1 The Places of the Bible: Where does this all happen?

Empires rose and fell in the Middle East, from the earliest of human history through to the present time. 

The locations mentioned in the Bible change their names, may sound foreign and strange at times, and yet they all fall within this familiar territory of the lands found in Europe around the Mediterranean, in north Africa, and even east of Israel .

A little look at Israel is useful.  This is a small country, about the size of Vermont or New Jersey!  You can slide the button at the bottom on the map below here to see 3 different maps:

Understanding what some of the water (which is limited!) in Israel is called will also be useful, so click on the hot spots to check these out:

Look at maps from the various eras of human existence in this part of the world. In the time before Abraham or his sons and grandsons, one would see this kind of occupation, with people living on water, along rivers and lakes, in fairly small tribal units.  Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is a group called the Larsa:


map of middle east 2000 BCE


In the time of the early Kings of Israel this map covers the same territory as seen in the first map, with more organized groups living in bigger territories of land.  Along the Tigris and Euphrates now one finds Babylon:


10th century BCE middle east map

Look at how almost all of the names change on the maps!  Groups of people over the centuries had rulers who rose and fell in power, these groups assembled under new languages or a dynamic new leaders, and over time, these groups also disintegrated or were conquered and incorporated into other groups.

As the Roman empire expanded and took over,  maps start looking like this one. At this point in history city states and nations begin to form. Along the Tigris and Euphrates in this era is the border of Assyria and Mesopotamia:


Roman Empire 2nd century CE

This map below shows ancient place names.  The hot spots indicated by the cross-marks are modern cities or countries.  Click on them to help orient yourself!



Below are a couple of more contemporary maps that are of the same area as above, the area to consider when looking at the stories from the Bible.  Historic maps will show those changing borders. Having some good modern geography awareness will help with recognizing the names of the modern countries involved. The text will have older maps included at various points, and the names from various Biblical eras on those maps.  But here are some more modern maps, and here is the geography from today.  Know the countries around the Mediterranean and the Middle East–it will aid in understanding where things happened in the past, and what those places are called now.

The area around the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers today is in modern day Iraq.  This is where Abraham came from  (ancient Ur is found there), this is where the Jews of the 6th century BCE were taken after Nebuchadnezzar’s troops conquered Jerusalem and Judah (the people were taken to ancient Babylon), and this is the mythological home of Eden.

The countries you will find alluded to in some way in the Bible (but seldom by these names) would include:

  • IsraelMiddles Easter Countries
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Turkey
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Syria
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Bosnia
  • Croatia
map of countries around the edge of the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea Countries






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Reading the Bible as Literature: a Journey Copyright © 2022 by Jody L Ondich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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