; 9:15
Solomon added and strengthened David’s borders at HAZOR, MEGIDDO, AND GEZER. Megiddo was built on a hill and was the sight of many historical battles. Egypt defeated a Canaanite army here led by the prince of Kadesh in 1468 BC. After Megiddo was given to the tribe of Manasseh as inheritance (Josh. 17:11), they were unable to keep it from the Canaanites (Judg. 1:27) until the time of Deborah the judge where another battle was fought there (Judg. 5:19). This city also saw the death of Josiah (2 Ki. 9:27), and became symbolic for a place of great battles as it was used in Rev. 16:16 (Armageddon means “hill of Megiddo”). Solomon also strengthened Jerusalem under his reign. He constructed his famous temple here around 950 BC.
1 Ki. 11:26-28, 43; 12:20-23
Solomon made a young man of valor named Jeroboam ruler over the house of Joseph. Later, however, after Solomon died, Jeroboam would rebel against the rightful son of Solomon, Rehoboam, and make himself king. Ten tribes followed after Jeroboam, and his kingdom took the name ISRAEL. Only Judah, Benjamin, and some Levites continued after Rehoboam, who came to be known as JUDAH. And so, the land divided with the tribes. JERUSALEM, a Benjamite city, and below became the kingdom of Judah, and BEHTEL, by now a city of Ephraim, and above became the kingdom of Israel. All the area east of the Jordan belonged to Israel.
1. Elijah- sent to Israel
2. Elisha- sent to Israel
3. Jonah- sent to Ninevah
4. Amos- sent to Israel
5. Joel- sent to Judah
6. Hosea- sent to Israel
7. Isaiah- sent to Judah
8. Micah- sent to Judah
9. Nahum- sent to Ninevah
10. Zephaniah- sent to Judah
11. Jeremiah- sent to Judah
12. Habakkuk- sent to Judah
13. Daniel- sent to Babylon & Persia
14. Ezekial- sent to Jews in Jerusalem and in exile
15. Obadiah- sent to Edom
16. Haggai- sent to freed Jews
17. Zechariah- sent to freed Jews
18. Malachi- sent to freed Jews
Most prophets we read about in Scripture were sent to Israel, Judah, or both. However, some of the prophets were unique in their audience. Jonah and Nahum were both sent unto NINEVAH. Jonah was reluctant to go to Ninevah, because it was the capital of the Assyrians, Israel’s most hated enemies, and was built by Asshur the son of Shem (Gen. 10:11). Jonah tried to escape to TARSHISH. Scripture does not specify exactly where Tarshish was located, however most place it in southern Spain. Based on internal evidence including the natural goods the ships from Tarshish brought back (elephant ivory, apes, and peacocks- 2 Chr. 9:21), they probably sailed the Red Sea even to the Indian Ocean, and thus probably docked at EZION-GEBER. Jonah boarded a ship at JOPPA, but did not get far.
Daniel was a prophet during the Babylonian and Persian captivity and became a prophet for both.
The homes of the prophets are not always given. Elijah was a Tishbite, or from TISHBE in GILEAD (1 Ki. 17:1). Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at MOUNT CARMEL. Elisha was found in the WILDERNESS OF DAMASCUS (1 Ki. 19:15). Jeremiah was from Anathoth, or the land of Benjamin (Jer. 1:1). Amos was from Tekoa in Judah (Amos 1:1).
ASSYRIAN EMPIRE (under Tiglath-pileser)
2 Ki. 15:29; 16:9; 17:5-6; 1 Chr. 15:26
BABYLONIAN EMPIRE (under Nebuchadnezzar)
2 Chr. 36:10, 19-20
MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE (under King Cyrus)
2 Chr. 36:22-23; Dan. 5:1, 30-31
GREECE AND THE GRECIAN EMPIRE
Greece was made of eleven main districts. Some more well-known districts include MACEDONIA, ATTICA, and the island of CRETE. During the Intertestamental Period, Macedonia reached its height, and Macedonia came to be used interchangeably with Greece itself. Under Alexander the Great, Macedonia conquered the entire Persian Empire. It eventually became a Roman territory around 150 BC.
The earliest known peoples to occupy Greece probably migrated from Asia Minor. They were mainly Mediterranean in ethnicity, typically short and thin with darker skin, yet still of the Caucasoid race. Around 2000 BC, Indo-European invaders entered Greece and through inferior in culture, they integrated their language into the island. By the end of the Grecian dark ages, after a second Indo-European invasion left the country in diverse conditions, Greeks spoke three main dialects: Aeolic, Ionic, and Doric.
Crete’s recorded history dates back to Minoan times, named after the capital of the legendary King Minos. The snake-goddess, Knosses, was the focal point of early Minoan religion. Theirs was a short race with men averaging five feet two inches and women four feet eleven inches.
During this period, on the mainland of Greece, the culture belonged to the Mycenaean people. Greece was first known as Hellas, and so the mainland culture was described as Helladic. Helladic religion consisted of the belief in such gods as Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, and Hermes. Their government eventually reached a form of democracy in the forth and fifth centuries B.C. During this time, there was a mass colonization that brought Greek peoples and cultures to Cyprus, Egypt, Sicily, Italy, France, and Spain. In time, Athens and Sparta became the leading powers of Greece. By 550 BC Croesus of Lydia had conquered all the Greek cities of Asia Minor but Miletus only to have his power taken from him by King Cyrus of Persia. What followed soon thereafter was an all-out Greek-Persian war. By a combined Athenian and Spartan force, they eventually, after many losses, gained their freedom. Eventually, the two dominant Greek powers of Athens and Sparta met in the Peloponnesian war. With the aid of the Persians, the Spartans defeated the Athenian resistance.
As Athens attempted to regain its power during the forth century, its philosophers became important. Plato founded an Athenian Academy where he educated using much of what he himself learned form his own teacher Socrates. One student in this Academy, Aristotle, became universally important, but also became the tutor of a man named Alexander (later to be known as Alexander the Great). Such education led Alexander the Great to become one of the greatest military minds in history.
Alexander the Great took power at the age of twenty after his father was murdered. Alexander eventually took all the Persian Empire, but did not stop there. He took Egypt, setting up the city named after him of Alexandria, as well as Tyre and Babylon. He pursued and conquered Darius of Media. His conquering ended at his death in 323 BC after failing to take India.
The Greek rule was not a surprising one, considering Daniel had prophesied it would occur hundreds of years before it did. Not only this, but he prophesied it would happen immediately following the fall of the Medes and Persians (Dan. 8:20-21; 10:20).
The Greeks left behind much of their culture, but of greatest significance was its language. So encompassing was this language that even after Rome took power, they were unable to enforce the Latin language over the almost universally accepted and spoken Greek one. They came to be known for their love of learning and seeking after the wisdom of man (1 Cor. 1:22). They produced a great number of famous and reputable poets as well (Acts 17:28). The description of Greek and Gentile came to be used interchangeably, especially in distinction from Jews (Rom. 10:12).
ROME AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE*
Similar to the early Grecian peoples, the earliest recorded inhabitants of Italy were Mediterranean and Caucasian in race, probably coming from the northern part of Africa. Through the centuries, Italy received migrations of mostly Indo-European peoples, who were successful in domesticating numbers of animals, farming crops, and working with the environment to deal in various stones and wood.
Quickly, the vast majority of Italy had become Italic: Umbrians in the north central areas, Sabellian in south central, and Latin in central Italy around Rome. Around 800 BC three new peoples migrated to Italy: the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Carthaginians.
The Carthaginians were from the Phoenician coastlands. They initially moved into Sicily. The Etruscans probably came west from Asia Minor, and seemed much more adaptable to Latin development. The Greeks established themselves mainly along economically beneficial harbors and ports along the southern tip of Italy. Centuries later, the Celtic branch known as the Gauls also fled from Germanic powers father north to Italy.
Traditional history describes Rome as having been ruled by seven kings between 773 and 509 B.C. The first four kings were Latin- Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, and Ancus Marcius. The next three were Etruscan- Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus.
The Etruscans assumed power in Rome around 600 BC, and expanded the city commercially and culturally. They were the first to strategically organize and train a Roman army. Their territory expanded during this period as did their population. Religiously, they introduced the gods Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva to the Italian soil.
Kings during this period were commanders of the army, city judges, and religious priests to the gods. They were elected by the Roman senate and then approved by the popular assembly. The popular assembly was made of all Roman citizens with the rights of bearing arms. The fall of the monarchy, alongside the Etruscan rule, traditionally ended 509 B.C. This event marked the beginning of the Republican form of government. Around 500 BC the Roman republic came to dominate the entire Italian country as well as spreading to three other continents.
