“This Is the Land” of the Word of Truth
“Jehovah went on to say to him: ‘This is the land about which I have sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “To your seed I shall give it.” I have caused you to see it with your own eyes.’”—Deut. 34:4.
1. Geography is of what interest to us?
SINCE you are blessed with life on this wonderful earth where man resides, you may be interested in geography, at least to some extent, because men are interested in their home. Geography truly is a fascinating, descriptive science of the earth and its life. It deals especially with the description of the land surface and the areas occupied by water, the seas and other bodies of water. It studies the air, the distribution of plant, animal and human life, as well as the natural resources of the land, and also, to a degree, man’s industries and the records of these various elements and their mutual relation to one another.
2. Explain two ways of becoming familiar with regions of the earth.
2 In giving consideration to the earth, you can, of course, actually see many of its features. Also, maps are available in considerable detail. So you do not have to go to every part of the earth to learn something about it, but it is physically possible for you to verify what you learn from study by actually visiting and seeing the various regions of earth. All of this results in what could be referred to as a fine geography lesson, personal firsthand study of the science of the earth and its features.
3. What unusual “geography lesson” did the summer of 1967 provide?
3 Familiarity with sections of the earth is also gained through news items reporting current events. During the summer of 1967 the attention of the world was centered upon a small portion of the globe that lies just east of the Mediterranean Sea. In June of that year a brief, violent war was waged and the news media of the world carried detailed accounts of the conflict and the territory where it took place. These printed reports included maps, diagrams, pictures, photographs and drawings, indicating to readers the geographical features of the area, indeed a lesson in the geography of that part of the earth, enabling people to have a clearer understanding of the area than prior to these published reports.
4, 5. (a) In the accounts of the Israel-Arab war of 1967, how is the battleground shown to be unique? (b) Of what heightened interest is this to us?
4 The accounts of this Israeli-Arab conflict, which erupted into war June 5, 1967, included a feature that is true of no other part of the earth. They made innumerable references to facts that are applicable exclusively and distinctively to this area. This is very significant. It confirms the fact that this land was the locale for past events of greatest importance that concern you. Notice some of the points made in the reports:
5 Jerusalem was referred to as “this historic city,” “revered by Christians because it was the site of many major events in the life of Jesus.” Reference was made to “the ancient Biblical roads between (Tel Aviv) and Jerusalem,” “the Christian holy places,” the Mount of Olives, Calvary, the site of King Solomon’s temple, to Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, “Damascus . . . founded by Uz, son of Aram . . . already a city by the time of Abraham. . . . Paul was converted to Christianity on his way to the city.”
6. State additional facts emphasizing the history of this region of the earth.
6 Emphasizing the historical nature of the battleground, a Jewish rabbi is reported to have said excitedly: “We are now realizing the dreams of the Jews for two thousand years! We are entering the messianic era.” The area was referred to in the war reports as “the land of Canaan which the Arabs call by its Roman name Palestine and the Jews call Israel,” and the combatants as “the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael.” “Jews and Arabs have a historic association going back 3,500 years, both being Semitic peoples. Jews trace their ancestry to Abraham through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Arabs also claim to be descendants from Abraham through another son, Ishmael.”
7, 8. (a) Relative to a map published with a war bulletin, to what points is interest directed? (b) Give additional direct ties of modern events with Bible history.
7 Relative to a map published with a war bulletin: “The map . . . gives, at a glance, the extent of the Israeli victory. Israel now holds strategic positions that make its frontiers far more defensible than in the past—the Old City of Jerusalem and the Judean Hills; the Samarian Hills of Jordan; the Golan Heights of Syria; the Gaza Plain; positions dominating the Strait of Tiran, and key communications junctions in Sinai running right to the east bank of the Suez Canal.”
8 The Wailing Wall, the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, the Syrian bluffs above the waters where Peter fished, the Mount of Beatitudes, the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Mount Hermon, all these figured in the geography of the war and, impressively: “It was in this cruel and lovely land, 2,000 years ago, that peace and mercy were first preached by a Jew of Nazareth as universal doctrine.”
