The first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis are generally considered Pre-history and include the account of creation and the presence of humans on earth, from the creation of the world to the time of Abraham. The actual time period covered by the rest of the Bible (from the history of Abraham to the book of Revelation) is very short: the Old Testament embraces about 1800 years and the New Testament is only 100 years, altogether about two thousand years.
They are valued, however, as the most momentous period in human history because they contain the happenings of God’s revelation and its climax–the Incarnation: God becoming a human being in Jesus Christ. The place where all this happened is the tiny nation of Palestine. These biblical places and times are of burning present-day relevance for Christianity but also for Judaism and Islam.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE
The land of Canaan or Palestine (from the ancient people The Philistines) is in Asia, in the Near East. It borders Egypt (West) Lebanon (East) the Mediterranean Sea (North) and the Arabian Desert (South). Egypt belongs to Africa.
The North of Palestine is Galilee, with the Lake of Genneseret (called also Sea of Tiberias), including the towns of Cana, Nain, Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Bethsaida, and Mount Tabor. Samaria is the area in the middle of Palestine, including the towns of Samaria, Sychar, and Mount Gerizim.
Judaea is in the South and includes the city of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, Bethlehem, Bethany, Jericho, Hebron, and Emmaus. In the extreme South, there is the Sinai desert with Mount Sinai (Horeb), the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea.
Along the length of Palestine runs the River Jordan which comes out of the Lake of Genneseret and ends on the Dead Sea, the place of the two ancient towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Eastern side of the River Jordan is the area called Transjordan, which at present is the state of Jordan; the Western side is Cisjordan or West Bank.
The great political powers during the biblical time were, in the West, Egypt ruled by the Pharaohs; in the East, the Assyrians (Assyria with capital Nineveh); the Babylonians (capital Babylon); the Persians (Persepolis); the Greeks and the Romans.
The land between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates called Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) is the country which Abraham came from in order to go to the land of Canaan as a nomad. The place in Mesopotamia where Abraham came from is called Ur.
Scholars call this stretch of land touched by the happenings described in the Bible “The Fertile Crescent” because it is shaped like the rising moon and its fertility is bordered on the South by the desert: because of this, it attracted the greed of several peoples and is like the stage where the happenings mentioned above took place.