Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible

Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible

by Carl G. Rasmussen


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310318576
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 12/10/2013
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 245,796
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Carl Rasmussen (PhD, Dropsie University) is professor emeritus at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and an adjunct professor at Jerusalem University College in Jerusalem. Previously, he served as Dean of the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem. He is the author and creator of the Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2013 Carl G. Rasmussen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-31857-6



The stage on which the major events of Old Testament history took place includes all the major countries shown on page 9. This large land mass is bounded on the west by the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea, on the north by the Amanus and Ararat Mountains, and on the east by the Zagros Mountains and the Persian Gulf. To the south, the Nafud Desert and the southern tip of Sinai form a rather loose boundary.

Much of the Middle East is desert. Large portions of modern-day Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia include desert wastes such as the Syrian Desert, the Nafud, the Arabian Desert, the Ruba al-Khali, Negev, Sinai, and Egypt. The seas and gulfs that help outline the Middle East have influenced life in the area. The most important of these is the Mediterranean Sea, which offers life-giving rains to most of the region. Much of what has occurred in the Middle East can be summed up as a struggle between the influences of the desert and the Mediterranean Sea over against the people who have lived there.

The first section of this book outlines briefly some of the significant challenges of this part of the world — geography, climate, roads, trade routes, food supply, and the like. It is easy to determine where the majority of people have lived in the Near East by highlighting on a map (see p..9) the areas watered by the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates, as well as those regions that receive over twelve inches of rainfall annually. This area is roughly the shape of a crescent, with one point in the Nile River and the other in the Persian Gulf. It is aptly named the "Fertile Crescent."




At the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, we can distinguish five major longitudinal zones. As one moves from west to east they are: the coastal plain, the central mountain range, the rift valley, the Transjordanian mountains, and the eastern desert.

(1) The coastal plain stretches approximately 120 miles along the Mediterranean coast from Rosh HaNiqra south to Gaza. It receives 25 to 16 inches of rain per year, the northern sections receiving more rain than the southern. A few powerful springs provided water, but more commonly the inhabitants used wells to tap the water table. The coastal plain consists mainly of low, rolling hills covered with fertile alluvial soils. Grain crops flourished in the winter and spring months, while flocks grazed there during the remainder of the year.

While travel was easy in this area, travelers did have to be careful to avoid sand dunes, large rivers such as the Yarkon River, and low-lying areas that became swampy during the winter months. Also, they had to choose the most appropriate track through Mount Carmel. The only natural seaport is at Acco.

(2) The central mountain range runs from Galilee in the north to the Negev Highlands in the south. It rises in places to more than 3,000 feet and is severed in an east – west direction by the Jezreel Valley in the north and the Negev Basin in the south, where east – west traffic can flow with relative ease.

Cutting through the limestone hills are deep V-shaped valleys, usually called wadis. They are dry during the summer months but sometimes flow with water during the winter. They drain either toward the rift valley or the Mediterranean Sea. Travel along the bottoms of these deep wadis is difficult because of boulders and occasional cliffs, and north – south travel across the wadis is almost impossible. Thus roads tended to be located on the mountain ridges.

The western slopes of the mountains receive considerable rainfall (20 to 40 in.); this, along with the fertile soil, ensures the fertility of the area. Here — largely on hillside terraces partially formed by the natural bedding of the limestone — small fields of wheat, groves of olive trees, and vineyards flourish (Deut 8:8; Ps 147:14; Hab 3:17 – 19).

Winter rainwater seeps into the limestone until it reaches an impermeable layer, where it begins to flow laterally until it emerges as a spring. Settlements often developed close to these freshwater springs, but being on the slopes of the hills they were difficult to defend. By about 1400 BC, the construction of cisterns, lined with plaster to prevent leakage, began to solve the problem of complete dependency on natural water sources.

The Israelites first settled in the central mountain range. Because international powers were primarily interested in controlling the coastal plain, the mountains provided the Israelites with security. Only during periods when they considered their power to be great did the Israelites attempt to gain control of the coastal plain, but this almost always resulted in conflict with one or more of the great powers.