During the Latin struggle to remove Etruscan power they learned a vital military tactic. It seemed it was extremely effective to pay soldiers in the military, and training them professionally. By 350 BC, Rome had successfully overthrown the Etruscan powers completely. During various wars that followed, Rome established their advanced highway system as another successful military tactic.
Various treaties and alliances led to a series of wars that would require more than advanced roads, however. The Punic wars were fought between two great powers of the western Mediterranean, Rome and the Carthaginians. After three hard fought Punic wars, Rome had defeated Carthage.
By 44 BC, Roman territory included GAUL, SPAIN, northern parts of Africa, MACEDONIA (Greece), most of ASIA MINOR, and SYRIA. Between 44 BC and 14 AD, partially during the youth of Christ, Rome also acquired GERMANY, EGYPT, and the rest of northern PALESTINE. The year of 44 BC is the most notable because it saw the death of Rome’s greatest ruler- Julius Caesar. Following his death, the second Triumvirate (three man rule) took power made of Lepidus who had gained control of the army, Mark Antony who inherited Caesar’s money and papers, and Octavius, Caesar’s adopted heir who was eighteen at the time.
After eliminating the other two, Octavius succeeded in bringing great peace to Rome that lasted over two centuries, earning him the name “Augustus” meaning “respected one.” Augustus died in 14 AD, and was succeeded by Tiberius Caesar. Because of his general unpopularity, Tiberius left for Capri and appointed a man named Pontius Pilate as procurator of Judea.
* Much of this information was collected from The Wycliffe Historical Geography of the Bible Lands by Pfeiffer and Vos
LIFE OF CHRIST
BIRTH THROUGH AGE TWELVE
Lk. 2:1-7; Matt. 2:1-2; Lk. 2:21-22; Matt. 2:8-11, 13-14, 19-23; Lk. 2:39, 41,51
Julius Caesar rewarded the great assistance he was given by Antipater in his struggle against Pompey by appointing him ruler of the Roman occupied Palestine. Antipater thusly appointed his oldest son Phasael as governor over JERUSALEM, and his younger son Herod, still a boy, as governor of GALILEE. After the assassination of Julius Caesar, the people of Jerusalem revolted against Phasael and Herod. Phasael ended up killing himself, while Herod and his family escaped fleeing from place to place until finally arriving in Rome. Octavian, or Caesar Augustus, persuaded the Senate to appoint Herod as king of the Jews, adding IDUMEA and the lands of the Samaritans to his kingdom.
Under a taxation decree of Caesar Augustus, Joseph and pregnant Mary who were betrothed left NAZARETH of Galilee and traveled to BETHLEHEM of JUDEA, a city of David, because he was of the lineage of David. It was in a manger of Bethlehem that his parents laid the newborn Jesus. When the wisemen from the east came to Jerusalem to inquire of Jesus, the true King of the Jews, Herod the Great became troubled and sent the wisemen to find this child. The wisemen came and found the newborn child in a house (having already left the manger), and worshiped Him. Herod ordered that all the children two years old and younger in Bethlehem and the areas near there to be killed. Herod did not know that a little over a month after Christ was born, His parents had taken Him to Jerusalem to obey the law of Moses concerning visiting the temple. Being warned of God, however, Joseph took Mary and the young Jesus and fled to EGYPT.
Herod the Great died in 4 BC after Joseph and Mary had already fled to Egypt. The three sons of Herod received his kingdom. Archelaus was appointed ethnarch, or “ruler of the nation,” over Judea, Idumea, and SAMARIA. Herod Antipas, Herod’s second son, received Galilee and PEREA on the east of Jordan. Herod Philip received the rest. When the family heard of Herod the Great’s death, followed by his replacement in Judea by Archelaus, they avoided Judea on their return to Nazareth after obeying all the law of the Lord.
As was customary for Joseph and Mary during the feast of the Passover, they brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. After stunning the teachers of the law with His wisdom and knowledge, and enlightening His parents on His purpose for coming, they all returned to Nazareth where He was subject to His parents even learning Joseph’s trade of carpentry.
Bethlehem, meaning “house of dust” or “house of bread,” lies seven miles southwest of Jerusalem. It was also called Ephrath (Gen. 48:7), and often was described as Bethlehem in Judah (Judg. 17:7), because there was another Bethlehem in Galilee that was given to the tribe of Zebulun (Josh. 19:15). Micah prophesied that Jesus would come out of Bethlehem Ephratah (Mic. 5:2), describing it as a little town among the others of Judah. Bethlehem was the burial site of Rachel (Gen. 35:19) and where much of the book of Ruth takes place. Joseph came to Bethlehem during the taxation, because it had become the ancestral home of David (1 Sam. 17:12). This was where Samuel anointed David as next king, and David often longed to return to Bethlehem from Jerusalem (2 Sam. 23:14-17).
Nazareth, meaning “watchtower,” was a city in Galilee with a generally bad reputation (Jn. 1:46). It was unfortunate for them that they would reject one of their own citizens, Jesus the son of Joseph and Mary (Lk. 4:16,28), for He was in fact the Messiah of all mankind. Nazareth is not once mentioned in the Old Testament either because it was of late origin or of little importance before the coming of the Christ. It lay in the southern hills of the Lebanon mountain range, and was close to, though not in the middle of, important trade routes passing through Palestine. Throughout His ministry, Jesus came to be described as Jesus of Nazareth, thus giving the city its greatest fame and recognition in its history as well as its future lifetime.
FIRST YEAR OF CHRIST’S MINISTRY
Matt. 3:1-5, 13; 4:12-13, 18-25; Mk. 3:7-8; Jn. 2:11-13; 3:22; 4:3-5, 43; Lk. 4:14-16
His flight to Egypt escaping Herod was the only time Jesus ever left the borders of Palestine. He stayed within the confines of Galilee, during His early life, leaving perhaps only for Jerusalem during Israelite feasts and holy days. The Jews were waiting for the voice in the wilderness signaling the coming of Immanuel, and finally it came. John, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, arrived on the Biblical scene in the WILDERNESS OF JUDEA preaching repentance, the kingdom, and baptism. Scripture records that JERUSALEM, all JUDEA, and all the region around JORDAN came to hear and see him. One of John’s listener’s came all the way from GALILEE just to be baptized of him- Jesus of Nazareth. After John baptized Jesus, Scripture says Jesus was led to the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. This was probably the same wilderness John had come from preaching.
The Sea of Galilee, previously called the Sea of Chinnereth, and referred to also as the Lake of Genneserat (Lk. 5:1) and the Sea of Tiberias (Jn. 6:1), is a fresh-water lake that is fed by the Jordan. It is surrounded on all sides but the southern side by steep cliffs and mountains, and so the cool winds descending from these slopes combining with the warm surface waters of the lake, cause frequent, unexpected, and extremely violent storms over the lake.
Jesus was not many days in Capernaum with His mother, brothers, and disciples before going to Jerusalem for Passover. It is here where Jesus cleansed the temple the first time, and spoke with Nicodemus. Jesus and His disciples then left for the Judean countryside, where the Pharisees heard Jesus and His disciples baptized more disciples than John. On His return to Galilee, He desired to go through Samaria. In SYCHAR, before MT. EBAL, Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well. He then returned to Cana of Galilee, after two days, where He was visited by a nobleman of Capernaum. Rather than return with the man to Capernaum, however, Jesus sent the nobleman home to his son whom Jesus had already healed. Jesus finally returned to Nazareth, where after preaching in the synagogues He passed through the midst of them undetected.
It is important to understand that Palestine during the days of Jesus was divided into three main regions- Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. Samaria, the central region of Palestine, occupied the land mostly corresponding to the land allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh. Samaritan soil was much more fertile than that which was found in Judah, therefore after the kingdom divided, the Northern kingdom (ten tribes following Jeroboam) had greater wealth and resources. This was positive from one respect, but it also caused neighboring and invading nations to be more interested in Samaria than other parts of Palestine. For this reason, Samaria became frequent in intermarrying foreigners. This caused a great hatred and disrespect for Samaritans by orthodox Jews of the Southern kingdom. In fact, even though Samaria was the natural route from Galilee to Judah, Jews would often cross east over the Jordan just to avoid Samaria in their travels.
