Jordan River – Its Significance

 

Mentioned almost 200 times in the Bible from Genesis to the Gospels, the Jordan River plays an important role throughout.[1] The River has served as a boundary, a landmark, the place of several miracles, John the Baptist’s ministry and where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized.

The Jordan River, Jericho, Israel, circa 1941-44.

Lowest elevation of all the rivers of the world, the head waters of the Jordan feed into the Sea of Galilee (aka Chinnereth, Lake Tiberius, Lake Kinneret) on the north end, exiting on the south end of the Sea.[2] From there, the River covers a mere 65 land miles to the Dead Sea where it ends.[1]Normal width of the Jordan River ranges between 30 to 100 feet and its depth is only 10 to 17 feet.

Not exactly a big river, it is the rapid current that makes it treacherous.[4] Dropping 600 feet in the short distance between the two seas, it is the characteristic of its Hebrew name Yarden meaning “descender.” [5]

Either side of the River forms the Jordan River Valley expanding up to 15 miles wide.[6] The northern valley contains fertile land, but by the time it reaches the southern end at the Dead Sea near Jericho, the terrain is hot and arid.[7]

First reference to the Jordan River is implied in Genesis 13 when Abram gave his nephew, Lot, a choice where to live with his family and livestock. Seeing the fertile “plain of the Jordan,” it became Lot’s choice.[8] By default, Abram took the land west of the Jordan – Canaan.

God promised Abram the land he could see in all four directions would belong to him and his descendants forever.[9] The Jordan River marked the boundary between the two lands of Canaan and the Arabah.[10]

Jordan River flooding at Allenby Bridge near Jericho, 1935.

Centuries later, escaping Egypt through the parted Red Sea, the fledgling Hebrew nation population was as “numerous as the stars of heaven.”[11] Delayed by 40 years, it was time to return to the land of Abraham, referred to by God at Mt. Sinai as the place.[12]

Priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant touched the water commencing the miracle. The Jordan River stopped flowing as foretold – no water flowed into the Dead Sea and the water rose up in a heap back to the city of Adam, halfway to the Sea of Galilee.[18]

All the Hebrews crossed the Jordan on dry ground.[19]Joshua, the Hebrew leader successor to Moses, remarked that the miracle on the Jordan was tantamount to the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea.[20] Enemies of the Hebrews hearing about the miracle were struck with great fear and it took away their courage.[21]

Hundreds of years later, the prophet Elijah was called by God to Jericho and then to the Jordan River.[22] At the River’s edge, accompanied by his protégé Elisha and witnessed by 50 members of the prophet society from Jericho, Elijah took off his cloak and hit the water, the waters parted, and they both walked across on dry ground. There is no mention of flooding waters on this occasion.

Elisha watched as Elijah was taken away by a chariot of fire in a windstorm when his cloak to fall off.[23] Elisha picked up the cloak, hit the waters of the Jordan and the River again parted allowing Elisha to walk back across to Jericho.[24] The 50 members of the Jericho prophet society bowed down in awe to Elisha.Naaman, captain of the Syrian (Aram) army, had contracted the dreaded Leprosy. Syria was an enemy of Israel evidenced by the servant for his wife being a young slave girl captured from a conquest in Israel.[25]

Wistfully the Jewish slave girl commented to her mistress that if only the commander could see the prophet of Samaria, he could cure her master’s disease.[26] Naaman’s wife mentioned this to her husband who, in turn, told his King who said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the King of Israel.”[27]

Misunderstanding the nature of the King of Syria’s introduction letter, the King of Israel thought it was directed to him. He tore his clothes saying, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”[28]

Elisha heard of the situation and asked that Naaman be sent directly to him. With his military escort, horses and chariots, Naaman arrived at Elisha’s door. Instead of coming out to greet the commander, Elisha sent out his servant telling Naaman to go wash seven times in the Jordan River.

Taking offense to what he considered to be rude behavior, Naaman caustically asked why was it necessary to travel this far when there were other closer rivers which would have been better? Servants advised Naaman it was a simple instruction, considering what it could have been, so why not try it?

