We live in an age where avoiding obstacles, traveling great distances, and finding something to drink no longer prove a challenge. With a transportation system that requires little more than a basic understanding of road signs and airline gates, our world gives little attention to the importance of geography. But think about the times you visit a place you’ve never been before. It’s all strange.
The unfamiliar landmarks, the sudden turns, and the unexpected potholes are impediments to your progress. It’s the same with Bible study.
Those of us who seek to understand the meaning of the Bible strongly believe in interpreting a passage in its context. But context is more than words. When one reads the Bible, it becomes clear how geography is the stage on which the redemptive narrative takes place.
The land God chose was not arbitrary, for He designed even the land itself to develop the spiritual lives of His people. The land was never intended to be just a place to live.
The same is true where you live.
A Land Where Life Depends on Faith
One of God’s stated purposes in bringing the Hebrews from Egypt was to give them a land that fostered faith (Deuteronomy 11:10-15).
- The land’s dependency on rain for water and its location as a land bridge between world powers forced the Hebrews to trust God or starve.
- They would either influence the world or be influenced by it.
In his excellent volume, The Land Between, James Monson observed:
This land served as God’s testing ground of faith. It was here, in this land where both personal and national existence were threatened, that Israel’s leaders and people were called upon to learn the true meaning of security and well-being, of trust in the Lord their God.
Studying the Bible’s geography has permanently marked my life and changed the way I understand the Bible.
- Places and names, which I used to pass over, now immediately bring to mind a site’s history, its geographical pros and cons, its scenery, and even its smells.
- Having knowledge of a passage’s geography gives me a head start as I attempt to understand why events took place—sometimes repeatedly—in certain locations.
Walking in the land of Israel has provided me with a deeper appreciation of God as Lord of world history and of seemingly minor details—both of which bring comfort to my life.
Research Shows It’s No Coincidence
My experience is not unique. I have conducted hundreds of interviews with those who have both studied geography and also been to Israel. My research revealed that those who understand and experience biblical geography enjoy:
- Sharper comprehension of the Bible
- Clearer direction to its application
- More effective communication of truth
- Greater confidence in the Bible as God’s Word
- Greater love for the God of the Bible
Those who study geography, coupled with time in the land, experience an even greater benefit than those who simply read books. The more one understands the land of the Bible, the more he or she will understand the Bible itself. Its message then has a more profound impact on one’s spiritual life and ministry.
Helps Your Memory
A knowledge of biblical geography serves as an additional way to retain the truth of a passage. Remembering what a location looks like enables you to picture the action, to remember the event, to imagine its occurrence in a way that helps you remember. Also many events took place in the same location, which also helps to tie the Bible together better.
Wondering where to start? Here are two suggestions:
- Get a good atlas and read it. Keep it handy when you read your Bible.
- Take a trip to Israel with a group that knows their stuff. Prepare before you go. It will change your life.
It may seem an overstatement to claim that you must study biblical geography to understand the Word of God. But it is fair to say that the study will take you much further toward an accurate understanding of God’s Word.
God used the land of the Bible to mold the lives of His people in the biblical narrative, and God uses it to shape the lives of people today.
Tell me what you think: How important is biblical geography to your understanding of God’s Word? To leave a comment, just click here.