Considering Geography


We said yesterday that geography is about the “physical features of the earth and of human activity as it relates to these.” Today, we’ll take a look at how geography influences your understanding of the Bible. Getting the lay of the land, biblically speaking, can make your study of Scripture more interesting and accurate.

Example 1

You read the following verse in Jeremiah:

“Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong: but I will suddenly make him run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?” (Jer 49:19)

You wonder what the phrase like a lion from the swelling of Jordan means. Geography has an impact here. The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary offers this insight:

“Judgment would fall upon them as in the swelling of Jordan, i.e., the thick undergrowth along the sides of the Jordan that was infested with wild animals and consequently very dangerous.” (p. 1450)

John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible gives this extra information:

“Nebuchadnezzar and his army that should come up against the Edomites from the land of Judea, where Jordan was, having first subdued that; or should come with that strength, fury, and fierceness, as a lion when forced out of its covert near the river Jordan, by the overflowing of its banks, and obliged to betake himself to higher grounds; who, being enraged, roars and tears in pieces all in his way.”

Example 2

You read this in Luke 2:

“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.” (Luk 2:39-42)

The Bible says they went up to Jerusalem, though Jerusalem was South of Nazareth. (In my part of the world, we would say, “They went down.”) But if you were to look at a topographical map of the area, you would see that Jerusalem is nestled within some relatively tall mountains.

“The site of Jerusalem is shut in by a rough triangle of higher mountain ridges: to the West runs the main ridge, or water parting, of Judea, which here makes a sweep to the westward. From this ridge a spur runs Southeast and East, culminating due East of the city in the MOUNT OF OLIVES (which see), nearly 2,700 ft. above sea-level and about 300 ft. above the mean level of the ancient city. Another spur, known as Jebel Deir abu To?r, 2,550 ft. high, runs East from the plateau of el Buk?ei?a and lies Southwest of the city; it is the traditional “Hill of Evil Counsel.” The city site is thus dominated on all sides by these higher ranges…” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

Some of the Psalms reflect this geography, too. Psalms 121-131 and Psalm 133 are known as the Psalms of Ascent because they were sung by worshippers making their ascent to the holy city of Jerusalem for worship.

Points to Ponder

How well do you know the boundaries, natural features, topography, distances, etc. of Bible lands? What have you done to become more familiar with these features? What will you do?

Read More About It

If you have eSword, us the Bible, and the Sonlight Bible Maps to answer the following questions.

Geographically speaking, how significant was the following feat that Samson performed?

“And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” (Jdg 16:3)

Geographically speaking, how significant was the following feat that Elijah performed?

“And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” (1Ki 18:46)

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