Naaman reconsidered Elisha’s instructions, washed in the Jordan seven times and was miraculously healed resulting in skin as smooth as a young child.[29] Returning to stand before Elisha, the grateful enemy military captain renounced the Syrian god Rimmon and acknowledged the power of Jehovah.[30]

Several hundred more years later, people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and the region around the Jordan came to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.[31] Luke referenced seven secular historical figures to mark this specific time, all consistent with history – the 15th year of Tiberius; Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod [Antipas] was tetrarch of Galilee; Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene; and also the Jewish priesthoods of Annas and Caiaphas.[32]

John prophesied that someone more powerful than him was coming, one whom he was not even worthy to tie his sandal laces.[33] That person, Jesus of Nazareth, soon came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River.[34]

Appearing in all four Gospels, the accounts of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan describe a voice that came from Heaven, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”[35] John the Baptist is later quoted in the Apostle John’s Gospel testifying to seeing a dove descending from Heaven when God spoke of Jesus, “this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”[36]

Beginning with Abram until the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jordan River played a significant role in the history of Israel. Was it merely a coincidence the Jordan River is where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized and recognized by God?

 

Updated September 6, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Jordan.” NetBible.org. Search criteria. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=Jordan&page=1
[2] “Geography of Israel: The Jordan Valley.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2021. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-jordan-valley> Deuteronomy 3:17. NetBible.org. Footnote 2. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Deu&chapter=3&verse=17#>  Rogers, Lloyd Anthony. The Digital Collection of the National WWII Museum. “The Jordan River, Jericho, Israel, circa 1941-44.” photo. circa 1941-44. https://www.ww2online.org/image/jordan-river-jericho-israel-circa-1941-44
[3] “Jordan River.” BibleHistory.com. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/jordan-river.html “THE LAND: Geography and Climate.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2013. <https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/aboutisrael/land/pages/the%20land-%20geography%20and%20climate.aspx> “Jordan – Geography and Environment.” The Royal Hashemite Court. 2001. <http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/geo_env1.html
[4] “Jordan River.” BibleHistory.com. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/jordan-river.html> “Jordan River.” SeeTheHolyLand.net. 2021. <https://www.seetheholyland.net/jordan-river
[5] “Jordan River.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Jordan-River>  “Jordan River.” BiblicalTrainingLibrary.org. n.d. <https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/jordan-river>
“Jordan River.” BibleHub.com. n.d. <https://bibleatlas.org/jordan_river.htm>  “Jordan River.” LifeInTheHolyLand.com. n.d. <http://www.lifeintheholyland.com/jordan_river> “H3383.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3383.html
[6] “Jordan River Valley.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Jordan-Valley
[7] “THE LAND: Geography and Climate.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2013. <https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/aboutisrael/land/pages/the%20land-%20geography%20and%20climate.aspx>  “Jordan – Geography and Environment.” The Royal Hashemite Court. 2001. <http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/geo_env1.html>  “Jordan Valley.” Geography. n.d. <https://geography.name/jordan-valley
[8] Genesis 13:10. NIV, NRSV, NKJV. CR Genesis 13:12.
[9] Genesis 13:14-17.
[10] Number 34:11-12; Deuteronomy 3:17-18; Joshua 16:1. CR Deuteronomy 12:10; Joshua 23:4.
[11] Exodus 12:40; Deuteronomy 10:22. CR Genesis 15:13; 22:17; 26:4; Deuteronomy 1:10.
[12] Deuteronomy 11:8-15; 27:2-10.
[13] Deuteronomy 10:22. NASB.
[14] Joshua 3:15; 4:18.
[15] “The Jordan River and the Baptism Site of Yardenit.” Israel Tourism Consultants. 2017. <https://www.israeltourismconsultants.com/Travel-Blog/The-jordan-river-and-the-baptism-site-of-yaardenit-in-israel>  “Jordan River.” SeeTheHolyland. 2021. <https://www.seetheholyland.net/jordan-river>  CR Rodriquez, Seth. “Picture of the Week: Jordan River Flooding in 1935.” BiblePlaces.com. photo. 2013. <https://www.bibleplaces.com/blog/2013/02/picture-of-week-jordan-river-flooding>
[16] Exodus 25:10-40; 37:1-29; 40:17-33.
[17] “Southern Palestine.” LifeInTheHolyLand. n.d. <http://www.lifeintheholyland.com/43_southern_palestine_matson_american_colony>
[18] “Joshua 3. “Map of Old Testament Israel – The City of Adam. Bible History. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/ot/adam.html>  “Map of Old Testament Israel. Bible History. 2020. <https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-old-testament.html
[19] Joshua 3:17; 4:22-23.
[20] Joshua 4:23. CR Psalms 114:3.
[21] Joshua 5:1.
[22] 2 Kings 2:4, 6-7, 15.
[23] 2 Kings 2:11-14.
[24] 2 Kings 2:15.
[25] 2 Kings 5:1-2; 6:8.
[26] 2 Kings 5:1-3.
[27] 2 Kings 5:5. NASB, NKJV.
[28] 2 Kings 5:7. NASB.
[29] 2 Kings 5:14.
[30] 2 Kings 5:15-19. NetBible.org. Hebrew text.
[31] Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:23; John 1:28. CR John 3:26; 10:40.
[32] Luke 3:1-3.
[33] Luke 3:15-16; John 1:26-28.
[34] Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-13; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34.
[35] Luke 3:22. NASB, NKJV. CR Matthew 3:16-17; 17:5; Mark 3:17; John 3:22.
[36] John 1:32, 34.