The Samaritans offered to help Zerubbabel rebuild the temple of God following their return from Babylonian captivity, but the Jews refused. Ezra records that after this rejection, they tried to prevent the Jews from finishing the temple (Ezra 4:1-10). Nehemiah would later attempt to rebuild he wall of Jerualem, and the Samaritans along with some Arabic groups tried to prevent this also (Neh. 2-6). Ezra also instructed all the men of Israel who married foreign women during their captivity to get rid of them (Ezra 10:18ff). The last event to finally separate the Jews from the Samaritans socially was their attempt to claim that their newly built temple on MOUNT GERIZIM was the true house of God and not MT. ZION in Jerusalem.
The Samaritans tie themselves to Eli and his establishing the sanctuary of God in Shiloh. They believe and adhere only to the Torah, and completely disregard all other books of the Old Testament seeing them as uninspired.
SECOND YEAR OF CHRIST’S MINISTRY
Matt. 4:12-13, 18-25; Lk. 4:31,38; 5:27-28; 7:1; Jn. 5:1; Matt. 8:5; Lk. 7:11; 8:26
Jesus remained in Judea until He heard John had been cast into prison when He returned to Galilee. Along the way He passed through BETHANY (Bethbara) and then CANA (Jn. 1:43). He departed from Nazareth and entered CAPERNAUM to begin His ministry. When Jesus returned to Capernaum, He appeared to stay at Simon Peter’s house for quite some time. He began a tour of Galilee teaching in their synagogues and healing the sick. Jesus called His first four disciples while walking along the SEA OF GALILEE. Teaching and healing brought Jesus great fame throughout all SYRIA, and great multitudes followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, and all Judea, even from beyond the Jordan River. Mark records Jesus even had followers from TYRE and SIDON.
He next called Matthew, or Levi, the tax collector, and returned to Capernaum. The next Passover arose in Jerusalem, so Jesus went. This trip was when He healed the man at the pool of Bethesda. Again He returned to Capernaum. Jesus would then travel to the mount where He delivered His sermon on the mount, before returning to Capernaum again. Next, He traveled to NAIN where the widow’s son was raised and His feet were anointed, then returning to Capernaum. After another tour of Galilee, He left from Capernaum and came to the country of the Gadarenes, or GERASENES across the Sea of Galilee. This trip across was when He silenced the winds and the waves. While here, He also healed the demon-possessed man. He finally returned back to Capernaum.
Capernaum, meaning “village of Nahum,” was probably founded after the Jews returned from captivity since it is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It had grown to be a large city boasting its own synagogue that became a center of Roman taxation. Though this became the center city of Christ’s ministry in Galilee, the city rejected Jesus, bringing Him to curse it and predict its ruin (Matt. 11:23-24, Lk. 10:15).
THIRD YEAR OF CHRIST’S MINISTRY
Mk. 6:32; Matt. 14:22,34; Mk. 7:24; 8:10,22; Matt. 16:13; Lk. 9:28; Matt. 17:24; Lk. 17:11; Jn. 9:1; 10:40
Jesus left Capernaum again traveling first to the desert near BETHSAIDA where the five-thousand were fed, and then by boat to GENNESARET. This trip is when Jesus walked on water. The next trip from Capernaum was to PHEONICIA, through Decapolis, by boat to DALMANUTHA, and then by boat back to Bethsaida. From here, He traveled to CAESAREA PHILIPPI where He told His disciples about the church He would soon build. His next stop was the Mount of Transfiguration, probably MOUNT HERMON, though some traditions hold it to be MOUNT TABOR, before He returned again to Capernaum. Jesus left Capernaum for the last time, traveling through SAMARIA where He was again rejected, all the way to Jerusalem. He crossed over the Jordan to stay in BETHANY (or BETHABARA).
Phoenicia comes from the Greek meaning “land of purple” because of its purple dye produced there, and it is sometimes called Phenice or Phenicia. It is a long narrow region northwest of Palestine that covers what we know as Lebanon today. Not only is it known for its purple dyes, but also a wide variety of vegetation, flowers, and trees (Hos. 14:5-7). Because the Phoenicians had been confined by the Israelites to such a narrow strip of territory, they often used the sea to conquer and expand their lands. They thusly became famous for their seafaring skill. Their abundance of trees earned them the classification as experts of cutting trees (1 Ki. 5:6). It was Phoenicia that provided a large part of the supplies used by Solomon in building his temple. Phoenicia’s two main ports were Tyre and Sidon. The Phoenicians were probably the first nation to originate the alphabet. Eventually the Phoenicians lost their independence and became a territory of great powers including the Persians, the Greeks, the Seleucids, and the Romans. As far as Biblical concerns, the Phoenicians might have been best known for their false gods and idolatry. Their gods and goddesses usually represented some force or object of nature, led by the “mother god” named Ashteroth. King Ahab really made Phoenicia famous when he married a Phoenician woman named Jezebel.
THE LAST TRAVELS OF JESUS
Jn. 11:1,54; Mk. 10:1; Matt. 20:17; Jn. 20:11
Jesus came to BETHANY, the hometown of Mary, Marth, and Lazarus, from the BETHANY across the Jordan (Bethabara). Here He raised Lazarus from the dead. Scripture records that from this point forward He no longer openly walked with the Jews, but instead stayed with His disciples in EPHRAIM leading up to the Passover. Besides Bethabara, Jesus had spent little time of His recorded ministry in PEREA, so this was His next trip. In this region, He healed the crippled woman and blessed the small children. Passing back through Bethabara and Jericho, He finally made His final trip to Jerusalem stopping first at Bethany.
Perea means “the land beyond” indicating its place beyond the Jordan river to the east. Scripture sometimes refers to it as the land beyond the Jordan (Matt. 4:25), and was probably bounded by the Jabobk and Arnon rivers. After the conquest into Canaan, the tribes of Gad, Manasseh, and Reuben occupied these lands, which include Gilead, Moab, Bashan, Ammon, and Edom. It is also sometimes referred to as Transjordan.
Lk. 22:14; Matt. 26:36,57; Lk. 23:1,7,11,33
There is perhaps no city that plays such a large role in Scripture as the Judean city of Jerusalem. This city was built on two mountains: the upper city and Herod’s palace on Mt. Zion, and the Temple on Mt. Moriah. The city has an altitude of around 2500 feet, and the Kidron Valley separates it from the Mount of Olives on the east. To the west and south of the city is the valley of Hinnon, which in the Greek is Gehenna, where the term that came to represent hell was derived. Jerusalem was located: 56 kilometers from Joppa, 86 km from Caesarea, 56 km from Samaria, 112 km from Nazareth, 144 km from Capernaum, 213 km from Damascus, 24 km from Jericho, 880 km from Babylon, 10 km from Bethlehem, 40 km from Hebron, 160 km to the border of Egypt, 2240 km from Rome, and 960 km from Ephesus.
The GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE lies between the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem. The name Gethsemane means “olive press” indicating it likely was located in an olive grove where there was a press. This garden was just enough outside the city walls that Jesus would often escape here when He was looking for privacy or some time alone with just some of his disciples. Since it was just along the western base of the Mount of Olives and it was covered in Olive trees, it was probably protected from the sun and elements for part of the day.
GOLGOTHA was the Aramaic name for the Latin name of Calvary. Both mean “place of the skull” and they probably received this name from its place in the history of the city as a site of death and bones. The location of Golgotha, though there is dispute between two exact locations, was for certain outside the city walls and on an elevated area where it could be seen from a distance. It was also near a city gate and a roadway entering the city probably around the northwest corner.
HEROD’S TEMPLE was separated into six levels or areas, each one slightly higher than the previous one. The six main levels were the COURT OF THE GENTILES, the SACRED ENCLOSURE, the COURT OF WOMEN, the COURT OF ISRAEL, the COURTY OF THE PRIESTS, and the HOUSE OF GOD. The Court of Gentiles was the only part of the temple where foreigners were allowed to enter on the lowest level. The Sacred Enclosure was just three feet above the Court of the Gentiles, and Gentiles were thoroughly warned that their entry into this area would result in immediate death. The Court of Women, sometimes called the Treasury, was three feet above the Sacred Enclosure, and was the farthest a Jewish woman could travel into the Temple. The Court of Israel was ten feet above the Court of Women, and was the level where all Jewish males could enter. The Court of Priests could only be entered by priests of the Temple, and was three feet above the Court of Israel. Finally, the House of God was eight feet above the Court of Priests and was made of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
The WALL OF JERUSALEM was built, torn down, rebuilt, and added onto many times in the history of the city. During the recovery period from Babylonian captivity where the city had been destroyed, during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the wall was rebuilt and dedicated upon completion (Neh. 12:27). The wall is describing as having several gates in Scripture. Those specifically mentioned in Scripture are the: Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate, Valley Gate, Refuse Gate, Fountain Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate, and Miphkad (inspecting or recruiting) Gate (Neh. 3). Other features of the wall are expressly mentioned in Scripture such as the towers- Tower of the Hundred, Tower of Hananel, and Tower of the Ovens, and the sections of the wall- Broad Wall, Pool of Shelah wall, and Ophel wall (Neh. 3). Other features of this wall were stairs going down from the City of David, stairs going up to the Armory, and an Upper Room in the far corner (Neh. 3). The wall was made of large stones (Neh. 4:2), combined with bolts, beams, and bars (Neh. 3:13).
