“Go About in the Land”

“Go about in the land through its length and through its breadth.”​—Genesis 13:17.

1. What interesting direction did God give to Abraham?

DO YOU enjoy traveling the countryside, maybe taking a weekend automobile trip? Others prefer to travel by bicycle to get exercise and to have a more leisurely view. Still others choose hiking as a way to get familiar with and savor an area. Such excursions are usually of limited duration. But imagine how Abraham must have felt after God told him: “Get up, go about in the land through its length and through its breadth, because to you I am going to give it”!​—Genesis 13:17.

2. After leaving Egypt, where did Abraham go?

2 Consider the context of those words. With his wife and others, Abraham had sojourned in Egypt. Genesis chapter 13 tells us that they left Egypt and moved their flocks to “the Negeb.” Next Abraham “made his way from encampment to encampment out of the Negeb and to Bethel.” When a problem arose between his herders and those of his nephew Lot and it became apparent that the two would have to find separate pasture grounds, Abraham generously gave Lot first choice. Lot chose the “District of the Jordan,” a lush valley “like the garden of Jehovah,” and in time resided in Sodom. God said to Abraham: “Raise your eyes, please, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward.” Likely from an elevated location by Bethel, Abraham could see other parts of the  land. Yet, more was to come. God invited him to “go about in the land” and get familiar with its nature and regions.

3. Why might it be challenging to visualize Abraham’s travels?

3 To whatever extent Abraham did that before reaching Hebron, he certainly was more familiar with the Promised Land than most of us. Think of the places mentioned in this account​—Negeb, Bethel, the District of the Jordan, Sodom, and Hebron. Do you struggle to form a mental image of where such areas were? For many this is a challenge because few of Jehovah’s people have visited the places they read about in the Bible, traveling the length and breadth of the land. Still, we have reason to be keenly interested in knowing about Bible locations. Why?

4, 5. (a) How does Proverbs 18:15 relate to knowledge and understanding of Bible lands? (b) What does Zephaniah chapter 2 illustrate?

4 God’s Word comments: “The heart of the understanding one acquires knowledge, and the ear of wise ones seeks to find knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15) There are many subjects about which one might gain knowledge, yet accurate knowledge related to Jehovah God and his dealings is of key importance. Certainly, what we read in the Bible is central to that. (2 Timothy 3:16) Note, though, that understanding is involved. That is the ability to see into a matter, to discern or grasp the connections between its parts and the whole. This is true of facts about places mentioned in the Bible. For instance, most of us know where Egypt is, but to what extent  do we understand the comment that Abraham went out of Egypt “to the Negeb,” later to Bethel, then to Hebron? Do you understand the relationship of those places?

5 Or you may have followed a Bible-reading schedule that included Zephaniah chapter 2. There you read the names of cities, peoples, and lands. Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Sodom, and Nineveh as well as Canaan, Moab, Ammon, and Assyria are all mentioned in that one chapter. How successful were you in fixing in mind those places where real people lived, people involved in the fulfillment of divine prophecy?

6. Why have some Christians come to appreciate maps? (See box.)

6 Many students of God’s Word have greatly benefited from consulting maps of Bible lands. They do this, not because of a mere fascination with maps, but because they realize that by using maps, they can add to their knowledge of God’s Word. Maps can also help them increase their understanding, seeing how facts they already know relate to other information. As we consider some examples, you probably will also deepen your appreciation for Jehovah and gain greater insight into accounts in his Word.​—See box on page 14.

Distance Makes a Difference

7, 8. (a) What amazing thing did Samson do involving Gaza? (b) What information can add significance to Samson’s feat? (c) How can knowledge and understanding of this account involving Samson help us?

7 At Judges 16:2, you can read about Judge Samson’s being in Gaza. The name Gaza appears often in modern news reports, so you may have a general idea of where Samson was, in Philistine territory near the Mediterranean Coast. [gl 11] Now note Judges 16:3: “Samson kept lying till midnight and then rose at midnight and grabbed hold of the doors of the city gate and the two side posts and pulled them out along with the bar and put them upon his shoulders and went carrying them up to the top of the mountain that is in front of Hebron.”

