Old Testament: Geography
The purpose of this page is to quickly orient the reader to the lay of the land of ancient Israel. Lengthier treatments may be found by following the links on this page. Old Testament places outside of Israel itself are instead treated at Old Testament: Foreign Nations. This page should remain short enough to read in about fifteen minutes.
Look at online LDS Bible Map #1 while working through this page.
From Dan to Bersheeba is only about 150 miles. From Mediterranean to Sea of Galilee is only 30, and to Dead Sea is only 50 miles, so area west of Jordan River only about 6,000 square miles (40 x 150). This is about the size of the state of New Jersey or the country of Belize. Add another 20 miles of width for the TransJordan, and you are up to 150 long by 60 wide = 9,000 square miles.
West bordered by Mediterranean Sea. Though on coast, no natural harbors, so little importance. A land-based country. Joppa, Tyre, Sidon. East border was three little nations, then desert. North border was Syria. South border was Sinai Desert and North Arabian Desert, split by Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba with a port.
West to East: five geographic regions
West: Coastal Plain or Plain of Sharon. This is the only really fertile part of Palestine. To the north the Phoneicians and to the south the Philistines occupied this coastal plain. Shephelah Plateau, or foothills. Central Hill Country, e.g. Jerusalem at 2,600 feet. The She[hela and Highlands were the major ara of Israelite settlement. Jordan River Valley, with Jericho at 1,200 feet down by shore of Dead Sea East: Transjordan Highlands. High and flat. Today is Jordan. Then it was contested with three small nations.
Most of the Mediterranean's eastern coast is is a flat and fertile plain. Fertile Crescent. Two main highways. The Via Maris or Way of the Sea is only real route between Egypt and the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley where Babylon and Assyria located. This highway ran along coast and then over to Damascus. It was often occupied by the Philistines and Phoneicians, and Israel had trouble expanding to occupy it.
Shephelah Plateau or foothills
"This ruggedness of the land dominates much of the history of Palestine. In times of danger the people of Palestine lived in the hills, where they were relatively safe from enemies and easily defended. Historically, their major military defeats came only when they moved out into the plains area or the foothills."
Jordan River Valley
The northern part of the Jordan Valley is very fertile, but the southern part is semi-arid. The Jordan River flows from the Sea of Galilee in the north, descending 2,300 feet in the course of 186 miles, to empty at its south end into the Dead Sea.
Bashan and Gilead. Fertile, but consistently contested by Syria and Ammon.
North and South: two more geographic regions
In the beginning all just Israel. Then after division into two kingdoms, northern two thirds was Israel and the southern third was Judah. By time of Christ the northern third including the Jezreel Valley was Galilee, the middle third was Samaria, and the southern third was Judea.
Also called lower Galilee, since it was both to the south of and at a lower elevation than the Galilean foothills. North; Jezreel Valley, separates hills of Galilee in north from hills of Samaria in middle.
In keeping with theme of north more fertile than south, Jezreel Valley in north was most fertile and today is the breadbasket of Israel. This plain cuts through the foothills and mountains from the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan River Valley.
Also known as the Plain of Esdraelon.
South: Negev Desert is a large portion of southern Israel. Less than ten inches of rain per year, some areas as little as 4 inches.
"Climate: the Mediterranean climate, with its wet winter months (October to mid-April) and dry summer (June to September), prevailing west wind coming off the sea, and scorching east winds from the desert contribute to the introduction of irrigation systems, thick-walled architecture, seasonal warfare, and a farming economy based on wheat, grapes, and olives."
"Israel's climate ranges from temperate to tropical. Two distinct seasons predominate: a rainy winter period from November to May; and a dry summer season which extends through the next six months. Rainfall is relatively heavy in the North and center of the country, with much less in the northern Negev and almost negligible amounts in the southern areas. Regional conditions vary considerably, with humid summers and mild winters on the coast; dry summers and moderately cold winters in the hill regions (including Jerusalem), hot dry summers and pleasant winters in the Jordan Valley; and year-round semi-desert conditions in the Negev."
"Israel has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot, rainless summers and relatively short, cool, rainy winters (Köppen climate classification Csa). The climate is as such due to Israel's location between the subtropical aridity of the Sahara and the Arabian deserts, and the subtropical humidity of the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean. The climate conditions are highly variable within the state and modified locally by altitude, latitude, and the proximity to the Mediterranean.
On average, January is the coldest month with average temperatures ranging from 6 to 15 °C (42.8 to 59 °F), and July and August are the hottest months at 22 to 33 °C (71.6 to 91.4 °F), on average across the country. Summers are very humid along the Mediterranean coast but dry in the central highlands, the Rift Valley, and the Negev Desert. In Eilat, a desert city, summer daytime-temperatures are often the highest in the state, at times reaching 44 to 46 °C (111.2 to 114.8 °F). More than 70% of the average rainfall in Israel falls between November and March; June through September are usually rainless. Rainfall is unevenly distributed, significantly lower in the south of the country. In the extreme south, rainfall averages near 30 millimeters (1.18 in) annually; in the north, average annual rainfall exceeds 900 millimeters (35.4 in). Rainfall varies from season to season and from year to year, particularly in the Negev Desert. Precipitation is often concentrated in violent storms, causing erosion and flash floods. In winter, precipitation often takes the form of snow at the higher elevations of the central highlands, including Jerusalem. Mount Hermon has seasonal snow which covers all three of its peaks for most of the year in winter and spring. In rare occasions, snow gets to the northern mountain peaks and only in extremely rare occasions even to the coast. The areas of the country most cultivated are those receiving more than 300 millimeters (11.8 in) of rainfall annually, making approximately one-third of the country cultivable."
- http://www.generationword.com/maps.htm - very specific to text, hand drawn
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