The POOL OF SILOAM was located at the lower end of an underground flow of water from the Gihon Spring. It is named after the village of Siloam just across the Kidron Valley from the pool. There were around thirty-four steps leading down into this pool, and the pool in the times of Jesus was probably twice the size of the present pool.
The MOUNT OF OLIVES was a range of limestone hills around a mile long located on the east side of Jerusalem. It had the Garden of Gethsemane at its western base. This was the location from where Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 24 to His disciples concerning the city’s upcoming destruction, as well as where Jesus would ascend back to the Father.
PAUL’S FIRST EVANGELISTIC JOURNEY
[Saul, Barnabas, John Mark]
ANTIOCH OF SYRIA (13:1)
Antioch of Syria was named after the Syrian king Antiochus. It is located approximately 450 km from Jerusalem, and was the capital city of Syria during Roman rule. It is estimated that the city had reached a population of half a million by the time of Paul’s journeys. This is where the believers were first called Christians.
CYPRUS (13:4) with cities SALAMIS (13:5) and PAPHOS (13:6)
An island in the Mediterranean, it is located 43 miles from Asia minor and 60 miles from Syria. It became most famous as the fabled birthplace of Aphrodite, or Venus, thus becoming the center of Aphrodite worship. The city of Paphos was where Bar-Jesus and the proconsul believed. Residents of this island had a large part to play in the establishing of the church at Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:20). Barnabas was from this island (Acts 4:36).
PERGA in PAMPHILIA (13:13)
[John Mark departed for Jerusalem]
ANTIOCH OF PISIDIA (13:14)
Many Jews, proselytes, and Gentiles believed during their time here (13:43,48). They were later expelled from their region.
This is where, because of the power given to them from the Spirit, they called Barnabas Zeus and Paul they called Hermes, treating them as gods.
Gaius was a member of the church here (Acts 20:4).
Is it likely that elders were appointed in all of the previous four places as indicated in verse 23.
They stayed with the church here for a long time.
BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND JOURNEY
ANTIOCH, PHOENICIA, SAMARIA
Churches were in all three places (15:3).
PAUL’S SECOND EVANGELISTIC JOURNEY
[Paul and Silas]
[Barnabas and John Mark depart for Cyprus]
Members here include Peter, who was probably an elder, and James, who too might have been an elder in addition to the two being apostles.
[Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy]
PHRYGIA a region of GALATIA (16:6)
From here, the Holy Spirit forbade them to enter Asia minor.
From here, the Holy Spirit forbade them to enter Bithynia.
Troas was the place from where Paul and his company received the Macedonian call.
This city was named after Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, and was located just within Macedonia. Philippi would be where Christianity first entered Europe. Converts here include Lydia the seller of purple (16:14), the jailer and his family members (16:33), and Luke was probably left here until Paul’s next visit (20:6). Paul would also return here between his first and second imprisonments (1 Tim. 1:3).
[Paul, Silas, and Timothy]
Many devout Greeks and women followed Paul and Silas here. Members here include Jason (17:6), Aristarchus, and Secundus (20:4).
Many Jews, prominent Greeks, and women believed here. Silas and Timothy remained here (17:14) as Paul continued alone.
Members here include Dionysius and Damaris (17:34).
Here Paul met fellow tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla who were Jews recently departed from Italy. Timothy and Silas returned here from Macedonia (18:5). Members here include Justus (18:7), and the ruler of the synagogue named Crispus (18:8). Paul remained here for around one and a half months (18:11), and then left with Aquila, Priscilla, Timothy, and Silas.
[Paul, Aquila, Priscilla, Timothy, and Silas]
Paul left Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, and Timothy here (18:19).
Philip the evangelist was a member here (21:8).
PAUL’S THIRD EVANGELISTIC JOURNEY
PHRYGIA (18:23) including DERBE, LYSTRA, ICONIUM, AND ANTIOCH
On this occasion, Paul baptized around twelve men who knew only John’s baptism. He spoke in the synagogue for three months (19:8), and preached at a school of Tyrannus two years (19:10). From here, he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia ahead of him (19:22).
MACEDONIA (20:1-2) including NEAPOLIS, PHILIPPI, AMPHIPOLIS, APOLONIA, THESSALONICA, and BEREA
GREECE (20:2) including ATHENS and CORINTH
Paul and his company stayed here for three months.
A Christian named Sopater joined Paul as he went to Asia.
Aristarchus and Secundus joined Paul and Sopater here.
[Paul, Sopater, Aristarchus, and Secundus]
Luke joined Paul’s party again.
[Paul, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, and Luke]
Paul picked back up Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus joined their company. They stayed here for seven days. This is where Eutychus rose from the dead.
[Paul, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Luke, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus]
Paul continued his journey on foot while Luke and the others continued by boat (20:13).
CHIOS opposite this island (20:15)
SAMOS in the city of TROGYLLIUM (20:15)
This is where Paul sent for the Ephesian elders to say his last goodbyes.
CYPRUS passed on the left (21:3)
They stayed here seven days also (21:4), during which the disciples warned Paul not to continue to Jerusalem.
PAUL TO ROME
Paul began this trip from Caesarea, because he had gone there from Jerusalem to greet Festus. They were sailing on a ship of Adramyttium commanded by a centurion of the Augustan Regiment named Julius.
Julius allowed Paul the freedom of visiting his friends while here.
MYRA a city of LYCIA (27:5)
They had sailed north around Cyprus because of the fierce winds, and continued along the coasts of CILICIA and PAMPHYLIA to arrive here. From here, Julius found an Alexandrian ship and put their company with Paul aboard.
FAIR HAVENS near LASEA on the island of CRETE (27:8)
Once again, because of the fierce winds and weather, their ship had to sail south of Crete past the CAPE OF SALMONE.
The ship and its crew had set out hoping to arrive at PHOENIX and spend winter there. This time a massive storm with another strong wind pushed them under the island of CLAUDA and heading west toward Malta. They finally, by the providence of God, arrived shipwrecked on this island. While on this island, Paul was bitten by a snake and felt no harm, causing the natives to view him as a god. There was also a man on this island named Publius, whose father lay sick of dysentery. Publius welcomed the crew into his house for three days, and Paul healed his father.
Taking an Alexandrian ship from Malta, they arrived at Syracuse. They stayed here for three days.
Paul and his company were invited to stay with brethren from this city, and they did for seven days.
APPII FORUM (28:15)
The name meaning “marketplace of Appius,” this was a town located around 64 km southeast of Rome along the APPIAN WAY. Paul was welcomed here by many Christians from Rome.
THREE INNS (28:15)
The company finally arrived at Rome, where Julius delivered Paul to the captain of the Roman guard to dwell by himself under the guard of one soldier.
SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA
John addressed these seven cities in the order in which they lie along the most important circular Roman road of Asia Minor, beginning with Ephesus.
Acts 18:24-19:41, 1 Tim. 1:3, 2 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 4:19
Located on the west coast of Asia Minor, Ephesus quickly became a prominent city in Asia. There are several factors that led to this position. Ephesus was situated at the mouth of the CAYSTER RIVER, making it a very busy and popular seaport, and thus giving it economic influence. The fact that the collection made of literature from the former exorcists and magicians who obeyed the gospel amounted to a value of 50,000 pieces of silver (Acts 19:19) attests to the city’s great wealth. Ephesus was larger than the capital city Pergamum, boasting somewhere close to 300,000 people. It was also culturally advanced, containing a theater that sat around 25,000 people. A main road connected the theater to the harbor, with gates at each side, and columns all along the walkway. The city also had numerous baths and gymnasiums.
