The space of Scripture is a character as much as Abraham and David or Peter and Paul. Biblical authors assume we know they physical settings of the world of the Bible, its geography, flora and fauna, geology, climate, and agriculture.
The Bible does not provide a geography book. Geography often stands in the background of the Bible, yet it is essential to understand the meaning of the Bible. So, how can we learn to study the Bible within its space?
First, get a good map. Never read your Bible again without your map near and open. Pay attention to the spatial details in the passage you read. Does it mention a settlement, hills, valleys, bodies of water, flora, fauna, climate, or agriculture? Note them.
If the passage mentions a place—a village or city, hill, valley, or body of water—find it on your map. Locations matter due to their relationship with roads. Roads provided access, travel, communication, lines of commerce, and security. They place the location you identified within the regional dynamics of the area.
The biblical writers assume of knowledge of these details. These details lurk in the background of their stories, prophecies, and psalms. Read Ezekiel 27:15-26. Notice how the prophet displays an awareness of the geo-politics of his world at the macro and micro levels.
These details help us understand the meaning the biblical writers intended to convey. They do more than add color. The spatial details of the Bible often convey key parts of the author’s message.
If you identify other aspects of the physical settings of the Bible in a passage, the flora and fauna for example, you will need to do further study beyond your map to discover their reality within the world of the Bible. But it begins with a map.
Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.