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Appendix 3: Places

Main index Appendix 1: People Appendix 2: Terms
Appendix 3: Places
Appendix 4: Anecdotes
Ai Antioch Bethlehem Heaven Idumea Israel Jericho Jerusalem Judah Kingdom of Kadesh Meribah Mountain Nazareth

Ai

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

Antioch

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

Bethlehem means "house of bread" [4], so it is appropriate that a harvest there is the context for much of the book Ruth despite much of the story being driven by famines.

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.

Galilee

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

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.

Idumea

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

Israel

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.

Jerusalem

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

Jerusalem

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

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.

Meribah

See Kadesh above.

Mountain

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)

Nazareth

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.

References:

  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

© David Billin 2002–2021