The Temple – Significance to the Trial of Jesus

Prosecution by Caiaphas during the trial of Jesus of Nazareth was not going well because no two witnesses could agree on the same accusation as required by Jewish law.[1] Finally two witnesses presented the same accusation:

MK 14:58  “”We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”” (NASB)[2]

Not quite accurate according to the Gospel accounts of Mark and John.[3] Jesus actually said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[4] No legitimate Jew would ever think of destroying the Temple – it was the sacred House of God. Rebuilding the Temple in 3 days was a feat that only God could do resulting in the accusation becoming the center point of the trial.

Hours later, the charge persisted at his crucifixion suggesting the mockers had been at the trial. The taunts asked Jesus that if he could destroy and rebuild the Temple in 3 days, why couldn’t he save himself from the cross?[5]

. . . . .

History of the Temple began at Mt. Sinai with Moses. Atop Mt. Sinai, God not only gave Moses the Law, He also made five big promises to the Hebrews all tied to the place. Three of those promises the permanent dwelling place for His Name; the place to observe the Feasts; and the judgment seat of Israel – all involved the future Temple:[6]

Until promises of the place came to fruition, instructions were given to the Hebrews for a temporary mobile structure as the place for God’s Name to dwell, a tent called the Tabernacle.[7] God’s design for the Tabernacle served as the blueprint for the future Temple, its usage and contents.[8]

Centuries later, King David wanted to build the permanent Temple, but God had other plans. The prophet Nathan delivered the message that David’s future son would fulfill the promise given to Moses to build the House of God.[9]

David still chose the future location of the Temple, but the backdrop story is nothing like it would logically seem. The site was a threshing floor owned by the Jebusite Araunah (Ornan) where winds on the high location were perfectly suited for separating grain from chaff.[10]

Wanting to offer a sacrifice to God to atone for his sin resulting in the deaths of thousands of Hebrews, David found Araunah’s threshing floor on high ground to be a suitable place for the sacrifice. Using his own money, the King bought the threshing floor along with all its equipment to use as the fuel for the sacrifice.[11]

Building an altar himself, the King prepared the offering, then fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice. Moved deeply, David declared “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.”[12] The threshing floor was on Mt. Moriah where a thousand years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed.[13]

Temple construction began in the fourth year of King Solomon’s reign and was completed seven years later.[14] Solomon held a public consecration for the permanent dwelling place for the Name of God and prepared a sacrifice on the altar in front of the new Temple.[15] The King proclaimed to God:

