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

Lesson 16: Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures,  Physical Topography - The Central Mountain Spine and The Jordan Rift Valley

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.   

The central mountain spine can be described as high, unproductive and closed.   

The central mountain spine is 1500 feet at its lowest and many segments rise to heights in excess of 3300 feet. 

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. 

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

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 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. 


[meh-GID-oh] An important walled city guarding the principal pass through the Carmel mountain range, connecting the plain of Megiddo (modern plain of Esdraelon) with the coastal plain. Megiddo’s great strategic value was derived from this key placement along the main road from Egypt to Syria. Thus, from ancient times, it was the site of battles. The most thoroughly recorded battle of antiquity occurred at Megiddo, when Thutmose III of Egypt defeated a coalition of Asiatic kings there, about 1468 b.c.

Thutmose said, Capture it, and fortify it well; for to capture Megiddo is to capture 1000 towns.


Joshua defeated Megiddo in the conquest of Canaan, but its inhabitants were not driven out by the Manassites, to whom the city was allotted.


Deborah and Barak later defeated the army of Sisera in a battle near “the waters of Megiddo,” indicating the headwaters of the Kishon River.


Solomon refortified the city, which became a central city in one of his twelve districts of Israel.


In 609 b.c., Josiah was killed in a battle on the plain of Megiddo, during his attempt to halt the march of Pharaoh Neco n to Carchemish.


This event probably marked the final destruction of the city. 

It is said that the battle of Armageddon will take place in this valley.   

Armageddon meaning Mount of Megiddo. 

Near the Mediterranean Sea on the spine that borders the Jezreel valley lies Mt. Carmel which served as the site of Elijah’s religious contest with the prophets of Baal. 

South of Jezreel lay the mountainous district of Samaria which contains the Mountains Gilboa, Ebal and Gerizim.   

Moving south past Samaria into Judah, there is a marked difference in topography.   

Larger amounts of rainfall have contributed to much greater erosion and more-deeply furrowed wadies throughout Samaria.   

Judah remains more of a high plateau, on the other hand, less dissected because of its drier climate.   

As one proceeds south in Judah, the landscape becomes harsher and more rugged.   

Bare rocks and wide stretches of loose, broken stones, washed free of soil, are Judah’s chief surface features. 

Only along the watershed in the vicinity of Ramah and between Bethlehem and Hebron do the soils of Judah permit intensive cultivation.   

Only about 5 miles southeast of Jerusalem the wilderness of Judah begins. 

This is genuine desert:  it is solitary, howling, rough and rocky wasteland that is nearly devoid of plants and animals and virtually without rainfall. 

On its eastern edge, the wilderness plunges steeply as much as 4500 feet in the Jordan valley.   

Between Jericho and the southern end of the Dead Sea there are more than 20 deep gorges that have been carved out by wadies.   

These gorges were too narrow and tortuous to carry roadways during biblical times so Judah was naturally insulated on its eastern front. 

The prophet Isaiah foretells the time when these gorges shall be made straight and flat. 

Isaiah 40:3,4:  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. 

God intends to change the geography of this land to suit His purpose in the 1000 year reign of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Judean mountain spine breaks off only slightly less sharply on the west.   

There a narrow, shallow trough divides the heights of Judah from a distinct topographic region known as the Shephela, which means foothills.   

The Shephela region stretches from the Aijalon valley 30 miles south to a point east of Gaza; it covers an area about 6-8 miles wide and extends west to the edge of what were the Philistine cities of Gezer, Ekron, and Gath. 

The Shephela was the scene of a number of episodes of economic warfare in the Old Testament period, including Samson’s battles, and David’s encounters with the Philistines. 

It may be that most of the contentions between the Philistines and Israelites was triggered precisely by a desire to dominate the rich valleys of the Shephela.

Further south of Judah lies the Negeb.   

Negeb means parched or dryness. 

Negeb originally denoted the barren wilderness south of Judah but the word has come to refer to a compass point in the direction of the barrenness and has come to designate the word “south” of almost anywhere.   

The phrases in the Bible, “south of the Sea of Galilee”, “south of Jerusalem”, “south of the Cherethites”, all come from the word negeb.   

Negeb of the Sea of Galilee, Negeb of Jerusalem. 

The Negeb, the area south of Judah, is a region adverse to human activity or extensive development.  

For its water supply it is entirely dependent on rainfall, which is always scant and uncertain.   

Kind of like it is getting here in northwest Florida. 

It had a few wells in the vicinity of Beersheba and Kadesh-barnea where the Israelites encamped during their wilderness wanderings. 

As we read in Genesis 26:23-25, And he went up from thence to Beersheba. And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake. And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.   

Why did they dig a well.   

That was the only sure way of getting water in the Negeb. 

The northern Negeb extends from the Judean plateau to the wilderness of Zin where the land is partially arable when receiving sufficient rainfall, especially in the basins of Beersheba and Arad. 

The central Negeb roughly corresponds to what is called in the Old Testament the wilderness of Zin.   

This was the extent of Israel’s land to be conquered.   

Joshua 15:1,  This then was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah by their families; even to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin southward was the uttermost part of the south coast. 

The wilderness of Zin is generally hostile to human activity, and not even Bedouin flocks can find satisfactory grazing in its barren rocklands.   

This area still remains relatively unsettled today, except for one small development town known as Mitzpeh Ramon. 

The most southern part of the Negeb is called in the Old Testament the wilderness of Paran. 

Numbers 10:12,  And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.  

This area is the most barren of all regions in this zone. 


Only the most saline vegetables intermittently occurs within its watercourses and no useful minerals were discovered in the past which may have prompted development. 

Jordan Rift Valley 

We have looked at the coastal plain, the Central Mountain Spine and now we will discuss the Jordan Rift Valley.   

This valley was made by a geological force that made the longest, deepest, and widest fissure in the earth’s surface. 

It is part of a rift known as the Afro-Arabian Rift valley which begins in the Amanus Mountains of southeastern Turkey, though Syria, Lebanon, Israel, parallel on both sides of the Red Sea (the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are but deep holes in the rift) on to Ethiopia where the rift splits into two branches, one containing the Gulf of Aden and the other proceeding into Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique.   

This rift is responsible for separating the island of Madagascar from continental Africa.   

So the Jordan Rift Valley is part of one fault line that extends continuously over more than 4000 miles, across 60 degrees of latitude, or 1/6 of the earth’s circumference. 

At its deepest point, which is in Israel near the shores of the Dead Sea, the rift descends below sea level to more than 24,000 feet.   

This means that bedrock is at 24,000 feet below sea level.   

Above the bedrock lies soil deposited by the Jordan River over the centuries.   

In other words at some places along the shores of the Dead Sea you could dig down to 24,000 feet before striking rock.    

Because of this vast fissure in the crust of the earth there are scores of secondary fissures or fractures that fan out in every direction. 

Some of these branches have themselves created lateral valleys such as the Jezrel/Esdraelon.   

200 to 300 tremors are recorded on machines on a daily basis in Israel.  

The vast majority of these cannot be detected without a machine but occasionally a devastating earthquake strikes this land.


Zechariah 14:1-8,  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. 6And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: 7But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.  8And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.