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Appendix 3: Places

Main index Appendix 1: People Appendix 2: Terms
Appendix 3: Places
Appendix 4: Anecdotes
Ai Alexandria Antioch Bethlehem Cities of the Plain Ebenezer Galilee Heaven Idumea Israel Jericho Jerusalem Judah Kingdom of Kadesh Mamre Meribah Mountain Nazareth Thessalonica


Ai (Joshua 7:2 etc.) means "ruin" [5 p.50].


See comment on Acts 18:24.


The name Antioch usually indicates a large and influential town in northern Palestine near the border with Syria, as in Acts 11:26. Confusion can arise because there was another town named Antioch in the south of what is now Turkey, known as Pisidian Antioch as in Acts 13:14.


Bethlehem is about 10km south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem means "house of bread" [4], so it is appropriate that a harvest there is the context for most of Ruth despite the context being a famine.

Bethlehem is mentioned alongsite Ephrath in Genesis 35:16–19, Ruth 4:11 and Micah 5:2, which appears to be a name for the surrounding region which became part of Judah and later Judea (Matthew 2:1).

Bethlehem has a high profile in Christianity as the birthplace of Jesus Christ in Luke 2.

Cities of the Plain

Genesis 18:19–20 identifies Sodom and Gomorrah as particularly evil, and in subsequent verses Abraham discovered how few righteous people were there. Lot was staying at Sodom and greeted strangers (angels) handsomely, and invited them to stay with him (Genesis 19:1). A crowd gathered around the house seeking to abuse them, and the angels rescued Lot and as many of his family who would come. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by "brimstone and fire". The neighbouring city Zoar was spared because Lot decided to go there (Genesis 19:18–23), but Lot was afraid when he saw the widespread destruction and hid in a mountain cave (Genesis 19:19–30). Deuteronomy 29:23 adds Admah and Zeboiim to the list of cities that were destroyed; centuries later Hosea 11:8 cited those two as an example of a dreadful fate. We know therefore of five cities in the plain: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar.

Jesus mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 10:15. The question is, for what kinds of evil were they destroyed? Many Christian thinkers thought it must be homosexual acts, but the account contrasts Lot's treatment of strangers with the abusive plans of the other inhabitants. Looking after strangers was seen as a prime duty in ancient times. Ezekiel 16:49–50 accuses the people of Sodom and Gomorrah of a broad spectrum of sins.


Ebenezer is mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:1, 1 Samuel 5:1 and 1 Samuel 7:12. The name means "Stone of Help" [7].


Galilee is the name of the large lake in northern Israel (which was apparently referred to by Jews as "Sea of Galilee" in biblical times, but St Luke who was an educated gentile calls it a lake) and the land around it. Along with Samaria it became separated from Jerusalem when the northern kingdom "Israel" split from the southern kingdom "Judah" (see comments on Judah below). However it was regained in the Maccabean rebellion[1 p.41], so by the time of Jesus the authorities in Jerusalem had some influence there.


Heaven means where God lives in holiness and majesty. Certain bible passages record occasions when individuals have been allowed to glimpse something of what heaven is like, including Genesis 7:11, Genesis 28:12, Psalm 78:23, Isaiah 6:1, Ezekiel 8:1, Malachi 3:10, Acts 7:56, Acts 10:11, Revelation 4:1, Revelation 21:1–4. God is holy and nothing impure can enter his presence; we can only go to heaven if we are made pure first. This seems to happen in two ways: firstly we are "clothed" so that we look like Jesus and our sins are covered up, and also we accept that we need to be changed and allow the Holy Spirit to do it. These seem to correspond to "atonement" and "grace" in Romans 3:24–25.


See Wikipedia Hebron.


The word Idumea appears to be related to the earlier name Edom.


In biblical times Israel referred to tribes of the northern kingdom, and the land they occupiod. The split between north and south is described in the Judah section below. Israel ceased to be an independent state in 722 BCE[2 p.73]. Samaria was deliberately populated by foreigners, as described in 2 Kings 17:24, whose beliefs were partly pagan, as described in the following verses. The records of King Sargon II of Assyria record the defeat of Samaria, deportment of 27,290 inhabitants, and settling of foreigners[1 p.58–93].

The New Testament illustrates tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans.


Jericho was at the northern border of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21.


See comment on Luke 24:47–49.