But, the largest contributor to the prominence of the city was its religious fervor. The temple described in the book of Acts, that of Diana or Artemis, was actually one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Diana was the sister of Apollo and daughter of Zeus, and became known as the goddess of the moon, hunting, and young girls, but by some accounts had reached levels of all life and nature. This elaborate temple housed a large image of Diana that was believed to have come from Zeus himself (Acts 19:35). The temple was over 60 meters high and was held up by around 120 columns. Ephesus actually promoted their Diana worship by inscribing “Diana of Ephesus” on some of their coins. Thousands of priests were associated with the temple’s affairs, some even living within the temple itself. A number of priestesses were also given to prostitution within the temple service. Our current March to April period was the Ephesian month completely devoted to the worship of Diana. During this month, there were athletic, dramatic, and musical contests of all sorts.
Christianity in Ephesus probably began around 50 AD through efforts of Aquila and Priscilla. Paul did not visit here until 52 AD, when he remained for around three years. It was during this stay that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:8). It was also during this stay when a silversmith named Demetrius tried to get Paul removed for endangering their idol business. Paul baptized twelve men here who had been influenced by the teachings of Apollos and only been baptized in John’s baptism. He also encountered magicians and Jewish exorcists here.
Paul left Timothy in Ephesus even after he departed to stand against false teaching. The apostle John was also said to reside in Ephesus toward the end of his ministry at the close of the first century. The Roman emperor Justinian built a church building in the memory of John some time during the sixth century. John Mark was also involved in the work here (1 Pet. 5:13).
Smyrna was the next city along the western coast of Asia Minor just 67 kilometers north of Ephesus. Smyrna, like Ephesus, had a competitive natural harbor that made it an important commercial center. It also sat at the edge of Mt. Pagus where was built its own acropolis.
The streets of Smyrna were said to be designed in perfect right angles, with the most famous being the “Street of Gold” that connected its two largest temples. The architecture was recording as having been similarly amazing, such as its library and numerous pagan temples.
When Smyrna, a Grecian city, saw the quickly rising power of Rome around 190 BC, they proudly built a temple dedicated to Rome’s pagan worship. Because of its loyalty to Rome through the years, it was asked to build another temple for Emperor Tiberius around 170 years later. It thusly became a center for Roman emperor worship, which would cause extreme persecution for Christians of Smyrna particularly during the reigns of Nero (AD 54-68) and Domitian (AD 81-96). Though the Christians at Smyrna suffered much at the hands of the Jews, they were probably converted Jews themselves.
After Smyrna was destroyed the first time by Alyattes of Lydia, it probably did not exist for another four hundred years. Alexander the Great had intentions to reconstruct the city, but died before his plan could be carried out. Alexander’s successor, however, did succeed in rebuilding Smyrna around 290 B.C. This was the Smyrna John was addressing in his letter. However, in AD 178 the city was completely destroyed again, this time by an earthquake. Marcus Aurelius once again rebuilt the city, but the original city and even the city in the days of John has almost entirely been lost.
Smyrna today, called Izmir, is the chief city of Anatolia and one of the strongest in modern day Turkey.
North along the road from Smyrna, near the CAICUS RIVER, lies the city of Pergamos. It is around 104 kilometers north of Smyrna and 24 km from the Aegean Sea opposite the island of LESBOS. It was probably accurately referred to as the political capital of Asia at the time of Roman rule.
Pergamos, or Pergamum in some versions, was initially a city-state before becoming a powerful nation following the defeat of the Gauls by Attalus I (around 200 BC). The city was a symbol of Greek strength and power, containing a U-shaped two-story library housing over 200,000 items. When the Egyptians, who also had a large library in Alexandria, became concerned with this building, they refused to export papyrus to Pergamos. As a result of this decision, a new form of writing material was developed called Pergamena charta, or parchment. When Rome came to power, Mark Antony gave the books from this library to Cleopatra, and its materials were all moved to Alexandria afterall.
In addition, Pergamos became valuable in the realm of medicine. It was the site of the temple of Asklepios (the Greco-Roman god of medicine and healing), and it boasted a large medical center where the well-known physician Galen did much of his work.
Located in this city too was a temple to Athena and a temple to Zeus. The latter temple had an altar showing Zeus defeating giant snakes, which some believe to be the throne of Satan referenced by John (Rev. 2:13). It could also be a reference to the widely spread practice of emperor worship across this city
Thyatira was a city in the territory of Lydia, 71 km east of Pergamos. The Lydians are mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel as “men of war” who fought to defend the city of Tyre (Ez. 27:10), and who made an alliance with Egypt (Ez. 30:5). It is located along the southern bank of the LYCOS RIVER, a branch of the HERMUS RIVER. The modern name for this city is Akhisar, meaning “white castle.”
Thyatira was not as large as the previous cities, but it was still an important business center during the days of John. There have been discoveries indicating the presence of many trade societies and associations located here, which almost guaranteed the financial and social success of their members. On the negative side, however, these societies often promoted pagan customs, used food sacrificed to pagan gods in their celebrations, and were involved in frequent sexual immorality. John refers to Jezebel who was associated with the church at Thyatira and who would be an example of such kinds of people. She tried to persuade the members of the church there to conform to such pagan practices as well as sexual immorality.
The seller of purple named Lydia who obeyed the gospel while at Philippi, was from this city.
Sardis was the capital city of Lydia, 53 km south of Thyatira and located on the eastern bank of the PACTOLUS RIVER. The terrain was mainly rocky because it occupied a valley at the base of the Tmolus mountain range.
Due to its location, Sardis was easy to defend, and became a highly fortified city. Xerxes used Sardis as his headquarters before attacking Greece. Cyrus too collected his forces here before attacking his brother Artaxerxes. Alexander the Great took control of the city around 334 BC, and upon his death, a great struggle began to gain this stronghold.
Following a disastrous earthquake in AD 17, Emperor Tiberius rebuilt the city and stopped taxes on the city for five years. For this act of generosity, the citizens of Sardis built a temple dedicated to Tiberius.
Sardis also housed the magnificent yet never completely finished Temple of Artemis, which boasted Ionic columns some of which remain even to this day. Though the city was outwardly impressive during the days of Roman rule, there was an apparent amount of desperation rising from the inside. This might be the reason John would write that they had the reputation of being alive and outwardly beautiful, though all the while they were really “dead” (Rev. 3:1).
When Turks took the city in the 11th century, they eventually destroyed it, never to stand again.
This city, whose name means “brother love,” was another city of Lydia. Philadelphia was located along the COGAMUS RIVER another branch of the Hermus River. It lay about 42 kilometers southeast of Sardis.
This city was most known for its production of vine fruits and wine. Its main Greek deity was Dionysus, the god of wine. Though this made for a seemingly unlikely environment for the gospel, this was the only other church in addition to Smyrna of which Jesus did not have one negative word. He spoke to John regarding a great opportunity that lay before this church of which they ought to take advantage. The reference to the church in this city as one of “little strength” probably refers to its size and long period of struggle against the worldly lifestyles of those around it.
Philadelphia was a fairly large city, but never fully recovered from its destruction by Islamic forces during the Byzantine era. The much smaller city of today is known as Alasehir translating “city of God.”
Col. 2:1; 4:13-16
Located in the territory of PHRYGIA, this city lay in the Lycus Valley along the LYCUS RIVER, a tributary of the MAENDAR RIVER. It was about 76 kilometers southeast of Philadelphia, 158 km east of Ephesus, and 16 km west of COLOSSAE.
The city was founded by the Seleucids and named for Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II. It became extremely wealthy during Roman rule. In 62 BC, Flaccus seized the yearly contribution of the Jews of Laodicea to Jerusalem, collecting around twenty pounds of silver. Also, when the city was destroyed by the same earthquake that destroyed Colossae and Hierapolis in AD 60, Laodicea alone refused help from Rome to rebuild. Much of their economy was supported by their production and selling of black wool that came from their native sheep.
Paul writes concerning Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, and John Mark as being laborers here. The letter Paul wrote to the Colossians, just 16 km away, was supposed to be copied and given to the church here. From the writings of John, however, it can be determined that the church here had become lukewarm, perhaps the worst description to any of the other six churches. It is highly possible that their pride caused by economic and financial security could have led to this condition.
The city does not exist today. Instead, resting on the sight where it had been, is a pile of ruins that the Turks call Eski Hisar, meaning “old castle.”