2 CH 6:2-11 “I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.”(NKJV)

Depiction of Solomon’s Temple[16]
Spectacularly in the presence of all the Hebrews, God again sent down fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice. It left no doubt this was the place for the Temple to serve as the dwelling place for the Name of God.[17] During the night, God appeared to Solomon reminding the King that although He had fulfilled His promises from Mt. Sinai, it was not carte blanche – it came with a stipulation:[18]

2 CH 7:19-20 “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (NKJV)

After centuries of ignoring warnings from many prophets, the penalty stipulation was enacted – the army of King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the Second Temple was rebuilt under the decree of Persian King Cyrus with continued support from Kings Darius and Artaxerxes.[19]

King Herod enhanced the Second Temple though primarily for his own personal ambitions. He was able to sell the idea to the Jewish leadership by saying he wanted to bring the Temple back to the intended grandeur of King Solomon which had been unaffordable at the time it was rebuilt.[20] The enhanced Second Temple, also called Herod’s Temple by many, became the location of the trial Jesus of Nazareth.[21]

. . . . .

Caiaphas asked Jesus to explain the accusations, but received no answer. As the High Priest, he had to be aware of the prophecy by the Hebrew prophet Zechariah foretelling  the Branch would build the Temple:

Zech 6:12-13 “…Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (NKJV)

Knowing the magnitude of the accusation for the ability to rebuild the Temple in 3 days had divine implications, it was evidenced by the next direct question by the prosecutor. Caiaphus cut straight to the heart of the trial pointedly asking Jesus:

“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”(ISV, NRSV)[22]

Jesus answered, “I AM,” serving as sufficient proof to Caiaphas that he had spoken a blasphemy. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin serving as jurors took actions to have Jesus put to death.[23]

Was the claim by Jesus that he would rebuild the Temple in 3 days a daring metaphoric prediction spoken by the Son of God or was it a delusional claim of a man saying he would physically destroy and rebuild the Temple in three days?

 

Updated August 25, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 9a, 30a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>  Resnicoff, Steven H. “Criminal Confessions in Jewish Law.” Project Genesis. 2007. <http://www.jlaw.com/Commentary/crimconfess.html>   
[2] CR Matthew 26:60-61.
[3] Mark 14:59, John 2:19-21.
[4] John 2:19-21. NASB.
[5] Mark 15:29.
[6] Deuteronomy 12:5, 11; 16:6; 17:8-10.
[7] Exodus 25:8-9. Leviticus 9:126:11; Numbers 9:15; Deuteronomy 12:22, 16:2, 6, 26:2; 2 Chronicles 5:2-10; I Kings 8:10.
[8] 1 Kings 6. 2 Chronicles 5-6.
[9] 2 Samuel 7:12-17.
[10] “Threshing.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/agriculture-and-horticulture/agriculture-general/threshing>  “Agriculture.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14378-thrashing-floor>
[11] I Chronicles 21:18-26; 2 Samuel 24:18-25. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter XIII.3. <https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Araunah&f=false>  Dolphin, Lambert.  “Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  TempleMount.org. 1996. <http://www.templemount.org/moriah2.html
[12] I Chronicles 22:1. NKJV.
[13] 2 Chronicles 3:1. CR Genesis 22.  Josephus. Antiquates. Book I, Chapter III.
[14] 1 Kings 6:1, 37-38.  CR 2 Chronicles 3:1-2.
[15] 2 Chronicles 6:1-7.
[16] “The Temple.” The Victor’s Place. photo. Feb. 2. ? <https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrCwOUslAdjzRoASQ0PxQt.;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3BpdnM-?p=The+Temple%2C+Jerusalem&type=yhs-adk_sbnt_appfocus1_sm_ff&param1=20210118&param2=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&param3=searchmanager_%7EUS%7Eappfocus1%7E&param4=%7Efirefox%7E%7E&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&grd=1&ei=UTF-8&fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt#id=96&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fvhoagland.files.wordpress.com%2F2021%2F02%2Fdsc00129.jpg&action=click>
[17] 2 Chronicles 7:1-3.
[18] 2 Chronicles 7:11-18.
[19] Ezekiel 1:2-3; 6:7,12; 7:12-13, 23, 26.  “Building the Second Temple.” My Jewish Learning. 2019.  <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/second-templer>  Cohney, Shelley. The Jewish Temples: The Second Temple.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-second-temple>
[20] “Herod the Great.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2019. <https://www.livius.org/articles/person/herod-the-great>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XV, Chapter XI.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple – Its Ministry and Services. 1826 -1889. Chapter 1. <http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/The%20Temple%20by%20Alfred%20Edersheim.pdf>  Hegg, Tim. “Separating the Most Holy from the Holy:  The ‘Veil’ in the Tabernacle and First & Second Temples” Torah Resource.  <http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Veil%20ETS%20Paper.pdf>  Spiro Ken. “History Crash Course #31: Herod the Great.” Aish.com. 2001. <https://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48942446.html>  “Rebuild Herod’s Temple? A Few Israelis Hope.” New York Times. April 9, 1989. <https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/09/world/rebuild-herod-s-temple-a-few-israelis-hope.html>
[21] Numbers 11:16-17, 24. Ariel, Yisrael. “The Chamber of the Hewn Stone.” The Temple Institute. 2019.  <https://www.templeinstitute.org/illustrated/hewn_stone_description.htm> Ariel. “Blueprints for the Holy Temple.”  <http://www.templeinstitute.org/blueprints-for-the-holy-temple.htm>
[22]2] Mark 14:61.
[23] Matthew 26:62-66; Mark 14:62-65; Luke 22:70-71.