Judah, Kingdom of

The split from Israel (q.v.) can be traced thus:

Genesis 35:10–12, 22–26Twelve patriarchs, fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel
1 Samuel 8Israel sought a king; Saul anointed
1 Samuel 17:52, 18:16Judah is separate from Israel in the mind of the author
1 Samuel 17:12David was from Judah
2 Samuel 2:4, 10–11David became king of Judah but not Israel
2 Samuel 3:1Judah under David was at war with Israel
2 Samuel 5:1–9Israel accepted David as their king too, reigning in Jerusalem
2 Samuel 6:12–19David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem
2 Samuel 11:1–12:11David took Bathsheba and she became a favourite queen
2 Samuel 15:1–14David's son Absalom usurped power
2 Samuel 18War between Israel under Absalom and Judah under David
2 Samuel 20:1–2David won the war but not the hearts of the Israelites
1 Kings 1:5–49, 4:1Solomon (Bathsheba's son) succeeded David
1 Kings 5:13–17Solomon oppressed the people to become wealthy
1 Kings 6:1, 7:13–51Solomon's temple and its contents
1 Kings 11:1–4Solomon accepted other faiths
1 Kings 11:26–40Prophecy of the kingdom splitting; Egypt an ally of Israel
1 Kings 11:43–12:2Solomon died, Rehoboam succeeded him
1 Kings 12:13–16Rehoboam threatened worse oppression, so ten tribes reject him
1 Kings 12:17–20War between Israel and Judah

Judah ceased to be an independent kingdom when it was destroyed by Bablyon in 587 BCE and the people deported, as described in the commentary on Jeremiah. About fifty years later Cyrus, who had taken over Babylon, allowed some people to return, as described in Nehemiah.


Kadesh is the wilderness of Sin, and the Waters of Meribah (bitterness) were situated there (Numbers 27:14). Several unhappy incidents occurred there: the Hebrews complained to Moses about lack of water (Exodus 17:7); the people decided not to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 9:23) because of the report of the majority of the spies (Numbers 13:26–28, Numbers 20:24); Moses' sister Miriam died there (Numbers 20:1); and several kings refused the people passage (Numbers 20:14f). It is mentioned in two psalms: Psalm 18:7 and Psalm 29:8.


Abraham's wife Sarah was buried at Machpelkah near Mamre in Genesis 23:19, and Abraham himself was buried there in Genesis 25:9. Jacob met his father Isaac at Mamre in Genesis 25:27, and Isaac died and was probably buried there too, along with Rebekah and Leah (Genesis 49:30–31). Finally Joseph buried his father Jacob there in Genesis 50:11–13.


is first mentioned in Genesis 13:18 when Abram stayed there, in the region of Hebron. Genesis 14:13 indicates that the Amorites lived in that region. Years later Abraham (as he was now named) received three mysterious visitors at Mamre in Genesis 18. Mamre was near the field of Machpelah above.


See Kadesh above.


God's presence was apparent on mountains to:

Abraham:Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:2f)
Moses:Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1f)
Giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:3f)
Elijah:Still small voice (1 Kings 19:11–12)
Jesus:Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9:2)


The name Nazareth only appears in the Bible in the four Gospels and in Acts in speeches about "Jesus of Nazareth". It has no significant history and no great reputation (John 1:46).

Recent archaeology shows that in Jesus's time the people of Nazareth adhered to conservative Jewish religious laws far more strictly than the neighbouring villages such as Sepphoris, which was four miles away. The archaeologists infer from this that it was probably strongly anti-Roman.


In 168 BCE the Romans took over the kingdom of Macedon and divided it into four districts. Around 150 BCE Andriscus claimed to be the rightful king of Macedonia, and assembled an army against the Romans, leading to the Fourth Macedonian War. The Romans defeated him in 148 BCE and made Macedonia a single Roman province with Thessalonica as its capital. In order to obtain the full benefits of the Roman Empire the Macedonians made Thessalonica a Romanised city with temples to Roman benefactors[6 pp.572–3]. This encouraged further generosity from Rome, so the people thought it was in their interests to oppose Christianity[6 p.569].

Acts 17 describes a mission to Thessalonica. The books 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians are addressed to the Christians there.


  1. Roland, Rev. Andy: Bible in Brief (Croydon: Filament 2016)
  2. Davies, Graham Hosea (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press "Old Testament Guides" 1993, 1998 edition)
  3. David Keys Dig reveals strict Jewish laws of Roman Nazareth, (citing archaeology by Dr Ken Dark of the University of Reading) Church Times, 1 May 2020 p.9
  4. Moore, M "Ruth" in Hubbard R & Johnson R (eds) New International Biblical Commentary: Joshua, Judges, Ruth (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000) p293f
  5. Coggins, R Introducing the Old Testament Oxford: OUP, 2001
  6. D. Clint Burnett Imperial Divine Honors in Julio-Claudian Thessalonica and the Thessalonian Correspondence in Journal of Biblical Literature (Atlanta, USA) 2020 No.3
  7. Johnson, Benjamin J. M. "Humor in the Midst of Tragedy: the Comic Vision of 1 Samuel 4–6", in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 141 no 1 2022 (Atlanta, USA) p.70

© David Billin 2002–2024