ISLAND OF PATMOS
There is no doubt that the revelation John recorded was one he saw while exiled to this island. The details of his exile, however, are much less concrete. Many traditionally hold the exile to which he refers in this book to have occurred around AD 95. There is additional evidence, though, that John probably experienced several exiles of a similar nature to this island, followed by consecutive releases. The Bible student should of course allow internal evidence for the dating of this book influence him more than any external evidence.
Patmos is one of a group of islands called the SPORADE ISLANDS that lies about 45 km from the coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea. The island is around 13 km long, and is divided into two relatively equal sections by a isthmus. Today, the southern half of Patmos is controlled by a group of monks, while the northern half by a civil community.
Patmos had highly volcanic soil and was covered mainly in rocks. For this reason, this island was used by the Romans to banish criminals, often making them labor in the many mines located here. Thus, John being a Christian, and Christians often being considered by Rome as criminals, he was banished here.
GROWTH OF FIRST-CENTURY CHURCH
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CHURCH
Acts 2:9-11, 42-47
The church, right up to the day and the place where it was to be established, is an amazing display of the wisdom and foresight of God. It was no mistake that it would be established in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world. Since Christ was sent first to the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24), it was important that the old desolate house of the Jews at Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-38) be witness to the institution of the new house of God or the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-23). It was also no mistake that Christ would build His church on the day of Pentecost. There would be over two million Jews traveling from all parts of the then known world to observe this holy day in Jerusalem. There could not have been a better setting for Christ to establish His church.
Those present on this occasion are expressly listed for us. I will proceed on the assumption that each group of persons represented that day eventually returned to their homes and preached the gospel to others, thus establishing congregations in each area. These travelers had come with the intent of practicing in the holy day as they did every year, and then returning to their respective homes. They did not know this trip to Jerusalem was going to be as historic a trip as ever. Once these peoples obeyed the gospel, Scripture records that many of them remained in Jerusalem learning more of the apostles’ doctrine (the doctrine of Christ) and fellowshipping with each other from house to house. Since most of them had not planned on this happening, they probably had not budgeted for a longer stay than normal. Thus, those who had possessions sold them so that those who were without means to stay could remain longer. Those represented on this day:
PARTHIA- southeast of the Caspian Sea in ancient Persia (modern day Iran)
MEDIA- west of Parthia, north of Mesopotamia, and south of ARMENIA (includes parts of modern day Iraq, Iran, and Turkey
ELAM- south of Media and Parthia, north of Arabia, and east of the TIGRIS
MESOPOTAMIA- region between the Tigris and EUPHRATES north of Arabia
JUDEA- southern region of Palestine
CAPPADOCIA- east of Galatia, west of Armenia, and south of Pontus in Asia Minor
Christians in this area were one of the intended recipients of Peter’s first epistle (1 Pet. 1:1).
PONTUS- north of Cappadocia, south of the BLACK SEA in Asia Minor
This was the home region of Paul’s fellow evangelist and tent-maker Aquila (Acts 18:2), and also an intended recipient of Peter’s first epistle (1 Pet. 1:1).
ASIA- not to be confused with Asia Minor, this was a Roman province along the western boundary of Asia Minor, or the AEGEAN SEA
PHRYGIA- split between Asia and Galatia in Asia Minor
PAMPHYLIA- bordered on the south by the MEDITERRANEAN SEA and on the north by Galatia in Asia Minor
EGYPT- east of RED SEA covering much of the northern Nile and its delta
LIBYA- west of Egypt, south of the Mediterranean
CYRENE- city in western Libya along Mediterranean coast
ROME- central Italy along its western coast
It is obvious from Scripture that the church reached this city. Among other evidence, Paul addressed an epistle to the church located here (Rom. 1:7).
CRETE- an island below the Aegean Sea with Greece northwest and Asia northeast
Not only was there a recognized church here, the epistle we call Titus could easily have been labeled the epistle of Paul to the church at Crete (Tit. 1:5).
ARABIA- stretches from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, bordered on the north by the Euphrates
List of churches of Christ from Scripture:
ANTIOCH OF SYRIA (Acts 6:5; 11:19-27; 13:1-2; 14:26-15:2; 15:22-35; Gal. 2:11)
Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, Barnabas, Paul, Judas, Silas
Either as a result of Nicolas or those men from Cyprus and Cyrene
Nicolas the proselyte, Hellenistic converts (Greek-speaking Jews), many Gentiles
Paul and Barnabas worshipped with and taught this church several years in total
Where Paul and Barnabas were separated to do the Lord’s work
Where Paul withstood Peter to his face
No Scriptural mention
Contention arose among the Gentiles concerning circumcision, eating meats sacrificed to idols, and eating the blood and meats of animals that had been strangled
ANTIOCH OF PISIDIA (Acts 13:13-14, 42-48)
Probably from the visits of Paul and Barnabas
Large number of Jews, proselytes, and Gentiles
Whole city came out to hear Paul preach one Sabbath
No Scriptural mention
Jealousy of the Jews
Persecution brought on by Jews, prominent women, and chief men of city
ASIA (Acts 2:9; 6:9; 16:6; 19:10, 22-31; 20:4, 16-18; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Cor. 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:15; 1 Pet. 1:1)
Paul, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Timothy
Perhaps from the return of new Christians present on the day of Pentecost
Both Jews and Greeks, Trophimus also an evangelist, Phygellus, Hermogenes
Most involve the events at Ephesus
In the church at Ephesus for sure
Synagogue of Freedmen who disputed the truth
Heavy persecution almost to the point of death for Paul and his company
BABYLON (1 Pet. 5:13)
CENCHREA (Acts 18:18, Rom. 16:1)
Paul, Aquila, Priscilla
Possibly upon the visit of Paul
Paul had his hair cut off here to fulfill a vow he had taken
No Scriptural indications
None expressed in Scripture
CAESAREA (Acts 8:40; 9:30; 10:1, 17-24; 11:11; 18:22; 21:8, 16; 23:23-33; 25:1-6, 13, 22)
Philip, Peter, Paul, Luke, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Timothy, Tychicus, Trophimus
Probably through the efforts of Philip
Cornelius, his household, and his close friends
Baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles
Where Paul was sent to see Felix the governor
Also where Paul gave his defense before King Agrippa
No Scriptural indications
None expressed in Scripture
CILICIA (Acts 6:9; 15:23,41; 21:39; 22:3; 23:34; Gal. 1:21)
Probably as a result of Paul’s first visit immediately following his conversion
None mentioned in Scripture
Received a letter from the church at Jerusalem
No Scriptural indications
Synagogue of Freedmen who disputed the truth
COLOSSE (Col. 1:2,7; 4:17; Phile. 2)
Probably upon the return of some of the converted Jews of Phrygia after Pentecost
Archippus and his household, Philemon, Onesimus
No Scriptural indications
CORINTH (Acts 18:1-13,17; 19:1; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:2, 14-16; 16:17; 2 Tim. 4:20)
Paul, Silas, Timothy, Apollos, Titus, Erastus
Following the work of Paul on his first trip
Aquila, Priscilla, Justus, Crispus the ruler of the synagogue, Gaius, Stephanas and his household, Chloe, Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus, Quartus, Sosthenes
Paul taught here on his first visit for 1 and a half years
Paul was brought before Gallio
No Scriptural indications
The Jews and pressure to return to the old law
Pagan cities surrounding Corinth influenced much of their activity
Division among the church
Refusal to judge brethren guilty of sin
CRETE (Tit. 1:5; 3:12-13)
Paul, Titus, Artemus or Tychicus, Apollos, Zenas the lawyer
Perhaps through the efforts of Paul
None mentioned in Scripture unless Zenas was one
Paul left Titus here for a specific purpose
Titus appointed elders here based on the qualifications given by the Holy Spirit
Lacking in areas of teaching and sound doctrine
Building a bad reputation from those around them not in the church
DERBE (Acts 14:6, 20-23; 16:1; 20:4)
Paul, Silas, Barnabas
Following the work of Paul
Appointed by Paul based on the qualifications given by the Holy Spirit
EPHESUS (Acts 18:19-28; 19:1-41; 20:17-38; 1 Cor. 15:32; 1 Cor. 16:8; Eph. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim. 4:12, 1 Pet. 5:13)
Paul, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Timothy, John Mark, Apollos
Probably upon the return of some of the converted Jews after Pentecost, but if not then by the work of Aquila and Priscilla
Twelve who only knew the baptism of John, converted magicians and exorcists
Wrote letters to Corinthians from here
