1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Lesson 15: Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures,   Physical Topography - The Coastal Plain and The Central Mountain Spine


Physical Topography


The Coastal Plain (Continued)

Contrasted to the smooth shoreline of the coastal plain near Caesarea is that of Phoenicia, the contour of which is determined primarily by fault lines, where mountains meet the Mediterranean and deep, natural harbors at Beirut, Tripolis, Ugarit, and Zarephath have always existed.

As a result of this diverse geography, the Phoenicians became seafarers and Israelites became farmers and shepherds in accordance with God’s plan.

Solomon needed the Phoenician material and technology to build a fleet of merchant ships and Hiram needed the agricultural products produced by the rural Israelites.

The Coastal Plain is not only low but it is fertile and it is open.

Because of the mountains which parallel the Sea and the natural erosion of the limestone of the mountains the coastal plain was a relatively fertile area. 

The erosion from the mountains produced a deep layer of rich soil (“terra rosa”).

In addition to the good soil the area had an abundance of fresh water springs which provided much needed nourishment, but they were also responsible for much swampiness of the land. 

(One of the coastal plains is called the Crocodile Marshland.)

The springs also play a prominent role in providing a high water table for the land which promotes the agricultural use of the land.

The land of the coastal plain was low, it was fertile but it was also an open land and as such, subject to foreign intrusion. 

Because of its openness the Sharon and Philistine Plains of the Coastal Plain was traversed by a portion of the Great Trunk Road. 

The Great Trunk Road cut across Palestine, north and south, and connected the two ends of the Fertile Crescent. 

Israel has been described as the intercontinental land bridge but it was the area of the coastal plain where that bridge took place.

And because of this openness the plain was confronted by a constant parade of exploiters. 

It was this openess that also determined the weapons or implements of war that these exploiters used. 

The mountains were not the place for chariots but the terrain of the coastal plains was just right for such implements of war. 

We read of this in the books of Joshua and Deuteronomy: 

Joshua 17:14-18,  And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto? And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee. And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel. And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only:  But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong. 

Deuteronomy 20:1-4,   When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.  

There is a correlation between the terrain over which Philistines could run chariots and terrain Israel did not conquer during the conquest.  

The Israelites had much success in capturing much of the mountain spine, where chariots represented no real threat, whereas the Philstines continued to maintain control over virtually all of the coastal plain.   

And the Philistines are still in the coastal plain  

(The Gaza Strip) as we see their representative Yassar Arafat in the news so frequently. 

Central Mountain Spine 

The second longitudinal zone, taking in the highlands of Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and Negeb, is referred to as the central mountain spine.   

In character and topography, it is exactly opposite of the coastal plain.   

The coastal plain was described as low, fertile and open, but the central mountain spine can be described as high, unproductive and closed.   

The coastal plain is low in elevation but the central mountain spine is 1500 feet at its lowest and many segments rise to heights in excess of 3300 feet. 

This contrast in height is evident in many places as one might travel a distance of 3 to 4 miles inland while ascending in altitude more than half of a mile. 

Because it is a spine of interlocking mountain ranges this spine stands as a natural impediment to lateral traffic, except where it is broken by the Jezreel (Old Testament) (may God sow) (Esdraelon – New Testament) valley. 

At some places along its rippling elevations it would be necessary for one to cross over as many as five distinct ridges, each separated by deeply-etched wadi beds, to pass from one side to the other. 

Because of these natural barriers the spine is considered to be closed rather than open and is somewhat isolated and normally not susceptible to foreign assault. 

The spine is also mostly unproductive; it is composed of hard limestone and lacks precious minerals or natural resources.   

By looking at this land it is difficult to imagine why anyone would think it as an asset yet much of the central mountain spine, below the Jezreel Valley,  is what today is called the West Bank, an area that is central to the peace process that occupies Israel and its neighbors.   

Dividing the areas of Galilee and Samaria and bending the spine into two direction, one north and one west is the Jezreel valley and its attendant mountains. 

The mountains on the south of the valley point like an arrow to the Mediterranean Sea with the shaft stretching between the cities of Beth-shan and Jezreel.   

It is the location of famous mountains such as Mt. Moreh, Mt. Gilboa, and Mt. Ebal, Mt. Gerizim. 

The area was the scene of Gideon’s triumph over the Midianites, and the humiliating defeat of Saul at the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam 29-31). 

The plain of Megiddo is low, flat, and covered with an extremely thick blanket of black soil, more than 330 feet deep in places, which has been formed by the decomposition of Galilean basalts.   

It receives adequate rainfall to make it one of the most fertile regions in Palestine. 

The strategic importance of the Jezreel Valley was that it was an interruption in the central spine which made it inviting to international travel.