(3) The next zone, part of the rift valley system that continues into Africa, stretches 260 miles from Dan to Elath at the northern tip of the Red Sea. A considerable amount of rain falls in the northern section of this zone (24 in. at Dan), whereas in the south rainfall is negligible (2 in. at the south end of the Dead Sea).

The northernmost section of the rift valley, called the Huleh Basin, receives about 24 inches of rain each year. Springs at the foot of Mount Hermon form the headwaters of the Jordan River and flow through a marshy lake known in antiquity as Lake Semechonitis. The Jordan then enters the north end of the Sea of Galilee, which lies 690 feet below sea level and measures 13 by 7.5 miles. The temperate Mediterranean climate makes this region a desirable place to live. The sea itself is a major source of fish for inhabitants, and a number of small but fertile plains along the sea's shoreline have been intensively cultivated throughout history.

The Jordan River flows out of the Sea of Galilee and descends to the Dead Sea. The linear distance in the Jordan Valley is 65 miles, but the length of the river as it winds its way is 135 miles. Until modern times, when Israelis and Jordanians began diverting water for commercial purposes, the Jordan averaged 100 feet in width with a depth of 3 to 10 feet. After heavy rains in late winter and spring its width could swell to almost a mile in places.

The Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea — the lowest spot on the surface of the earth (1,385 ft. below sea level). This sea does not have any outlet and is called the "Salt Sea" because of its high mineral content. South of the Dead Sea, the rift valley continues 110 miles to the shores of the Red Sea. This region is called the "Arava" or "Arabah" on modern Israeli maps, although the biblical Arabah was primarily north of the Dead Sea (e.g., Deut 3:17; Josh 11:2; 2 Sam 2:29). Elath marks the southern boundary of modern Israel and, at times, of biblical Israel.

(4) Next are the mountains of Transjordan, stretching from Mount Hermon in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba/Elath in the south on the east side of the Jordan. While the western slopes of these mountains are often steep, the eastern slopes descend gradually into the eastern desert.

Some of the biblically recognizable places, from north to south, are: the region of Bashan, the region of Gilead (with the Yarmuk and the Jabbok Rivers), and Moab (between the Arnon and Zered Rivers). The topography and sufficient amounts of rainfall make it a good area for growing wheat, olives, and grapes.

South of the Zered Valley are the mountains of Edom, extending to Aqaba. Along the western crest of this ridge there is sufficient rainfall for growing wheat and barley. The most famous city of this remote region is Petra. The major road east of the rift valley was the Transjordanian Highway that connected Damascus with the countries located in present-day Saudi Arabia. The southern portion of the highway, near Heshbon, was called the "King's Highway" (Num 21:22), although this name was used for another road as well (Num 20:17).

(5) Finally is the eastern desert is located to the east of the Transjordanian Mountains. In the north, the great volcanic mountains and lava make the region inhospitable, but its high elevation ensures adequate rainfall to grow crops. The barren desert stretches eastward some 400 miles to the Euphrates River.


Israel's year is divided into two major seasons: the rainy season (mid-October through April) and the dry season (mid-June through mid-September). Climactic conditions in Israel during the summer months are relatively stable. Warm days and cooler nights are the rule, and it almost never rains. In Jerusalem, for example, the average August daytime high is 86?F, the nighttime average low is 64°F.

During the summer, olives, grapes, figs, pomegranates, melons, and other crops are ripening and being tended by farmers. Most fruits are harvested in August and September. During the summer, shepherds move their flocks of sheep and goats westward, allowing them to feed on the stubble of wheat and barley fields that were harvested in the late spring. Because the soil is dry during summer months, travel is easy, and caravans and armies moved through most parts of the country without difficulty; the armies often helped themselves to the plentiful supplies of grain at the expense of the local populace.