Elders here were often in direct contact with Paul even to the end
Demetrius and other silversmiths tried to prevent Paul from preaching one God
There would be corruption arise from within the elders
ETHIOPIA (Acts 8:27)
GALATIA (Acts 16:6; 18:23; 1 Cor. 16:1; Gal. 1:2; 2 Tim. 4:10; 1 Pet. 1:1)
Paul, Silas, Timothy, Crescens
Possibly through the work of Paul
None listed by name in Scripture
Took up a collection to help Jerusalem
No Scriptural indications
Pressures to return to Judaism
GALILEE (Acts 5:37; 9:31; 13:31)
ICONIUM (Acts 13:51; 14:21-23, 16:2)
Paul, Barnabas, Timothy
Probably by the work of Paul and Barnabas
None listed by name in Scripture
Paul returned here several times to strengthen its members
Appointed by Paul based on the qualifications given by the Holy Spirit
None expressed in Scripture
JERUSALEM (Acts 2:5-14; 4:6,16; 5:16,28; 6:7; 8:1,14, 25-27; 9:2, 26-29; 11:2,22, 27-30; 12:13,25; 13:13; 15:2-6; 20:16; 21:11-17, 31-33, 37-40; 26:9-10; Rom. 15:25-26; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; Gal. 1:18-19; 2:1-2)
Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Titus
The day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ
Many might have stayed after Pentecost for long periods of time, Peter, James, John, Thomas (and most other apostles), Mary, brothers of Jesus, Rhoda
First church established in history
Day of Pentecost
This same city saw the crucifixion of Christ
Many members escaped before the city was destroyed in AD 70
No other eldership is more active in Scripture, Peter and John probably two of them
Constant struggles with poverty
Constant persecution from the Jews
JOPPA (Acts 9:36-43; 10:5-8; 11:5)
Probably after the return of the new converts of Judea after Pentecost
Tabitha (Dorcas), Simon the tanner
Peter raised Dorcas from the dead
Peter lived here for a short period with Simon
Where Peter saw the vision depicting the Gentiles
No Scriptural indications
None expressed in Scripture
LAODICEA (Col. 2:1; 4:7-17)
Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, Mark
Probably after the return of the new converts of Phrygia after Pentecost
Nymphas and his household
No Scriptural indications
LYSTRA (Acts 14:6,23; 16:1; 18:23; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:11)
Paul, Barnabas, Luke
Possibly from the work of Paul and Barnabas
Timothy, Lois, Eunice
Appointed by Paul based on the qualifications given by the Holy Spirit
Persecution from the Jews
PERGAMOS (Rev. 2:12-17)
PHILADEPHIA (Rev. 3:7-13)
PHILIPPI (Acts 16:22-23,33; Ph. 1:1; 2:25; 4:2-3)
Paul, Silas, Luke, Timothy, Epaphroditus
Upon the preaching of Paul, Lydia was the first convert in all of Europe
Euodia, Syntyche, Clement
Paul and Silas sprung from prison
Had both elders and deacons
More encouragements to not give up on what they had done so well
ROME (Acts 27:1; 28:15; Rom. 1:7; 16:5-15; Col. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:21)
Paul, Jesus called Justus, Luke, John Mark, Aristarchus, Titus
Probably after the return of the new converts of Rome after Pentecost
Mary, Apelles, Aristobulus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympas, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, Herodian, Narcissus, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys
Paul imprisoned here twice
No Scriptural indications
Submission to secular government
SAMARIA the city (Acts 8:5-13; 15:3)
Philip, Paul, Barnabas
Probably through the preaching of Philip
Simon the sorcerer
Conversion of Simon
No Scriptural indications
SAMARIA the region (Acts 8:1; 9:31)
Philip, Paul Barnabas
Probably after the dispersion from Jerusalem during Saul’s persecution
Those in the city of Samaria
No Scriptural indications
SARDIS (Rev. 3:1-6)
SMYRNA (Rev. 2:8-11)
SYRIA (Acts 9:3; 13:1-3; 15:23,41; 20:3; 21:3; Gal. 1:21)
Paul, Barnabas, Silas
Antioch probably the first church here
Church at Jerusalem directed a letter to them
Saul is converted at Damascus
No Scriptural indications
THESSALONICA (Acts 17:1-9; 20:4; 27:2; Ph. 4:16; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1; 2 Tim. 4:10)
Paul, Silas, Timothy, Demas
Probably through the efforts of Paul and Silas
Jason, Aristarchus, Secundus
No Scriptural indications
Faith was made weak by tribulations
THYATIRA (Acts 16:14; Rev. 2:18-29)
BIBLICAL LANDS TODAY
THE MIDDLE EAST
Though not by official sanction, the name “Middle East” commonly refers to the area east of the Mediterranean Sea to Russia. It includes the countries of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan (Jordan), Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. With the exception of Israel and Iran, all of these countries are Arab in nationality and predominately Muslim in religion. Israel is Jewish in nationality and religion, and Iran is Persian, though for the most part they are still Muslim in religion.
Much of what is today IRAN was Persia in Biblical times. Iran was actually called “Iran” all the way back to the time of Archaemenids, between 400 and 300 B.C. Most people called the nation Persia until 1935, when the country petitioned that the international community refer to it as Iran.
IRAQ is located where much of ancient Mesopotamia was located. It was the first of the Leaque of Nation’s mandate to become independent in 1932. In the last three years, Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government a few years ago. In each of these elections, the number of voters participating has increased significantly- from 8.5 million in the January 2005 election to nearly 12 million in the December election- in defiance of terrorists’ threats and attacks.
One of the most important developments over the past year has been the increasing participation of Iraq’s Sunni community in the political process. In the volatile Anbar providence, where Sunnis are an overwhelming majority, voter turnout grew from 2 percent in January to 86 percent in December. Sunnis sheiks and religious leaders who previously had been sympathetic to the insurgency are today meeting with coalition representatives, encouraging Iraqis to join the security forces and waging what violent extremists such as Abu al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda followers recognize as a “large-scale war” against them.
ISRAEL is bordered by Lebanon on the north, Egypt on the south, and the Jordan River on the east. There is a small area of land known as GOLAN HEIGHTS, which lies east of the Jordan River, and was taken by Israel from Syria following a series of wars. This land has been called everything form “the Canaan land” to the “Land of Promise” to the “Holy Land” to “Palestine” to what it is currently called- “the State of Israel.”
Earlier, following the taking of Palestine by the British and French, Britain allotted a certain area for the transplanted Arabs called “Trans-Jordan.” It obtained its independence from British rule in 1946 and the next year quickly changed its name to JORDAN.
After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Turkish (Ottoman) forces in Syria occupied Lebanon and appointed a Turk ruler over the country. The Lebanese refused the occupation. The Turks responded by controlling Lebanon’s food supplies causing famine and plagues. Lebanon lost more than one third of its population then. The Turks cut down Lebanon’s trees to fuel their trains and military consuming more than half of Lebanon’s forests. In 1916 the Turkish authorities executed Lebanese leaders in Beirut for alleged anti-Turkish activities. That date of May 6th is commemorated annually in Lebanon as Martyr’s Day.
Lebanon was relieved in September 1918 when the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husain of Mecca reached the region. In 1920, the League of Nations gave France a mandate over Lebanon. On September 1, 1920, France proclaimed the establishment of Greater Lebanon with its present borders. In 1926, the Lebanese constitution was modeled after that of the French.
France proclaimed the independence of Lebanon in 1941, but continued to exercise authority. In 1943, Lebanon formed its first democratic government of independence and amended the constitution ending the mandate. Lebanon today includes the cities of Sidon and Tyre.
Not much of Syria today has changed since the times of Paul. Its western border has shrunk to allow for the nation of Lebanon, and its northern border has dropped slightly. The area today includes the city of Damascus, but does not include Antioch, which is now occupied by Turkey.
THE ARAB PEOPLES
After Ishmael and Hagar were sent away from Abraham and Sarah, Scripture records little in the area of Ishmael’s descendants. Since the Messiah was to come through the descendants of Isaac and Jacob, Scripture really did not need to include this information. We know they were dessert dwellers (Jer. 3:2), and that the land they inhabited was eastward toward Babylon (Is. 13:20). Moses married Zipporah, who was probably of this race (Ex. 2:21, 3:1). Scripture also records that there were Arabs in the government of King Solomon who contributed greatly to his wealth and possessions (2 Chr. 9:14). Ishmaelites were also mentioned in Judg. 8:24, Ps. 83:6, and Neh. 6. In Nehemiah chapter 6, the Arab people first came in conflict with the Israelites as they tried to rebuild the temple following release from Babylonian captivity (Neh. 6:2-4). History also records that they fought with the Greeks against the Jews when Judas Maccabaeus attempted to gain the Jews independence from Greek rule.
