Ai (Joshua 7:2 etc.) means "ruin" [5 p.50].
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 means "house of bread" , 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.
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.
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:
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.
See Kadesh above.
God's presence was apparent on mountains to:
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.
© David Billin 2002–2022