The land of Israel belongs to the Levant, also called Syro-Palestine. This region consists of the modern countries of Lebanon, Syria, the Kingdom of Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. It forms the strategic land bridge connecting the continents of Asia and Africa. It sat at the crossroads of the ancient world, between the imperial powers of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the barren desert to the east, the Levant contained the major land routes connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia, with the most important road running from Egypt, via the coastal plain of Israel, turning northeast through the lowlands of the Carmel towards Damascus, and then on to Mesopotamia. Its location made it strategic for travel, commerce and trade, and communication.
Thus, whoever controlled the land of Israel, controlled travel, trade, and communication. The imperial superpowers of the day often fought between each other in the Levant. In periods of imperial decline, local kingdoms fought to control the strategic crossroads. Even marauders from the deserts to the east sought to attack and control the well-watered lands of the Levant. Climate and geography impacted the regional instability of the land of Israel.
Periods of peace were few, short, and far between. Personal and national existence could never be taken for granted, and here God called Abraham and his descendants to live in faithfulness to Him. This geopolitical insecurity of the region served as “God’s testing ground of faith” and the stage upon which the redemptive drama played out, where sinner and saint struggled against internal upheaval and external threat.
Because of its strategic location at the crossroads of the ancient world, the land of Israel never existed in isolation. The imperial powers which marched through the land brought their cultural, religious, political, and military systems with them. The children of Israel faced the challenge of obedience too God and His exclusive claim upon them in this setting. They were confronted with the question of God’s power versus the nations around them.
The incursion of these elements into the land led some to fight against them, others to isolate themselves seeking to remain pure, others to insulate themselves, and some even to assimilate. However, in the midst of this geographical, cultural, and religious crossroads, God revealed Himself to the children of Israel and the world.
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.