Palestine - A Land Bridge
Old Testament Palestine formed a narrow land bridge between the continents of Asia and Africa. It lay mid-way along vital trade routes linking the rival civilisations of Egypt and Mesopotamia (see Map 31).
Map 31 Palestine - A land bridge
These two prosperous civilisations relied on abundant water for fertile agriculture and sat astride the major rivers of the ancient world - the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates. (Mesopotamia means ‘between the rivers’ - between the River Tigris and the River Euphrates.)
Palestine (known earlier as Canaan) became an important prize for conquering armies - a pawn in a huge power struggle between empires to the east, and those to the west – fought for over the centuries and up to the present day.
The hill country of Palestine straddled the route from Egypt to Mesopotamia
The major journeys of the Old Testament are set in this context (see Map 32).
Map 32 An Overview of Old Testament Journeys
In c.1850BC, Abraham travelled from Mesopotamia to Palestine (Canaan), a land promised by God to his descendents. Forced by famine, he moved on to Egypt before returning to Canaan. His great-grandson, Joseph, became Vizier (the chief government official) of Egypt in c.1660BC, and Joseph’s father Jacob (also called ‘Israel’) and the rest of his family came to live in Egypt.
Two hundred years later, Moses led the ‘Israelites’ out of Egypt in c.1450BC. After forty years living in the desert, Joshua led God’s ‘chosen people’ into Canaan and conquered the ‘promised land’. The twelve tribes of Israel (descended from Jacob’s twelve sons) formed a loose confederation under the ‘Judges’, but came together as a unified monarchy in 1012BC under Saul, David and Solomon.
After the collapse of the ‘United Kingdom’, the northern confederation of ten tribes (Israel) and the southern confederation of two tribes (Judah) gradually become weaker, until Israel was conquered by Assyria in 721BC and Judah was conquered by Babylon in 587BC. After fifty years in Babylon, some of the exiles returned to Jerusalem and began to rebuild the Temple and the land of the Jews (‘Judah’).
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