8 Undoubtedly, the gates and side posts of a stronghold like Gaza were large and heavy. Imagine trying to carry them! Samson did, but where did he carry them, and what sort of trip did he have to make? Well, Gaza is on the coast at about sea level. [gl 15] However, Hebron is to the east at an altitude of 3,000 feet [900 m]​—a real climb! We cannot fix the exact location of “the mountain that is in front of Hebron,” but the city is some 37 miles [60 km] from Gaza​—uphill at that! Knowing the distance involved makes Samson’s feat take on new dimensions, does it not? And recall why Samson could perform such deeds​—“Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon him.”  (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14) As Christians today, we do not expect God’s spirit to give us exceptional muscular strength. Yet, the same powerful spirit can increase our comprehension of deep spiritual matters and make us mighty according to the man we are inside. (1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 13:8; Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:9, 10) Yes, understanding the account about Samson underscores the fact that God’s spirit can help us.

9, 10. (a) What was included in Gideon’s victory over the Midianites? (b) How can our knowledge of the geography involved help to make this account more meaningful?

9 Gideon’s victory over the Midianites is another account that brings distances to the fore. Most Bible readers know that Judge Gideon and his band of 300 defeated a coalition of 135,000 invaders​—Midianites, Amalekites, and others encamped on the plain of Jezreel, near the hill of Moreh. [gl 18] Gideon’s men blew horns, smashed jars to reveal their torches, and shouted: “Jehovah’s sword and Gideon’s!” This confused and frightened the enemies, so that they began striking down one another. (Judges 6:33; 7:1-22) Was that the whole event, one quick act in the dark of night? Read on in Judges chapters 7 and 8. You will see that Gideon pressed the attack. Of the many places mentioned, some cannot be identified today with known sites, so they may not appear on Bible maps. Still, enough are identified, so that we can follow Gideon’s actions.

10 Gideon chased the remnant of the coalition forces past Beth-shittah and then southward to Abel-meholah, near the Jordan. (Judges 7:22-25) The account says: “Gideon came to the Jordan, crossing it, he and the three hundred men that were with him, tired but keeping up the pursuit.” Once across, the Israelites pursued the enemies southward to Succoth and Penuel, near the Jabbok, then up hills to Jogbehah (close to modern Amman, Jordan). That was some 50 miles [80 km] of pursuit and fighting. Gideon captured and slew two Midianite kings; then he returned to his city, Ophrah, near the place where the fighting started. (Judges 8:4-12, 21-27) Clearly, Gideon’s feat was more than a few minutes of blowing horns, waving torches, and shouting. And think how it adds impact to the comment about men of faith: “Time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon [and others who] from a weak state were made powerful, became valiant in war.” (Hebrews 11:32-34)  Christians too may tire physically, but is it not vital that we keep up in doing God’s will?​—2 Corinthians 4:1, 16; Galatians 6:9.

How Do People Think and React?

11. What travel was involved before and after the Israelites reached Kadesh?

11 Some might turn to Bible maps to locate places, but do you think that maps could offer insight into people’s thinking? Take as an example the Israelites who moved from Mount Sinai toward the Promised Land. Making some stops along the way, they finally reached Kadesh (or, Kadesh-barnea). [gl 9] Deuteronomy 1:2 presents this as an 11-day trip, a distance of some 170 miles [270 km]. From there Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land. (Numbers 10:12, 33; 11:34, 35; 12:16; 13:1-3, 25, 26) The spies went north through the Negeb, likely passed Beer-sheba, then Hebron, and reached the northern limits of the Promised Land. (Numbers 13:21-24) Because they accepted the negative report of ten spies, the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. (Numbers 14:1-34) What does this reveal about their faith and willingness to trust in Jehovah?​—Deuteronomy 1:19-33; Psalm 78:22, 32-43; Jude 5.

12. What can we conclude about the faith of the Israelites, and why is that something for us to think about?

12 Reflect on this from a geographic standpoint. If the Israelites had exercised faith and followed Joshua and Caleb’s advice, would they have had far to go to reach the Promised Land? Kadesh was about ten miles [16 km] from Beer-lahai-roi, where Isaac and Rebekah had resided. [gl 7] It was under 60 miles [95 km] to Beer-sheba, cited as a southern edge of the Promised Land. (Genesis 24:62; 25:11; 2 Samuel 3:10) Having traveled from Egypt to Mount Sinai and then 170 miles [270 km] to Kadesh, they were as if on the doorstep of the Promised Land. In our case, we are on the threshold of the promised earthly Paradise. What is the lesson for us? The apostle Paul tied in the Israelites’ situation with the counsel: “Let us therefore  do our utmost to enter into that rest, for fear anyone should fall in the same pattern of disobedience.”​—Hebrews 3:16–4:11.

