Full Text for Exodus- Volume 5 - What is the meaning of the Levant, where Israel was located, being called the crossroads of the ancient world? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY EDUCATION NETWORK EXODUS DR. DAVID ADAMS #5 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. 10 E. 22nd Street Suite 304 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> Dr. Adams, my name is Eric. Your answer to Josh about the land we now think of as Iraq was helpful to me. What about another part of that region? I read somewhere that the Levant where God gave the land of Israel to the Hebrews was called the crossroads of the ancient world. What is meant by that? >> Well, Eric, that phrase, the crossroads of the ancient world, really underscores the importance, geopolitically speaking, of the land of Israel. And geography plays an important part in the history of the Old Testament. Let me give you just two quick examples, one from Deuteronomy Chapter 27 where God is telling the Israelites that he wants them to renew the covenant that he has made with them by having a certain ceremony. And as part of the ceremony some of the tribes take a position upon the foothills of Mount Ebal and the others take their position on the foothills of ***Mount Gariseen. And across the valley between these two small mountains or actually large hills by our standards, you know, one side recites the curses of the covenant and the other the blessings that go with the covenant. And while you can certainly get a mental picture of that without understanding this, to understand -- be able to visualize the importance of the central mountainous spine of the land of Canaan as the heart of Israel and where these two mountains stand and the valley between them is important. And in this case God uses it to make a theological spiritual point for the people. The two mountains come to represent the blessings and the curses associated with the covenant. But now here is another example. And this one is a more political or military example. In II Kings 23, we read -- we read about the death of King Josiah. And we get just a very sketchy phrase there in I Kings 23 (sic). We read -- Verse 29. "In his days Pharaoh Neco, the king of Egypt went, up to the king of Assyria to the river of Euphrates. Joshua went to meet him. And Pharaoh Neco killed him at Megiddo as soon as he saw him." Now, that doesn't tell us a lot until you realize that this valley, the valley at Megiddo, was an important pass through which the major road passed. So the Egyptian army coming up from Egypt to fight the Assyrians came up the major highway, which because of the mountains made a turn through the pass at Megiddo and then went onto the Euphrates. So what -- apparently what Josiah attempted to do was to position his army in this crucial pass to cut off the Egyptians. And here Josiah was acting as a faithful client state to his Assyrian overlords in this case in trying to prevent the march of the Egyptian army through this narrow pass. So much of the history of the Bible is tied up with an understanding of the land in which it takes place and the geography of the land. Its location is crucial because it's located right in the center between the three major powers of the ancient world. To the east we've got Mesopotamia, the home of Babylon and Assyria. We've already talked about that. To the southwest we have Egypt. And we just saw in II Kings 23 how Egypt became the crossroads of a battle that took place between Egypt and Assyria. And Israel became involved in it because of its location. To the north we have the Hittites who aren't mentioned so much in the Bible but were still a particularly important economic source. And much of the trade took place along the coast and down the road. So Israel was a crossroads for military purposes. It was a crossroads of trade. It was also a cultural crossroads where Egyptian culture and the Mesopotamian Semitic cultures met one another. And as a result, it was something of a melting pot of -- between these three major cultures. So very important. We mentioned earlier in answer to a previous question that the land in general is dominated by these two major rivers, the Orontes flowing to the north and the Jordan flowing to the south out of the mountains of Lebanon. So I don't want to mention those again. You can look back at your notes about that. But I do want to mention something about the land of Canaan or later Israel itself. If we consider the land from east to west, it's divided into five major geographical zones, each of which is very important. The first of these, the one closest to the coast, we call the coastal plain. In the north it's called the Plain of Sharon. And you may have heard that term from the Bible. It's a flat plain. Very fertile land along the coast. It was the course of one of the major highways, the way of the sea or the way by the sea. That would have been the highway that this Egyptian army would have marked up. It was also the land because it was along the coast that the Philistines settled. The southern part of this coastal plain became the land of the Philistines. And that was a part of the land that Egypt and Israel were always trying to fight over in -- throughout their history. In fact, they still are today. That part of the world we call the Gaza Strip that is still a bone of contention today as it was in biblical times is the heart of the southern part of this coastal plain. Moving inland from this coastal plain, which is wider to the south and gets narrow as you go to the north. But as we move in from that, we get to the foothills of the mountains. The term for this is the ***Shafala. The Shafala is the sort of gradually rolling hills as you move from the plains to the mountainous area in the heart of Israel. And the Shafala was important because this is the place where the battles mostly took place between the Israelites and the Philistines and the Israelites and the Egyptians. In these foothills the Israelites didn't want to come down onto the plain and fight because they were people that lived mostly in the mountains. And Egyptians didn't want to go up into the mountains to fight because they gave up their advantage of chariots and horsemen when they moved up into the mountains. So most of the conflict came in this hill area, the Shafala. So it comes into the biblical story not so much as a region but the names of the cities are mentioned as places where battles took place. For example, it would have been in the Shafala, in the foothills here, that David and Goliath here would have had their