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It is no longer regarded as simply a description of the earth's surface, but as the foundation of all historical study. Only in the light of their physical setting can the great characters, movements, and events of human history be rightly understood and appreciated. Moreover, geography is now defined as a description not only of the earth and of its influence upon man's development, but also of the solar, atmospheric, and geological forces which throughout millions of years have given the earth its present form.

Hence, in its deeper meaning, geography is a description of the divine character and purpose expressing itself through natural forces, in the physical contour of the earth, in the animate world, and, above all, in the life and activities of man.

Biblical geography, therefore, is the first and in many ways the most important chapter in that divine revelation which was perfected through the Hebrew race and recorded in the Bible. Thus interpreted it has a profound religious meaning, for through the plains and mountains, the rivers and seas, the climate and flora of the biblical world the Almighty spoke to men as plainly and unmistakably as he did through the voices of his inspired seers and sages.

No other commentary upon the literature of the Bible is so practical and luminous as biblical geography. Throughout their long history the Hebrews were keenly attentive to the voice of the Eternal speaking to them through nature. Their writings abound in references and figures taken from the picturesque [vi] scenes and peculiar life of Palestine. The grim encircling desert, the strange water-courses, losing themselves at times in their rocky beds, fertile Carmel and snow-clad Hermon, the resounding sea and the storm-lashed waters of Galilee are but a few of the many physical characteristics of Palestine that have left their indelible marks upon the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

The same is true of Israel's unique faith and institutions. Biblical geography, therefore, is not a study by itself, but the natural introduction to all other biblical studies. In his Historical Geography of the Holy Land and in the two volumes on Jerusalem , Principal George Adam Smith, of Aberdeen, has given a brilliant and luminous sketch of the geographical divisions and cities of Palestine, tracing their history from the earliest times to the present.

Every writer on Palestine owes him a great debt. The keenness and accuracy of his observations, are confirmed at every point by the traveller.


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At the present time, the need of a more compact manual, to present first the physical geography of the biblical lands and then to trace in broad outlines the history of Israel and of early Christianity in close conjunction with their geographical background, has long been recognized. In the present work unimportant details have been omitted that the vital facts may stand out clearly and in their true significance.

The aim has been to furnish the information that every Bible teacher should possess in order to do the most effective work, and the geographical data with which every student of the Bible should be familiar, in order intelligently to interpret and fully appreciate the ancient Scriptures. This volume embodies the results of many delightful months spent in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, and especially in Palestine, during the years and Owing to improved conditions in the Turkish Empire it is now possible, with the proper camp equipment, to travel safely through the remotest [vii] places east of the Jordan and to visit Petra, that most fascinating of Eastern cities.

By securing his equipment at Beirut the traveller may cross northern Galilee and then, with comfort, go southward in the early spring through ancient Bashan, Gilead, Moab, and Edom. In this way he will find the quaint, fascinating old Palestine that has escaped the invasions of the railroads and western tourists, and he will bear away exact and vivid impressions of the land as it really was and still is. The difficulties and expense of Palestine travel, however, render such a journey impossible for the majority of Bible students. Fortunately, the marvellous development of that most valuable aid to modern education, the stereoscope and the stereograph, make it possible for every one at a comparatively small expense to visit Palestine and to gain under expert guidance in many ways a clearer and more exact knowledge of the background of biblical history and literature than he would through months of travel.

They have been selected from over five hundred views taken especially for this purpose, and enable the student to gain, as he alone can through the stereoscope, the distinct state of consciousness of being in scores of historic places rarely visited even by the most venturesome travellers. Numbers referring to these stereographs or stereopticon slides have been inserted in the body of the text. In Appendix II the titles corresponding to each number are given. I am under especial obligations to the officers of the Palestine Exploration Fund, who kindly placed their library and maps in London at my service and have also permitted me to use in reduced form their Photo-Relief Map of Palestine.

The General Characteristics of the Biblical World 3.

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Rebuilding the Ancient Ruins: Learning the Skill of Tearing Down Strongholds

Extent of the Biblical World. The General Characteristics of Palestine History of the Terms Palestine and Canaan. The Coast Plains Extent and Character. Physical and Political Significance of the Central Plateau. Character of the Hills of Samaria. The Jordan and Dead Sea Valley Geological History.

The East-Jordan Land Form and Climate of the East-Jordan Land. The Two Capitals: Jerusalem and Samaria Importance of Jerusalem and Samaria. Importance of the Highways. Early Palestine The Aim and Value of Historical Geography. Palestine Under the Rule of Egypt Reasons why Egypt Conquered Palestine. The Hebrews in the Wilderness and East of the Jordan Identification of Mount Sinai. The Settlement in Canaan The Approach to the Jordan. David's Home at Bethlehem. Establishment of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital. The Northern Kingdom The Varied Elements in the North.