9. As to this particular section of the earth, what does the Creator’s Word say?
9 The One who made the earth, Jehovah the Creator, arranged matters so that in this particular section of the earth, in a relatively small area, events took place that are of great importance to you. This portion of the earth is that referred to in Deuteronomy 34:1-4: “Then Moses proceeded to go up from the desert plains of Moab into Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which fronts toward Jericho. And Jehovah went showing him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negeb and the District, the valley plain of Jericho, the city of the palm trees, as far as Zoar. And Jehovah went on to say to him: ‘This is the land about which I have sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “To your seed I shall give it.” I have caused you to see it with your own eyes, as you will not cross over there.’”
10. (a) From the further description of the land given in Joshua 1:4 and Genesis 15:18-21, point out on the map herewith included areas and the boundaries. (b) So when Jehovah told Moses, “This is the land,” to what did he refer?
10 A further description of this land is: “From the wilderness and this Lebanon to the great river, the river Euphrates, that is, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun your territory will prove to be.” (Josh. 1:4) In showing the land to Moses, Jehovah God made reference to his promise to Abraham, and it was to Abraham that Jehovah gave this description of the land: “On that day Jehovah concluded with Abram [Abraham] a covenant, saying: ‘To your seed I will give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites and the Kenizzites and the Kadmonites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Rephaim and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Girgashites and the Jebusites.’” (Gen. 15:18-21) Moses was interested in all the land. He very much wanted to go to the northern part of the land of promise in the region of the Mountains of Lebanon, but God did not allow him to do so. Rather, eventually God showed him the land from the vantage point on the top of Pisgah on Mount Nebo. (Deut. 3:23-28) So you see, this was a very specific and definitely described territory that God selected for his purpose; and to his covenant people, the Israelites, Jehovah God gave as a gift this delightful land. This wonderful Promised Land was the setting for many events recorded in God’s Word the Bible, and largely it was the location for the recording of the Word of truth. So the Promised Land of which Jehovah said, “This is the land,” is the land of the Word of truth, the land of the Bible, the land of the book that is today the religious book of Christians.
11. How does the land support the Word?
11 The land of the Word of truth demonstrates that reliance upon the Word is completely reasonable. The land supports the Word. Persons question the existence of places to which the Bible makes reference and they question events that the Bible says occurred. We cannot doubt the fact of the existence of the Bible, because we have the book of Holy Scriptures, but these persons deny the accuracy of the Bible. Are they going to try to deny the existence of the land? Hardly; the land is there!
12. Give reasons why Christians today are especially interested in this land.
12 The land and what it contains today you and anyone else can see. The description of the Promised Land as contained in the Bible is not vague but, on the contrary, descriptions provide specific names and specific places. Christians should take an interest in these details because they are a part of the Word of truth. In his farewell, the servant of Jehovah, Joshua, stated: “I am going today in the way of all the earth, and you well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Josh. 23:14) In his farewell Joshua made reference to the ‘good land that Jehovah has given you.’ Christians rely on the Word of truth and, in doing so, are aided and strengthened by their knowledge of the land of the Word of truth.
13, 14. (a) Have the Bible’s geographical references always been well understood? (b) What did Martin Luther say on this? (c) How recent are scientific maps of Bible lands? (d) To what extent can we come to know the Bible territory?
13 The many features referred to in the description of the land show the extent of the area of the Land of Promise. Mentioned are the Euphrates River, the Mediterranean or Western Sea, the river of Egypt, the Mountains of Lebanon and other geographical points. Do you know where those places are? The Land of Promise lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and extends from the seacoast eastwardly. It can now be there located on any map of the world.
14 The Bible’s geographical references were not well understood until this past century. A Bible scholar, Martin Luther, who lived from 1483 to 1546, is quoted as having said: “It would be nice also to know how the (Biblical) lands were situated with reference to one another, so that the strange, unfamiliar words and names might not make reading disagreeable and understanding puzzling and hard.” Apparently the first map of Bible lands that was adjudged to be truly scientific was published about 1880. Today there is no reason why you cannot become very familiar with the Land of Promise. The understanding of the land that is now available will be helpful to you in your understanding of the Bible itself. This land, the setting for the events of the Word of truth, is real and not mythical. It is a land you can visit today.