famous fight. Moving further to the east we come to the mountainous region that is really the heartland of Israel. All of the major cities of Israel are located along this central mountainous spine. Jerusalem is located there. Bethel is located here. Shechem is located there. All of the major cities, both of northern Israel and southern Israel, and the people of Israel were primarily located in this mountainous region. These are small mountains by American standards. They are not the Alps or the Bernese or the Rockies. But they are, nonetheless, you know, small mountains or high hills, depending on your perspective. It was enough that it made the, you know, fighting chariot warfare difficult. And it was very important. This is really the heart of Israel. And then we come as we move east to this valley that's formed by this great earthquake zone to this rift valley that we know as the Jordan River. And if you look at pictures of Israel, you can see how the land falls off precipitously from the high mountains to this deep valley that is the Jordan River Valley. And so for example, in the New Testament when the New Testament says in the parable of the good Samaritan that he was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, you know, that's not metaphorical language. He was literally going downhill. A long way downhill, in fact, from Jerusalem to Jericho. Because Jericho is on the edge of this Jordan rift valley and Jerusalem is up in the mountains. And similarly the Psalms, for example, the Psalms -- when the psalmist says, "I look to the hills from which comes my help, it comes from the Lord," well, again, he's speaking literally there of Jerusalem being up in the mountains. But the Jordan River valley is a deep cleft between the mountains on one side and the last zone that we call the Transjordanian Plateau. It's today where the modernization of Jordan is. And it's really a -- once you cross -- come down through the mountains, go through this deep valley formed by the Jordan River. And then you immediately rise to a plateau that flattens out and moves to the east. Today the modernization of Jordan is there. And this is the place where Moab and Edom were located in biblical times. And of course the Transjordanian tribes, Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were located on this Transjordanian Plateau, as well. Again, this was a place of conflict because the terrain made it possible for chariot warfare to take place there. So it was also a major place of battles. And Israel fought a lot of battles on this plateau on the eastern side of the Jordan River. And so all of these areas are important to understanding how things happen and why they happen the way they do in human terms in the Old Testament. There are two other areas that we should mention, each to the south. First is the area that we know of as the wilderness. In the New Testament Jesus goes out into the wilderness to be tempted. And this is a specific area to the south of the Dead Sea. Very mountainous. Very barren. It is, you know, truly a wilderness area. And the last area is known to us as the Negev. It is a grassy plain. Very grassy in biblical times. Today it's a little more desert. It's not as fruitful as it would have been in biblical times. But the Negev is also to the south and a little to the east of the wilderness area. And to the east of the Dead Sea was another important region. Throughout this region there were two major highways. One we've already mentioned, the way of the sea, which really runs along the coast from Egypt, you know, along the coast of the Sinai Peninsula and then up the coast of this plain. And it makes its turn, as I mentioned, and goes through the valley of Megiddo where Josiah fought Pharaoh Neco and lost and was killed. And then goes on up to the city of Damascus and then on up to the Euphrates River and Mesopotamia. The other highway is known as the Kings Highway. And it flows down the western side down the plateau. And in several smaller roads then cross over the Jordan River valley and go into Israel. And so the armies as they marched through the ancient world went up or down one of these roads. And Israel, of course, was right between the two of them. And that's what gives it its military importance and also its economic importance. Because all of the trade that passed through Mesopotamia between the great kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria and the kingdom of Egypt passed along these same two roads. And so much of the wealth that came into Israel in Solomon's time and David's time came there because of -- because there was this central area for trade. All the trade between the major kingdoms had to pass through there. Ironically if geography is important to the lives of the people and to what happens in the world, Israel is the one place where the rivers are less important. And we talked earlier about how important the Euphrates was and the Nile was to Mesopotamia and to Egypt. But the Jordan River and the Orontes to the north are less important because they don't flood the way that the Euphrates and the Tigris do and the way that the Nile do. So while they are important, they don't provide means of transportation the way the other rivers do. And their annual flooding isn't as important to the economy and to the life of the people. So in the case of Israel, it's not so much the rivers that dominate things as it is the mountains and the flow of the land from east to west. So as you study the maps, make sure that you take a look at these regions in particular: The central mountainous spine, the Shafala, the coastal plain, the Jordan River Valley and the Transjordanian Plateau. You should be able to identify those and know the significance of them. And then the wilderness to the south of the Dead Sea and the Negev to the east, particularly the land of Edom you should be aware of, as well. Because these are the areas, the geographic regions, that shape the history of the people of God in the Old Testament. This is the land flowing with milk and honey because of its economic produce in biblical times. Although today it's very barren as we look at it, it was really a rich agricultural land in the ancient world. And it was the agricultural produce in this case supported by the rain coming in off the seas that gave it its wealth. And its geographic position gave it strategic importance in the ancient world. And that's why it has come to be known, as you said, Eric, in your question, the crossroads of the ancient world. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***