The Southern Kingdom Effect of Environment Upon Judah's History. Jewish Refugees in Egypt. The Scenes of the Maccabean Struggle Alexander's Conquests. The Maccabean and Herodian Age Jonathan's Policy. The Short Reign of Archelaus. The Scenes of Jesus' Ministry Original Centre at Jerusalem.


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In its widest bounds, the biblical world included practically all the important centres of early human civilization. Thus the Old and New Testament world extended fully sixty degrees from east to west, but at the most not more than fifty degrees from north to south. With the exception of Arabia, all of these lands gather about the Mediterranean, for although the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates ultimately find their way into the Indian Ocean, the people living in these fertile valleys ever looked toward the Mediterranean and for the most part found their field for conquest and commerce in the west rather than in the east and south.

Conditions Favorable to Early Civilizations. The greater part of this ancient world consisted of wastes of water, of burning sands or of dry, rocky, pasture lands. Less than one-fifth was arable soil, and yet the tillable strips along the river valleys on the eastern and northern Mediterranean were extremely fertile. Here in four of five favored centres were supplied in varying measure the conditions requisite for a strong primitive civilization: 1 a warm, but not enervating climate; 2 a [4] fertile and easily cultivated territory which enabled the inhabitants to store up a surplus of the things necessary for life; 3 a geographical unity that made possible a homogeneous and closely knit political and social organization; 4 a pressure from without which spurred the people on to constant activity and effort; 5 an opportunity for expansion and for intercommunication with other strong nations.

The result was that the lands about the eastern Mediterranean were the scenes of the world's earliest culture and history. From these centres emanated the great civic, political, intellectual, artistic, moral, and religious ideas and ideals that still strongly influence the life and faith of the nations that rule the world.

The character of each of these early civilizations was in turn largely shaped by the natural environment amidst which it arose. Egypt's Climate and Resources. The land of the Nile was peculiarly favorable for the development of an exceedingly early civilization. Lying near the equator and between extended areas of hot, dry desert, it possessed an almost perfect climate. While warm, it was never excessively hot, thanks to the fresh north winds which blew from the sea.

The desert kept the atmosphere dry and cloudless through at least eleven months in the year. The narrow strip of alluvial soil which constituted the real land of Egypt was practically inexhaustible. The Nile, which rose during the hot summer months, furnished abundant water for irrigation.

At the same tune the necessity for constant activity in order to develop the full resources of the land was a valuable incentive to industry. Finally, the uniformity of the Nile valley furnished an excellent basis for a unified social and political organization.

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Its Isolation and Limitations. At first Egypt's isolation favored, but in the end fatally impeded the development of its civilization. On every side it was shut in, not only by miles of rocky desert on the east and west, but also on the north and south by almost impassable barriers. In the south the fertile territory narrows to a mere ribbon, with no natural highways by land, while several great cataracts cut off approach by water. One of these is the main western arm of the Nile, which reaches the Mediterranean near Alexandria; the other is the Wady Tumilat, which runs from the Isthmus of Suez through the biblical land of Goshen to the Nile valley.

In early centuries these few narrow and uninviting avenues of approach on the north and south were easily guarded. The result was that the Egyptians, at a very early date, attained a high stage of culture, but they lacked that stimulus from without which is essential to the highest development. Once or twice, as in the days of the Hyksos and Ethiopian invasions, foreigners pressed into the land, and as a result the centuries immediately following were the most glorious in Egypt's history. In general, however, the civilization of the Nile valley was deficient in depth and idealism.

It was grossly material; it developed too easily and the people were too contented. Even on the artistic side the brilliant promise of the earlier centuries failed of fruition. Moreover, the protecting natural barriers proved constricting, so that there was little opportunity for expansion.

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Hence Egypt's civilization was always provincial and by B. From this time on the people of the Nile tamely submitted to the succession of foreign conquerors who have ever since ruled over this garden land of the eastern world. Conditions in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Physical conditions in the Tigris-Euphrates valley were in many ways similar to those along the Nile.

"Repairers of the Breach"

A warm but invigorating climate, fertile, alluvial soil, deposited by the great rivers and renewed each year by the floods, and the protection of the desert on the west favored the development of a virile civilization, as early if not earlier than that of Egypt. Starting from the same northern mountains, the two great rivers find their way to the Persian Gulf by widely different courses.

The Tigris flows southeast in a comparatively direct course of eleven hundred miles. Its name, "The Arrow," suggests the rapidity of its descent. The Euphrates, on the contrary, makes a long detour [6] westward toward the Mediterranean and then turns to the southeast, where for the greater part of the last half of its one thousand eight hundred miles it flows through the desert. The lands lying between the lower waters of these great rivers were by nature fitted to become the home of the earliest civilization. At a very early period these level plains attracted the nomadic tribes from the neighboring desert.

Here they found soil that was exceedingly fertile, but covered to a great extent by the overflow of the great rivers. To be made productive it had to be drained in the flood and irrigated in the dry season by an extensive system of canals and reservoirs.