The rainy season is much cooler. During January the mean daily temperature in Jerusalem is 50°F, and the city receives snow once or twice each year. Life is uncomfortable in the hilly regions — a discomfort the people gladly bear because of the life-giving power of the rains. The Bible actually refers to three parts of the rainy season in Deuteronomy 11:14: "Then I will send rain [Heb. matar; Dec.?– Feb.] on your land in its season, both autumn [Heb. yoreh; Oct.?– Dec.] and spring rains [Heb. malqosh; March – April], so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil" (cf. also Jer 5:24; Hos 6:3). Note the following:

• The amount of rainfall decreases as one moves from north to south.

• The amount of rainfall decreases as one moves from west to east, away from the Mediterranean Sea.

• The amount of rainfall increases with the elevation.

• The amount of rainfall is greater on the windward (Mediterranean) side of the mountains than on the leeward side.

During a typical year a farmer plows his field and plants his grain crops after the "autumn rains" of October through December have softened the hard, sunbaked soil. The grain crops ripen during March and April, as the rains begin to taper off. These "spring rains" are important for producing bumper crops.

There are two transitional seasons. One lasts from early May through mid-June. It is punctuated by a series of hot, dry, dusty days — which are called by the names of these winds: hamsin or sirocco. Hamsin conditions can sap the energy of both humans and animals, and they completely dry up the beautiful flowers and grasses that cover the landscape during the winter months (Isa 40:7 – 8). But these same hot, dry winds aid the ripening of grains by "setting" them before the harvest.

The second transitional season, from mid-September to mid-October, marks the end of the stable, dry, summer conditions. It is the time of the fruit harvest, and farmers begin to look anxiously for the onset of the rainy season. In the fall, travel on the Mediterranean becomes dangerous (Acts 27:9), and it remains so throughout the winter months.

Roads and Travel

The roads that developed in ancient Israel can be divided into three major categories: international, interregional, and local. The international and interregional roads were for commercial purposes — for transporting items such as foodstuffs, cloth, metals, incense, and fine pottery. These roads also served as thoroughfares for military expeditions and itinerant tradesmen, for the migration of peoples, for the conveyance of governmental and commercial messages, and for the travel of pilgrims to holy places.

Excerpted from ZONDERVAN ESSENTIAL ATLAS OF THE BIBLE by CARL G. RASMUSSEN. Copyright © 2013 Carl G. Rasmussen. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 5

Abbreviations 6

Geographical Section

1 Introduction to the Middle East as a Whole 8

2 The Geography of Israel and Jordan 10

3 The Geography of Egypt 18

4 The Geography of Syria and Lebanon 23

5 The Geography of Mesopotamia 25

Historical Section

6 The Pre-Patriarchal Period 30

7 The Patriarchs and the Egyptian Sojourn 36

8 Exodus and Conquest 44

9 Settlement in Canaan and the Time of the Judges 53

10 Transition to the Monarchy: Samuel and Saul 64

11 The United Monarchy: David and Solomon 69

12 The Divided-Kingdom 76

13 Judah Alone 85

14 Exile and Return 91

15 The Arrival of the Greeks 96

16 The Maccabean Revolt and the Hasmonean Dynasty 103

17 Early Roman Rule in Palestine 108

18 The Life of Christ 114

19 The Expansion of the Church in Palestine 122

20 The Journeys of Paul 128

21 The Seven Churches of Revelation 136

22 Jerusalem 140

Scripture Index 151

Subject Index 155

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Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
tigerSG More than 1 year ago
If you are Really interested in studying the end times the maps here are great. If more people studied their bible geography there would be less confused as to where places like cush, put and magog are located. This book also details different journeys of the bible and the seven churches in the book of Revelation.
uncommongirl More than 1 year ago
Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible Carl G. Rasmussen paperback, 160 pages A good tool for a bible student, this Bible atlas helps to visualize those bible stories. Contents include a geographical section and a historial section. Three cheers for a good atlas with quality pictures of bible places. The maps and color photos were excellent and useful. The author also includes some biblical background information. With experience to be an informative writer, his atlas offers helpful, timely information about the familiar and unfamiliar places that are written about in the Bible.