Lesson 4: Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, Israel, The Land of Promise


In this series we will be looking at a particular piece of this earth that God has specifically set aside to work His work in bringing redemption to man. 


And that piece of this earth we know of as Israel and the land surrounding it is a special piece of Geography.   


Israel is a definable geographic area in which even the soil is divinely consecrated and this is why it is called the holy “land”.  


We may use that term so casually without thinking of its connection to the actual land of Israel. 


The psalms relate the separateness of this land to us in many ways.


In Psalm 147:19,20, we are told:    He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.  He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.


Paul in the new testament confirms this when he wrote in:


Romans 3:1,2,   What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles (an utterance) of God. 


So God spoke to the children of Israel in a particular place and the destiny of the Jew is tied to that place. 


Psalm 37:3,  Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.


The Jew is to trust in the Lord in the land. 


The Jew in the land is fed.


Psalm 37:29,    The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.


Psalm 37:34,    Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.


Psalm 142:5,    I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. 


The land was the land of the living. 


All land outside of Israel was the land of the dead. 


Psalm 143:10,  Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. 


The land was the land of the upright. 


Proverbs 2:21,22,  For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it. 


So Israel is the land of Promise. 


It is the land where God has made promises. 


It is a land separated unto God in which he has chosen to make  promises.


Covenant promises and prophesy was made concerning the land.


Much of Old Testament faith was concerned with events that occurred in this land.  


The arena in which God acted was the land.


It is here he gave utterance!


The call and the covenant to Abraham concerned the land. 


What did Abraham do? 


Hebrews 11:9 records, By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:


God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt into the land. 


He brought them back to the land from Babylonian captivity.


He will bring them back to the land at the beginning of his millennial kingdom and they will remain in the land for 1000 years.


There is a bond between God and the children of Israel in which the land is central.


Psalm 132:13-14,  For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.


Israel’s identity, Israel’s security, and Israel’s prosperity were all the direct results of being in the land.


And for a Jew to be out of the land brings him or her a sense that faith has become meaningless. 


Being out of the land is being out of God’s will. 


To the Jew:  In order to have everything right with God I must be in the land.


In the mind of the Jew landlessness equates with hopelessness.   


Look at the history of the Jew during their centuries out of the land.   


They have always been misfits when they have been out of the land.


The Jew is an earthly people, the church is a heavenly people.


All God’s acts took place in the land. 

God displayed his mighty acts and all his promises were to take place in the land.


So in order to understand the scriptures and God’s dealing with his chosen people, who were people of the land, we must have a knowledge of the geographical realities of Israel and its surroundings. 


What does it mean when we read of the:

former and the latter rains,

the strong east wind,

the scorching effect of Israel’s hot sun,

the importance of dew for crop survival,

the implications of no rainfall,

the concentration of Fertility Worship in the land of promise,

the nature of Egyptian, Canaanite, and Mesopotamian deities,

the character of extra Biblical creation myths,

the migrations of Abraham, Moses, and Nehemiah

the astounding success of David in escaping Saul’s manhunt,

the effect of geography on the ministry of John the Baptist,

the motivation behind our Lord Jesus Christ’s move from Nazareth to Capernaum

and the vast distances undertaken by the Apostle Paul.


Knowledge of the Geography of the region is a must if we are to accurately understand the scriptures.  


One example concerns the direction that we know of as north.  


The scripture refers to the army of the north, or the enemy of the north. 


We would think of this as a nation north of Israel. 


But at times the Bible identifies such armies of the north as Assyrians, Babylonians, or even Persians.


These are peoples that lie to the northeast or even due east. 


But this seeming difference is explained by the geography of the area. 


There are physical barriers, mountain ranges, rivers, and deserts, that prevented an enemy from coming from any direction but the north.


Accordingly, the Bible’s use of the expression “north” denotes the direction from which a foe would normally approach, and not necessarily the location of its homeland.


So we shall begin this study by taking a look at the area where God began his relationship with man. 


That critical area of the earth where the Lord Jesus Christ came and announced His kingdom and to seek and to save that which was lost. 