Following the close of the apostolic age, for a period of around 500 years their religion was Sabianism, the worship of the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies. And then, in AD 570 in the town of Mecca, located in what is now Saudi Arabia, Mohammed was born. In AD 610, Mohammed claimed to see his first in a long series of visions from Gabriel the angel. These supposed revelations were later, after his death, collected and compiled into what is called the Koran today (Surah 36:1-5). Mohammed himself had very little success with his religion while he was alive. Toward the end of his life, he only had accumulated several hundred followers. His success began in his home of Mecca and spread next to Medina. When the Jews of Medina rejected his self-proclaimed status as a prophet, he had 800 men murdered and their wives and children sold into slavery. The movement would not really gain momentum until after his death in AD 632. After his death, his followers swiftly seized the whole of the Middle East including all of the territory which had been Jewish homeland for 1600 years since the time of Joshua’s conquest. When Jerusalem fell in AD 70, the Arabs took it over and occupied it for 1900 years. From about AD 750 until the rise of the Ottoman Empire near the beginning of the 16th century, Islam controlled an area greater than that over which Rome controlled at its height of power.
There are two main divisions in the Islamic movement the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. The Shi’ite party began over political issues, but eventually moved to theological differences. They believe that Ali, the fourth of the caliphs (successors after Mohammed), was either divinely appointed or in fact deity himself. The Sunnis claim that only direct descent, an actual descendant of Mohammed, could take his position. The Sunnis greatly outnumber the Shi’ites, but the Shi’ites have always been more aggressive and militant. Suddam Hussein was a Shi’ite.
THE CRUSADES AND THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT
A view originating in the Catholic church near the end of the 11th Century surfaced that it was awful that a people who rejected the deity of Christ should possess the land where Christ died. So, between AD 1096 and 1270, seven different Crusades were launched from “Christian” Europe to recover the land from the Mohammedans. They experienced various victories and losses, until Jerusalem was finally officially conquered by the Crusaders in AD 1099. This European “Kingdom of Jerusalem” as they called it continued for only 15 years before they were overthrown by the Muslims again.
The next most effective effort by European powers to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims was begun by an Italian man named Theodr Herzl toward the end of the 19th Century. It came to be known as the Zionist Movement, and its main purpose was achieving a Jewish state as a national home for the Jews who were unhappy in the countries where they lived. The British government, at the end of World War I in 1918, was in agreement with the Zionist Movement, not only because of its sympathy toward the Jewish state, but also because the Jews had been large supporters in helping them win the war that had just ended. Therefore, Britain’s Prime Minister, A.J. Balfour issued the official position (called the Balfour Declaration) that they would indeed be securing an area in Palestine for this Jewish homeland. Soon after this declaration was issued, with the full support of France and America, the British defeated the Turks in a battle for Jerusalem, making it a British controlled land. In a conference held in 1920 in San Remo, Britain was authorized to permit the Jews to settle anywhere in the land as long as they remained west of the Jordan River. They set up an independent Arab-only settlement on the east side of the Jordan River called Jordan. Only a few weeks laer, tens of thousands of Jews, mostly from Russia, migrated to Palestine. The Arabs of course were in complete resistance to this movement, and in 1929, among many other public displays of disapproval, a group of armed Arabs came upon some Jews praying at the temple wall and slaughtered them.
WORLD WAR II
The Germans in the 1940s devised their own solution to the “Jewish problem”- completely destroy their race. Many of the Jews who survived the awful slaughter of their race during this war, ended up dying from postwar hunger, disease, and poverty. Following the war, the British tried to block further migration of Jews into Palestine in an attempt to keep their promise to the Arab peoples, but both groups turned against them. After a period of attempted peacemaking, the British finally withdrew from Palestine.
THE WAR OF 1947
Following Britain’s withdrawal, the Arab nations of Syria, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt staged an all-out war against the Jews to reclaim the area west of the Jordan River. These battles continued all the way into the 1970s, most of which ended in the further expansion of the Jewish peoples and defeat of the Arab peoples.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL
On May 14, 1948, the government of Israel was officially formed, and much of the Arab land was lost. The United Nations suggested a plan where both parties would have control over parts of the land. They allotted most of the land to the Arabs including Galilee and the area between Samaria and the Dead Sea. The Jews were allotted Jerusalem and much of the Negev desert. Though the Jews were not happy with their smaller portion, they agreed to the terms. However, the Arabs rejected it completely and launched an immediate strike of the terms.
“Palestinians” are those who regard Palestine as their homeland. Many of them have lived under protest in a small strip of land bordering Egypt called GAZA, and in the WEST BANK, including much of Judea and Samaria. The organization representing these peoples is known as the Palestine Liberation Organization or the PLO.
The West Bank is an area of land between Israel and the Jordan River. It is this area that the Arabs want to return to and set up their own government.
BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE TODAY
It is the most desired city of any on earth. Three major religions stake claim to the city- the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Jews view the city as the home of the temple and from where much of their most sacred history arises. True Christians, though it is the location of their Messiah’s crucifixion, His ascension, and the beginning of His church, do not see the city itself as holy. However, corrupt “Christianity” composed mainly of Protestant denominations, see it as the future location of Jesus’ physical throne and kingdom. Muslims occupied the city for many years, and it was also the location of many sacred events in Mohammed’s history, rivaled only by Mecca in their minds.
There are very few current Biblical topics of as much world-wide interest and attention as what many refer to as “the battle of Armageddon.” The phrase itself is nowhere to be found in Scripture, though Armageddon is found once. “And he gathered them together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). The word “Armageddon” means “hill of Megiddo,” a place physically located in the plain of Esdralon, what Scripture calls Jezreel. Knowing about MEGIDDO in Scripture and history is very important in the understanding of its use in the Revelation. The area where this “hill of Megiddo” lies is no more than once acre in size. There have been no less than sixteen historical battles fought at this location.
Archaeologists have dated one of the earliest recorded conflicts to 1469 BC, based on an inscription from the Temple of Amun at Karnak. The record describes how Pharaoh Thutmose III (1490-1436 BC) marched his army up the middle valley, thus outguessing the Canaanite forces, which were waiting in the northern and southern passes. Enemy chariots rushed to meeting the emerging Egyptians, but Thutmose defeated them near Megiddo. However, he delayed his attack on the city, and had to lay siege for seven months before finally capturing Megiddo and putting it under Egyptian control. Records repeatedly state: “The capture of Megiddo is the capture of a thousand towns.”
The first biblical reference to Megiddo comes around seventy years later. Joshua 12:21 lists the city’s king among those whom “Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side of Jordan on the west” (12:7). Yet the victory was incomplete. A few chapters later we read that the tribe of Manasseh, whose allotment included Megiddo, “could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities” (17:12). When the Israelites held the advantage, however, they exacted tribute from their neighbors (17:13; see also Judg. 1:27-28). Another two hundred years passed before Israel, led by Barak and Deborah, scored a major military victory in the Megiddo area (Judg. 5:19). By the middle of the 9th Century BC, Megiddo had become an important administrative center in Solomon’s kingdom (1 Ki. 4:12, 9:15).
Israel’s glory soon dissipated with the dividing of his kingdom. Around 925 BC- barely five years after Solomon’s death- Pharaoh Shishak I reestablished Egyptian rule over Palestine. He looted the temple in Jerusalem (1 Ki. 14:25-26) and then, according to an inscription at Karnak, turned north to conquer several cities, including Megiddo. This renewed a great tug of war between the superpowers. Assyria took Megiddo and the surrounding areas in the late 8th Century, and moved many of its people to distant lands (2 Ki. 17:1-6). But Assyrian power gradually declined, and in 609 BC Pharaoh Necho II marched northward to aide them against the rising Babylonians. Despite a warning from God, via Necho, to stay out of the fray (2 Chr. 35:22), King Josiah of Judah attacked the Egyptians near Megiddo. This attempt ended in failure and Josiah’s death (2 Chr. 25:23-24). Sadly, this brought an end to his religious reforms, and the beginning of the end for Judah.
OTHER BIBLE LANDS
Earlier known as the Ottoman Empire, Turkey now inhabits what the Bible refers to as Asia and Asia Minor. It also includes as far east as Haran, and as far west as Troas.
Completely separate from Greece today, Macedonia occupies a small area north of Greece and south of Serbia.