Judea – the Land Promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Canaan, Palestine, Judaea, Judea, the land of Abraham – all refer to the same place today known as Israel.[1] Judea’s 2000-year history preceding the era of Jesus of Nazareth began with Abram who was ironically born in the land of Babylon in present day Iran, a mortal enemy of Israel.[2]

Young Abram married Sarai in Ur of the Chaldees. His father, Terah, then moved his family to Haran in the land of Canaan.[3] One day God appeared to Abram telling him to move his own family to another place that God would show him.[4] He also promised Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”[5]

Abram and Sarai, along with nephew Lot and his family, eventually resettled near Salem. One day, an enemy raiding party captured Lot, his family and their possessions whereupon Abram took up arms and set out on a rescue mission.[6]

Victorious in battle and rescuing Lot’s family and possessions, Abram returned home to a hero’s welcome greeted by Melchizedek, priest and King of Salem. He blessed Abram in the name of the most high God, creator of the heavens and earth.[7] Soon thereafter, God first promised Abram’s descendants would inherit the land after first being enslaved in a foreign land for 400 years.[8]

Thirteen years later at the age of 99, God blessed Abram changing his name to Abraham; his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah; promised them a son to be named Isaac; and reaffirmed His promise that Canaan would be a permanent possession.[9]

Gen. 7:18-19 “I will give the whole land of Canaan – the land where you are now residing to you and your descendants after you as a permanent possession. I will be their God. (NET)

Gen. 17:19 “…Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him.” (NET)

Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, was blessed by God changing his name to Israel and promised that his descendants would produce an assembly of nations and kings. The sons of Israel became the fathers of the tribes of Israel.[10] Just before Jacob died, he blessed each son and to Judah, he specifically passed on the blessing of his grandfather Abraham foretelling Judah would become the father of the tribe of royalty.[11]

Events took a major detour that lasted some 400 years before God’s promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled. Jacob had a favorite son, Joseph, causing jealousy among his brothers.[12] They ambushed Joseph and sold him as a slave to a passing caravan bound for Egypt, then lied to their father saying the boy had been killed by a wild animal.[13]

Many years later during a famine in Canaan, Jacob resorted to seeking food from Egypt and eventually discovered that not only was Joseph alive, he was second in power only to Pharaoh himself![14] Under the protection of Joseph, all the sons of Israel left the land of Abraham and moved to Egypt where, over the next 400 years, they became slaves of the ruling Pharaohs.[15]

Moses was then called by God from a burning bush at the base of Mt. Sinai to lead the Hebrews on the Exodus out of Egypt. Back at Mt. Sinai after the exodus from Egypt, God gave the Law to Moses which included five big promises, all tied to God’s plans for the place in the land promised to Abraham:[16]

