The two principal subjects in the New Testament are; the life of Jesus on earth, and, after the Ascension, the growth of the Christian Church.
Jesus’ life was in Philistine, so that is why we will start here.
Palestine is an oriental land. It’s origins are all located near the South-Eastern border of the Mediterranean Sea. These are the land of Canaan, and the land of Israel. Syria and Phoenicia are on the north. The Syrian Desert is on the east, and the Sinaitic wilderness is on the south. The Mediterranean is on the west, just outside of the tropics. It is close to being between Asia and Africa.
It was a very small country. The Mediterranean is about 12,500 miles, from Tyre to Gaza is about 140 miles. In Jordan, from Mount Hermon to the beginning of the Dead Sea is 156 miles.
It has many natural resources. There is a lot of natural conformation that many notice in Palestine. This Country has five parallel sections. Heading towards the Mediterranean you meet the sea coast plain, which is 2 to 3 miles north. It is about 20 miles wide heading south towards Gaza.
Going across we start heading towards Shephela, better known as the foot hills. They are low heels about 300 to 500 feet high.
After these we head to the mountain region. These mountains have broken ravines everywhere. They are about 2,500 to 5,000 feet high. This area was where the Israelites have always lived. They have always been known to be mountain people. They never wanted to occupy the lower plains. In the Bible times, plains and Valleys were left for the heathen.
After going through the mountains, we get to the Jordan Valley. This Valley is lower than the sea level between 5 to 20 miles. The river Jordan runs through here, passing through two lakes. The lakes are called Lake Meron and the Sea of Galilee. They empty into the Dead Sea.
After the Valley is the “eastern-table land, with higher mountains. It also has more level summits, along with less valleys. The mountains start to decline to the Syrian Desert in the east.
The land had five provinces. In the time of Christ, there were 3 political divisions on the west side of the Jordan, and 2 on the east.
The Province of Galilee was inhabited by kindhearted, brave people, mostly Jewish people, but there were also many Gentiles among them. It was the home of Jesus for most of His life and ministry.
Samaria was the central region. It was a district around the cities of Schechem and Samaria. It was not considered a province. These cities did not extend to the sea or the river. It was mostly inhabited by composite people. They were partly Israelite and partly heathen. They were regarded by the Jewish people as dogs. Jesus paid no regard by the Jewish people’s prejudice.
Judea was the southernmost Provence of Palestine. It often gives it’s name to the whole land, being the largest, and most loved area to the Jewish people. Jesus made several visits here, but only for short periods because the people were often more hypocritical than the Galileans and the majority of the time hated Him.
The Province of Perea, (meaning “beyond”), was on the east side of the Jordan or the Dead Sea. This land is not mentioned by that name in the New Testament. Jesus visited this region near the end of His ministry.
Hieromax is north of the river, and east of the Sea of Galilee. It was the fifth Province. It was in the ancient land of Bashan, but in the gospels it is known as ” Philip’s Tetrarchy. The people who lived here were mostly Gentiles or heathen. Jesus visited this Country twice, both times creating a miracle.
It was a land full of people. The early home of Jesus was Galilee in Nazareth. (Matthew 2:23, Luke 2:51). Jesus wrought a miracle in Main, south of Nazareth. (Luke 7:11). North of Nazareth, in Cana, is where the first miracle happened. (John 2:1). On the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum, was the home of Jesus for most of His ministry, and where He did most of His miracles. (Luke 4:31, Mark 2:1).
Two places mentioned in Samaria, Schechem, is now called Iskar, might be the place mentioned in John 4:5. Samaria, several miles north-west of Schechem. It was the beginning Capital of the Province. It was also where the Gospel was preached to the Jewish people for the first time. (Acts 8:5).
In the Judean Province we know that Jerusalem is “the holy city.” (Matthew 4:5). It is also the place where Jesus was crucified. (Matthew 16:21). Two miles east of Jerusalem in Bethany, (John 11:18), was where Mary and Martha entertained Jesus. (John 11:1). There were two awesome events that happened near here. (John 11:43, Luke 24:50, 51). Six miles south of Jerusalem in Bethlehem, the greatest event in history happened. (Matthew 2:1). It is an ancient honor because Jesus was born there. (Luke 2:4). The ancient capital of Judah, is Hebron. It was known as a Priestly city. It was also where John the Baptist was born. (Luke 1:39, 40). Eighteen miles from Jerusalem is in Jericho. It is in the Jordan Valley. Jesus visited this area near the end of His ministry. (Luke 19:1). A village fourteen miles north of Jerusalem, in Ephraim, where Jesus visited for a brief period of His ministry. (Luke 19:1)
Fourteen miles north of Jerusalem, is a town called Ephraim, where Jesus his for a brief period. (John 11:54)
The Provence of Peraea is one place known as being connected with the life of Jesus. Bethabara, also known as “Bethany,” was beyond the Jordan. It was the thirteen miles south of the Sea of Galilee, being known as the first place to baptize and where the first disciples were found.
The Tetrarchy of Philip, was east of the Sea of Galilee. The most important three places were: Caeaserea Philippi, was at the foot of Mount Hermon. (Mark 8:27, 9:2).
The second place was at the head of the Sea of Galilee in Bethsaida, being east of the Jordan, (Luke 9:10-13). The third place was Gergesa, also known as Gerasa, a tiny town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, (Matthew 8:28)
This was a subject land. About half of a Century before Jesus was born, the Jewish people went subject under Roman rule, then a lot of places changed within the Government.
One of them being the whole land and some of the Provinces, became a Kingdom under Herod the great, (Matthew 2:1). It was tributary to the Emperor of Rome from 37 B.C to 4 A.C. the year Jesus was born.
When Herod died, the land was divided into three Tetrarchies. The fourth-part was the one that ruled.
The next Tetrarch of Judea and Samaria was Archaleus, (Matthew 2:22). The Tetrarch of Galilee and Pereae was Herod Antipas, (Matthew 14:1,; Luke 23:6,7). The Tetrarch of the Bashan district was Herod Philip, (Luke 3:1). Outside of Palestine, in the fourth Tetrarchy, on the north was governed by Lysanias, (Luke 3:1).
In the year of 7 A.D. when Jesus was about eleven years old, the Roman Emperor deposed Archaleus and made his dominion a Province under a Roman Procurator, leaving the other two tetrarchies to be undisturbed. This is how the government was during the ministry of Jesus.
Judea and Samaria was considered one Roman Province under Pontius Pilate; Herod’s Tetrarchy was Galilee and Peraea, and Bashan was Philip’s Tetrarchy.
In the 37th year Herod Agrippa 1 was made king of Judea at first, and then over all 41 dominions of his grandfather. It was the Roman Emperor that made him king. This way Palestine officially became a kingdom again. This is mentioned in Acts 12:1.
When Agrippa died, in AD 44, a new division began. The son of Agrippa 1, named Agrippa 2, became ruler over Chalcis and Bashan. In Acts 25:13, 26:1,2; he is called King Agrippa only by courtesy. Everywhere else in Palestine; including Judea, Paraea, and Samaria, once again became a Procuratorship under Roman rulers. (Acts 23:24, 24:27)
When the Jewish people rebelled in AD 66, the government changed again. Vespasian made Palestine part of Syria. Vespasian was a legate. This ended Jewish history as being a separate nation.
We will be working on part 2 next.
Researched on: Outline Studies in the New Testament for Bible Teachers
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