THE LAND AND THE BOOK
by Wayne S. Walker
"Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan" (Deuteronomy 34.1). The Bible is not designed as a textbook on either geography or history but as a revelation of God’s will for mankind. However, God’s will was revealed in a historical and geographical setting. When Moses went up on Mt. Nebo, he was able to see what the land was like. Hence, the Bible does claim to present facts in describing geographical and historical information.
If the Bible were merely a book of fictitious stories, we might expect to find errors throughout. One of the best places to trip up a writer is in his description of the geographical and historical context in which the events about which he is writing are said to have taken place. If the Bible is not accurate in its geographical and historical descriptions, then how can we be sure that it is correct in spiritual matters? Therefore, a study of the land and the book is helpful in confirming our faith in it as God’s word.
In Joshua 2.15-16, Rahab of Jericho hid the two spies and then told them to go to the mountain. East of Jericho was the Jordan valley where the camp of the Israelites was located. The soldiers from Jericho would most likely have looked for them in that direction. But two and a half miles west of Jericho, in the opposite direction, a mountain suddenly rises where they could hide unsuspected. If there were no mountain near Jericho, we would assume that the writer was making things up. But there is!
According to Joshua 3.14-17, the Israelites are said to have crossed over Jordan at the time of its overflowing, which occurs in late spring. Yet, this is also referred to as the time of harvest, which we usually associate with the fall. The Jordan is the lowest river on earth, and because of its physical location the harvest is almost complete just shortly after the spring rains when the river is still out of its banks. However, at Bethlehem and Hebron in higher regions the wheat is just beginning to come up. Only a person who was familiar with the facts would know this.
Matthew 8.38-32 tell us that Jesus came to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and near Gadara cast demons out of two men. The demons went into a herd of swine who rushed down a steep bank into the sea. J. W. McGarvey wrote of this exact spot in his Lands of the Bible: "But while there are steep places all along the eastern shore of the lake, they stand back half a mile or more from the water’s edge everywhere except at one point….Here the high hills come close to the shore and descend by ‘a steep place’ to within 40 feet of the water’s edge. No stranger or foreigner could have written such narrations as these" (pp. 382-383).
We have examined just three illustrations of how the various descriptions in the Book are confirmed, often in minute detail, by the actual lay of the land in which the events described are said to have taken place. This helps to increase our faith in the Bible as truthful in all that it says, and hence as being what it claims to be–God’s revelation to man. "I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches" (Psalm 119.14). (—taken from With All Boldness; April, 1996; Vol. 6, No. 4; p. 20; and November, 1996; Vol. 6, No. 11; p. 18)