EX 23:20, 23 “I am going to send an angel before you to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared…For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.”(NET)

EX 33:1-2 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’” (NASB, NKJV)

Dead Sea

Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, spanned from the southern tip of the Dead Seathrough the Negev Desert on the South;

Negev Desert

to the Mediterranean Sea on the West;

Mediterranean Sea, southern Israel
Mediterranean Sea, northern Israel

the headwaters of the Jordan River on the North;

Jordan River headwaters at Tel Dan

and followed the River

Jordan River, East Israel

to the Dead Sea on the East.[17] Inhabitants were certainly not willing for give up their land to the Hebrews – it had to be taken by force. 

Poised to return to the land of Abraham, the waters of the Jordan River were miraculously parted allowing the Hebrews to cross on dry ground.[18] As part of their conquests in the land of Abraham, the new Hebrew King David battled the inhabitants of Jebus, formerly known as Salem. Once David established his throne in the City of David, the city became known as Jerusalem encompassing Mt. Zion and Mt. Moriah where the Temple would eventually be built.[19]

Over the next several centuries, David’s kingdom of Israel degraded when successive kings and the Hebrews did not abide by their agreement with God’s covenant presented by Moses at Mt. Sinai. The covenant, a type of contract, had a penalty clause which was enacted by God. Split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, and Judah was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken away captive to Babylon.

Persia vanquished Babylon while the Hebrews were still in captivity providing the opportunity for the Hebrew wise man, Daniel, to serve kings in both Empires.[20] Under decrees by Persian Kings Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, the Hebrews were allowed to return to the land of Judah and rebuild Jerusalem.[21]

Conquests of Alexander the Great expanding the Greek Empire included the land now called “Palestine.”[22] In 333 BC, Alexander’s army was met outside of Jerusalem by the Jewish High Priest Shimon HaTzaddik in a successful attempt to prevent the army’s destruction of the Jewish Temple.[23]

Jerusalem was spared and the Jews viewed Alexander as their liberators, in part, because Hellenism under the new Greek Empire allowed them religious freedom. In fact, Greek eventually became the common language in Palestine.[24]

On the stage of history, the Greek Empire was replaced by the Roman Empire and Palestine picked up a new name, Judea. Caesar Augustus and the senate allowed Judea, with Jerusalem as its capital, to be ruled by a new ruthless king named Herod.[25]

Jesus of Nazareth of the lineage of Abraham, Judah and King David, was born in Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod. He traveled throughout Judea and Samaria teaching and healing until one day during the Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus was captured, tried and crucified.

Was it merely a coincidence that over the course of 2000 years, the geographic land promised by God to Abraham remained essentially unchanged and the same city, known as Salem, Jebus then Jerusalem, remained at the center of this land until Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene?

 

