What We Learn from Biblical Maps
by Roy Erickson Jr.
For the unpracticed eye, biblical maps can be very hard to read. Boundaries have changed drastically over the centuries, with the names changed for many of the countries represented. Unless you are skilled at reading topography, visualizing the locations of the various hubs of ancient civilizations can be confusing. We know that the references are to places in Africa, but Africa is a huge continent. The tendency is to concentrate on familiar landmarks, such as Israel, Egypt and Jordan, abandoning all efforts to discover where other biblical references existed.
Where the Ancient People Roamed: It’s not Africa in general, but the specific area around the Mediterranean, that gives us enlightenment of ancient historical landmarks. For the most ancient references, it’s necessary to focus on what we now refer to as the Mid East, with the primary concentration on modern day Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the Mediterranean border area of Turkey. The Dead Sea, where the twelve tribes of Israel were said to have originated, is located between modern day Israel and Jordan. Haran and Ur of the Chaldeans, referenced in Abraham’s journeys were located in Iraq.
The Tower of Babel: In the Book of Genesis, a great tower was built was built by the people of earth, who then had a common language. The tower was destroyed by God, and the people scattered, all speaking a separate tongue. The Bible does not specifically say “Tower of Babel”, but refers only to a tower and a city. The tower is most often associated with a ziggurat built dedicated to the Mesopotamia god, Murdak, in Babylonia. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great, who died in Babylon in 323 B.C.
Entering Babylon: Although Biblical references do not speak well of Babylon, this Mesopotamia empire was responsible for dislodging the Egyptians from Syria, Asia Minor, northern Arabia and Israel. Nabopolaasar, with the hep of his son, Nebuchadnezzar II, was the great military leader to accomplish this. While Nabopolassar was a conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar II was a builder. He restored the great cities of the Mesopotamia empire, turning Babylon into a spectacular three-mile city, complete with hanging gardens, moats, bridges and a double circuit wall. However, it’s not really surprising the Jewish Bible does not speak well of Nebuchadnezzar. After an 18 month seize, he captured Jerusalem, in 587 B.C., burning Solomon’s Temple to the ground, and deporting thousands of Jews to Babylon.
Where the Ark Came to Rest: There is some debate as to where the ark of the Old Testament Bible came to rest, as Genesis refers to a region and not a particular mountain. In Syrian and Quranic tradition, the specific summit was Mt. Judi in today’s Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. The Book of Jubilees specifies that the ark came to rest in the mountains of Arafat on a peak named “Lubar”. The most favored place of rest is Mt. Arafat, a dormant volcano and the highest peak in Turkey.
As the Bible is written from a singular perspective, many of the references are difficult to imagine without a clear understanding of location. The events recorded were at the hub of the civilized ancient world. The Mediterranean was thriving with trade, advances in technology and a growing awareness of a world beyond its shores. Four great civilizations rose and fell during the time period recorded in the Bible; the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans.
Scientists believe the true cradle of civilization could have been located near the Caspian Sea in the area between Iran and Turkey. Out of 640 important cultivated plants in the world, 500 originated in this area of Southern Asia. Known as the fertile crescent, it is the home of the ancient Sumerians, one the world’s first civilizations. Calling their home Ararat, the Sumerians also record a great flood, and the rebirth of life afterwards.