13, 14. (a) In what situation did the Gibeonites take a decisive step? (b) What reveals the attitude of the Gibeonites, and what lesson should we learn from this?

13 A different attitude​—one of trusting in God to carry out his will—​is evident from the Biblical episode involving the Gibeonites. After Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the land God promised to Abraham’s family, it was time to evict the Canaanites. (Deuteronomy 7:1-3) That included the Gibeonites. The Israelites overthrew Jericho and Ai and were camped nearby at Gilgal. The Gibeonites did not want to die as accursed Canaanites, so they sent representatives to Joshua at Gilgal. They pretended to be from outside Canaanite territory so that they could enter into a friendship treaty with the Hebrews.

14 Those representatives said: “It is from a very distant land that your servants have come in regard to the name of Jehovah your God.” (Joshua 9:3-9) Their clothes and food items seemed to confirm that they were from afar, but really Gibeon was about 20 miles [30 km] from Gilgal. [gl 19] Convinced, Joshua and his chieftains made a treaty of friendship with Gibeon and nearby cities linked with Gibeon. Was the Gibeonite ruse just a means to avoid execution? On the contrary, it reflected a desire to have the favor of Israel’s God. Jehovah approved of the Gibeonites’ becoming “gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the assembly and for Jehovah’s altar,” supplying firewood for the altar of sacrifice. (Joshua 9:11-27) The Gibeonites continued to manifest a willingness to do humble tasks in Jehovah’s service. Likely, some of them were among the Nethinim who returned from Babylon and served at the rebuilt temple. (Ezra 2:1, 2, 43-54; 8:20) We can imitate their attitude by striving to maintain peace with God and being willing to handle even humble assignments in his service.

Going Out of Our Way

15. Why is geography of interest regarding the Christian Greek Scriptures?

15 The geography of Bible lands figures in accounts in the Christian Greek Scriptures, such as the travels and ministry of Jesus and the apostle Paul. (Mark 1:38; 7:24, 31; 10:1; Luke 8:1; 13:22; 2 Corinthians 11:25, 26) In  the following accounts, try to imagine the travels involved.

16. How did Christians in Beroea show appreciation for Paul?

16 On his second missionary trip (purple line on map), Paul arrived in Philippi, now in Greece. [gl 33] He witnessed there, was imprisoned and then released, and moved on to Thessalonica. (Acts 16:6–17:1) When Jews instigated a riot, Thessalonian brothers urged Paul to go to Beroea, some 40 miles [65 km] away. Paul had a successful ministry in Beroea, but Jews came and aroused the populace. Hence, “the brothers immediately sent Paul off to go as far as the sea,” and “those conducting Paul brought him as far as Athens.” (Acts 17:5-15) Apparently, some new converts were willing to walk 25 miles [40 km] to the Aegean Sea, pay passage on a ship, and sail about 300 miles [500 km]. Such a trip could be risky, but the brothers accepted those risks and thus extended their contact with this traveling representative of God.

17. What can we better appreciate once we understand the distance between Miletus and Ephesus?

17 On his third trip (green line on map), Paul arrived at the port of Miletus. He sent for the older men of the Ephesus congregation, some 30 miles [50 km] away. Imagine those elders dropping other activities to go to Paul. They likely were excitedly talking about the coming meeting as they walked. After meeting with Paul and hearing him pray, “quite a bit of weeping broke out among them all, and they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him.” Then “they proceeded to conduct him to the boat” to go on to Jerusalem. (Acts 20:14-38) They would have had much to think and speak about on their trip back to Ephesus. Are you not impressed by the appreciation they showed in walking that distance to be with a traveling minister who could inform and encourage them? Do you see in this something that you can apply in your life and thinking?