The Fertile Crescent


Stretching from the Pyrenees (pir’( pier) a nez’) Mountains of northern Spain (below France) to the Himalayan chain of India, Nepal, and China lies the rugged mountains known as the Alpine-Himalayan chain.   


This chain wraps around the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas. 


At the center of this vast chain lies the Taurus, Kurdistan, Elburz and Zagros mountain ranges. 


These ranges provide the northern and eastern barriers of the area known as the Fertile Crescent. 


Beginning at the head of the Persian Gulf, a thin, semi-circular strip of comparatively arable land, the Fertile Crescent extends north-westward through the Tigrus-Euphrates Valley to the region of Haran and Carchemish (kar-kem-eesh' ), the Padan-aram(the table land of ancient Syria) of the Bible. 


It then moves southwestward along the Mediterranean, through Syria and Palestine to the borders of Egypt.


The southern barrier is the vast area of the Syrian and Arabian deserts with the western barrier being the Mediterranean Sea.


This area was given the name, Fertile Crescent, by an Egyptologist by the name of J. H. Breasted.


In this fertile crescent man developed art, music, literature, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and chemistry. 


It was in this area that man domesticated animals, cultivated grains, built cities, and civilizations, worked metals, and developed writing pictographically and later alphabetically.


The western part of the fertile crescent is known as the Levant (lever). 


This area consists of a narrow band of high hills and mountainous outcroppings that flank the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.


Israel occupies some of the area of the Levant. 


The eastern sphere of the fertile crescent is known as Mesopotamia. 


This is a Greek word meaning the land between the rivers. 


This is the region enclosed by the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, north of modern Baghdad which is on the Tigris. 


This area is referred to as Mesopotamia in Genesis 24:10 which  concerns the visit of Abraham’s servant as he journeyed to find Isaac a wife.  (Rebekah)


Mesopotamia is the word translated from Aram-naharaim, which means Aram (the highland, also a son of Shem) of the two rivers. 


So Mesopotamia describes the island of land bounded on the west and south by the Euphrates, on the east by the Tigris, and on the north by the outliers of the Taurus and Kurdistan mountains.


This low lying plain lies at an altitude of 1625 feet in some northern sectors and slopes gently toward the Persian Gulf.


The term Fertile Crescent may create a wrong impression. 


This is a relative term, relative to the area surrounding it. 


It is called fertile only by way of contrast with its arid neighbors and along the ribbons of greenery that flank the Euphrates and Tigris waterways and supporting branches.


This is evident by noticing the annual rainfall on the map of this area. 


In the areas that are most livable, the areas of the plains, the rainfall is less than 20 inches per year with much of the area receiving 8 inches per year. 


As a comparison this area in which we live receives 60 to 70 inches of rain per year. 


The waters that fill the rivers of the fertile crescent come from the mountains that receive as much as 40 to 80 inches of rain per year. 


This is God’s natural irrigation system of the fertile crescent.


Tigris River – Beginning in the highlands of Armenia in Asia Minor the Tigris River flows about 1150 miles southeastward to join the Euphrates near the Persian Gulf. 


Together with the Euphrates it becomes the Shatt al Arab River which flows into the Persian Gulf about 100 miles farther downstream. 


In ancient times the important cities of Ashur and Nineveh (the city where Jonah ministered) were on the banks of the Tigris. 


This river is called Hiddekel (khid-deh'-kelin Genesis 2:14 and Daniel 10:4.


The Tigris was important to the Assyrain kings and continues to be important today. 


Baghdad the capital of Iraq and Mosul, its oil capital, in northern Iraq, both lie on its banks.


Euphrates River – Its source is from eastern Turkey not far from the Black Sea, and flows through Syria in a southeasterly direction toward southern Mesopotamia where it joins the Tigris to form the Shatt al Arab which flows into the Persian Gulf. 


It is about 1675 miles in length and first mentioned in Gen 2:14. 


It was called “the river” or “the great river” of the Old Testament.


It was a natural boundary to warring nations. 


Ancient Babylon was built next to the Euphrates.