Updated September 7, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Palestine.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine>  Niese. B., ed. Flavii Iosephi opera. 1892. J. Book 5, Section 117 [AJ 5.1], footnote 1. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0146:book=5:section=1&highlight=palestine> Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 20, Chapter 11.2.<https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Palestine&f=false>
[2] Genesis 11:31,12:1-4; 13:12-17; 15:7. “Historical Timeline.” The Biblical Zionist. BiblicalZionist.com. 2009. <http://www.biblicalzionist.com/timeline.htm>  Uittenbogaard, Arie “Salem meaning | Salem etymology.” Abarim Publications. n.d. <http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Salem.html#.U5SQqCjyTih> Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book VI, Chapter X. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false> “Ur of the Chaldees.” Penn Museum. n.d. project. <https://www.penn.museum/sites/ur> Wooley, Leonard. “Ur of the Chaldees:  a record of seven years of excavation.” Internet Archives. video. 1952. <https://archive.org/details/urofchaldeesreco00wool>
[3] Genesis 11:27-31.
[4] Genesis 12:1.
[5] Genesis 12:2. NIV.
[6] Genesis 14:11-16.
[7] Genesis 14:18-20.
[8] Genesis 15.
[9] Genesis 31:1  CR. Quran. Pickthall translation. Surah 21:72. <http://www.islam101.com/quran/QTP/index.htm>
[10] Genesis 35:9-13.  CR. Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 40 references to “Children of Israel.” <http://search-the-quran.com/search/Children%20of%20Israel
[11] Genesis 49:8-10.
[12] Genesis 37:3-4; 18-28.
[13] Genesis 37:18-28.
[14] Genesis 42-46.
[15] Exodus 12:40.
[16] Exodus 19:1. Ryrie. Charles C., ed.  Ryrie Study Bible. New American Standard Trans. 1978. “Laws relating to conquests, [Ex] 23:20-33.” [xvii] Joshua 15.  Mark, Joshua. “Canaan.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.ancient.eu/canaan>  “Canaan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Canaan-historical-region-Middle-East>  Jarus, Owen. “Who Were the Canaanites?”  LiveScience. 2016. <https://www.livescience.com/56016-canaanites.html>
[17] Joshua 15. Giamberini, Mariasilvia; Provenzale, Antonello. “Negev Desert.” EGU Blogs. Photo. 2018.  <https://blogs.egu.eu/geolog/tag/negev-desert> Turnage, Marc. CBN Israel. “Biblical Israel: Dead Sea.” Photo. 2021. <https://cbnisrael.org/2021/04/06/biblical-israel-dead-sea> Amir, Rebecca Stadlen. Israel21c. “10 spectacular photos of sunsets in Israel.” photo. <https://www.israel21c.org/10-spectacular-photos-of-sunsets-in-israel>  “Nahariya Beaches – Northern Israel.” Visions of Travel. photo. 2020. <https://www.visionsoftravel.org/nahariya-beaches-northern-israel> “Israel, The Jordan River Near Tel Dan.” Sonia Halliday Photo Library. photo. 2010. <http://www.soniahalliday.com/category-view3.php?pri=IS19A-13-21.jpg>  “The Jordan River.” Good Shepherd Travels. photo. n.d. <https://www.tourtheholylands.com/holy-land-tour-locations/holy-land-tours/the-jordan-river-7-stories-of-feet-and-an-ax-head> Last accessed 7 Sept. 2022.
[18] Joshua 3:9-17.
[19] Samuel 5:6-9; I Chronicles 11:4-8;  2 Chronicles 3:1;
[20] Ezekiel 1:2-3.
[21] Ezekiel 6:7, 12; 7:12-13, 23, 26.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XI, Chapter V.1.
[22] “Palestine.” Encyclopædia Britannica.  Maier, Paul L. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. William Whiston. 1999. p 385. <http://books.google.com/books?id=kyaoIb6k2ccC&lpg=PP1&dq=the%20complete%20works%20of%20josephus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Herodotus. The Histories. 440 BC. English Trans. A. D. Godley, Ed. 1920. Book 7, Chapter 89.<http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D89>  “From Alexander the Great to ad 70 Hellenistic Greece.” Washington State University. 6 June 1999.  Archived URL. Archive.org. 4 Jan. 2011.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[23] “Palestine.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014.  Spiro, Ken.  “History Crash Course #27: The Greek Empire.” Aish.com. 2001. <http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48939587.html>  Hooker, Richard. “Hellenistic Greece: Alexander the Great.” Washington State University. 1999. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[24] “Hellenism.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7535-hellenism>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II.1.
[25] Maier. The New Complete Works of Josephus. p 491. “Actium (31BCE).”  Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2019. <https://www.livius.org/articles/battle/actium-31-bce/>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XV, Chapters V-VI; Book XVII, Chapter VIII.1.  “Herod the Great.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. <http://www.livius.org/articles/person/herod-the-great/?>  Villalba i Varneda, Pere. The Historical Method of Flavius Josephus. p 14. <http://books.google.com/books?id=kdUUAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA14&ots=2ek7SgCy2c&dq=josephus%2C%20battle%20of%20actium%2C%20herod&pg=PA14#v=onepage&q=josephus,%20battle%20of%20actium,%20herod&f=false>