15. (a) Included in Jehovah’s gifts to man are what two that are still with us for our benefit? (b) How are they of benefit to us?
15 The Bible, the Word of truth, itself constitutes an invaluable gift from Jehovah, a gift not to the Israelites alone but to all interested believers. These two great gifts, the land and God’s Word, are still with us. Neither can be obliterated. The Word directs us to pay attention to the land. This land of Palestine, the land of Jehovah’s worship of old, means more to Christians than it does to other persons. The Bible’s extensive use of definite locations makes the land and the locations important to us. While surface features of the land have changed throughout the centuries, the land is still there and your use of it in pinpointing events emphasizes the truthfulness of the Biblical account and makes the Word of truth live for you.
16. To what extent do we relate events to locations?
16 It is natural and it is proper for you to relate events mentioned in the Bible to the location when this is given in the account. When the setting is known, interest is added to the event and meaning is appreciated more fully. There are many reasons why we should become acquainted with the land itself, so we may know as fully as possible what it was that Jehovah referred to when he said to his servant Moses, “This is the land.”
A SMALL STAGE FOR TREMENDOUS EVENTS
17. What paradisaic description once applied to this land?
17 “Jehovah your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of torrent valleys of water, springs and watery deeps issuing forth in the valley plain and in the mountainous region, a land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil olives and honey, a land in which you will not eat bread with scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land the stones of which are iron and out of the mountains of which you will mine copper. When you have eaten and satisfied yourself, you must also bless Jehovah your God for the good land that he has given you.” (Deut. 8:7-10) The land is thus described in the Bible as being at that time a veritable paradise. The ancient land serves as a pattern of the earth under the reign of Jehovah’s heavenly kingdom by Christ Jesus, paradise.
18. Using the map on page 555, describe the Land of Promise further.
18 The area of the ancient Land of Promise is determined by the descriptions that have been previously set out herein and also by the one found in Numbers 34:1-12. We will not set out the text here but recommend that you read it from your copy of the Bible. On the map herewith you will see the extent of this land that constitutes the small stage for the important events enacted thereon. Speaking strictly, it was only about 35 miles in width from east to west and 300 miles in length in a general northerly and southerly direction. Actually about 150 miles of it was settled, amounting to an area of approximately 6,000 square miles. This was in the days of the power of the kingdom under Solomon, “For he was holding in subjection everything this side of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, even all the kings this side of the River; and peace itself became his in every region of his, all around. And Judah and Israel continued to dwell in security, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.”—1 Ki. 4:24, 25.
19. The stage for Bible drama assumed what proportions?
19 In addition to this the Israelites settled east of the Jordan over a considerable area, and this in addition to the area above described as being under Solomon gives a total of about 10,000 square miles. So that is the size of the stage for dramatic events.
20. State the general geographical characteristics of the land along the Mediterranean Sea, referring to the map on page 557.
20 The variety and the extremes that are found in this geographic area are easily visualized and it will be helpful for us to do so. The Promised Land has some general characteristics that are quite easy to remember. The land as actually occupied by the Jews extended from the Lebanon Mountains shown on the map herewith in the north to the wilderness in the south, the Negeb. Along the Western Sea or the Great Sea, now known as the Mediterranean, which constituted the western boundary of the Land of Promise, there is a series of plains, the area of the plains extending along the seacoast through Caesarea and Sharon.
21. Eastwardly, what is the next characteristic?
21 East of there, between the seacoast and the mountains, is the Shephelah (“Lowland”) or the hill country. On the map you see the Shephelah toward the south above the Negeb. In this hill country, the Shephelah, you see on the map the city of Lachish, referred to twenty-three times in the Bible.
22. On the map, where are the other points here named?
22 Lying generally east of the Shephelah or hill country are the mountains of Samaria and of Judah. They include the territory in which the city of Jerusalem is located. You see Jerusalem, also called Zion, on the map, west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, and you see the Mount of Olives and Bethany. To the north of there are the mountains of Samaria, including Mount Gerizim. There is Jacob’s Well, the village of Sychar and also the city of Samaria. This area was in the territory of the ten tribes of Israel following the division of the nation of Israel into two parts.