Learn of That Land and What Lies Ahead

18. What can we be determined to do as to Bible locations?

18 The foregoing examples show the value of becoming familiar with the land that God gave to the Israelites and that is central to many Bible accounts. (And we can expand our vista to include learning about surrounding lands that figure in Bible accounts.) As we add to our knowledge and understanding of the Promised Land in particular, we can bear in mind a fundamental requirement for the Israelites to enter and enjoy the land of “milk and honey.” That was to fear Jehovah and keep his commandments.​—Deuteronomy 6:1, 2; 27:3.

19. What two paradises merit our ongoing attention?

19 Similarly today, we need to do our part, fearing Jehovah and sticking to his ways. By doing so, we will contribute toward enhancing and beautifying the spiritual paradise that now exists in the worldwide Christian congregation. We will grow increasingly knowledgeable about its features and blessings. And we know that there is more to come. Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan into a fruitful, satisfying land. Now we have good reason to look forward with confidence to the physical Paradise, the good land that lies ahead of us.

Do You Recall?

• Why should we desire to increase our knowledge and understanding concerning Bible lands?

• Which geographic detail considered in this article has been particularly enlightening to you?

• What lesson was driven home to you as you learned more about the geography involved in some incident?

[Study Questions]

[Box/Picture on page 14]

“See the Good Land”

At conventions in 2003 and 2004, Jehovah’s Witnesses happily received the brochure “See the Good Land.” This new publication, available in about 80 languages, is filled with full-color maps and charts that illustrate different areas of the Biblical world, particularly the Promised Land during various periods.

The accompanying article refers to specific maps by means of page numbers in bold type, such as [gl 15]. If you have this new brochure, spend some time to get familiar with distinctive features that can help you to increase your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.

(1) Many maps include a legend or box that sets out keys to special symbols or markings on the map [gl 18]. (2) Most maps include a scale in miles and kilometers that will enable you to grasp the size or distances involved [gl 26]. (3) Usually an arrow points north, allowing you to get oriented [gl 19]. (4) Often the maps are colored to indicate the general elevations [gl 12]. (5) Around its edges, a map may have letters/numbers so that you can visualize a grid, which you can use to locate cities or names [gl 23]. (6) On the two-page index of place names [gl 34-5], you can see the page number in bold type, often followed by the grid location, such as E2. After you use these features a few times, you may be amazed what a key they are to expanding your knowledge and deepening your understanding of the Bible.

[Chart/Map on page 16, 17]

CHART OF NATURAL REGIONS

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

A. Coast of Great Sea

B. Plains West of Jordan

1. Plain of Asher

2. Coastal Strip of Dor

3. Pasture Grounds of Sharon

4. Plain of Philistia

5. Central East-West Valley

a. Plain of Megiddo

b. Low Plain of Jezreel

C. Mountains West of Jordan

1. Hills of Galilee

2. Hills of Carmel

3. Hills of Samaria

4. Shephelah (low hills)

5. Hill Country of Judah

6. Wilderness of Judah

7. Negeb

8. Wilderness of Paran

D. Arabah (Rift Valley)

1. Hula Basin

2. Area of Sea of Galilee

3. Jordan Valley

4. Salt Sea (Dead Sea)

5. Arabah (south of Salt Sea)

E. Mountains/Tablelands East of Jordan

1. Bashan

2. Gilead

3. Ammon and Moab

4. Mountain Plateau of Edom

F. Mountains of Lebanon

[Map]

Mt. Hermon

Moreh

Abel-meholah

Succoth

Jogbehah

Bethel

Gilgal

Gibeon

Jerusalem

Hebron

Gaza

Beer-sheba

Sodom?

Kadesh

[Map/Picture on page 15]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

CANAAN

Megiddo

GILEAD

Dothan

Shechem

Bethel (Luz)

Ai

Jerusalem (Salem)

Bethlehem (Ephrath)

Mamre

Hebron (Machpelah)

Gerar

Beer-sheba

Sodom?

NEGEB

Rehoboth?

[Mountains]

Moriah

[Bodies of water]

Salt Sea

[Rivers]

Jordan

[Picture]

Abraham traversed the land

[Map on page 18]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

Troas

SAMOTHRACE

Neapolis

Philippi

Amphipolis

Thessalonica

Beroea

Athens

Corinth

Ephesus

Miletus

RHODES