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Biblical Geography

 

Fertile Crescent

Small Map of the Ancient Fertile Crescent
Small Map of the Fertile Crescent in Ancient Times

The Cradle of Civilization

The Fertile Crescent was a long strip of land curving around like an arc or bowl, where the soil was very rich and fertile and there was plenty of water. The Fertile Crescent extended from the Persian Gulf up and around the Tigris Euphrates rivers and westward to the Mediterranean Sea and down into Egypt and the Nile River. The crescent shape was like the moon when it was half-full, and it was indeed the "cradle of civilization." The Fertile Crescent contains an incredible amount of history that took place there in very ancient times, because this is where the earliest civilizations began, and where they migrated throughout the world.
 

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

The two primary rivers in the Fertile Crescent extending down into the Persian Gulf are the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, and these two rivers have been known to man since the beginning of history. The two rivers began far in the north in the high mountains where there were massive amounts of snow, and when the snow melted it flowed down the mountains into streams. The "Tigris" means arrow and it runs a straight course to the Persian Gulf like a shooting arrow. The "Euphrates" means "to make fruitful" and this river was very winding, which caused the waters of the river to extend more into the territory providing rich fertile soil. As the waters flowed down rapidly from the mountains, the rivers would gather soil and deposit it on the flat plains which created excellent farmland, and the richest land in the earliest of times. This was where civilization thrived in the most ancient times, the areas of Mesopotamia and Sumer, and Ur of the Chaldees were Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland and to go to a foreign land that he had never seen. It would be in this new land on the other side of the rivers, the land of Canaan, that would become the promised land and the place where God would raise an innumerable number of descendants known as the Hebrews. One of Abraham's descendents would arise out of this land as the Savior of the world.

The Land Between the Rivers

Mesopotamia. The land in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers was called Mesopotamia which means "between the rivers." It is interesting that the Garden of Eden mentioned in the Bible was located at a place where 4 rivers all came together, and one of these rivers is referred to as the Euphrates River (Genesis 2). One of the other rivers is referred to as Hiddekel, which flowed from the land of Assyria and most Bible scholars believe that this was the ancient name of the Tigris River. The other two rivers have never been discovered, and no one can know for certain where they were located. The land of Mesopotamia was located in the area of modern Iraq.

Sumer. The earliest known inhabitants of Mesopotamia were the Sumerians, whom the Bible refers to as the people of the "land of Shinar" (Genesis 10:10). Sargon I, who was from one of the Sumerian cities, united the people of Babylonia under his rule about 2300 B.C. Many Bible scholars believe that Sargon I might have been the same person as Nimrod mentioned in Genesis 10:8.

Babylon. There is evidence that man has lived in this area of Mesopotamia since the beginning of civilization. The first records indicate that Babylon was established as a city around the 23rd century BC. Before this it was a provincial capital ruled by the kings of the city of Ur. After this came the migration of the Amorites.

The Old Testament contains many references to Babylonia. Gen 10:10 mentions four Babylonian cities, Babel (Babylon), Erech (Uruk), Accad (Agade) and Calneh. These, along with Assyria, were ruled by Nimrod.

Mesopotamia in Smith's Bible Dictionary (Read Full Article)

Mesopotamia - (between the rivers), the entire country between the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. This is a tract nearly 700 miles long and from 20 to 250 miles broad, extending in a southeasterly direction from Telek to Kurnah. The Arabian geographers term it "the Island," a name which is almost literally correct, since a few miles only intervene between the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates at Telek. But the region which bears the name of Mesopotamia, par excellence, both in Scripture and in the classical writers, is the northwestern portion of this tract, or the country between the great bend of the Euphrates, lat. 35 degrees to 37 degrees 30', and the upper Tigris.

We first hear of Mesopotamia in Scripture as the country where Nahor and his family settled after quitting Ur of the Chaldees. Ge 24:10 Here lived Bethuel and Laban; and hither Abraham sent his servants to fetch Isaac a wife. Ibid. ver. 38. Hither too, a century later, came Jacob on the same errand; and hence he returned with his two wives after an absence of twenty-one years. After this we have no mention of Mesopotamia till the close of the wanderings int he wilderness. De 23:4 About half a century later we find, for the first and last time, Mesopotamia the seat of a powerful monarchy. Jud 3:1 ... Finally, the children of Ammon, having provoked a war with David, "sent a thousand talents of silver to hire them chariots and horsemen out of Mesopotamia, and out of Syria-maachah, and out of Zobah." 1Ch 19:6 According to the Assyrian inscriptions Mesopotamia was inhabited in the early times of the empire, B.C. 1200-1100, by a vast number of petty tribes, each under its own prince, and all quite independent of one another.

The Assyrian monarchs contended with these chiefs at great advantage, and by the time of Jehu, B.C. 880, had fully established their dominion over them. On the destruction of the Assyrian empire, Mesopotamia seems to have been divided between the Medes and the Babylonians. The conquests of Cyrus brought it wholly under the Persian yoke; and thus it continued to the time of Alexander. Since 1516 it has formed a part of the Turkish empire. It is full of ruins and mounds of ancient cities, some of which are now throwing much light on the Scripture.

Also see: Babylonia and Map of Ancient Mesopotamia

Map of Mesopotamia in 2000 BC
Map of Ancient Mesopotamia in 2000 BC (3rd Dynasty of Ur)


Genesis 10:6-11 "The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."

 

 

Biblical Geography

Israel - The Center of the World

Season and Months in Israel

Jerusalem Fashioned for a King

The Influence of the Mediterranean Sea

Ancient Roman Roads

The Fertile Crescent

Ur of the Chaldees

Bible Geography

Bible Maps

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