23. Point out on the map the Rift Valley and related locations mentioned here.
23 Look to the right of Jerusalem and to the north, that is, to the northeast of Jerusalem, and you see the city of Jericho. Jericho is located on the western side of the next important geographical feature of the Promised Land. This outstanding geographical feature is the great Rift Valley, which runs north and south from the mountains in the north and contains the Jordan Valley, the river Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, the Salt Sea or Dead Sea and extends down to the Arabah and the Red Sea.
24. Where did Moses stand to view the land?
24 Then east of the Jordan River and east of the Salt Sea are the hills and tablelands of Moab. On the map you see Mount Nebo and Pisgah indicated. At this high elevation Moses stood and surveyed the land, looking north and west and south, being able to see across the countryside toward the Mediterranean Sea, and he viewed the great area and heard Jehovah’s words to him: “This is the land.”
25. Using the map, review the five general geographical features of the land.
25 Thus you have some general features of the Promised Land: the plain along the Mediterranean seacoast, the hill country or Shephelah, the mountains of Samaria and of Judah, where Jerusalem is located, the great Rift or Jordan Valley including Jericho, and then there are the hills and tablelands east of the Jordan River including the country of Moab.
26. Locate on the map other Bible sites.
26 Many physical features mentioned in the Bible can be located on this and other maps, including the Kidron Valley, the Valley of Hinnom, the Arabah, Arnon River, Jordan River, Mount of Olives, Plain of Esdraelon, Mount Carmel, Mount Hermon, river Jabbok.
27. (a) What fact is important to us? (b) Why is this of importance? (c) What now overwhelms certain criticism?
27 Here is something important to us: in each of these areas there is an abundance of discovered archaeological support of the Bible involving places mentioned in the Word of truth. Why should this be so important? Because of the fact that, while there are many places mentioned in the Bible that have been known and located throughout the centuries, there are many other places that the Scriptures name but the locations of which have not been known over the years; and critics of God’s Word have said in effect that, since the locations of these sites are not known, it follows that the Bible accounts are not true and the Scriptures are therefore not reliable. The facts of archaeological support prove something essential to us in this connection. They prove that, when persons claim that places mentioned in God’s Word never existed, the persons making these claims are wrong. “Skeptical criticism” of the Bible on the basis of nonidentification of Bible sites has especially come forth from the eighteenth century onward. In the language of one archaeological authority, William Foxwell Albright: “The patriarchal narratives of Genesis and the Mosaic tradition of the following books of the Pentateuch have been discredited by the modern higher criticism . . . Some treat Moses as a legendary figure.” This criticism has been characterized as “the hypercritical attitude which previously obtained” but which is now overwhelmed by the facts of more recent discoveries in the Promised Land.
28, 29. The land is of what advantage to the truth seeker?
28 So the situation is that we have the land before us; we can visit it. The geographical surface features of the land itself are plain and evident and can be identified by even the casual visitor as being those referred to in the Word of God. However, in respect to people and places that have heretofore been identified by the Bible itself, critics who oppose God’s Word and attempt to discredit it have claimed that such persons and places were fictitious and therefore, because of this, the Bible account is mythical, unreliable and not to be taken as a sure guide.
29 We have said that the facts of archaeological support prove such Bible critics to be wrong. Are you not interested in noticing just a few of these archaeological discoveries that confirm the Bible? The following article deals with some of such.
[Map on page 555]
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THE PROMISED LAND VIEWED BY MOSES
SCALE OF MILES
0 50 100
Mountains of Lebanon
River of Egypt
[Map on page 557]
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THE LAND OF THE WORD OF TRUTH
(where many events referred to in the Bible took place)
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GREAT SEA (Western Sea)
Sea of Galilee
Plain of Esdraelon (Jezreel)
Plain of Sharon
Desert Plains of Moab
Plain of Elah
Mount Nebo (Pisgah)
Mount of Olives
Valley of Hinnom