Map of New Testament Cities
Easton's Bible Dictionary - Israel
Originally denoted only the sea-coast of the land of Canaan inhabited by the
Philistines (Exodus 15:14; Isaiah 14:29,31; Joel 3:4), and in this sense
exclusively the Hebrew name Pelesheth (rendered "Philistia" in Psalms 60:8; 83:7;
87:4; 108:9) occurs in the Old Testament.
Not till a late period in Jewish history was this name used to denote "the
land of the Hebrews" in general (Genesis 40:15). It is also called "the holy land"
(Zechariah 2:12), the "land of Jehovah" (Hosea 9:3; Psalms 85:1), the "land of
promise" (Hebrews 11:9), because promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 24:7), the
"land of Canaan" (Genesis 12:5), the "land of Israel" (1 Samuel 13:19), and
the "land of Judah" (Isaiah 19:17).
The territory promised as an inheritance to the seed of Abraham (Genesis
15:18-21; Numbers 34:1-12) was bounded on the east by the river Euphrates, on the
west by the Mediterranean, on the north by the "entrance of Hamath," and on the
south by the "river of Egypt." This extent of territory, about 60,000 square
miles, was at length conquered by David, and was ruled over also by his son
Solomon (2 Samuel 8; 1 Chronicles 18; 1 Kings 4:1,21). This vast empire was the
Promised Land; but Palestine was only a part of it, terminating in the north at the
southern extremity of the Lebanon range, and in the south in the wilderness of
Paran, thus extending in all to about 144 miles in length. Its average breadth
was about 60 miles from the Mediterranean on the west to beyond the Jordan. It
has fittingly been designated "the least of all lands." Western Palestine, on
the south of Gaza, is only about 40 miles in breadth from the Mediterranean to
the Dead Sea, narrowing gradually toward the north, where it is only 20 miles
from the sea-coast to the Jordan.
Palestine, "set in the midst" (Ezekiel 5:5) of all other lands, is the most
remarkable country on the face of the earth. No single country of such an extent
has so great a variety of climate, and hence also of plant and animal life.
Moses describes it as "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and
depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and
vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land
wherein thou shalt not eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing
in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig
brass" (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).
"In the time of Christ the country looked, in all probability, much as now.
The whole land consists of rounded limestone hills, fretted into countless stony
valleys, offering but rarely level tracts, of which Esdraelon alone, below
Nazareth, is large enough to be seen on the map. The original woods had for ages
disappeared, though the slopes were dotted, as now, with figs, olives, and other
fruit-trees where there was any soil. Permanent streams were even then unknown,
the passing rush of winter torrents being all that was seen among the hills.
The autumn and spring rains, caught in deep cisterns hewn out like huge
underground jars in the soft limestone, with artificial mud-banked ponds still found
near all villages, furnished water. Hills now bare, or at best rough with stunted
growth, were then terraced, so as to grow vines, olives, and grain. To-day
almost desolate, the country then teemed with population. Wine-presses cut in the
rocks, endless terraces, and the ruins of old vineyard towers are now found
amidst solitudes overgrown for ages with thorns and thistles, or with wild shrubs
and poor gnarled scrub" (Geikie's Life of Christ).
From an early period the land was inhabited by the descendants of Canaan, who
retained possession of the whole land "from Sidon to Gaza" till the time of the
conquest by Joshua, when it was occupied by the twelve tribes. Two tribes and
a half had their allotments given them by Moses on the east of the Jordan
(Deuteronomy 3:12-20; Compare Numbers 1:17-46; Joshua 4:12-13). The remaining tribes
had their portion on the west of Jordan.
From the conquest till the time of Saul, about four hundred years, the people
were governed by judges. For a period of one hundred and twenty years the
kingdom retained its unity while it was ruled by Saul and David and Solomon. On the
death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam ascended the throne; but his conduct was
such that ten of the tribes revolted, and formed an independent monarchy, called
the kingdom of Israel, or the northern kingdom, the capital of which was first
Shechem and afterwards Samaria. This kingdom was destroyed. The Israelites were
carried captive by Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, B.C. 722, after an independent
existence of two hundred and fifty-three years. The place of the captives
carried away was supplied by tribes brought from the east, and thus was formed the
Samaritan nation (2 Kings 17:24-29).
Nebuchadnezzar came up against the kingdom of the two tribes, the kingdom of
Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem, one hundred and thirty-four years
after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. He overthrew the city, plundered the
temple, and carried the people into captivity to Babylon (B.C. 587), where
they remained seventy years. At the close of the period of the Captivity, they
returned to their own land, under the edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4). They rebuilt
the city and temple, and restored the old Jewish commonwealth.
For a while after the Restoration the Jews were ruled by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and
Nehemiah, and afterwards by the high priests, assisted by the Sanhedrin. After
the death of Alexander the Great at Babylon (B.C. 323), his vast empire was
divided between his four generals. Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, and Coele-Syria fell
to the lot of Ptolemy Lagus. Ptolemy took possession of Palestine in B.C. 320,
and carried nearly one hundred thousand of the inhabitants of Jerusalem into
Egypt. He made Alexandria the capital of his kingdom, and treated the Jews with
consideration, confirming them in the enjoyment of many privileges.
After suffering persecution at the hands of Ptolemy's successors, the Jews
threw off the Egyptian yoke, and became subject to Antiochus the Great, the king
of Syria. The cruelty and opression of the successors of Antiochus at length led
to the revolt under the Maccabees (B.C. 163), when they threw off the Syrian
In the year B.C. 68, Palestine was reduced by Pompey the Great to a Roman
province. He laid the walls of the city in ruins, and massacred some twelve
thousand of the inhabitants. He left the temple, however, unijured. About twenty-five
years after this the Jews revolted and cast off the Roman yoke. They were
however, subdued by Herod the Great (q.v.). The city and the temple were destroyed,
and many of the inhabitants were put to death. About B.C. 20, Herod proceeded
to rebuild the city and restore the ruined temple, which in about nine years and
a half was so far completed that the sacred services could be resumed in it
(Compare John 2:20). He was succeeded by his son Archelaus, who was deprived of
his power, however, by Augustus, A.D. 6, when Palestine became a Roman province,
ruled by Roman governors or procurators. Pontius Pilate was the fifth of these
procurators. He was appointed to his office A.D. 25.
Exclusive of Idumea, the kingdom of Herod the Great comprehended the whole of
the country originally divided among the twelve tribes, which he divided into
four provinces or districts. This division was recognized so long as Palestine
was under the Roman dominion. These four provinces were, (1) Judea, the southern
portion of the country; (2) Samaria, the middle province, the northern
boundary of which ran along the hills to the south of the plain of Esdraelon; (3)
Galilee, the northern province; and (4) Peraea (a Greek name meaning the "opposite
country"), the country lying east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. This province
was subdivided into these districts, (1) Peraea proper, lying between the
rivers Arnon and Jabbok; (2) Galaaditis (Gilead); (3) Batanaea; (4) Gaulonitis
(Jaulan); (5) Ituraea or Auranitis, the ancient Bashan; (6) Trachonitis; (7)
Abilene; (8) Decapolis, i.e., the region of the ten cities. The whole territory of
Palestine, including the portions alloted to the trans-Jordan tribes, extended to
about eleven thousand square miles. Recent exploration has shown the territory
on the west of Jordan alone to be six thousand square miles in extent, the
size of the principality of Wales.
These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible
Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy
Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for 'Palestine'". "Easton's Bible Dictionary".
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